I love being a stay-at-home mom. I also love to work. So, I’m feeling truly blessed that I have the option and opportunity to do both. But now that I am doing both, I often feel completely overwhelmed.
On Friday morning, I had the ridiculous plan to wake up, shower, bathe Sophia, print out a report for a client, get us both fed, brushed, and packed up for our day, drop Sophia off at the babysitter and make it to work in time for an early meeting
I imagine there are some people who would read this and think to themselves, “Oh, is that all?” And others who are still shuddering. In truth, it wouldn’t have been so bad if:
1. My daughter didn’t hate baths and wasn’t accustomed to receiving 15 minutes of play time before I deigned to scrub her, and,
2. We didn’t have a temperamental, 7-year old computer that performs very poorly under pressure.
But she does and I do, which is where the best laid plans of this woman went very, very astray.
I managed to get myself bathed, and, knowing better than to try to get dressed for a meeting before bathing Sophia, I didn’t.
I drew the bath and Sophia compliantly disrobed, grabbed Bath Baby, ripped off her head, and threw her decapitated doll into the tub. An excellent start.
“I’ll wash myself,” Sophia proclaimed. Ut oh.
“Not today, Soph,” I sang, “I’m in a real hurry, so I’m just going to do a ‘quick bath.’”
“NO! I don’t want a ‘quick bath’! I want to wash myself.”
“Well, why don’t we wash you together? I’ll give you a squirt of soap and you can wash your belly while I wash your back.”
“NO! I want the whole soap to myself.” I take a deep breath and say a short, silent prayer for a higher power to send me some patience, though not quite in those words.
Thinking fast, I pull a scrap of soap from the bottom of the soap dish. “You can have this.”
Whew. I start to wash her back.
“NO! You can’t wash me! I’m washing myself.”
“Sophia. I am going to wash you. You can fight me all you want and we can do this the hard way, or you can let me do it and I’ll be very, very quick.”
Sophie selected the first option. She kicked furiously, churning the water, and instantly soaking me (not getting dressed - excellent call). I grabbed her legs amid her protests: “Ow! Stop pulling my leg! You’re hurting me!”
“If you don’t pull away, it won’t hurt,” I said in my best Buddha-grinding-his-teeth voice. She continued to thrash about so I dumped water over her head and proceeded to scrub, working the soap from her scalp, downward. She reached up and scratched at my face. I held her hands down with one hand and washed her face with my other. “ARRRGGGH! There’s soap in my eyes. THERE’S SOAP IN MY EYES!” I handed her a clean washcloth. She wiped her face and then whipped it at me.
Now it’s war.
I grabbed the wash cloth away and tossed it behind me, into the sink. This gave her just enough time to grab Bath Baby’s head and pitch it at me.
I caught the head mid air. I grabbed Bath Baby’s body before that could be commandeered as a weapon of maternal destruction. As quick as was humanly possible, I finished scrubbing her, plucked her from the bath and threw a towel over her head.
“You can dry yourself. I’m getting dressed.”
I walked out of the room as she began her next protest, “No, I’m not going to dry myself…I’m going to…..”
I turned and held up my hand, “Your clothes are hanging on your chair. If you’re not dressed by the time I come back in here, I’m going to dress you.” I start to walk out, then I turn around and add, “And it won’t be pretty.” I walked out of the room.
She came running into my room and threw her panties at me. “I don’t want to wear these underwear.” They were non-princess underwear, all we had left. The wet wash was sitting in the dryer that I forgot to run last night. I sighed. Some battles are not worth fighting. “Then go downstairs without underwear. I’ll dry another pair for you.”
“Okay!” said Sophie, suddenly cheerful again. I dressed and she returned to my room, fully clothed (except for the underwear).
“Ready for breakfast?”
“Yes!” We headed downstairs.
“I want waffles.”
“I don’t have time to make waffles. I’m making oatmeal.” Was this going to set off tantrum number three?
“Okay.” No, I felt awash with relief. Not today, it wouldn’t. I said a silent prayer, thanking the higher power.
I started the oatmeal and went to print out my report. Kevin had turned on the computer for me a half an hour ago, which is the amount of time the gerbils need to be running in the CPU for it to work. I brought up my document, went to turn on the printer. No paper.
Not a problem. Kevin had bought some the other day. I gently placed it in our cranky printer and hit print.
The paper instantly jammed. I pulled it out. Put it back in even more delicately and resent the document to the printer. A horrible grinding sound emanated from the machinery and the green light on top started blinking wildly.
That’s when I broke down crying.
Kevin came in to my rescue. “Let me deal with this. Go in and take care of Sophie.” Grateful, but still sobbing, I returned from the kitchen.
“Mommy,” said Sophie, studying me with great concern, “you need to take a deep breath.”
So she does listen to me.
I inhaled. I stopped crying. I did feel better. “Thank you, Sophie. That really helped.” I served us the oatmeal. We were eating and I was reading to Sophie when Kevin walked in. “I think I got it to work.” He kissed us goodbye and left.
I went back into the study and tried, once again, to print. A message flashed on the screen: “The printer has lost communication with the computer.” I glanced skyward. Please?
Somehow, I managed to unplug everything, reboot, ultimately print my document, convince Sophia to put on her underwear, and get out of the house only five minutes later than usual. I arrived for my meeting, totally stressed-out and really needing to go to the bathroom, but otherwise intact.
It was an honest-to-goodness miracle.
How do people with multiple kids, full time jobs, and other assorted life challenges do this? How do they manage to sleep, find time for themselves, nurture their couplehood, be a dynamo at work, engage their children, cook meals and exercise? Penelope Leach’s reassuring advice about feeding children comes to mind: “A ‘mixed diet’ is one in which some of each of a wide variety of foods are eaten in different combinations every day. Its virtue lies in the fact than an individual who east that diet over a long time will get everything her body requires under all circumstances (Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five).”
I can hang on, knowing that at least one day/week I’ll work from home and won’t be racing to get to the office. Or that I’ll get to work from a sidewalk café while Sophia takes a dance class down the street for a few hours. Or that we’ll do something really fun with a friend another afternoon. Or on the weekend, Kevin will pretend to be Sophia’s oversized baby while I get to go on a run. A mixed diet. It’s easy to forget, when I’m just eating peas that in a day or a couple hours I’ll be eating ice cream (even if it’s followed by another helping of peas that I'll force down until midnight).