I am a primarily mother. Not a wife or a sister or lawyer or a woman, but a mother. My four kids—Jack, Rose, Emma, and Graham—are two, four, five and seven years old, and sometimes I have to count again and make sure there are really only four of them—not six or even ten. Even when I worked full-time and waited tables on the weekends right after I graduated from college, I was never this exhausted, never this busy. Nowadays, I am exhausted and busy all the time. My kids decide on the rhythm for every day—and I love that—, but their pace is very fast, incredibly chaotic, and unimaginably messy. On a regular workday, I am Windex’s most frequent user and my washing machine’s best friend. On a day like this and all the other days too, I am a mother.
I woke up this morning, and within minutes, I knew what day it was: Saturday. At six in the morning, two of the little ones had crawled into my bed and the two other ones were standing in the hallway, waiting for the pancakes to magically fly onto the table. Now, ten crazily chaotic hours later on this Saturday, it is not the pancakes that need me to be their wizard, but this time, it is the huge pile of laundry on my bedroom floor. Today, it is five o’clock in the afternoon, and the last time I felt this exhausted on a Saturday was in college, only then it was four in the morning after a long night of dancing.
When I was younger and people were asking me for my address, they needed it for a job application, a check that they were going to send me, or an exciting date. And even though these circumstances have changed slightly—today it is either another mom from school, wanting to come over to bake cookies before Christmas or it is Santa who needs our address for the kids’ presents—I still respond just as quickly as I always have, because it’s always been the same words: 572 Pineapple Lane, Apopka 32703, Florida. It’s my parent’s home—the house I grew up in—that I moved into with my family after my folks moved into a different home one neighborhood down the road. I am in my beautiful home and I should have vacuumed the bedroom floor. I really should have, because this pile of laundry is clean and I am trying hard to get it onto the shelves just as clean, but seems like that’s not going to happen any time soon.
In my immediate optical range—yeah, I am wearing my reading glasses—I can see that I am currently sitting in a sea of crumbs and single shoes. Farther away, I can grasp the blurry features of my husband’s and my bed, our wardrobe, the window, our wedding pictures on the wall on the right next to the window, and the kids’ toys somewhere in the corner. In the hallway, I can see many colorful dots: more toys, but I can currently only imagine their detailed description, since the glasses reduce my vision to the More Immediate, which I actually enjoy quite a bit right now. For these few minutes of Folding Laundry, I have decided to not actually see everything that surrounds me.
I am pretty sure that these circumstances are secondarily called I-am-going-to-have-to-do-the-laundry-otherwise-my-family-won’t-have-anything-to-wear-next-week, and I definitely know that primarily, they are called Motherly Duties. However, the list of these circumstances actually involves much more than washing and ironing and folding laundry, but for now, this one circumstance is enough for me. After this, I will check cooking, preparing fresh lemonade for tomorrow and baking a cake to take to my son’s soccer game—and oh yes, vacuuming, off the long list for Saturday afternoons.
They don’t teach you these things in high school—none of them. Even the Time Management Courses are completely useless with regards to a mother’s life: it is far busier than anything that daily life in high school consists of. Real life is busy all the time. And the thing is—surprise—that you don’t even realize how it enwraps you and your life slowly into all its business, and when you finally do realize it, you have two kids sitting on your lap, one tangled around your unshaved legs, one trying to eat Spaghetti, which seemed to have a different plan, and a husband who hardly ever remembers your anniversary. But what can I say—you’ve just got to embrace and love it. Yes, all the craziness. I do love this—all of it.
I want the neighbors to enjoy a quiet Saturday evening—for once. I want my husband to think we actually live in a real house, not some trunk of some car. I want my kids to bring home their friends from school and have room to play. I want my bedroom floor to get its original color back: the light blue, not the dirty brown-gray-black. I want for people to see that I can do it all. I want people to say that I am a Good Mother.
The obstacles in the life of a mother seem countless: there are kids wanting to eat and play all the time. There are hungry stomachs everywhere around me. There are piles of laundry all over the basement floor. There are soccer games, church conventions, food kitchen sessions, clothes drives, parent-teacher conferences and so many other things occupying every hour of my days and weeks and moths and—of my Saturdays. And most importantly: there is too little time for anything.
In order for my life and the life of the people around me to stay on track and appear organized, I don’t look at everything that is on my to-do list, which is a thing that I learned early on. In order to get it all done and feel good about it at the end of the day, I make one step at a time. More importantly, I wave at people—and smile.