Last week my blog was about the challenges working moms face as they try to successfully manage both housework, childcare and getting themselves dressed and out the door on time. This week, I address the balancing act of simultaneously doing household chores and round-the-clock childcare. Or as a recent Facebook post of mine said “Maybe I’ll drill a few holes in the bottom of a bucket and then spend the next two hours trying to keep it full of water. Or I’ll just clean the house while the kids are at home. Equally fulfilling tasks, really.”
Usually after the girls are out the door and on their way to school I take about 20 minutes or so to make the beds and clean up the kitchen from the breakfast-eating and lunch-making mess. Then I use the time that I have only one child at home (as opposed to two or three) to head to the gym or to do errands outside of the house. Yesterday I decided to stay at home so that I could “get a few things done.” My list had three things on it: 1) Call Soccer Tots to confirm Cooper’s registration, 2) Peel and cook carrots, 3) wipe down walls and doors. I had two and a half hours before I had to leave to pick up our preschooler. Plenty of time, right?
First, I sat down at the desk to use the phone. Cooper, sticking to me like glue as usual, hurried over to my side and pulled open the desk drawer. Because I was on the phone I wasn’t quick enough to stop him from ripping his sister’s dream catcher out of the drawer and breaking one of it’s strings. At least a dozen beads rolled under the desk, under the fridge and the rest landed on the floor under my feet: choking hazzard! I finished the phone call, quickly picked up the beads with one hand and snatched a few from Cooper’s fists. I stuffed the broken dream catcher in the trash, hoping Lauren wouldn’t miss it.
Next I got out the carrots, knowing that if I could get them peeled and on the stove, they could boil while I wiped down the walls. I led Cooper to the toys and tried to get him interested in driving cars around on the carpet so that I could peel the carrots without his help. That lasted for about two carrots and soon he was back by my side. Mid-peel I got a whiff of…a dirty diaper. Up we went to change into a clean cloth diaper. Back the the carrots. Next Cooper opened the cabinet door where I had stowed a huge unopened bag of organic sugar. As I grabbed it and heaved it on to the counter and out of his reach, sugar started pouring from the bottom of the bag. I’d punctured it when I put it carelessly on top of my vegetable steamer. As quickly as I could, I turned the bag upside down to stop the cascading granules. The pressure of the air moving inside the bag shots one last geyser of sugar into the air and it landed on top of my bare feet and sprinkled onto the hardwood floor. I let it stay on the floor long enough to finish peeling the carrots, and then finally plopped them into a pot of water to boil.
When I’d finally swept up the sugar, I noticed another cloud of stink trailing after Cooper as he ran past. Another poopy diaper. By the time I’d dealt with that it was time to go pick up Kate, which meant putting a coat, hat and boots on a running toddler who was screaming with laughter until I caught him. Then he became a screaming and flailing toddler as I stuffed his arms and feet into warmer clothes. I’d finished two small chores in a little over two hours and didn’t even come close to starting the third. What was I able to accomplish the rest of the day, with not only Cooper but his four-year-old sister at home? Well, let’s just say one step forward, two steps back is how we roll.
So who has it harder? The working parent who is scrambling to get everyone, including herself dressed, and out the door on time–not to mention remembering permission slips, book reports and her own daily appointments and then gets to come home to the morning mess which needs to be picked up while cooking dinner, changing diapers, helping with homework and otherwise micromanaging dependents? Or the mom who only gets to leave the house when she’s dragging unwilling companions to the grocery store and is cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry non-stop all while keeping one or more young children both alive and content? The answer: Both types of moms work hard. It’s just different.