I missed a long-overdue gynecologist appointment last week. I’d been putting it off forever, until I realized it had been four years and I had to stop making excuses. When I finally called, the earliest appointment was months away. Since the best available time was 11:30 in the morning, I got up early to get some work done before taking the kids to school so I wouldn’t fall behind. Then I had to pick up my daughter because she was sick. I looked at the time after getting her settled and realized I hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Since the appointment was a half-hour away, I grabbed a protein bar and an apple, threw them in my purse, and started to head out the door.
Then I heard it: the dreaded beeping of my washing machine.
I knew it well — it means the machine wasn’t draining. Usually, I hit restart, the machine drains fine, and I can carry on with my day. But not today. I think the heavens above must have known how much I didn’t want to go to the gynecologist, so they decided to make my washing machine flood my downstairs bathroom. Inches of water were pouring out, leaking down to my finished basement.
My daughter — who could barely stand up because her stomach hurt so bad — helped me by grabbing towels. I soon realized they weren’t enough and got a bucket from the garage. I was trying to catch the water and mop up what I could on the basement floor. I used every towel in the house. I started ugly crying and yelling profanities. I had to lean on the windowsill to keep myself from throwing my body to the ground.
I was depleted, exhausted, and maybe even a little overdramatic because once again, it felt like there was no way I could get it all done: work, being a mom, house responsibilities, and taking care of myself. It had already been a rough week; the fence in my front yard blew over. Upon painting my kids’ ceilings (they’d decided to take their LED lights down, which took all the paint with them), I saw how badly our carpets needed to be cleaned. I put the air conditioners in the windows and, while I was at it, noticed some of the screens needed to be replaced. My deck needed to be power washed. My weed wacker broke.
The list goes on and on and never stops. Even when I’m motivated and getting stuff checked off my to-do list, more things pile up. It feels like I’ll never get caught up.
Then there’s the fact I have to work and be a mom on top of all that. My daughter’s birthday is coming up, and I want to plan something nice for her. I have deadlines for work, plus I need to take care of my kids’ appointments, make sure they’re staying on top of their schoolwork, and see that they are happy and healthy. I need to stay on top of things like my own doctor’s appointment, and I’ll be honest — I don’t, because something has to give.
Owning a home with two adults in it is a lot. There’s always something that needs to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. You need to make sure you have to funds to stay on top of unexpected things which is a burden by itself. When my ex-husband lived here, we both felt it, but that’s nothing like being a single mother and trying to tackle it all on your own. Not only are you the only one responsible for your kids when they are with you, but you are also the one who keeps all the plates spinning when it comes to your home.
In the past five years, since I’ve been the only adult living here, there have been many times I’ve felt like giving up. Trying to manage my time around kids, work, and home repairs suffocates me. My kids have watched me cry while trying to change the bathroom fan and take hours to find a handyman to come to fix my broken garage door.
But then there are the times I drive up to my driveway and I am so thankful for all that I have. I think about the work it has taken for me to keep my home in one piece — the home my kids grew up in and I was able to keep even though I am a divorced woman, the home that has been the hub of so many good memories.
Yes, there are times I feel like giving it all up and moving to a place where I don’t have to be the one in charge of fixing the cracked driveway or replacing the roof. A place where I don’t have to mow or snow blow or try and get someone to come over and repair my water-stained basement ceiling.
I’d be giving up too much, though. I’ve bled trying to keep my home because it means that much to me. It was something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do when I got divorced, but I decided I’d try. I promised myself I’d take it one day at a time and tackle things as they come up and that’s what I've done.
So, even on the days when I’m crying, at my wit's end, and think there’s no possible way I can do everything I need to do, it all works out. Keeping my house has been worth every breakdown, and every cent because every time I get through one more obstacle, I’m showing my kids and myself what’s possible.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.