Friday, June 10, 2005

June Cleaver, Axe Murderer

If you haven't visited Cheeky Mommy's page, then I encourage you to do so. I expect she is going to supply us with an interesting view into the world of stay-at-home moms.

Stay-at-home moms are brave women. I have never disputed this fact.

I've often thought about what I would do if I stayed at home with my three wonderkids.

I'd start by posting a perfectly drawn schedule on my spotless white refrigerator:

8:00 breakfast
8:30 play time
10:00 morning nap time
12:00 lunch time
12:30 play time
2:00 afternoon nap time

While the children are either happily entertaining themselves or quietly tucked away in their beds for nap time, I would clean my house from top to bottom. No toilet rings or ring-around-the-collar. No dirty kitchen floors or countertops. No stains on the carpets. Couch cushions all in their places. Furniture dusted and polished to a sheen. All my pictures artfully arranged on the walls instead of leaning against the wall behind the office door.

Everything would be so perfect.

I'd have my photography all organized. My three novels would be in their final re-writes. I'd be enjoying swimming parties with the other stay-at-home moms. Trips to the zoo on Tuesdays. Read-ins at the library on Thursdays.

Wouldn't it just be perfect?

What? WHAT?

Okay, so maybe that's a little naive. All right, all right, it's A LOT naive! If anybody really believes that this is what a stay-at-home mom's world is like, then he or she knows absolutely nothing about kids.

And I mean NOTHING.

Kids need attention. Kids need A LOT of attention. Here's a simple breakfast-time scenario for me, someone who does work outside the home: We are going to have cold cereal. No big deal, right? So I'm the first one in the kitchen. I set out five bowls and spoons on the table. I put the gallon of milk on the table. The table is too small to put all the cereals on it, so I leave them on the kitchen island. The kids are big enough to get the one they want. I call everyone to the kitchen. Nobody comes. I'm hungry, so I fix my bowl and sit down at the table to eat it.

My 9-year-old daughter comes in. She has dressed herself and fixed her hair. She's very cute. "What's for breakfast?" she asks.

"Cereal," I say as I crunch on my Shredded Wheat.

My 6-year-old daughter comes in. She is in tears. "I can't find my shoes," she cries.

"Don't worry about it. I know where they are. Fix yourself some cereal," I say.

My 5-year-old son streaks through the kitchen, stark naked, light saber in hand, screaming, "I'm gonna cut your head off!!!"

"Get dressed!" I bark at him.

"Put some clothes on!" my 9-year-old tells him. "Mommy, what cereals do we have?" she asks me.

Of course, I've set the cereals out. They are right in front of her.

I stare at her.

"Are these all we have?" she asks.

"That's it," I say.

We are both startled by the sound of shattering glass. Our attention turns to her younger sister, who, not seeing the bowls on the table, had taken it upon herself to climb on top of the cabinet to get her own bowl. She is staring at me with a terrified expression on her face.

My 5-year-old starts to dart through the kitchen again.

"Stop!" I yell.

He stops. He is still naked and is now armed with two light sabers.

"Don't come in here. There's broken glass on the floor. And get dressed!" I stand up, leaving my half-eaten bowl of cereal, and get the broom and dust pan.

My 6YO starts to cry again.

"Don't worry about it," I assure her. "It's just a bowl. We can replace it." I sweep the glass into a pile, then carry her to a chair at the table. "What cereal do you want?" I ask her.

"The chocolate one."

So I fix her a bowl of Cocoa Crispies and finish cleaning up the glass.

"Mommy, is it okay if I fix myself a bowl of oatmeal?" my 9YO asks.

I look at the clock. We still have time. "Yes," I tell her.

I hear my 5YO in the dining room. He is singing the song from Shrek, "Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me. I ain't the shockatootysheeeed...."

I am now officially exasperated. "Get dressed!" I holler at him.

"I am!" he hollers back.

I step into the dining room to look at him. He is wearing a red and black sleeveless t-shirt, red basketball shorts, and tan cowboy boots. I'm not sure if he's a redneck or a gangsta. I look at the clock. Not enough time to worry about the clothes. At least he's dressed. "Go eat," I tell him.

I see my 6YO's shoes under the dining table. I pick them up and take them to the living room. I hear my clothes dryer buzz. Damn. I'm running out of time, but I'm really behind on the laundry. I decide to get the clothes out of the dryer and leave them in a heap on the dining table. I'll fold them later. That way, I can wash another load of clothes now. While I am doing this, I hear my 9YO yell at my 5YO.

"What's wrong?" I ask from the laundry room.

"He spilled milk all over the table!"

Jeez. I'd forgotten about him. I go to the kitchen, and they all three are sitting there, staring at the milk as it creeps across the table and spills over the edge into my 9YO's lap.

"Well don't just sit there!" I yell. "Get a towel!"

My 9YO jumps up, but of course it is too late for her denim skirt. It is wet. But she grabs a kitchen towel and lays it over the spilled milk.

"Sorry, Mommy," my 5YO says pitifully.

I growl. Time is running out. I quickly make his cereal for him. "Hurry up," I say. I finish cleaning up the wet towel. My 9YO goes to her room to change clothes. "Your shoes are on the couch," I tell my 6YO, "Hurry up and finish eating so you can put them on."

I look at my cereal. It is now soggy. I don't care. I'm still hungry. I pick up the bowl and finish eating it while standing at the sink.

"Mommy!" my 9YO yells from her room, "Do I have any clean clothes in the laundry room?"

I look at the clock. "No!" I tell her. "Just wear the skirt you had on!"

"But it's wet!"

"It's not that bad!"

I look at my 5YO, who is eagerly eating his Cocoa Crispies. He smiles sweetly at me as he munches away.

My 6YO puts her empty bowl in the sink. She goes to the living room. I hear her saying good morning to her dad, who has finally decided to make an appearance. He comes to the kitchen and starts fixing his cereal. My 6YO returns to the kitchen, shoes in hand, an angry expression on her face. "I don't like these shoes!" she pouts.

My blood begins to boil. "You'd better put those shoes on, or else!" I yell angrily.

She begins to cry again.

My husband looks at me like he thinks I'm crazy. "Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," he comments. (The newspaper later reported that he was treated for minor injuries and released.)

By the time I have dropped the kids off at school and arrived at my desk at work, I am exhausted, both mentally and physically. I cannot imagine doing that all day long, every single day of the year.

It would kill me.

Oh, I suppose I would find a way to deal with it. But either way, that is why I have nothing but respect for a mom (or dad) who chooses to stay at home to care for the kids.

My hat is off to you.


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