Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The third engineer promised to show me the propeller shaft!" *

I keep dreaming about being on the beach with my children, and watching a rogue wave coming towards us on shore, looming ever closer and ever larger. I watch it begin to crest, craning my neck upward to see the foam at the top. I know it is bigger than any wave I have ever seen before, and I know I cannot possibly run fast enough with my children – or even by myself, for that matter – to outrun it. And yet I try, I MUST try. Every single time, I try, and every single time, I wake up before the wave breaks, before we are all engulfed, just at the moment when I KNOW there is no hope.

Yeah, I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me what this dream means.

I can’t recall my life ever being this crazy before.
And it’s not like it’s glamour-crazy, jet-setting and polo matches and charity galas and evening gowns.
It’s not like I am running for VP.
It’s not like I am singlehandedly running a Fortune 500 company or engineering buyouts.

I don’t know what it is.
I find it difficult to believe that only one small baby, despite being the fourth, suddenly created this tsunami of activity. Or one eight-year-old and one six-year-old with friends to see and sports to play. Or one small three-year-old who cheerfully goes along for the ride, no matter what the event.

I know this:

I take the boys to school and pick them up from school. I take them to piano lessons. I take them to hockey practices and games, or stay home and watch the younger guys while H takes the older boys to these things. I take all 4 boys to the eldest’s soccer practices and games. I take them to the dentist and the pediatrician. I drop them off at their friends’ houses or pick up their friends to come to our house. I take the little ones to playdates or the toy lending library or the zoo. I go to the library and the post office and the pet store and the pharmacy and the dry cleaners and the office supply store. I call the plumber and the handyman and the pediatrician and the babysitter and the other babysitter and my mother-in-law and the school.

I construct approximately 20 pb&j sandwiches a week and pack ten lunches and fix real food for dinners (that no one eats anyway) and nurse the baby and change a dozen diapers a day and swab down bathrooms and pack away summer clothes and unpack winter clothes (and vice versa) and supervise homework and distribute snacks and grocery shop and give the little guys baths and supervise the older guys’ showers. I clip toenails and clean ears and trim hair. I read Pokemon books and Goodnight Moon and Dr Seuss, each night, every night, at bedtime.

I buy them new underwear and new socks and new backpacks and new sneakers and new gloves and new notebooks, and more socks and more notebooks. I buy H new jeans and new sneakers and new underwear.

I buy storage containers for their dress clothes and new markers to replace dried out ones and Playdoh and more Playdoh and power cords for the computer and lampshades for the new lamps and new running shoes. I buy Christmas and birthday presents and stash them away. I fill Easter baskets and make or buy cupcakes and treats for school parties.

I run the dishwasher and unload the dishwasher and load it up and run it again.

I sort the clean laundry and put it away and gather up all the dirty clothes into another mountain of laundry. I start my day by putting wet laundry in the dryer and another load of dirty clothes into the washer, and I end the day the same way.

I ask Terzo roughly twenty times a day if he needs to pee or poop in the potty. I supervise these attempts and then change his clothes and bathe him when he waits too long and has an accident.

I wipe down the kitchen counters and table and wipe them down again when the boys spill juice on them or smear peanut butter or jam on them. I open yogurts and peel bananas and apples and grill cheese and butter bread.

I wipe out lunchboxes and then pack today’s lunch into them.

On days when I have my babysitter, I edit other people’s papers and format their references and check their spelling and then I invoice them and keep track of who has paid what invoice and whose paper is due when.

I do know that I feel like I never have a moment of unaccounted for time.
I am rarely alone.
And when I am, I should probably be sleeping.
I am not complaining.
I am truly just trying to figure out, where does my time go?
Am I mismanaging my time?
Should I punt the fifteen minutes of yoga every morning, to get more done of...what?
To shower every day instead of the every other day I am averaging now?
I need four hours a week to run, and am not managing to carve that out.
I desperately need a haircut.

H got a promotion that we have been waiting on for a while; I am very pleased and proud of him, but his work hours just got longer. He went from 8- to 9-hour days to 12- to 13-hour days. He leaves even earlier so he can get to the gym to swim. He routinely works Sundays now. This won’t be the case forever, but for the foreseeable future, it is.

He has told me, We have more money coming in now. We will get you help. But I don’t even know where to start. What sort of help do I need? A housecleaner? A gym membership with daycare? A regular babysitter? Swimming lessons and a life preserver?
I have never been in this situation before, and I don’t know what would be most useful and most thrifty.
Suggestions, comments, input?

*Robin Shelby, "The Poseiden Adventure"


Janet said...

