Parenting is weird. Parenting your kids full-time is even weirder. Parenting your kids full-time while also trying to keep alive a semblance of a career is even weirder. The slashes between all your titles blend so quickly that you can’t discern between when you’re a homemaker, nurturer, educator, entrepreneur, and comforter… it’s exhilarating on a good day, and suffocating on a bad one. After this global pandemic and a record-breaking number of women having to choose between career and childcare, I know that I’m not alone in feeling completely alone juggling this balancing act.
I’m currently in this strange season of life where I’m the primary caretaker of my children and depending on what kind of mood I am in when you ask me—i.e. whether I feel confident in or insecure about my work as an entrepreneur and freelance illustrator—I say I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM, moms love acronyms) or a work-at-home-mom (you guessed it, WAHM). So my days end up being this chimera of a beast that revolves around naps and where I am constantly wanting more. More time, more attention, more sleep, more… I don’t even know anymore. And the most fucked up part about this is that I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You know what they say. Kids, they’re the best worst thing to happen to you.
To add insult to injury (only half-kidding) I see mom content creators doing these “Mom Schedule to Keep You Productive!” type stories and reels and Tiktoks, with seemingly impossible tips like “Wake up at 5am before the kids, light a candle and make coffee!” Cool cool, thanks. I don’t blame them of course, because that IS possible in certain seasons of life or if you’ve made certain life choices, but that just isn’t me.
So if you find yourself in a place where you feel like your life is a hot mess because you decided not to sleep train (a decision you only regret sometimes… or all the time, but who’s keeping track?), to have multiple kids, not to have childcare and spend time with your child (again, a decision you only regret sometimes or all the time), and to hold on to some semblance of a work life… let me peel back the curtain to my shitshow of a life so you can feel a little better about yours or laugh in solidarity. And if you’re just here for the train wreck, welcome all the same. It’s gonna be a wild ride.
Ready? Let’s go.
5am, or maybe almost 6am?
The case of the Mondays. Is there anything more pathetic or accurate?
Mills, the almost-2-year-old, has gotten up again to nurse. I never thought I’d be one of those hippie gypsy women who nurse grown children who can speak, but here I am. I should just wake up here but it’s so cold and Lu, the 4-year-old who had also found his way into our bed, starts rustling too so I just close my eyes again instead of risking waking him in the process of getting out of bed. I’ll regret this for sure, but oh well.
The scrambling has begun. Alexa is gonna play Dynamite by BTS, our “we gotta go NOW” song in like 30min. No, I hadn’t washed Lu’s bento box the night before nor have breakfasts prepped like those IG moms advise you to. I wash the box which is a glorified rinse let’s be honest, throw some leftovers and rice and fruit inside and call it a day.
Then, a move that is more of an embarrassing mom confession rather than a parenting hack… I throw whatever packaged shit we have in the kitchen with any semblance of nutritional value and throw it into one of those compartmentalized supply caddies as a to-go breakfast tray. I just hope it’s one of those weird things I feel ashamed of at the time but the kids will remember fondly as fun.
If school starts in 4 min and we’re still on our way with an ETA of 7 minutes, how quickly do I have to unstrap the kids and hustle them to walk along so we get to the class door at a reasonable time? Doing the mental math makes me tired and also glad that we’re still paying for school, so they don’t care about tardiness like the public ones do.
It’s been over 20 min since drop off but Mills has been playing with every toy, sitting on every bench, looking at every garden statue that the school grounds have to offer—a routine of sorts. I kind of just let it happen because I’d rather not hear her shrill banshee cry, nor have others suffer through it with me.
We’re finally on our way after Mills also demanded to “drive,” or play in the car. Thrice a week it’s just the two of us so we often use this mid-morning time to run errands, go grocery shopping, go on adventures, etc. but this weekend had been a busy one so I need some time to catch up on housework instead.
I’m not a clean person but I do really try. And Steven is tidy. Yet this house always looks like a tornado had gone through.
I run a load of laundry and clear out the sink. And then I find more dishes on the coffee table and the counter (should’ve looked for them first but ya know) so the sink is immediately filled again. Oh well. I also start making myself some coffee because it was one of those mornings where I had actually just microwaved some leftover coffee from yesterday to get me through the morning.
While I’m in the kitchen scurrying around, Mills is happily playing solo so I decide to just prep lunch while I’m here. During prep, she came in so I finish making lunch with her. Her favorite phrase is “Me do it!” which is really cute but makes everything go that much slower. But you go girl.
Laundry is going, dishes are (mostly) clean, and Mills and I made fried rice together. Eating an early lunch, which, now that I’m thinking about it, is a better schedule for her.
