Monday, August 3, 2009


Often, especially these days with the kids both home all the time, I open my eyes in the morning, and think about all the things that I have to do during the day. I lie in bed and tick them off in my head one by one: I have to get to the store, change the oil in the car, call that person back, make jewelry orders, schedule that appointment, do the laundry, work out, pick up the dog's medication at the vet's, pick up the house at least a little, and -oh yeah - pay attention to my kids. I lie there and work myself into a quiet panic - how on earth am I going to get it all done? There isn't enough time. I can't do it all. Some days it just makes me want to curl up and go back to sleep for, like, days.

I take a moment to breathe, and then try to puzzle it out - make it all fit somehow. Then the kids come bounding in, bouncing on the bed - full of zest and ready for the day - and we're off and running.

Before I know it, it is 10am and all I have managed to do is give them breakfast and get them dressed. The panic starts gnawing at me a little - I'm losing time, I'm losing time. I try to prioritize; I tick through the list and figure out which things are most important. I come up empty - damn it, I think, its all important. My days pass in fits and starts - one step forward, and two steps back. If I pick up the house, the jewelry isn't getting made. If I make jewelry, the house is getting progressively messier as the kids freewheel around the house. If I run those errands, the kids will be cranky and bored and will need something fun to do. If I do something fun, nothing is getting done. Sometimes it just makes me want to throw in the proverbial towel.

Then I get to thinking about my professional days - how on earth did I manage a multi-million dollar client? How did I walk into board meetings of Fortune 500 companies, kick ass and take names? How did I become this woman who is overwhelmed by kids and laundry?

I realize the answer is sort of basic: managing my professional world was more straight forward on many levels, the most important of which being that at the end of the day I could punch out and go back to my personal life. There were two distinct versions of me back then: the ass-kicking, name taking corporate professional - I could wear that role like a mask, or a suit of armor - and then the gentler, more human version of me who just wanted a good book and a comfy couch at the end of the day. There is no differentiating line for a stay-at-home Mom raising kids. My job is my life.

Most days I'm cool with it - I am full of gratitude for the richness of my life. I wallow in the chaos, happy just to be in the middle of it all. Other days I look at my kids and think: you're still here? The fact that I have these little lives to nurture, these adorable human souls who rely so much on me, overwhelms me. I realize it is harder than Corporate America because it is so much more meaningful, so much more important. Once you become a parent there isn't any punching out. Even if you flake out and run away from it all, you are still someone's Parent.

When I'm overwhelmed, or resentful or just plain bored, I realize I'm bucking the tide instead of letting it carry me. Instead of rolling with the momentum of life with younger kids, I'm struggling to get it all done - to achieve some sense of accomplishment at the end of the day - Look! I did everything on my list!

When my husband comes in the door after work, he innocently asks: "What did you guys do today?" I look around at the messy kitchen table from our craft project, the dishes I didn't get to because I was building a fort on the porch, the bathing suits dripping dry on the back of the chair from running through the sprinklers, the artwork plastered all over the refrigerator from a marathon coloring session. The kids say, "Not much." I haven't achieved more than one or two things on my list of things that seemed so important that morning, and have lost ground on several other items on that same list.

If being a Mom came with a checklist it might look something like this: Did you laugh over and over at your son's knock knock joke? Check. Did you kiss a scraped knee? Check. Did you answer question after question without telling them to just be quiet? Check. Did you referee countless squabbles? Check. Did you dry tears with soothing words? Check. Did you hug your kids and tell them you loved them? Check. Then the most important things were accomplished. If I do a good job at this, I will raise kids who are self-confident and strong and can't wait to get away from me and start their own lives. The laundry can wait.


  1. In the middle of my current day's job (I'm project managing this renovation we're doing on our 300yr old house & property here in France) sometimes I get so overwhelmed with my to-do list and wonder the same as did I manage it all in my previous corporate life where I was so meticulously organized & together running HUGE projects worth millions?? But it all works out at the end of the day, and when my T-hub & I sit on the bench out front & the only noise is the whispering of the leaves in the trees & chorus of nature...and the sun leaves oranges streaks across the sky and we revel in the peace...I remind him that on his/my deathbed no one will remember all the corporate 'work' battles/struggles, but what will count & be remembered are the life memories, all those little things that aren't on the to-do list (as you mentioned) the home I'm working so hard on-our memories foundations, will be the best job I've ever done!! It's the journey not the destination.

  2. You are not alone, E!! I do the same thing. I have mental lists all over my brain. I try not to go crazy. I figure if I get one small thing crossed off my list, I'm good. Like clean the toilet. No, not the entire bathroom, silly. That's why we have shower curtains, to hide the mess. Today, I am packing to go off to the beach for the rest of the week. Packing for the 3 little ones and myself. The husband does his own....lucky him! My mantra these days? The laundry will always be there....the kids will only be young for a short time.
    BTW...Love the jewelry! Thanks!

  3. This is all SO true!
    Sometimes what we think is so important at first ends up being no big deal at the end of the day. As long as the kiddos have a great day...who cares if the laundry is folded or the floors are swept!

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  5. amen! Sunday night I was walking upstairs to go to bed and was aghast at the cat and dog hair on the stair carpet and started chastising myself for not doing any housework over the weekend (I never feel like it after a day of work). Then I remembered we had fun relaxing at the cabin and shrugged and said Oh well.

    It's now Tuesday and I still have not done the vacuuming.

  6. I always put "don't go insane" at the top of my list. Keeping everyone fed and safe with minimal impact to my psyche is a great day! I have been telling myself for 7.75 years that I will catch up on things around the house when both kids are in school all day. That day of reckoning is coming in September so I will no longer have any excuse for slob-like tendancies, which I am kind of sad about.

    Great post Ellie ... keep prioritizing the pillow fights, the posiscles in the yard, the endless storytelling ...

    [deleted above and reposted due to typos]

  7. This post reminds me of a poem my mom had framed and hanging in our house growing up.

    Excuse This House - author unknown

    Some houses try to hide the fact that children shelter there.
    Ours boasts of it quite openly,
    The signs are everywhere....
    For smears are on the windows
    Little smudges on the doors;
    I should apologize, I guess for toys strewn on the floor.
    But I sat down with the children
    And we played and laughed and read;
    And if the doorbell doesn't shine,
    Their eyes will shine instead.
    For when at times I'm forced to choose
    The one job of the other....
    I want to be a housewife,
    But first I'll be a mother.

    Sometimes there are things more important then the endless TO-DO lists in our minds. Of course, I could just be saying this to get out of cleaning windows.... ;)

  8. Genelle -

    I love this poem! Perfect! Thanks for sharing it...


  9. I don't even have kids and I still never make it to anything on my "must-do" list. Moms are superwomen!

  10. I found a great idea on Wendolonia ( for those days (weeks!) when it feels like you aren't accomplishing anything.
    Instead of writing a to-do list, try writing a did-do list, to help you realise just how much you actually do in a day.

  11. I found a great idea on Wendolonia ( for those days (weeks!) when it feels like you aren't accomplishing anything.
    Instead of writing a to-do list, try writing a did-do list, to help you realise just how much you actually do in a day.