If you’ve been on social media for any length of time, you’ve probably seen this newspaper article a time or two:
So here’s what I would say to any career, non-parenting woman who didn’t understand why I don’t have time like she does.
Pretend for a moment that you are your mommy friend. Here’s how your day might really go …
#1 It’s been awhile since you’ve chatted with a full-size human, and you’d love to catch up with your girlfriend. The moment you pick up the phone to make a call, after having settled and distracted your kids, all hell breaks loose. You walk outside to escape the noise, and your kids think you are literally abandoning them. And will behave as though they will never see you again. The meltdown is real. Think Chernobyl-style.
#2 Turning on the TV as a distraction is your second choice, but you hesitate. TV time is a precious commodity. You have to budget it carefully so you can get accomplished what you need to in a day. A 30-minute phone call sometimes has to take a backseat to a shower, or getting appointments made, or putting away laundry while they aren’t around to take all the clothes out of the basket, or unloading the dishwasher without the baby trying to crawl IN it, or for simply getting to pee without an audience.
#3 And if TV time is precious, nap time is SACRED. An entire day can be completely ruined if a nap gets interrupted or doesn’t happen. If you stay out too long, your kid will fall asleep in the car, and then that will be the end of nap time. (And the end of your entire day as you planned it.) And if you DO manage to actually get your kids down, you might have between 30 min to 1.5 hours in an entire day to get something done uninterrupted.
It’s like a reality TV show … The clock has started and you must start dinner, switch out laundry, clean the bathroom, make appointments, clean up the house your kids just trashed, work (if you work from home like me) … Before your clock runs out. But you never REALLY know how much time you have left. (And don’t even get me started on the days where baby will only nap laying on top of you.)
#4 Your friends wonder what you do all day. Truth is, you wonder the same thing!!!
You remember spending an hour cleaning the kitchen… But now that you’ve started dinner, the toddler has emptied out the Tupperware drawer, your first-grader has emptied out her lunch bag and the contents of her backpack on the counter, all your coffee supplies are out (although you still haven’t been able to finish a cup), and you have to empty the dishwasher AGAIN to fit in all the lunch dishes …. It looks like you never cleaned!!!
Not only that but the baby emptied out the toy drawer and played with the pots and pans on the floor while you cleaned. Even if you had managed to keep your counters cleared, the floor would still be a hot mess of toys, Tupperware, sippy cups, and all the shoes from your closet. (Because toddler likes nothing more than emptying closets, and spreading the contents all around the house.)
#5 Above scenario goes for everything. For instance, the living room you tidied before your preschooler dumped out every toy bin you owned, then refused to clean, right before nap time. Don’t worry .. You’ll make her clean it. It just means that having her do it will take you three times as long in correcting and redirecting than if you had just done it yourself. And it will have to wait till AFTER nap. (For questions, see #3).
The laundry you just folded and put away has now multiplied like rabbits. Which child, you wonder, tried on three clean outfits, then stuck them back in the dirty laundry bin because they hate/can’t fold clothes? Oh, right … ALL of them. Except the baby who chose to poop on said clean clothes.
#6 What a career woman does in 30 minutes: get dressed, do hair and makeup, and walk out the door.
What moms of little kids do in 30 minutes: tell kids to put on their shoes. Go get dressed. Realize baby is still in pajamas. Internally debate whether they’ll be warmer in pajamas, or dressed with a coat. Leave him in his pajamas. Tell kids to put on their shoes. Try to pull back your hair while simultaneously blocking the toddler from dumping toys in the toilet (to do this, stand on one leg, and use the other leg to block baby.) Your hair kinda sucks. Oh well. Put a hat on. Tell kids to put shoes on. Check diaper bag. Fix sippy cups. Fix daughter’s lunch. Tell kids to put shoes on. Turn off the cartoons. Threaten kids. Wrack your brain for disciplinary measures if kids still refuse. Watch kids straggle around. Suddenly, it’s the end of the world: 3 of 4 shoes are MIA. Join search for 3 missing shoes. Look for socks … Realize they are still unmatched from last night’s Netflix-binging, laundry-folding party. Grab mismatched socks. Spend 5 minutes convincing your tantruming toddler that mismatched socks are OK. Then send toddler to time-out. After said timeout, hold squirmy toddler to get mismatched socks and shoes on. Listen to todler scream while you get everyone else’s shoes on. Toddler takes off socks and shoes and throws them down the hall. Tell toddler they are now going barefoot. Find keys (those were missing too). Change the baby’s diaper (because they always poop when you’re in a rush. And yes, you are now in a rush.) Grab makeup to put on in the parking lot at school. Buckle all the kids in the car. Go back in the house to grab daughter’s forgotten lunch and book bag. Back out of driveway while still listening to toddler scream about bare feet. Then go out into public where you’ll be judged by a stranger who thinks you’re too lazy to do your hair, too lazy to dress your baby, and too neglectful to put shoes on your toddler.
