What do moms and dads even do all day? It’s a difficult thing to put into words, so I thought I’d share my own experience — or a sample schedule of life with toddlers — to better capture what parents do on a daily basis.
Our son Ciro will be 2 in August, and his big sister Penelope will be 4 in July. (How is that even possible? That’s another post for another time.) But in the meantime, what I know for sure is that caring for small children day in and day out, managing every bite of food, nap, diaper change, potty break, bedtime routine, and tantrum while trying to actually raise them takes a lot of energy — both mental and physical. So here we go — this is one mom’s day in the life with toddlers:
3:00 a.m. I am awakened from a light sleep by the 1-year-old making noises. Check the monitor. He’s sleeping (loudly), but all is good. Close my eyes.
3:42 a.m. Still awake, my mind racing with everything that needs to be done plus plenty of other things that I have no control over. Have panic attack while Sesame Street’s “Number of the Day” song plays involuntarily on repeat in my head. It takes every shred of my being to block it out, but I do and I fall asleep again.
5:30 a.m. The 3-year-old runs into our room. “I’m awake! I’m awake! And I’m so happy!” Beg her to go back to bed. She reluctantly agrees. Too bad we’re wide awake now and can’t fall back asleep.
6:30 a.m. Get out of bed, make coffee. Attempt to work for a few moments while the house is still quiet. Inspiration doesn’t come, so I forget that and try a 10-minute meditation. Give up when I hear both kids making noises in their rooms (did Buddha ever wrangle toddlers?). Empty dishwasher before getting them up.
7:00 a.m. Breakfast for kids. Coffee (sweet, sweet coffee) for me and Greg; eggs for me, Greg, and Penelope; and oatmeal for Ciro (he’s egg-free right now due to digestive issues).
7:30 a.m. Clean up kitchen post-breakfast while kids play. Our little guy is a bit of a disaster and lives to make messes, but he knows how to at least point to the globs of oatmeal that he dropped on the floor, so there’s that.
8:00 a.m. Attempt shower. Drag entire Pack ‘n Play into the bathroom, load it up with books and toys to keep the little guy corralled for 10 minutes as I speed through a shampoo. He gets bored after minute two, proceeds to freak out and yell to be freed from his mesh prison as I rinse conditioner out of my hair and attempt a speed-shave. Exit shower with legs looking half-Venus model, half-Chewbacca. Whatever.
8:30 a.m. Attempt to get both kids dressed. It’s hard to explain how such a simple-sounding task can be so mind-bogglingly difficult, but let’s just say that it usually involves poop, tears, high levels of negotiation, and one of us leaving the house wearing two different shoes.
8:45 a.m. Attempt to fold load of laundry. Watch toddler wreck neatly folded laundry piles as I go. Refold. Watch him do it again. His sister joins. Repeat. Repeat. Give up.
9:00 a.m. Snack. If you would have told me a few years ago that I’d be past breakfast and already on to snack by 9 a.m., I’d be like, pshhhhh, no way, yet here we are.
9:30 a.m. Change the little one’s diaper. As I reach to toss the dirty diaper into the pail directly next to me, he decides he’s going to give me a heart attack by launching himself off his changing pad atop his dresser. Somehow, mid-air, I catch him in the middle of what appears to be a sideways toddler triple axel. We both stare at each other stunned until he laughs, squirms from my arms, and runs away. I want to be mad. But honestly, the sight of his jiggly baby butt hightailing it down the hall makes it impossible.
10:00 a.m. We are homebound since some repairmen have arrived at our house. First, we play puzzles inside, then run around outside. Being outside with them is sometimes fun, but mostly means I play referee, offering constant explanations of why it’s “not okay to push your brother down the stairs” and making sure they are safe.
11:30 a.m. Back inside. Change both kids — who are now covered in mud. I take out the paint and easel to occupy the kids while I get lunch ready. Immediately regret decision when the little one starts painting his own belly, and the big toddler joins in to help.
I can’t even think about the cleanup, but hey, at least it bought me five minutes to make lunch. #winning (Lunch was cucumber sandwiches since our garden had been producing tons of cucumbers. I make it for Ciro with hummus instead of cream cheese since he’s dairy-free right now.)