Aw, Val if it makes you feel any better I couldn't commiserate more. Some day when we are grannies we will rock back and forth at the nursing home (bc our children will abandon us even though we have invested so much...) and miss these days. Or, at least that is what I am choosing to tell myself today.

Hungry in LA said...

Clearly you need time for you. Even I as a married woman with no children can tell you that. Use the money to get someone to take care of the kids for a day and have a nice long date with yourself. Once a week. Call me crazy.

Badger said...

I think you need a wife. Or failing that, a "mother's helper". Someone who will come in for a few hours a day, a couple of days a week, to look after the kids, prepare light meals/snacks and do a bit of laundry.

I never had one but some of my friends did, and they usually hired high school or college kids who came in the afternoons once school was out for the day.

sueeeus said...

What they said. One day a week or at least two afternoons a week if it's a high school kid (eager for $$ and cheap!) -- after you're confident they're trained well enough, you can take off and do YOUR thing, for those hours.

Julia said...

A babysitter who can help take the older kids to some of their activities is truly useful. That's how I manage to keep on running my business. She also helps keep the house neat, but I do the heavy scrubbing (I've tried several cleaners and was amazed at how little they did, how long it took and how much they charged). Our sitter comes from 12 to 6 every day and it makes a huge difference in my work.

Kristin said...

It made me tired to just read your post! It's amazing how much work goes into running a household well. I have one toddler and I'm tired all of the time. I can't imagine how much that multiplies with more kids. Although I have to start thinking of it considering #2 will be here in 3 months. Anyway, I agree with the others. Everyone needs some time for themselves.

It sounds to me that you do a ton of running around; errands and dropping the older kids off and picking them up. That is a lot of work, especially when you figure in getting small children ready and in and out of car seats. Just managing everyone's schedule sounds exhausting to me. If you could hire someone to help with those after school activities (either the driving around or the staying home with the little ones), that might bring you some sanity.

But that doesn't solve the "me" time issue. Figure out what you really want to do every week, like go for 3 runs, or do some errands by yourself, etc., and hire someone to watch the kids so you can get it done. You deserve it! A happy mom is very important in having a happy family.

ssheers said...

Of all the things you do, which do you like to do the least? Hire somebody to do those things.

For me, it would be cleaning the bathrooms and doing the laundry.

If you hire somebody to do housework and watch the kids for a while at home, then you get me-time, but you have to leave the house to get your me-time. I remember getting some me-time when my kids were little, first I would exercise. Then I would go grocery shopping (without kids was luxurious). Then either to a Starbucks, a bookstore, or the quiet room of the library. I remember wandering around a bookstore feeling sort of lost..

If you take the kids to a sitter/preschool, then you can have me-time at home, but then you have to do the laundry and clean the bathrooms.

Then there was the time, when I was pregant, after dropping off a kid at the sitter's, that I fell asleep in my car in the sitter's driveway.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, yes. I've been there with two kids alone until 9 or ten at night, every night. I had no help ever, no grandmother, no baby sitter.
I'd say for you to hire someone to do the things you hate (cleaning?) and leave the house at that time, preferably alone and not doing errands. Sounds easy, right?

Anonymous said...

A double jogging stroller? So you can run with the two smaller guys while the big ones are at school? Just think how strong you'd get!

blackbird said...

Yep. What they said. High school girl who doesn't need your supervision and can put kids in the bath and make a sandwich.

Debi said...

My indulgence is a housecleaner one Wed every 2 wks for the floors/bathrooms/linens stuff. And a membership to Massage Envy that sometimes backs up on me but they let you roll it over to subsequent months. For you, I'd say you have to picture each of these suggestions and how it would feel - you'll know when you've hit the right one. Also, everything is temporary. Incluing Passover thank goodness - 4 hours til pizza!

Eleanor said...

I like what Debi said about everything being temporary. It's so true. This is a stage in your life, you are not mismanaging time...you are just very very busy. Whatever type of help you choose will be good, and I am so happy that you have that opportunity.

Celebrate your role in the family, you are FABULOUS...maybe whatever you decide to do in your free time should involve music - whether it's jogging, dancing, reading, resting...buy yourself some happy, upbeat CDs and groove to the happiness of being YOU.

KPB said...

I know it doesn't change anything, but hopefully knowing you're not alone will take the edge off it. You just summarised my life too.

What you need is time out - for you - each and every week. It doesn't need to be long, it doesn't need to cost a lot of money, but it needs to be in decent sized blocks (minimum 2 hours, preferably 4) - where you are not responsible for anyone or anything except yourself.

The end.

I know where you're at - #4 is a killer.