Editor’s Note: My wife challenged me to write something from her perspective. So, here is me — writing as her — about a day in the life of a working mom.
Yes, that’s how my day starts. Actually it started about 30 minutes ago as I snooze my way awake. My head is already pounding. Coffee!! Now!! Neil has fetched me some from downstairs. My hero.
The “boo” comes from Alex, my near 5-year old, who thinks it’s hysterical to run into our bedroom every morning to scare me. He’s not very good at it – usually I can hear him coming from a mile away, but every now and then when I’m looking at my phone trying to figure out how to respond to someone at work, he scares the living hell out of me. Either way, his “Boo” is always followed by my “You got me!” and his “You’re so funny, mommy.” I am funny. Five minutes later, the little man Ryan, all of 20 months old, comes crashing into the bathroom. Neil is folding the laundry on the bed. “Hot,” says Ryan, and I let him quickly touch my hair dryer.
Ryan points to the counter, which means he now wants to use my toothbrush Lovely. It’s not the hill I’m going to die on this morning, so I give him my toothbrush while Alex begins to fill up the sink with water to clean his sharks – bath toys that rarely seem to be in the actual bathtub.
“OK guys!” Neil looks up, as that’s my cue that mommy needs to get ready for work. Daddy swoops in and tells the boys it’s time to go downstairs for breakfast. He picks up Ryan in one arm and unsuccessfully negotiates with Alex that he doesn’t also need to be carried downstairs. The Cohen boys lumber down the stairs and I hear Alex immediately ask for his iPad.
Twenty minutes of alone time — thank god. Well, not really, I woke up to 30 emails. Ten of them start with something like “Can you get back to me ASAP?” Or something even less friendly. It’s all good. I respond to all of them. Leaning in, right Sheryl? ‘
My favorite part of the day is coming. The breakfast vortex. Summer, our labradoodle, is getting ready to jump on me. Madison has arrived and she’s feeding Ryan. Neil is eating French toast and simultaneously discussing the logistics of the day with Madison while begging Alex to eat his oatmeal and telling him that he can only have one gummy worm. I hear him talk about a 9am drop-off, 1pm pick-up, 2pm pick-up, the urgent need for more baby wipes, etc. etc. Sounds awful, sounds amazing. I’m jealous I don’t get to drop Alex off at camp and simultaneously relieved that I don’t have to.
“You look so beautiful mommy,” says Alex. There it is — the absolute highlight of my day. This boy is going to be an absolute lady killer. “Thank you sweetie,” I reply.
At this point, I pretty much dress for work for him. At camp yesterday he made a necklace out of pasta shells and I told him I would wear it to work. It goes perfectly with my sweater. And honestly I waited a long time for kids – a long time of seeing other people wear pasta jewelry and wondering if I would ever get to. “Mommy, remember not to lose my necklace.” Oh god, this thing better not break. “And mommy,” says Alex. “Yes baby,” I reply. “Remember I need a new rock for my rock collection. Will you get one at work?” he says. “Absolutely sweetie.” Neil asks me if I’m going to have a busy day today but he already knows the answer. He pats me on the behind, whispers in my ear to hang in there and I’m alone again in my car driving to work.
Work goes mostly according to plan. One-on-one meeting every 30 minutes, some of them in buildings a 10-minute walk apart. How is this supposed to work? I get in my car and drive in circles around my company’s campus, praying for parking. I check my email while I walk fast across parking lots, while I wait for the elevator – let’s be honest, while I’m in half of the meetings. All things being equal, I love my job. It’s hard, it’s an all-encompassing grind, but I really believe we’re doing something special and I have some really great colleagues.
Neil says we are in bizarro world. Luckily Google understands his pop culture references because I sure don’t. He’s the mom and I’m the dad (stereotypically of course). And, I wish it was that simple, but it’s not. When Alex was around a year old and I took him to the park, another mom asked me how old he was because he wasn’t walking yet. When I told her he was 12 months old, she replied “well, it’s because you work.” He doesn’t walk because I work? No, seriously, she said that.
Neil is texting me photos from Ryan’s gym class. When did he get so big? Neil jokingly texts me that he’s chatting up the hot mom in the class about preschool or something. Jerk. I doubt he’s joking at all.
I text him back that it would be great if I could get 30 minutes tonight just to chill, maybe run and get some frozen yogurt or something by myself. As Alex would say, I just need some “alone time.” He responds “of course, I’ll take the boys to the pond up the block to check out the baby ducks.”
Heading home. I slip off my heels and put on my flip-flops. Happiness is a comfortable pair of flip-flops. Like a really good latte. Driving through traffic, I can finally put my hair up. My sister is texting me about my niece’s dance class. Maybe we should try for a girl.
I turn the corner to our block. Fuck! I forgot a rock for Alex’s rock collection. I don’t think he actually cares about the rock, but it’s a fun way to have something that’s just between us. There absolutely no way I’m coming home empty handed. I pull over to the side of the street, checking out our neighbors’ front yards…someone has to have some type of rock. I quickly get out of the car and grab a rock from the Smith’s front garden, (I have no real idea what their name is – I’ve never met them) knowing full well that they’re going to pull up just as I bend down to snatch it. I’ll tell them the truth – that I’ll bring back the rock after my son goes to sleep. It doesn’t happen this time. Next time, I’m sure.
I can hear the dog barking. I look up and Ryan is in the window pointing at me. I can see his little mouth saying “mama.” Damn, I love that boy.
All I can think about is running upstairs first to take off my armor and put on yoga pants. Maybe even lie on the bed for a few minutes. But no way am I’m going to get through the dinner vortex.
“Hi babe,” Neil says, as the dog jumps all over me.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Alex screams and jumps at me, almost knocking me backward. “Did you get me a rock for my collection?”
“Right here, sweetie,” I reply.
“Yeah!! — lets go outside and add it to my collection.” Boy, I love that smile.
“In a few minutes, you need to finish dinner and I want to change.” I catch Neil’s eye to help me on this, and he explains to Alex the order of events for the evening.
“Ok,” Alex replies, but follows up with “Mommy, put your hair down.” I was ready for that, and allow Ryan, who is currently at my feet, to not so gently pull out my hair tie. It’s only 90 degrees out.
I escape upstairs and take a long breath, only to hear Alex running up the stairs a few minutes later. “Mommy, Daddy said we’re going to the pond, do you want to come?”
“Oh buddy, I would love to but I just need a few minutes to respond to a couple of emails.” I already know that’s not going to work, nor should it.
“But mom (said as four syllables), we need to go as a family — you, daddy, me and baby Ryan.” Stabbed through the heart.
By this time, Neil and Ryan have made their way upstairs too and we’re all standing in the bathroom while I scrub off what mascara hasn’t already melted off and get asked to put my hair down again.
We walk as a family to the park. It’s a beautiful night. The sun is setting. I sit on the edge of the small deck and we watch the ducks, fish and turtles swim by. I’m so overwhelmed. I try not to think about the clean up waiting at home, the work I have left to do, but it’s nearly impossible. Ryan is on my lap, Alex snuggles up next to me and for a minute, it’s perfect. Damn, I love these boys.
A Break….maybe tomorrow. Probably not.