Today at the gym I made the mistake of talking to someone. I do this a lot (being a fairly social person and all) but today it did not go well. Picture a 5’ 5”, 110 pound blond on a treadmill wanting to be Chatty Cathy. She started the conversation because I was wearing a T-shirt that said “Who are all these kids and why are they calling me MOM?!” She has a kid – ONE. With no plans for anymore because it took her “almost a year to lose the 20 pounds” she put on from being pregnant. Turns out she’s on her lunch break from her job as a marketing rep. She seems genuinely shocked that I know anything about her work – after all, I’m stay at home mom. Her comments indicate that she is a snob, with very few, if any, real friends and definitely NO “Mom” friends. She finally says that she has to go because she has to get back to work, but not without a parting dig about how she wishes that she “had the luxury of being able to stay all day at the gym.” Seriously? Why do women feel the need to belittle and judge one another? Not that I don’t get a fair amount of general judgeyness from other stay-at-home moms (just read my previous post about being the room mom), but I find myself constantly being judged by some “working” moms who think that if I stay at home then I must have all of the time in the world to cook, clean, do laundry, etc. and that I must not have gone to college or have any marketable skills so I “just had kids.” I chose to quit a job in outside sales after our first son was born because I thought it was important to be available to my kids. I do not think that I am a better mom for it, or that you are a worse mom for working outside the home either because you want to or because you have to. A friend posted on Facebook yesterday “Just because one person parents one way does not mean that anyone who does it differently than them is doing it wrong......just saying” and all I could think was AMEN!!
I do most of my parenting and household management by myself because my husband leaves for work around 1:00 in the afternoon, gets home around 1:00am and sleeps until 10:00am the next morning. I get everyone ready for and off to school in the mornings by myself, I get them home, feed them dinner, get them bathed, and (eventually) get them in bed by myself. I have the same 24 hours in a day that you do, and I am not June Cleaver. This is a typical day in my life:
My day starts off with me hitting the snooze on my alarm at least 3 times before making myself get up. I wake up the kids, I make school lunches for the 2 oldest and get them dressed and fed, and then I drive them to school. They are late at least twice a month. Yesterday morning, they were 30 minutes late because I hit “Off” instead of “Snooze” on my alarm and didn’t get up until 10 minutes until 8:00. After I get home, I make coffee. Coffee is the only constant in my life and I love it. I will drink about 3-4 24 ounce cups of coffee over the course of the next 3 hours. I thought that I might be addicted to caffeine, so I switched to decaf for month, and I still drank as much so now I buy what is on sale. Once the coffee is going, I wake up the 2 little ones (I should point out that because my husband is currently on 2nd shift, I do not have to get everyone up and ready to take the older 2 to school). We get out of the Pull-Ups and into clean underwear, get breakfast and juice, and then I turn on Nick Jr. for them while I clean the kitchen. Sometimes I finish this in 30 minutes, but more often than not it takes an hour or more because I am required to stop and referee a fight, or 2, or 12. After the kitchen is done, I generally try to do some laundry (with 6 people in the house, this is a never ending chore). Once I get a load in the washer and one in the dryer, I generally have to fold some and put it away because all of the 4 hampers are full of either dirty or clean clothes. About now would be when Jackson pees in his underwear despite the fact that I asked him 3 ½ minutes ago if he needed to go potty. So I spend the next 30 minutes cleaning up that mess and then realize that Lorelei has shredded a napkin or a piece of paper or (as was the case earlier this week) a feather all over the den floor. And when she gets up to run away from the mess (thinking, I guess, that I won’t know she did it) I see that she has also smashed her Eggo/Poptart/bagel all over the couch and has been sitting on it so I wouldn’t see. When I try to talk to her about these messes, she blames Jackson. Then she and Jackson get into a fight about who did it. I get out the vacuum to clean THAT mess, and now it’s nearly lunch time and I have cleaned the kitchen and washed one load of clothes.