#7 When you do have some time in the evening, you may want to spend it with your husband. You’ve both run your own marathons that day, and you have precious little time to connect. You might live together and sleep together … But trust me … You’ll miss him.
I could give you reasons all day long as to why I’m too busy for relationships. But here’s the truth. I DO need and want relationships. And there are times that something else goes undone so I can have that time cultivating friendships.
Actually, I love having friends who are currently childless or empty-nesters (or moms with kids in school) because you guys can come over without having to coordinate nap times, or worrying about our kids not playing well, having to cut our time together short over one of our kids having a meltdown. And you can come over after bedtime to hang out for games or movies, and you don’t have to hire a babysitter to do so! Plus, you like having intelligent conversations (and you actually are not be interrupted by your own child long enough for you to spit it out.)
But can I share with you the truth?
Sometimes it’s easier for us to hang around other moms in the thick of it. They get why we can’t complete a single sentence. (And usually, they can’t finish one either. Bam. Validation.) Other moms get that sleep deprivation has us at times feeling like zombies fueled by coffee and the occasional nap (only taken when baby refuses to sleep anywhere but our arms). They get that this life of ours feels chaotic and crazy, but there’s so much joy and beauty in it.
Sometimes we hang out with other moms so we don’t feel guilty. Maybe we’re afraid to ask you if you want kids, or maybe we wonder if you’re infertile. At times we want to complain about the fact that we just cleaned and our house looks like a tornado hit, but wonder if that will hurt you. Maybe we know you deep down want a family, too. We know that not everyone gets to stay at home. In spite of the crazy, the privilege is not lost on us.
Maybe we don’t hang out because we are jealous of you. You with your cute hair, nails from a salon, and designer clothes that don’t have snot and ketchup on them. Some of us gave up careers to do this. We remember the stress of work, sure. But we also remember that feeling of independence. Sometimes, we still crave that. We remember what it’s like having discussions that use some part of our brain besides “how do I get my kid to listen without damaging them in anyway, while at the same time promoting some kind of healthy independence?”
And sometimes, we feel judged by you. It’s true. Perhaps you don’t understand why we had kids, or why we still want more. Or why we get frazzled by our life, but love it still the same. Perhaps you get tired of hearing about our kids’ milestones, or our fears, or our joys at our kids’ progress. Maybe you get tired of being interrupted by our child for the billionth time. Maybe we are tired of saying “sorry” for our kids’ interruptions for the billionth time. Perhaps you are tired of holidng your tongue and just tell us to “go get a job already if this is so hard.” And maybe we wonder if you look at us, think “why can’t she just get it together” then go write into some newspaper how we are failing as a woman to keep our homes up and our friendships healthy.
So next time you REALLY want to know what a mom does all day, why don’t you invest a few hours of your Saturday. Not to whisk your friend away on a girl’s day — but to join her in her day-to-day. Be her mommy helper. Go with no expectations other than to help. Jump in to fold clothes, change diapers, fix lunches, tidy the kitchen, and maybe even share a cup of coffee during nap time.
If your friend knows that you are willing to invest in her and her life (crazy chaos and all), she will be that much more likely to carve into her naptime OR TV time to attempt a quick call. Plus, you just might find that you enjoyed your time her day. Because getting to share life with our kids AND our friends, without a competition for our time, makes for a pretty awesome friendship.
And if you’re wondering how I got this blog written … I ignored the ginormous pile of laundry that is waiting to be put away. I allowed my kids to watch their full allotment of TV for the day. And it took me over 2 hours, because well… Kids.