A friend recently asked what I did all day. My mind went blank and I struggled to answer, settling on laundry and cleaning, but that couldn't possibly be right. Dear God, that can't be the gist of what I do. Wasn't I just telling my husband I hardly ever get to sit down, that I'm always going non-stop? Now someone really wanted to know and I felt like I couldn't come up with anything. I kept thinking about my answer in the days following and found I wasn't entirely wrong. It turns out there are days I do nothing. Well, lots of nothings, really. Some days I do accomplish a project, grocery shop, clean house and prepare a full, fresh meal by 5:30. There are some days I get to pull out the camera and take some great candids of the kids or make a game of raking the leaves in the yard. Other days we play with the neighbors, take a walk in the wagon or play puzzles and color all afternoon. And then there are the nothing days.
The days begin like any other. After getting up before everyone else and walking the dogs, it's 90 minutes of tag teaming with the hubby. He showers first while I feed the dogs and get breakfasts started. Maybe the kids wake up one at a time and clump down stairs in a prolonged dribble. Maybe they all wake up at the same time. Either way, I'm peeling and cutting bananas, pouring milk into cups and into cereal bowls as quickly as I can to stop the repeating whines of, "I'm hungry," "I need milk," and "you get me O's, Mommy?" Inevitably, as soon as I put breakfast in front of the middle child, he tells me he needs pee, so my activity gets paused for potty duty. When my husband comes down, I go up and take my shower, which is never long enough. There's usually one child who still hasn't finished breakfast by the time I come back down and now it's my turn to become a broken record. Side A is: "Come on, finish eating," "Sit down and finish your breakfast," and "Leave your brother alone. He needs to finish eating." Then we play the B side with "Time to get dressed and brush teeth," on constant repeat. As soon as I have one child on track, the other two are roaming and getting into trouble. The oldest is fully capable of doing almost everything on his own, but won't without a massive amount of prodding, the middle one says "No" to everything and if the toddler isn't playing with the potty seat and the toilet, she's sneaking into my bathroom and pulling out lotions and perfume. As soon as I convince the middle child he needs to brush his teeth, the 5-year-old suddenly decides it's imperative that he brush his teeth at that exact moment, even though I've been telling him for the past 10 minutes to go do it and a fight over the stool in the bathroom ensues. I don't even know where the toddler is and just hope she's not flushing my hair brush. I am almost certain I am coming back as a sheep dog in my next life.
When we're all done, I might have about 10-15 minutes to gather my wits before leaving to drop the 5-year-old off at preschool. And by gather my wits, I mean clear breakfast dishes, make a few trips to the basement to get paper towels/juice for lunch box/extra milk/apples/rags to clean up the milk the toddler spilled, write a grocery list and/or check the weather. Getting ready to leave the house is a version of getting dressed and brushing teeth. As soon as I have one child sitting, another is off getting into trouble. It's not so much that I have to put shoes and jackets on. It's the seconds and minutes added in to every task to grab my shoes away from the toddler, wrangle a jacket onto the middle child, remind the 5-year-old to pick up his backpack, fetch the toddler from the toy kitchen to put her shoes on, tell middle child that he DOES need shoes, raise my hands up in surrender as he squeals, "I do it myself!" when he really can't and the toddler is squealing, too, because she's by the door and no one is opening it for her. And it's not even 9 am yet.
Even as I sit here, I have not had more than three continual minutes to write because the oldest was antagonizing the middle child by holding a toy near him, then became hungry and as soon as I got him a bowl of blueberries the middle one wanted some, too. Just as I sat back down, the oldest asked for seconds and a minute later so did the middle child. The phone rang and by the time I was off and ready to type again, the snack (and peace) ended. No sooner had I wiped down hands and faces, one kid is running in circles and the other is interrogating me about what we're going to do the rest of the day, what's for dinner and can he watch tv. And this is only with two of them because the toddler is napping!
So, the next time I'm trying to figure out what I do all day and my mind goes blank because some of them are filled with so many nothings I can't put together enough pieces to create anything seeming remotely meaningful, I just need to remember that someone has to take care of all the nothings to keep the machine running and that is something after all.