I usually spend 30 min. working out; an equal amount of time in the shower and wrestling with the blow-dryer; and another hour preparing semi-fresh, sometimes questionably nutritious lunches, signing agendas, waking the kids, playing for five minutes, supervising dress code compliance and teeth brushing procedures, and getting myself dolled up with mixy-matchy earrings/shoes/lip gloss. I must look like a Muppet to my neighbors when they catch glimpses of my head frantically bopping past the kitchen window, unless, of course, they are participating in their own little backstage bustle. Part of this hour also includes catching up with other moms at my daughter’s bus stop and finally getting to work – all before 8:20 AM. When I return after 5, I resume where I had left off 9 hours earlier in an effort to get a head start on the next day. The hours between school bus #6 and walking through my front door are often spent meeting hair-raising deadlines while flying by the seat of my pants. My job, which I love, can go from scrounging around for billable items to not being able to wipe my nose properly in an effort to keep said body part to the grindstone. Feast to famine. Water cooler chitchat to midnight emails. My personal record stands at 35 hours of overtime in a single week (don’t worry though, I put the overtime to good therapy use at the mall).
Am I busy? Sure. Aren’t we all though? Of course. No big deal, right? Right. We all do it. There’s a parking lot of proof out there at my kids’ daycare. Come 8:10, the lot clears and the last school bus heads out. The sign-in sheet at my son’s preschool room is already full, and he’s off to bigger and better things with his friends. My daughter, in the meantime, is heading for a packed day of math quizzes, specials, band practice, chorus rehearsals, spelling tests, and “chew and do” breaks in between. It’s always struck me as strange how my kids lead these separate lives during my office hours, while I am off to another planet trading inside jokes with fellow nerds who equally appreciate a good headache when they see one. (I’m a proposal manager – so if you are snorting through your nose at the sight of the term “SF 330,” then you get this sad joke. Hi!).
Like all moms I know, I get more done before 8 AM than in an 8-hour stretch on weekends. But it’s okay, really. I once read that in order to get things done, you should ask a busy person for help. If you follow that logic, working mothers should stand on top of the productivity food chain. When I first returned to work, after my babies were born, I worked while pumping (behind securely locked doors!). Now I frequently avoid a lot of office clutter so I can meet my deadlines before sunset. I sometimes skip lunch to preempt the afternoon rush. I’m busy, but so is the mom next to me. Somehow we all manage to run into each other in the backyard after work, or we give an understanding nod while at the Redner’s checkout line. If we make it look easy, it’s because we have mastered the process and given up on the ever elusive “attagirl.” If our hair goes up in a bun after 5 PM, it’s because we had discreetly pulled out the grey ones hours before. If we don’t mention how hectic it can be sometimes, it’s because we have learned to accept it (carefully kicking the dust bin under your desk is okay). While there are occasional hours of overtime, it’s usually a blip in the greater scheme of a working mother’s life.
On most days, we just need for someone to hold the door so we can rush to our next adventure without getting the laptop, lunchboxes, and superhero cape stuck. Sometimes a shoulder to cry on also helps. Occasionally, we dare go all out and rest on our laurels for five minutes before planning tomorrow’s lunch menu. Last night was one of those times. I had a whole pint of Chunky Monkey, watched TV for an hour, and read two percent of my current book (darn you, Kindle, for your lack of page #s). Life is good, even if happiness is not courtesy of two Vermont hippies. And while I can only speak for myself, there are usually enough hours in the day to find microscopic downtime somewhere, even if that entails reading the PTC newsletter in the bathroom, after turning off the laptop at midnight.
By Marion Kase
Marion Kase is a working mother who lives, plays, and, well, works out in the burbs. She captures a dirty sock laundry list of mundane, sometimes hair-pulling observations, as seen from the brim of my coffee cup, for all the unsung heroes in our wonderful community on her blog, Helicopter-Caterpillar.