Days like these

If you had asked me when I was younger what my life would look like in my 30s, as a mother, as a wife, I would never have been able to guess it would be this.

That my house would be a complete disaster every single day, unless company was coming over, and then it was a minor disaster to be put on hold for a small number of hours.

All the dishes. All the time.

All the dishes. All the time. (That dishwasher is there purely for aesthetic.)

That I would go to bed thinking about all the laundry I need to fold, wash, put away…yet never ever get to.

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch?

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch? (That chair is tipped over because Isaac likes to climb).

That I would be a stay-at-home mom, walking babies to school, cooking all the meals, in charge of all the cleaning, and watching my hard-earned degree gather dust on our wall.

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

That I would be forced to negotiate with the most unreasonable creatures on the planet just to put on their shoes so we could go to the park FOR THEM, or eat their food because they were the ones sobbing at my feet hungry, or to go to bed and sleep because all of the hysterics that they are currently stuck in are because they are tired.

Waiting for snack time...weirdly patiently.

Waiting for snack time…weirdly patiently.

That I would not get a hair cut in over a year simply because I would need to orchestrate a child-care/salon hours/extra time formula that only works once every 15 months or so.

Can you see my kitchen table? I haven't either.

Have you see my kitchen table? I haven’t either.

That I would donate all of my dress pants, skirts, blouses because I don’t need them anymore – my uniform consists of durable material, wash-and-wear ensembles with denim being the star.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac. And the random dirty sock.

That we would not go to church in months simply because we are too sick/too exhausted/too worn-out to get to one more place on time.

That sitting on the couch and zoning out for an hour, followed by an early bedtime is my idea of the perfect night.

That eating hot food is an anomaly so rare that I regularly burn my mouth whenever the opportunity does present itself.

That I would drink and seek out and need coffee to fuel my day, every day.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

That the feeling of not having a body on me or near me or touching me would be more alien than having three children piled on and around me.

That sleep would be the most precious and most scarce commodity in my life, so much so that on days where the babies are overnight somewhere, sleep is all I can think about.

That when planning our 10-year anniversary trip, that it’s a legitimate toss-up between Europe and an all-inclusive tropical resort because all I want to do is SLEEP.

That I would be fulfilled by the feeling of a smooth, not sticky counter, kitchen table, coffee table, floor.

That I would find pleasure in finding miracle cleaning products that worked instead of just made me work.

That I would write more, clean more, cook more, and walk more with babies hanging off of me, screaming at me, crying on me or asking a million things of me, than not.

He's not really a fan of this blog post.

He’s not really a fan of this blog post.

That I would love my babies more fiercely than anything ever. That I would do all of the above and more for them because it’s ingrained in my DNA that they are mine and I must fight for them.

That I would get up and repeat over and over and over again, regardless of the fact I make no money, have no sick days, and no vacation time.

If you had asked me then, I wouldn’t believe you. And yet, it’s the most natural thing today.

~ Julia

A day in the life: Andreah edition

I am currently the unemployed sister. Which, let me tell you, sucks. I hate sitting around doing nothing. Thankfully that won’t be the case soon, with a current job prospect on the horizon, but right now, my days are boring.

A typical day in the life of me right now is tedious and long and just plain redundant. Most days run into each other, so I honestly can’t tell you which day is which.

Thankfully though, the day I decided to do “My day in the life: Andreah edition,” was the day I needed to paint, but I am getting ahead of myself.

A typical day starts between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., depending on if I need the car, or if Joe wants 10 more minutes of ‘snuggles.’

I clearly don’t wear pyjamas to drop him off, because although I don’t have a job, I still may be asked if I could help, so I always wear dark clothes, and try to look awake, Which as you can see isn’t the case this morning.

Super awake face.

Super awake face

Then I feed our house guests, a.k.a. the reason why Julia can’t visit us at the moment.

Niko. And a can that was played with, silly cats!

Niko. And a can that was played with, silly cats!

Marley

Marley

We lock up…
20140916_090859
…and take the stairs, that totally are haunted. I don’t care if you think I’m crazy, I swear there is an angry old man in them.

Super creepy staircase.

Super creepy staircase

We get in Gladys, and drive to the shop to drop off the Joe.

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When I get back I usually start cleaning. Today is the bathroom…

All clean!

All clean!

…the vacuuming, mopping, and sweeping…

My vacuum.

