A Work From Home Mom's Summer of Madness
Summer's over and the school bell's ringing. What better time to look back on how those schoolday-free months wreaks havoc on the life of a work at home mom, courtesy of MomSpeaker and mother of five EJ Curran?
You know that time back in high school when you didn't feel well and the nurse let you lay down in the sick room for 10 minutes before sending you back to class, and you looked up and saw that "BABYIES ARE EXPENSIVE" poster. Yeah, you know the one. While that is definitely true, more so now than then, I'm thinking they need to make another poster . . . "PARENTING IS THE HARDEST THING YOU WILL EVER DO." Money aside, parenting is physical, mental and emotional. I do think a poster like that would deter more young people from having babies early. I mean, parenting is damn hard when you're an adult. SO HARD.
I'll just come right out and say that this summer has been the hardest summer for me so far as a parental unit — and my kids are still young. I just turned 30. That didn't help my emotional state. I love my kids dearly, and they make me laugh with all their silliness; I beam with pride at their smarts and creativity, their care for one another and their love of exploring this world with me. Let's be honest, though, five kids are LOUD. They ARGUE. They MESS like they're getting paid to mess. Then while you're dealing with all the noise, bickering and messing, you have to conjure up whatever is left of your sanity and soul to raise these little monsters to be good people.
Since school let out in early June, it took me oh, an entire month and more to wrap my brain around having all five kids in the same house all day long, every day for the entire summer. I'd really gotten spoiled having three kids in preschool all year, one in Kindergarten and a third grader. As a work from home mother since 2005, my routine has evolved so that I start working during the few hours my younger kids are in school, as that's when work actually gets done. Then the little guys nap and I work some more.
This summer I've felt as though I've been walking around my house for 50-odd days guzzling coffee and having panic attacks, attempting to talk to customers on my so-called business line while my 5-year-old screams that she never wants to see me again at the top of her lungs because I won't meet her demands for juice during those two tiny minutes I'm talking to said customer, then shuttling kids to whatever day trip, activity or park, grocery store and all those places we go, with my brains completely and utterly scrambled. Whew. Not a sentence. Parenting around the clock while trying to run a company in the same house doesn't always work the way I want it to.
No, being a work at home parent is no walk in the park. Well, I guess it depends on what kind of park we're talking about. I imagine that a park filled with screaming, poop-shooting vegetation that wrap their twisty little vines around your ankles, arms and neck while you're trying to make a phone call to a client might be similar. Under the stress, I do occasionally lose sight of why I started this work from home venture years ago in the first place. I had one kid when I started my business. HA. When I'm hiding in the dark, locked bathroom, holding the door knob tight with one fist and emailing a customer on my phone with the other hand, whilst a toddler or two attempts to jimmy the lock on the other side, I grit my teeth and think WHY ME!? Some days are a breeze. Yes, my kids can be absolutely perfect beings. But not every day. They're little humans, after all. They need, need, need and need all the time. They want, want, want and want all the time. It literally never ends. And . . . that's OK. In fact, I'm pretty lucky there are kids on the other side of that door and not some jerk-faced boss.
Five kids is a lot. It's not like three kids. It's not like 10 kids or whatever the saying is. It's like five kids. Whether you've decided to have a big family or fell into it accidentally (we are the latter), you'll likely agree that it tests you daily. If I had a hundred bucks for every time a parent of one said to me, "Wow, five kids? I've only got one and I'm exhausted." Yes. Thank you. Five. I've got five. I am very proud. You've got one. I can't even remember having just one. Don't get me wrong. I totally get this. If your one kid is anything like my toddler then I totally get this. I have a toddler who thinks it's hilarious to run out in the front yard butt-naked while I'm busy changing the baby's diaper, despite my repeated "you do not have permission to go outside right now." He waves his winky at all the neighbors and laughs menacingly as I chase him through the garden. Yes, there is kid-safety junk all over that door! The boy is smart — and dexterous. This little gremlin vandalizes the walls daily and we've already repainted twice this year. The walls and furniture are his canvases for crayon squiggle art, Sharpie pens that I thought I'd hidden oh so well (we've got Sharpie in the carpets, too) and of course, poop. Good ol' poop. I just cleaned some out of a doll's eyeball and bleached the heck out of that brunette — who is now a blonde. Hey, she's lucky she didn't get thrown in the trash can.
Go ahead. Tell me to put the crayons on top of the refrigerator. Don't worry, they won't find it there. I think the couch must be throwing up crayons because it does not matter how or where we hide them, toddlers are crayon magnets and they will find every single one. In fact, I think the couch just throws up everything. Specifically, it throws up whatever things I just cleaned up 10 minutes ago. Toys. Laundry. Cereal. Actually, it took me a few weeks to realize that AJ had a secret stockpile of all the broken bits of crayons under his mattress. He's got to have other stockpiles, too.
I thought I was done but oh, wait! What about those lovely individuals who make comments like, "Five kids . . . you and your husband sure are busy." I never can decide if they mean busy chasing after kids or busy making them — maybe both. Shut up!
Anyway, finally started to fall into a semi-routine. Work is on track. It just took me a while to figure out what the heck that new routine was. I actually do love working from home. We can stop what we're doing and check out a museum or visit the playground. I can take the kids out back and soak up some sun when I'm tired of staring at emails. I can build a Lego castle or become a Ninja Turtle stalking the hallways in search of The Foot Clan if called on to do so — at any moment. I can pick up a sick kid from school if the nurse calls. I am always with my children while I'm providing for them. This is one amazing thing that I've built here and something to be proud of. It's not perfect. It's usually a total mess and boy did it muddle my head this summer. But it's us. Maybe I felt like a crazy person last summer and forgot because all the love filled me up since then. Who knows.
As I write this, my oldest son — 6 — is rolling across the kitchen floor like a burrito in the thick, white comforter I've washed four times this month because he won't stop rolling across the floors in it. Sigh.
EJ Curran is a Delaware mom. This post is adapted from her blog, Four Little Monsters, at FourLittleMonsters.com.