My colleague said to me today, “What a cute dress. No one would have any idea that you are the mother of twins.” I replied, “What, you can’t tell from the circles under my eyes?”
I am the mother of two-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, but it isn’t them that gives me circles under my eyes. Chasing after two toddlers, one of whom recently flicked his “terrible” switch, might make me insane. It might contribute to the crazed look in my eye, the one that made me recently take a spontaneous trip to the beach --- for two days --- with no plans. I don’t do spontaneous. But that mini-vacation was heavenly. I didn’t worry about the kids, who I left in good hands, and I didn’t stick to a schedule. At 10 AM, I wasn’t worried about whether they were drinking milk. I didn’t eat lunch exactly at noon. And I stayed at the bar for happy hour right through bath time. It was exactly what I needed as a mom. But it didn’t get rid of the circles under my eyes.
The circles come because I can’t sleep at night, and I rarely sit down during the day. I am the mother of twins, AND I am a working mom. This makes me tired.
I am currently pursuing tenure at a research university. For anyone not familiar with the world of academia, tenure ensures my job, and it is something I earn after years of hard work. Before achieving this goal, my university evaluates my scholarship, teaching, and service contributions on a regular basis. They decide to renew my contract based on the work that I do. I earned reappointment last year and I am working toward a second reappointment now.
My job is ideal for a working mom because I can work often from home, commuting the 1-2 hour time to my office in the city only a few days per week during the academic semester and occasionally on the off months. Working from home has its challenges – four hands banging on my office door, two voices shouting, “Mama, where are you?”, and many distractions from diaper blowouts to fun on the swingset rip me away from my office regularly. But I cherish the time I can spend with my little ones at snack or lunch time, for a quick book, or in a deep cuddle. I cannot complain about some of the things that other working moms suffer.
But working from home has another disadvantage. Daytime hours are not only eaten by the distractions of my kids but also by the tasks of my other job: household manager. My husband assumes that because my job is relatively flexible, that it is my responsibility to handle the majority of the household needs. Yesterday I had to run the kids to the doctor in the middle of the day for their checkup. (Side note on the fact that my husband didn’t even know they needed a checkup, and he certainly didn’t call to make the appointment… perhaps an idea for another blog.) Today I had to drop my husband’s car at the shop on the way to the city. Tomorrow I need to call the exterminator and possibly the plumber (During my relaxing bath last night, a piece of metal fell in the water. I will need to diagnose this issue tonight before adding the plumber to my list of tasks tomorrow.) Somehow I have to get to Wal Mart and attack the growing list, which includes much needed toothbrushes for the kids. (Again, my husband usually brushes their teeth as part of the nighttime routine. I noticed the worn toothbrushes just yesterday when I did the duty myself.)
Yesterday was the perfect example of how managing it all leads to exhaustion. I had been sick over the weekend (just a cold, but enough to tire me easily), and the kids had been rambunctious. My son refused naps both weekend days, and my daughter decided to wake up at 3:30AM (and stay up until 5AM) Monday morning. My weekend wasn’t just about being a mom, however, and at night my mind raced with deadlines for work and the start of the school semester. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of sleep this weekend.
I worked nonstop Monday morning on a workshop I am presenting tomorrow, guzzling more coffee than normal, took the kids to the doctor midday, skipped lunch, worked nonstop through the afternoon finishing the workshop and then organizing clothes and toys for a tag sale in two weeks, and greeted a friend who stopped by with belated birthday gifts for the kids just before I answered the door to the cable man, who was three hours late for his appointment to fix my husband’s TV. By the time I bathed the kids, I was exhausted. By the time I cleaned up the bucket of water my son had dumped on the floor during bath while I was washing my daughter’s hair, I was done. Luckily, my husband arrived about that time and read the nighttime story. As I lay on the floor, listening to Go Train Go for the fourteenth time in four days, I realized it was the first time I had stopped – just stopped – since before the weekend.
When my husband asked me if I had eaten dinner, I replied, “I have no idea.” He aksed if I wanted to eat – which is his way of asking, “what are you making for me?”, and in response I collapsed, somewhat dramatically, on the couch and said, “I just want to sit for ten minutes.” As the tired seeped through my bones, I knew I couldn’t find the energy to eat, and so I took a bath instead.
So my dress today is cute. It’s also a little big on me, partly because I skipped two meals yesterday and partly because I’ve worn it three times without washing it and it’s stretched each time. Perhaps tomorrow I will tackle the pile of laundry in my room - right after I conduct my 6 hour workshop, go to the grocery story, call the exterminator… and maybe the plumber.