My vacuum.

…and then the painting.

Before the paint!

Before the paint!

And then the after (Don't mind the dishes, they are for later)

And then the after (Don’t mind the dishes, they are for later).

Then I go through more of our stuff, decide what needs to go, what needs to stay, and then organize.
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Then around 6:30-7:00 I head to the shop, and wait for Joe to be done at work.

We come home, make dinner at whatever time we get back, and eat.

Apparently the sisterhood is doing chicken!

Apparently the sisterhood is doing chicken!

Then we watch a movie/season of a TV show/play video games. Relax, and talk about our days.

Nighttime snuggles!

Nighttime snuggles!

I know, though, that one day there will not be all the time in the world, I will miss these moments, alone, in a clean house, but for right now, I wish it was a little less lonely.

So there you have it, a day in the life of Andreah at the moment. Times are going to change and days will be completely different! Here’s hoping!

~ Andreah

Hate is a strong word

But, I’m going to use it.

I HATE CLEANING.

So glad to get that off my chest.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a job well done, I love meeting other people’s expectations (I’m a people-pleaser), I love just being able to cook without having to Jenga my kitchen first, I love walking on my floors and through my hallways and not tripping or dodging or obstacle-coursing around. I do. I really, really love it.

BUT.

I HATE CLEANING.

The only thing I hate more than having a dirty house is cleaning.

It was always this way. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. My mother, my poor cleaning mother, will tell you that my room was ALWAYS the messiest. ALWAYS. That if you could see floor it was a good day. If laundry made it near my closet, I was a success. That she hounded me about my disaster of a room more than anything else. It was my worst trait, my most horrible habit, my cardinal sin. I was a good kid. I was a MESSY kid.

Remember when I asked you to clean your room and you told me, "No!" and slammed your door? Well, I donated all your toys so now you won't have to clean your room anymore.

When Ben and I moved into our first apartment, it was the same. At the beginning, there was a novelty to cleaning up things, doing dishes in our sink, working together on tidying our space…until that second week. And then the shiny, the glimmer, the newness of cleaning up our space went away. And we kept it to the point where we could salvage it if someone came over, but generally it was an untidy mess that didn’t get cleaned. In fact, I had a friend comment after I had vacuumed for the first time since we moved in, that our carpet was kind of nice-looking when I vacuumed. That is how infrequently I clean.

Our house is the same. Before we had kids, we were slobby. Stuff everywhere. Dishes not done until they HAD to be done. Laundry not dealt with until it HAD to be dealt with.

Funny how to do your laundry infographic

Some days I would clean up our bedroom and Ben would be in utter shock and awe that it could be cleaned. Imagine that.

Wow! The house is so clean! Was the Internet down today, or is someone coming over?

Add some children, some mental illness, some more children, some sleep-deprivation, and voila! The cleaning has not only gone on a back burner, it’s not even opened. It’s at the back of the pantry, getting dusty.

At this point, though, I’m starting to understand cleaning. I’m starting to get what my mother was going on and on and on and on and on about when we were growing up. Things like, if you put it away you’d know where it is (Hi, it’s under my bed. Case closed.). And why put the dishes on the counter above the dishwasher, instead of in the dishwasher? And if it’s empty/full/broken/needs refilling, why don’t you do what you need to do instead of waiting for someone else to do it?

I get it. I still don’t LOVE cleaning, but I get that an organized home is so much easier (and nicer!) to navigate when you’re in a hurry and you’re running late and you need to find the elusive toy that will make the day instead of break the day. I get that walking across a floor and not having to brush the crumbs off is a nice perk. I understand now that stepping on and over and around stuff takes up precious energy. Energy I don’t have to waste on making my home a Spartan Race. I get it.

And yet…

My house is still a disaster.

I work at it. I spend hours washing dishes, sorting-washing-drying-folding-putting-away laundry, sweeping, steam mopping, dusting, vacuuming. I do. BUT.

And this folks, is the BIG BUT.

BUT I have these…children. And they’re not helpful. Cute, but not helpful.

My house was clean. Then the kids woke up. The end.

They don’t have a wonder of cleanliness to show them the way, so they don’t have innate cleaning genes.

They do have innate let’s-destroy-the-house-and-watch-mom-lose-it genes. IN SPADES.

There are a couple of scenarios caused by these adorably infuriating children.