For lunch, Penelope decided she wanted her cucumber cut into circles. No wait, she wants it shredded. No, circles! I remind her to take her time deciding — it’s not like her brother is screaming bloody murder for his food and making me want to put my head through a wall or anything. (But I guess he’s learning patience.)
11:45 a.m. Bobby, the guy who cuts our grass, is here! The kids love Bobby, so we all stand at the backdoor, Penelope next to me and Ciro in my arms, both of them waving furiously to get his attention. Bobby looks startled, gives an awkward wave, then goes right back to work. I thought that was strange until I looked down and saw that Ciro had yanked my tank top all the way down to my belly button and suddenly it all made sense. Make mental note to stop flashing Bobby.
12:00 p.m. Lunch! Realize I haven’t peed or had an uninterrupted thought since 6:30 a.m. Leave bathroom door open so I can hear the kids. Prep and scarf my own lunch down while they eat so I don’t have to waste nap time eating something.
1:00 p.m. Nap time…or so I thought. Get Ciro ready and down. Workers are up in the attic which is in Penelope’s room, so she has to skip her nap. This sucks for me because I have a mile-long to-do list including work, but this means jackpot! for her. She’ll be downstairs with me having “quiet time” while I attempt to get things done.
1:05 p.m. “Quiet time” not going well. Try as she might to stay quiet, Penelope interrupts me relentlessly so I give her a book and more paint brushes to keep her occupied. She spends her time painting every part of the easel that isn’t meant to be painted, but she’s happy and creating, and who really cares if the easel is painted? I let it happen.
2:00 p.m. Ciro is up and babbling away, which means nap time = over. Get him up, get him changed (outfit No. 3, in case you’re wondering about laundry) and this time, thankfully, there are no acrobatics involved.
2:15 p.m. Freeze dance! The kids are usually high-energy right after nap time so we get moving. Freeze dance wears them out a bit, and bonus points that I count this as a workout and they can reach the button on the speaker themselves.
2:45 p.m. Snack. Today it’s a smoothie since we are about to run an errand and need something to take to go. Penelope loves helping make smoothies.
3:00 p.m. Attempt a trip to the post office to mail out signed copies of books. My plan is to keep Ciro strapped into his stroller so at least one child is corralled. Since Penelope can listen much better at this age, she can be loose. I am armed with Lara bars for when Ciro starts fussing (which he does any time he’s in a parked stroller) and the smoothie. He gets upset, I get looks from just about everyone in line, and overhear one guy make negative comments about us to the post office clerk.
I’ve learned by now to block out those comments, especially when they’re from people like clueless guy with ample personal space who gets to pee alone, so I let it roll. I have a job to do. Penelope diffuses the situation by singing “The Wheels on the Bus” to Ciro and feeding him his snack, which keeps him quiet enough that I can get through addressing packages with minimal screaming. I deem it a win.
3:45 p.m. We hit up the park! Both kids want the swing and are begging (read: whining) to be pushed. Since there’s only one of me and I’m desperate to not hear anymore whining:
5:30 p.m. Dinner. In the midst of trying to prep food, I attempt to talk to my husband about the day and important boring stuff, but we are interrupted endlessly and eventually give up. “Forget it, I’ll tell you later.” I tell him I feel like I’m in an asylum. He says that’s because I am. This makes sense after I hear myself utter to our daughter, “First finish your dinner, then you can smell my armpit.” Don’t ask. This is toddlers.
6:30 p.m. Clean up from dinner. Thankfully husband is home tonight. He gives baths and puts kids to bed while I clean kitchen, wash the pots, put toys away, and start another load of laundry.
7:30 p.m. Kids are in bed! I’m going to get so much done now that I can concentrate. I think I’ll just sit down for one…minute…ZZZ…ZZZ
There you have it! There’s so much lost in translation, even when trying to write it all down. You don’t see the struggle of getting the kids out of the house and strapped into their car seats, you miss the ridiculousness of setting up the stroller in a parking lot and bikes falling out of the back of the car. You miss the laughs, the giggles, the tea parties, the new words spoken, the new bike trick learned.
You miss the mental breakdowns, the tears, the tantrums, the sweet spots, the boo-boo kisses, the endless requests for more snacks. The missed calls from those you desperately want to connect with but couldn’t pick up because your hands were too full. The day is an emotional roller coaster for everyone that revolves around the basic human needs of the kids.
But again, what do you do all day?!