I was talking to a friend at work who has three small children at home. He said, "Before we had kids, you just did stuff. You had things you needed to accomplish, like, wash the kitchen floor. And you just did them. But now you have to think and plan how and when you're going to get the floor done. It's challenging." I thought about it for minute. (OK, I'll be honest. I first thought, "You wash the kitchen floor? There's a MAN who washes kitchen floors?") But then I thought, it's very true. Each task that needs to get done needs almost a military campaign before it can actually happen. And the counterpart to that is that your life is also now haphazard.
Take, for instance, getting ready in the morning. Something I never really thought about previously. I would get up, work out, shower, do my hair and make-up, get dressed, and be out the door at the exact same minute on the clock on the stove every day (I had to catch a train). Every day. The same.
Here is a sample of getting ready in the morning now (taken from real-life events). The alarm goes off. Repeatedly. Darren groans, "I'm so tired. Are you tired?" Me: "I'm exhausted and I'm not even out of bed yet." The alarm goes off a few more times. Me: "We have to get up now." I hear Elaine from her crib, "Mommmmmmmmy, OUT! I wanna eat!"
I get up and cobble together what I plan to wear and drape it over the bannister (note: on mornings I go to work, the clothes are slightly better than what I wear at home. But only slightly. I've been known to hold something up, think "This really needs ironing," then think, "Oh well, it's only work," and go on my way.) Lucy comes in the bathroom while I'm brushing my teeth and says, "Can I get dressed?" "Sure," I say, and she comes back with a pink-flowered t-shirt, a red and black plaid skirt, and a purple-flowered sweater. With a Strawberry Shortcake barrette of course. She looks like she's going to interview at clown school but oddly adorable. In the meantime, I've been staring in the mirror, wondering how it's possible that I could simultaneously need anti-acne cream and anti-wrinkle cream.
After showering and getting dressed, Lucy asks if I'll brush her hair. Usually when I get within 6 inches of her hair with a brush, she starts to cry and says I'm hurting her. But today as I brushed she said, "You're brushing my hair like a gentle dove this morning, Mom." We listen to Elaine as she shouts random things from her crib. (I'm oddly reminded of the mentally ill man in the bad neighborhood where we used to live, who invariably roamed the streets at around 6:00 a.m., shouting out his thoughts as he went.) Lucy looks at me and smiles and says quietly, "She's such a little bandicoot, isn't she?" (She's learning about Australian animals. I had to look up what a bandicoot is. Here's one. Now picture it in pink-striped pajamas.)
We go in together to get Elaine out of her bed. Her hair is standing on end, and she's got one leg hoisted over the edge of the crib, sort of like a cat burglar making his escape. (As I read over what I've written so far, there's apparently a penchant in our family for metaphor and simile.) I get her out and lay her on the guestroom bed to change her diaper and dress her. "I want Zoe!" she proclaims (she has a Zoe sweatshirt, size 18 months, that she would wear every day if I let her). I talk her into something else, and amazingly, she complies. Now all three of us are dressed and ready to meet the day.
I will not lie. Sometimes I miss the days of peace and order, the perpetually clean house, the luxury of not having to speak to anyone before I'd had two cups of tea. But life is different now, and my mornings are punctuated with the singing and chattering of two little girls. I must admit, if it were silent, I would miss that.