The first one is obvious: I clean, they destroy. Sometimes not right away, sometimes they don’t wait, sometimes it’s concurrently – they’re messing it up AS I’M CLEANING IT – but they like to undo every thing that I do.

Organize and put away toys. Feel a sense of accomplishment. Watch as it’s taken apart in 5.6 seconds.

Fold laundry. Painstakingly put it in drawers by type of clothing and size. Watch as it’s tossed around like nobody’s business and BOOM can’t find socks.

Do dishes. Put all Tupperware away. Watch as children take out Tupperware, use it for rocks and dirt and goodness knows what. Watch as they put their sticky hands, mouth, feet all over it. Watch as it falls all over my not-so-swept floor. Cry.

Sweep floor. Feel like a superwoman. Watch as children drop cups of milk and water, pieces of toast with peanut butter, saucy chicken, spaghetti AND sauce all over the floor. Sob.

See? Brushing your teeth and Oreos, I tell you.

Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

The next one is not so obvious. It’s the one that mothers DON’T TALK ABOUT. They don’t share their secrets, so I’m asking you, dear audience, dear readers who probably excel at cleaning and everything around it, whose houses I could drop by and feel very bad about myself because you’re doing it SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME, tell me: how do you clean without letting your parenting fall all to crap?

I’m talking about trying to do the dishes, but then the baby starts screaming. Do you let him scream until the dishes are done, or stop and take care of him and then go back never? And what do you do with the toddler who would make MORE DISHES while “helping” you with dishes? Do you ignore them? Let the TV parent them? What do you do with them?

Cleaning with a toddler around is like raking leaves during a hurricane.

And when the babies are napping and all you want, all you NEED to do, is sit for a few minutes because you’ve been chasing babies ALL DAY LONG, do you pick cleaning and chores over rest, knowing the chores will make you cranky and unbearable later? Or do you pick the rest, knowing it will make you a mother you’re proud of, one that doesn’t lose her temper or get frustrated or freak out because I JUST CLEANED THAT FLOOR, COME ON!?

Could you tell me? Because I think if I had some ideas, maybe I wouldn’t HATE cleaning so much. Just generally abhor it, but still do it because the benefits would eventually outweigh the moaning and complaining that I’d put up.

~ Julia

Surprises of a stay-at-home mom

Before I had children, and knew everything (ha!), I had ideas about what stay-at-home parents did, what their houses looked like, and what their lives looked like. I also knew (ha!) that I’d never, ever become one. Ever. Never.

I went to a fancy university. I got a fancy (read: expensive) degree. I was a smart cookie. I had plans. I had ambitions. I had ideas. And I was stupid.

Fast forward through four pregnancies, three children, and years of being a stay-at-home mom to today, and let me tell you: I knew nothing. And I still know nothing.

I had some surprises when I became a stay-at-home parent and I thought I’d share them with you. So here, without further ado, are the 10 things that shocked the crap out of me when I became a stay-at-home mom:

1. My house will always be messy. If you do some quick math, I’m home from 10 until 3 every day. That’s five hours of prime cleaning time, you would think. But in reality, I do not have ‘free’ time from 10 until 3. I might have maybe 30 minutes of free time, maybe, and those minutes may not come all at once. They might come scattered throughout the day. So, while one would suppose (like I did before I took this gig) that I would have a magazine-worthy house, the fact of the matter is that there will always be floors to sweep, dishes to wash, toys to tidy, furniture to dust, windows to clean, toilets to scrub, and mirrors to shine. Always. It’s a horrible, self-perpetuating system that never ends.

2. The laundry will never be done. In therapy this week I was lamenting about the fact that my house is in constant chaos (see number 1) and that my laundry is never, ever ‘caught up’. One of the therapists (I had the pleasure of two at my last session!) said, “Unless you become nudists, that’s just the way it is.” She’s right. Even while I’m washing clothes, four other people besides myself are wearing clothes. Dirtying clothes is happening while I’m cleaning clothes. It’s just not fair. And it’s my reality.

3. I will not have a plan for every day. Somewhere in my ridiculous head I thought stay-at-home parents had some sort of social engagement calendar, filled with play dates, book clubs, leisurely coffees in shops, walks in the park pushing a  pram, library visits for grown-up books, or trips to the zoo, beach, fill-in-the-name-of-a-cool-place-here. So not the case. In fact, when we have a day where there isn’t a doctor’s appointment, a speech therapy appointment, groceries to fetch or errands to run, it’s blissful. It’s relaxing. It’s so much better than transporting all of the children with all of the things to the place that they’ll most likely destroy.

