It’s 5 p.m. and I’m making dinner. The twins’ bickering has just erupted into a hot-tears-and-screechy-threats fight, and the 3-year-old calls from the bathroom to tell me she peed all over the floor—again. And here is my husband, calling me on his way home from work to ask,
“How was your day?”
There is no easy answer to this question.
I love my days as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom. And I also hate them. Every day, as soon as we wake up, there is good stuff piled on top of bad stuff in rapid succession, like Dagwood on a midnight fridge raid:
“Good morning, sweet sleepy girls. I love you!”
“Why can’t you guys just help me? I need helpers in the morning, not whiners.”
“Shoes! Coats! Backpacks! Now! Ahh! Why did you take your socks off, and are you seriously putting your toothbrush on the dog right now?!”
“I love you so, so, sooo much. Have a great day.”
Mornings with 5-year-old twins and a 3-year-old are like a merry-go-round spinning out of control, and since my husband leaves for work before they even get up, it’s just me, using all of my strength to hold onto that merry-go-round and keep lunch boxes, hair clips, and toothpaste from flying in all directions. Even after we get out the door, someone refuses to carry her backpack to the car, someone else kicks her sister just because, and yet another someone gets a nosebleed all over her car seat.
Right now, my children are only in school two days a week, but on those two days, after I’ve finally dropped them off at their respective schools, coming home to a quiet house feels amazing. Even though I have piles of work to do, food to prepare (how do they eat so much?!), and a never-ending cleaning to-do list, I can at least do those things while blasting Ben Folds. Or I can choose simple, beautiful silence.
And then, quicker than you can say, “What do stay-at-home-moms even do all day?” it’s time to pick them up again. They’re still little enough that they run to me or at least break into huge grins when I come through the door. I soak it up. I snuggle them and tell them I missed them; they tell me they had a good day. But the pleasantness always seems to dissipate once we’re back in the car. They fuss about seat belts and launch into absurd arguments.
Once we get home, the after-school circus of cranky kids, muddy shoes, and backpacks full of so much paper explodes into my house. My mind barrels through all the things I have to do in the remaining hours before bedtime: get snacks and clean up and answer questions and break up fights and help search for a puzzle piece and make dinner and clean up and pack lunches and clean up, and all of a sudden, the merry-go-round has started right back up again.
“I need you to get away from the stove and go play in the other room. I’m making dinner.”
“I don’t know where Hello Kitty’s hair bow is. It’s, like, smaller than a raisin. I’m sure you’ll find it somewhere.”
“We do not hit each other! Ever! No more fighting!”
So how was my day?
How do I answer that?
Right now, this moment is insane, but earlier, there were some lovely bits. Was it a good day? A bad day?
How do I tell my hard-working husband that today I felt so grateful that I am the one who gets to see our kids’ sweet smiles when I pick them up from school, but that I was also resentful that I’m the one who always has to deal with the before-and-after-school merry-go-round?
How do I tell him, without going on and on, that our children made me laugh, that I marveled at the length of their legs and the complexity of their thinking, but that they also threatened to drive me completely batshit crazy with their stubbornness, whining, and fighting?
Every day is everything—exhausting and amazing. Some days we laugh a lot, and other days it’s too hard to find the funny. Most days start with both smiles and scowls and end with a glass of wine and an aching back.
And I guess the real issue for me is that these up/down, good/bad roller coaster days of my life with my kids are also indicative of the mixed feelings I have about the choice I made to be a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I’m grateful and content, and other times I hate everything and seriously consider alternatives.
But for now, this is the life we have chosen. At the end of every day, when the merry-go-round is dark and quiet, I kiss my kids’ faces and say, “Goodnight, sweet sleepy girls. I love you. It was a good day.” And in the grand scheme of things, as hard as it is to remember sometimes, I know that we are lucky to have each other, to have our health, to have a home. It really was a good day.
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