The baby wakes me up. He’s screaming. I let the dogs out. They whine and claw at the door, and I realize I’ve forgotten to feed them immediately. I find shoes, locate a scoop, and stumble onto the back porch to dump kibble in bowls. My 6-year-old and 4-year-old, long awake and watching Wild Kratts, clamber for breakfast. I throw in a load of laundry while making three sets of toast and one pot of coffee simultaneously. Just as I’m sitting down with the coffee, the baby lets the dogs in. They snarf half of breakfast. Children cry. And I have to do it all over again.
Being a SAHM is hard. We like to complain about it, the daily round of children and cooking and chores. It can be boring, reading Goodnight Moon over and over and over and over. It can be brutally isolating, especially with few playdates, especially if you don’t have a car. But being a SAHM can also be fun, amazing, and entertaining. And no, I’m not talking about the unicorn farts of watching your children grow, though that’s part of it. I love staying home with my kids, and despite lots of time spent in a university, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. I don’t just survive. I thrive.
1. I wear a Big Lebowski robe a lot of the time.
If I’m not going out, I’m not getting dressed. Period.
2. The kids wear their pajamas a lot of the time. I’m not going to the trouble of wrangling angry octopi into Angry Birds shirts when no one’s seeing them but me.
3. We rely on the TV. Alas! Alack! Someone call Social Services! Oh, Chris and Martin Kratt. I would like to personally thank you for my sanity.
4. We rely on books. Ha! I’m not a loser layabout mom! Even if it means reading the baby’s favorite book over and over, and even if that’s Go, Dog. Go! and even if that makes me want to claw my eyes out, we read. Luckily the big kids have branched out.
5. You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. No, for real. The kids tell me what they want for breakfast among the three perennial options: cereal, buttered toast, and oatmeal (sometimes muffins or yogurt make an appearance). When I put it in front of them, they can’t claim they changed their mind. They eat it.
6. Didn’t eat? Too bad. Kids get three options: an apple, a banana, or a plain piece of bread. They can have as much as they want, but they can only have one of these three options. This cuts down on whining, pickiness, and effort on my part.
7. Lunch is as easy as possible. See, I once set coleslaw on fire (don’t laugh; it can be done). So it’s frozen and includes veggies. Or it’s PB&J and includes carrots. Or it’s fast food, and I might try to shove a fruit cup in them.
8. I stock up on snack food. Kids get hangry without warning. That’s where the fruit snacks come in to prevent the misery. We also use rice cakes, gummy bears, and carrots to stave off the rage.
9. My husband cleans. He cooks and does the dishes. I don’t have time to parent all day and do that.
10. But I do the laundry—and leave it in baskets. Who uses dressers, anyway? I wash the laundry, sort the laundry, and leave it in baskets in everyone’s room. I don’t fold, I don’t iron, and I don’t believe in putting things in drawers, because we’re just going to take them out again.
11. I clean in spurts. The bathrooms one day, the kids’ rooms another. I might sweep the hallway once a week, but on that one day, my hallway looks damn good. This all gives me more time to spend with—you guessed it—my kids. Also, my husband doesn’t care.
12. We don’t stay home. Sure, we spend part of the day at the house. But we make sure to get out to Target, playdates, parks, and lessons. It breaks up the monotony and keeps the time fun.
13. When we don’t stay home, I dress up. I am more than a mom of three kids. I am into makeup. I contour. I tightline. I select eyeshadows and use two different kinds of mascara. Then I put on a dress, because I can, and I look awesome. When I get home, though, I revert immediately to the Lebowski robe.
14. We make and keep regular playdates. These playdates are carefully curated: I like the mom for reasons other than her being a mom; my kids like her kids. We hang out and ignore the children. Instant adult time.
15. I embrace the art. That includes glitter, tie-dye (the stains will eventually come out of your bathtub), and acrylic paint. You can always wash it off or wipe it up, and the kids love it.
16. Playdough, you save me on days of rainy misery. You win all the things.
17. There’s always the tub. If I’m going crazy, I strip them naked and put them in with some bottles and cups and dinosaurs. Old shampoo bottles seem particularly popular. I can sit on the toilet with my feet up and get in some phone time.
18. We get outside. Even if it’s just to the front yard, we get out and run. Or rather, they do. I sit on my phone and tell them not to aim their plastic bows and arrows at each other’s heads.
19. We have conversations. Your 5-year-old has a lot to say, I promise. And it’s lame and twee and all that to tell you to really talk to him, but you should, because he’s a really cool person. I promise.
20. We develop inside jokes. You can have an inside joke with a 2-year-old. I do. When mine is pissy with someone, he calls them a “weanie beanie.” I laugh, and he does it again, and repeat.
21. Sometimes, their rooms will be a mess. And sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and keep walking. The same goes for the kitchen counter, the living room floor, and the bathroom.
22. We don’t count TV if it’s scientific. Some days, Wild Kratts and The Magic School Bus fall under the umbrella of science.
23. My partner’s always coming home. And I can count the hours and minutes until he walks in the door, and I hand over the munchkins and retreat to the back room to take a nap and question my life choices.
24. Some days it will suck. Your kids will fight, your dinner will burn, and you’ll want to go back to work. This is normal.
25. Some days it will be awesome. Your kids will make spectacular art with you, they’ll help scramble eggs for lunch, and you’ll wonder how you got so lucky. This is normal, too.
I do things for the kids. I do things for the house. And I make sure to do things for myself. We’re held together by a glue of Wild Kratts and peanut butter. Some days are miraculous and wonderful. Some days see us watching movies for hours straight, just so the kids don’t kill each other. We do the best we can. We survive.