4. My kids will not do elaborate crafts every day. Or be enrolled in every play group or activity available to little people who aren’t in school. In fact, the moments where these things happen will be magic and the exception, and will be incredible and awesome, but will also be exhausting to coordinate, too expensive if they’re not free, and will wipe out any energy for anything else that week, making us yearn for days of nothing again (see number 3).

5. I will miss going to work. Before my last maternity leave from my last job, I couldn’t wait to stop working. To be at home and not have to get up with an alarm, or get dressed in fancy clothes and wear uncomfortable shoes, and eat lunch at a desk, and deal with the office politics that float in every workplace. But the reality of my day, complete with God-knows-what on my clothes, my hair looking like I’ve been run over by a tornado, and screaming children bouncing on me at 5:30 every. morning. there are some days, shockingly, that I dream of showering, brushing my teeth, going into work with clean, respectable clothing on, having structure to my day, performance reviews that don’t involve shrieking or temper tantrums, and a lunch where no one touches me. Some days having an out-of-the-house job sounds downright dreamy.

6. I will feel trapped sometimes. There seems to be such freedom for people who don’t have to work. But that’s just the thing: even though I don’t go anywhere, I still have to work. And my bosses don’t quit at 5 p.m. or stop sending demands outside of work hours. There are no such things as work hours. And so, some days, when my Monday looks like my Wednesday, which looks like my Saturday, it feels like I’m on a continuous loop with no end and no reprieve. Some days, there is nothing but boundary and restriction in my seemingly freedom-filled day.

7. I will wonder if I made the right decision. It’s a big decision to not return to work, to stay at home, and yet, for us, it was such a short conversation and it was made with very little debate or fuss. Ben and I talked about a few things: money that we would otherwise make, money we’d save if one of us stayed home, his career trajectory being able to recover in his industry versus mine after an extended absence, Lillian’s needs in terms of appointments at the children’s hospital an hour away, speech therapy weekly (at that time), and hearing aid/implant upkeep, and it just made sense: we needed someone to stay home and the person that it would work best for was me. Although logical, some days I wonder if everyone wouldn’t be happier, better off, our bank account less stressed out, if I were to just return to work. Some days.

8. I believe stay-at-home parents should be paid. I didn’t before. Because I didn’t recognize the magnitude of what they were doing and the positive effect they were having on their families by staying home. It’s a luxury in this day to stay home with your children. It shouldn’t have to be. It should be an option every family, whether single-parented or blended or couple-parented should have. It should be something that everyone has access too, not just the very rich. And let me say, we are not the very rich. I don’t know if we should get paid what people think we’re worth (like the infographic below argues), but I do think we should get something to make ends meet a little bit easier.

SAHM salary

No one is paying me this, let me tell you.

9. I don’t eat bon-bons and watch my stories. A little bit of me (okay, a lot a-bit-of-me) thought that stay-at-home parents had days like working people have when they call in sick – daytime TV, naps, lounging around in your pyjamas, eating because you’re bored, reading, playing video games, taking hot baths and going to bed early. Just like people who think having children is like having pets, I was mega-wrong. Even on days that Ben is home or someone is here helping me, my day doesn’t look anything like the sick days I had when I was in school or when we were just married.

10. I will work hard every day to stay present. It sounds like a fantasy, especially to a new mom or dad facing having to return to work: you get to stay home and watch your children grow up. You won’t miss the firsts that working parents might. You won’t miss out on milestones and you’ll have all the answers and know everything about your baby at appointments or when people ask. You’ll know you are your baby’s everything. The hard truth for me is that some days I want to be anywhere but here. That not every day is a monumental day that I give thanks for because I got to witness the first crawl, the first step, the first word, the first poop in the potty. That some days are bad or boring. Some days nothing happens at all, the minutes crawl by, and there is no end to the poop in the potty. Some days suck. But I know that this gift, this luxury, is a once-in-a-lifetime. That our babies will never be this age again, that I will never have this much access again. That I have a gift that Ben does not. That being home is a blessing. And I will work every day, even those crappy ones, to remember that. And I will accept that some days it will be impossible to remember. But most days it will be the thing that gets us through.

~ Julia