Now, having 4 kids in 7 ½ years is hell on your body and your figure, so I try to go to the gym between lunch and picking the kids up from school. Also, my membership includes 2 free hours of childcare every day, which is unfortunately the only motivation for going some days. So after feeding the kids, we get in the car and head out to the gym. After working out, we head to the school to pick up the 2 oldest and then go home. This is when the real fun starts. All of a sudden everyone is starving – the sandwich, chips, fruit, Rice Krispie Treat, and apple sauce/pudding that I packed in their lunch as well as their snack of an apple/orange/banana has not been enough to sustain them for another 2 hours until dinner. SO everyone gets a snack and then its homework time. The 2 oldest have to be practically duct taped to the chairs to make them do their homework. If I turn around to get something from the fridge, or go to the bathroom they bolt for the den or upstairs and start drawing (Bella) or building something out of Legos (William), or they turn on the TV, or they argue, or, or, or – the list is infinite. Oh, and their bladders become incredibly small – one of them has to get up to go to the bathroom every 10 or 15 minutes. After homework is finished and I am attempting to make dinner, the arguing intensifies – 4 kids + 2 TV’s = 953 arguments over the next hour and a half. There are arguments over who gets to watch what, where they get to watch it, why they should get to watch it, who gets to sit where, etc.
After I have made dinner, I call everyone to the table where they all say “What are we having?” and at least one and sometimes all of them say “I don’t like that. Can I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead?” So it’s 5:30, I have done one load of laundry, folded ½ a load, cleaned the kitchen and messed it up again, and gone to the gym – those are the tangible successes of my day. Meanwhile, you have most likely written 3 proposals, had 2 meetings, returned 5 phone calls and had a working lunch with your boss. Your house is in the exact same state that it was in when you left it this morning (unless you have a maid who came today) because everyone has been at work/school/daycare since 7:15. Your husband will meet you at home to help you with the meals, bath times, and bed times. You will swing by the gym to do your workout and then pick up dinner that your kids will love and no one expects your laundry to all be done or your house to be spotless because you WORK and I don’t. Yeah, right.
At my house, after dinner and baths and a little more TV/homework/playtime, it's bed time. This is when the French farce begins. All of my kids have a bed of their own, but none of them like to sleep alone, so everyone tries to sleep with everyone else. This never works. So bedtime at my house is like a game of Whack-a-Mole. Kids pop up, I put them back down; and while I’m putting this one down, that one gets up. Everyone needs a sip of water. Everyone needs to use the bathroom. Oh, and this is usually the time that one of the 2 older ones tells me that I have to send in money, or cupcakes, or something else that I don’t have for school the next day. It is now 9:30 (an hour after the initiation of “bedtime”) and they are finally all down for the night. I finish folding the load of clothes I started at 10:30 this morning so that I can put the clothes from the dryer into the now empty hamper, move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and start one more load. Then it’s time to pay bills, return emails, (possibly write a blog post) and pick up the dirty clothes that are all over the house since my kids drop their clothes wherever they happen to be whenever I say “bath time.” If I am lucky, I will get a shower. If I am REALLY lucky, I will get to eat dinner with my kids. On perfect days, I get to clean a bathroom or mop more than the spot Jackson peed on or vacuum more than just the shredded napkin/paper/feather from the floor and the crumbs from the couch. Sometimes I even get to go to bed before my husband gets home from work around midnight. My day is NOT soap operas and bon-bons – EVER. I love my life. There are always teachable moments throughout the chaos. The gym, Facebook, and my coffee keep me sane. And I wouldn’t trade my Poptart crumbs for your working lunch. At least not most days.
Not all working moms that I know are Judgey McJudgersons. I have a good friend who works. She has one kid. She tells me constantly that she couldn’t do what I do – that she’d go nuts if she had to stay home with her kid all day. I tell her that is because she only has ONE kid. Two, three, and especially FOUR kids provide all of their own entertainment and you just become the referee and sometimes a participant. She is never “judgey” and I love her for it. The sad part is that if you are a working mom and you read this, you will most likely giggle a little and agree that some working moms have their heads screwed on wrong about the whole “stay-at-home-mom” thing – you may even picture a few of these self-righteous idiots in your head; but I am POSITIVE that some stay-at-home moms reading this have been judging me since I said that I hit snooze 3 times a day. Yeah, well, who cares. I’ll criticize them on another day.