Last week, I was chatting with a parent I see from time to time, and she asked if I work full time. When I said yes, she was incredulous and asked how I did it with four little ones. How do I do it? I don't really know. Statistically speaking, since the 1970s there are more women in the workforce than ever, due to changing financials, divorce, and whatnot. Financially, I have to work, as do many women. How do we juggle working, children, family, home?
I learned the fine art of multi-tasking when I had the twins. I had two babies to feed, two sets of diapers to change, two babies in the tub, two screamers, two pukers, and so on and so forth. That is, in addition to an energetic two year old and two teenagers. When we first brought the girls home from the NICU, Reagan weighed in at barely five pounds, and Reese was less than four. I remember sitting on the sofa with a breast pump doing its work, with a baby lying on my lap and another lying next to me, a bottle in each of their mouths, while I fielded congratulatory phone calls. Was I stressed out? Y-E-S. I wish I could look back on those early days with fondness, but much of what I remember is anxiety, hormone swings, and wishing desperately I could get to the bathroom to brush my teeth. It was a hazy time in my life where I felt like I could barely keep my head above water. Just as I settled in and felt like I might be able to handle this, I had to go back to work.
Those days convinced me that I could do it all and have it all. I wish I could say that I was a great mom, but in the blur of settling in and caring for these babies, I simply don't remember doing anything out of the ordinary. I managed to keep everyone safe and fed and generally clean, so I must have done something right. And then I had another baby, which honestly, I thought would send me over the edge, but we managed.
Fast forward a few years to Treyton dancing and hanging on to his wee-wee telling me that he had to pee. My response, "Well aren't you wearing a pull up?" as he took off for the bathroom, and that was that. My kid potty trained himself. When Brody was that age, I coaxed and sweet-talked, rewarding him with M&Ms, doing a happy dance, showering him with praise the moment anything emerged from his body and landed in the toilet. I think Reese and Reagan maybe got some type of reward, but I just don't recall. The urgency in getting them potty trained was mostly financial in not having to purchase double the diapers or pull ups. Life sure does change from your first kid to your last.
These days everyone is growing up on me. No more teenagers, as the girls are all in their 20s now. There is no more yummy baby smell, drool, jarred baby food, or diapers. Much of the time, the children insist, "I can do it myself, Mom!" Now and again, Reese will get out of the bath tub and ask me to wrap her in her towel hold her like a baby. Just last night Brody wanted to snuggle in bed with me before he crawled into his own; all 90 pounds of him climbed right on top of me and nearly suffocated me, while I hugged him, rubbed his back and shoulders and then heaved him aside before I passed out from lack of oxygen.
How do we, as working moms, juggle it all? Good question! My house is a perpetual mess, but the bathroom is always clean. The mail may take a few days to open, but the bills are always paid. The dishes might be piled in the sink, but everyone's belly is full. But, when I'm in the throes of cooking or cleaning, when Reagan might walk by and ask if I want to push her on the swings, the answer is an unequivocal y-e-s. At work, when I get an early morning, sleepy phone call from my little guy, I tell him all about my morning, and listen to all the dreams he had the night before. When Reesie wants me to paint her fingernails, I make sure it is bright pink or bright red, even if she is going to take a bath in a couple of hours and wash it all off. When I am doing my hair and make-up in the morning before work, I am always certain to put a dab of blush on the girls' cheeks and a spritz of hair spray, just to see them smile. It is not easy know that these are the good old days (hey, isn't that a song??), that I can't call a "time out" and keep life just the way it is. I want to keep my kids this young and sweet and innocent forever. Taking the time out from the buzz of life's chores so my little one knows how much he or she is loved, so she can brag that her mom painted her fingernails, or so he can brag that his mom gave him a tattoo, is certainly time well spent.