One afternoon last month Catie and I were talking about time. She has this teaching clock from the dollar bins at Target (half of our house is from the dollar bins at Target), and I was saying things like, “At seven, we eat breakfast. At eight we leave for school.” And she would move the hands to seven o’clock and so on. This worked until about three o’clock. Then we had the three or four hours between school and bed to account for. What do we do in those hours?
What do we do?
Welcome to the world of the Stay-At-Home-Mom.
It’s a question I’ve had since before I became a mom. My friends would tell me how how exhausted they were. But it didn’t add up. Watch the kids…play a few rounds of CandyLand…run over to Target to scour the dollar bins. The kids would float from one activity to another. I only had to be like Julie the cruise director and make sure they were safe and happy (but without all the hook-ups of the Love Boat). No problem. Boring, maybe. But exhausting?
And now I know that the exhausting part of being a SAHM is that kids never float to safe and happy activities. Without constructive options, they gravitate toward opening and slamming the microwave (ours was built-in to the island by the previous owners who only had teens), giving each other piggy-back rides (yes, even the twins, who are the size and weight), and playing in the sink. Lots of playing in the sink.
And there are lots of days that I’m so exhausted I close my eyes on the couch, let them run to the microwave and the sink, and wait for the fall-out.
I’m exhausted because I know the Rules for SAHM with whole days to kill.
1. The amount of time it takes you to set-up for an activity is not directly proportionate to the amount of time it will kill.
(Crafts are especially deceiving about this. Organizing a painting project will distract you for a good thirty minutes while the kids splash water all over the bathroom. Their interest will usually be ten minutes. Tops.)
2. Time passes more quickly on a swing set–or any outside activity.
(Sure there will be swing collisions, kids falling from high places, filthy hands and dog-poopy shoes, but when you walk back inside with exhausted kids, the clock will have moved miraculously forward. And an hour of Imagination Movers is completely justified because you’ve been outside in the fresh-air exercising.)
3. Get out of the house!
(When you’re packing enough Yogos and CapriSuns for a year away , and explaining to every single kid that they can’t wear flip-flops because they don’t stay on their feet, and finding clothes for each one that aren’t dirty pjs, leaving the house may seem counter-intuitive. Especially if you know that at least one kid will have a meltdown right in the really awkward no-way-is this-produce-section-big-enough-for-my-super-sized-car-cart-and-anyone-else. And everyone will look at you and you can tell they’re wondering why only two of the kids made it out of their dirty pjs. And how you could possibly be pregnant. And at least one person might say those things to you. Not that you can answer. You’re too exhausted.
But look! There are the dollar bins. Give each kid a teaching clock or some Hello Kitty! lip gloss. And check the time.
Forty more minutes of constructive activities DONE.
And you have the lip gloss and clock for the car ride home.