A Day in the Life of a Mom
I took a vacation day yesterday. Once upon a time, taking a vacation day meant sleeping in, treating myself to coffee and a leisurely breakfast, reading the paper, maybe catching a matinee or taking a nice long walk with friends and finishing it off with dinner and a hot bath. At the time, it all seemed pleasant but pretty mundane. But now? Now it sounds like freaking paradise.
Let me be clear: My daughters are the best thing that ever happened to me. They were worth every heave of morning sickness, every injection of blood thinner into my stomach fat, every stretch mark. But let me be clear on this, too: I would sell my soul for the chance to pee by myself.
And when I took a vacation day yesterday, it was great. It was wonderful to be able to spend so much time with my girls, just the three of us. But it was not anything resembling a vacation.
This was our schedule:
5:45 a.m.: Ruby calls for me, and I stumble from my bed into hers, hoping to catch a bit more sleep snuggled under her Rapunzel comforter with her feet in the small of my back and her arm wrapped around my throat. The sad part is that I am so damn sleep-deprived that I actually do manage to get back to sleep until …
7:15 a.m.: Georgia wakes up, Ruby wakes up, and I wake up, in that order.
7:21 a.m.: I turn on Yo Gabba Gabba and make an English muffin with cream cheese for Ruby, a big bowl of oatmeal with pureed pears for Georgia and a ham-and-cheese croissant for myself.
7:27 a.m.: Ruby has licked off all of the cream cheese, thrown the English muffin in the trash and demanded a glass of milk. While I am getting her her milk, Georgia turns her bowl of oatmeal and pears onto a footstool and steals all of the ham out of my croissant.
7:38 a.m.: I have cleaned off the footstool, eaten the mangled remains of my breakfast and chugged a mug of Cool Brew and milk. The first Yo Gabba Gabba is ending; we turn on another one. We have seen them all so many times we can quote them.
8:32 a.m.: Ruby refuses to take a bath – until I propose pretending that she is a dog at the groomer. Thus begins an elaborate game of “Ruby Dog and the Meanest Man in Town” in which I have to play both her mean owner (male) and the dog groomer who rescues her (female). Georgia gamely toddles around putting various objects in her mouth, and I follow her around pulling them back out while trying to stay in my various characters.
10:29 a.m.: Georgia goes down for a nap. Ruby declares proudly: “I can spell ‘peanut butter’!”
“Do it!” I say, pleased to see her working on her fledgling spelling skills.
“P-E-A-N-U-T B-U-T-T …” she says, and then falls apart into hysterics. “B-U-T-T! That spells ‘butt!’ BUTT! B-U-T-T! That part always gets me! BUTT!”
12:31 p.m.: Georgia is awake. I make spaghetti for lunch. Ruby doesn’t eat hers, asking instead for chicken nuggets. Before I can make them, Georgia gags on a noodle and throws up everywhere. I lose my appetite, skip lunch and start a load of vomit-soaked laundry while my husband, who has come home for lunch, bathes the baby.
2:43 p.m.: The girls and I go to the doctor’s office to weigh Georgia to make sure she is gaining enough weight; she was underweight at her 12-month appointment and now we have to go to monthly weight checks. She is fine, but as we are getting back in the car, while a man in a Lexus is waiting for our parking space, Ruby steps on a rotted peach that she forgot in my car last week. I try to scoop the mess up in a pink Smurfette washcloth that also happens to be in my car, and Ruby completely loses her 6-year-old mind at the idea that I am contemplating throwing away her beloved washcloth (that she previously could not have cared less about). The man in the Lexus beeps his horn at us. I wave him on. He drives off, muttering. I shake the rotted peach off into the gutter – it’s not littering if it’s biodegradable – and shove the disgusting washcloth into a Ziploc baggie full of Cheerios (that also happens to be in my car). It’s too late, though: Even with the washcloth sealed up, my entire car smells like cheap hillbilly wine.
4:47 p.m.: Ruby uses her outside voice to inform pretty much all of Office Depot that she has had a growth spurt and “NOW I COME UP TO YOUR NIPPLES, MOM!”
5:53 p.m.: While making a vague attempt to restore order to the living room, I realize that the magnetic tip of Ruby’s Magna Doodle pen is missing. Given Georgia’s hobby of putting everything in her mouth, we all go on high alert. I call the pediatrician’s answering service while my husband starts moving all of the furniture in the living room, shaking out the sofa cushions and sweeping all of the rooms. Ruby and I are scouring the porch for the magnet tip when the doctor calls back and says if we can’t find it soon, we better head to the ER for an X-ray to rule out the possibility of Georgia swallowing a magnet.
6:14 p.m.: I am at the Children’s Hospital ER where Georgia is trying to beg a potato chip from a heavily tattooed man wearing a SARS mask in the waiting room. Ruby is at home with my husband and stepson.
7:17 p.m.: Georgia and I go into the X-ray room. The tech asks me if I could possibly be pregnant. I laugh and say no. A few minutes later, she asks me again. Again, I say no. Right before she starts the X-ray, she asks me one more time if I am absolutely sure, and I snap at her that I absolutely am. I apologize immediately afterward, but seriously, there are only so many times you can make a woman who has been taking handfuls of Advil all day to combat crippling menstrual cramps verify that she isn’t pregnant.
8:14 p.m.: The X-ray is clear; discharge papers are signed. I stash a tongue depressor in my diaper bag to bring home to Ruby because she is inexplicably fascinated by them.
9:37 p.m.: Both girls are asleep. I start a load of diapers and take a hot shower to wash off the general sense of being coated in a thin film of germs that I always get in a hospital.
10:16 p.m.: I am asleep myself, knowing that I will be summoned by one or both of the girls well before dawn.
I have often heard people say, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” Those people generally annoy the crap out of me. But right now, I get it.
At the end of the day, I have no real complaints: I have two blessedly healthy, happy girls. But my one day of being a stay-at-home mom just confirmed what I have suspected for a long time: The Mommy Wars are such bullshit. As heart-wrenching as it is to have to pry Georgia off and hand her to the baby-sitter each morning, as much as it sucks to have to tell Ruby that I can’t chaperone her field trip to the aquarium – it is definitely no picnic staying home, either. It is a war of sorts to get through each day, whether I work or stay home, but the Mommy Wars of who has it worse are just so pointless. We are all veterans here. We are all battle-scarred. And not a single one of us gets a real vacation.