After eating lunch I put away the dishes I washed earlier and empty the dishwasher which I had run last week (oops), then wash the dishes we used for lunch as well as the stragglers I had found that went in the sink. Mills is starting to throw a fit which means she’s sleepy.
I need to go to the bathroom but Mills says no and throws another fit. Definitely sleepy. Nothing sums up parenting like having to sit on a toilet to poop with a toddler on your lap.
She is down, so I just grab the laundry and move to the dryer and start another load—but end there. There are a lot of other things I wish I could get to (there’s a disgusting pile of food under the dinner table, toys are scattered in the kitchen, and mysterious crumbs all over the living room…) but my hard rule is this: no housework during nap time. This is my time.
Nap time is when I get the bulk of my work done, and on the bullet journal to-do list today is to send a follow-up email to a client asking about feedback, wrap up a personal logo project, and send a proposal over to a potential client.
Finally got in the groove but Mills has risen. Time for pickup soon anyhow. I calm her down but it’s not enough because she cries when I throw her in the car seat. May as well just go if she’s gonna cry anyhow.
Lu has friends at school that he likes to hang out with after school, so we stay for close to an hour after each day. By this time on a good day Steven will be home, which means he becomes primary parent and he turns on the TV for them while I get some work done. Today though I’m solo parenting, so instead opt for a trip to the library.
We get home. Time to scramble again to put some food on the table. Before kids and really before marriage I thought I liked cooking, but cooking is very different from feeding. Most days all I can muster strength for is making rice and grilling some sort of meat with a vegetable side that preferably only involves mixing and minimal heat.
Usually this is time where they play but since we went on an adventure today I let them have some screens while I finish up dinner. Fighting over who gets a turn to choose ensues.
Time for dinner. It’s always surprising how uneventful meals are when the lead up feels so cataclysmal. I guess with the rest of my life in shambles it’s only fair I get pretty decent eaters as children, so I will accept this lack of mealtime struggles with grace.
We finish eating and I manage to do the dishes while they retreat into play and I get the bath started. This is usually a Steven job, but again I'm solo parenting today. Since they’re now past the age of dying in a bath Steven usually decompresses on his phone while they're playing, and I can also use this time to work and sneak in writing one email, or do some behind-the-scenes housework like put away a laundry basket worth of clothes.
Sometimes they play for a damn near hour which is really crazy and also really sweet. They fight all day but also love each other.
Pajamas on. Lights out. Some complaining from everyone. Usually Steven and I divide and conquer the bedtime, with me on Mills and him on Lu but tonight we all just get to listen to Lu sniffling and complaining that he’s all alone, asking how long it’s gonna take to put Mills down as he reads in his bed with a flashlight. "When is it my turn?" is one of his favorite phrases, which he starts saying even when he literally JUST had a turn. It's funny in retrospect, and infuriating in the moment. Kids are kind of like that.
Lu gets his turn with bedtime. We read a picture book, then a couple chapters of a second book and I say lights out. Then he asks me questions and talks to me. This is my favorite thing about this phase in child development, the conversations we have about snow monkeys and spider monkeys and gorillas (lots of ape talk) crocodiles and also about getting older and dying. But I also want to get the fuck out of here so I eventually have to tell him good night and stop responding, to pretend I’ve fallen asleep and to inspire the same for him.
After putting them to bed it’s usually a time to get more work done or hang out on the couch and peruse Netflix trailers without watching anything, but tonight the pretend sleeping has turned into real sleeping, so…
I realize I’ve fallen asleep only by being woken up by sniffling. Mills is whimpering and trying to open the door to find me. I tell her I’m here, and nurse her back to sleep which consists of 5-10 min of suckling and me lying there for another 15-20min to make sure she’s down.
Lu is awake too, sniffling and whimpering. I put him back to sleep, which in his case is just cuddling him and patting his back for about 5 min.
Freedom, at last, I’ve managed to stay awake this time.
Opted to read instead of do work tonight, since it’s after midnight. At the moment it’s Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. I mosey on over to the bed and await the inevitable arrival of bedmates.
Mills stumbles into the room crying and hoists herself onto the bed. Sometimes they come in together, sometimes they swap orders, but tonight she is solo and I spend 40 min thereafter scrolling Instagram and buying 3 colors of a sports bra (to be clear, I will not be exercising in them) that some influencer told me to buy. This is what I do when I’m getting the life sucked out of me in the wee hours of the morning instead of go back to sleep. I’ll regret this tomorrow (today?) but oh well. Maybe I’ll read another chapter or two of the book before I go to sleep, because Lu is going to come in here in a couple hours anyway and we’ll do it all over again.
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