I was talking to a woman the other day and the inevitable question was asked: "So, are you bored?"
This question is often asked of stay-at home moms. And it is most often asked by people with such riveting, pulse-quickening jobs as tax auditors and data entry associates. But to be fair to this oft-asked question, I decided to sit down and really think about whether I'm bored being a stay-at-home mom.
After I bundled up my three children and schlepped them all down a main road to my oldest daughter's bus stop at 7:25 in the morning, I got my cup of coffee and started to sit down and think. Then I saw that my 2-year-old had pulled a chair over to the cupboard and was grabbing a recently-opened two-pound economy size bag of chocolate chips. "Noooooo!" I screamed and lunged, but it was too late. One pound, 14 ounces of chocolate chips poured onto the floor. Periodically as I cleaned, my daughter would run in, grab a fistful of chips off the floor, and then bolt. I followed her chocolate tracks through the house and found her scribbling on my favorite end table with a black marker. I put her in a chair and told her to stay put. My 5-year-old yelled "the toilet's clogged!" from the bathroom. The phone rang. It was the library telling me that Chicken Soup with Rice was six weeks overdue and I already owed them 38 dollars, so I wouldn't be allowed to check out any more items.
After I got off the phone, I went to get my little one out of her time-out. She was sticky with chocolate, so I put her in the tub. While she splashed, I took the opportunity to unclog the toilet and clean the bathroom. As I cleaned, my 5-year-old entertained me by using the toilet as a piano stool and playing "Deck the Halls" on her Casio. Eleven times.
I was getting a pounding headache. I realized it wasn't just "Deck the Halls," but the fact that I never got to drink my coffee. I got my daughter out of the tub and she took off down the hall and hid. I finally found her in my bathroom, where she'd dumped out a box of Band-Aids, sprayed my late mother's old perfume everywhere and applied my deodorant to her lips like Chapstick. I got her dressed for the second time that day and went downstairs.
The coffee was cold. I drank it anyway, powering it down with a half-chewed Big Bird cereal bar. I started washing the breakfast dishes. My 5-year-old yelled "the toilet's clogged!" from the bathroom.
The phone rang. It was my husband telling me that he got a hospital bill for an ovary scan.
"But... you don't have ovaries?" I said nervously, hoping this wasn't a segue way into a much more serious conversation.
"That is correct," he answered. "Can you call them?"
"Sure," I said, watching my 2-year-old methodically snap each crayon in a brand-new Crayola 64-pack and chuck them across my just-swept kitchen floor. "What else do I have to do?"
After I got off the phone, she surveyed the damage. "Uh oh," she said sadly. "Crayons fell down."
I went to get our insurance card out of my wallet, but my wallet wasn't in my purse.
"Where's my wallet?" I asked my daughters.
"Mommy purse. Mommy purse," my 2-year-old piped up.
"No, it's not in Mommy's purse," I said. "That's the problem."
She was talking weird. I went over and looked in her mouth. She was chewing a giant wad of Juicy Fruit. And the only place I store Juicy Fruit is in my purse.
"Where's Mommy's wallet?" I asked her.
This was pointless. I made a mental note to find my wallet as soon as I was done finger sweeping all the gum out of my daughter's mouth. I threw the gum in the trash and she started yelling "Mommy trains! Mommy trains! Mommy trains!" and running to the toy room.
The last thing I wanted to do was play trains. I wanted to make a fresh pot of coffee and find my wallet. But that nagging voice said, "When you look back on this time, you'll wish you played trains with her while you had the chance."
So, I sat down and started building a track.
"Build it, b*tch!" she said excitedly. "Build it, b*tch!"
"What?" I cried.
"Build it, b*tch!"
I was horrified. Where had she learned that word? We barely let her watch TV. We don't run a dog kennel. She doesn't go to daycare. And even if she did go to daycare, I doubt the kids are running around yelling, "Score me a juice box, bee-yotch!" So what was going on?
"I need to bring a cake today," my 5-year-old said.
"For what?" I asked.
"For school. For the assembly."
"Everyone has to bring an entire cake?" I asked.
"No. Not everyone."
"But I do?"
"Why?" I asked
"I told them how much you like to bake cakes."
I have never said I like baking cakes. Nor do I bake cakes very often. But if my little girl wanted to view me through Betty Crocker-colored glasses, who was I to argue?
After 10 minutes of finding missing socks, missing hats and missing boots; and then finding more missing boots because my kids didn't want to wear those boots, we were finally ready to go out for cake mix. Then I remembered I didn't have a wallet.
"Where's my wallet?" I asked the ceiling, sighing.
"Wallet night-night," my 2-year-old said.
"Thanks," I answered and went upstairs to retrieve my wallet from her crib.
By the time we got home from the grocery store, I only had an hour until it was time to take my daughter to kindergarten. My kitchen got completely trashed, but I was able to make a messy, lopsided cake and feed my children lunch in the allotted timeframe. I drove my daughter to kindergarten, came home and put the little one down for a nap. I had been hoping to sit down, eat lunch and mull over the question am I bored? Oh -- and finally brush my hair and teeth. Instead, I had 80 minutes to clean up the fastest-cake-ever-made wreckage and lunch dishes, pay bills, plunge a toilet and call the insurance company. And, clearly, I needed to contact a plumber.
On the phone, I nicely explained to the insurance representative that they mixed up my husband with a woman, as he didn't have an ovary scan.
"Well, it says here that he did," she said, matter-of-factly.
"I'm quite sure that he didn't," I said.
"He must have. It's in our system."
"Yeah, I'm guessing your system is wrong on this one," I told her.
"Doubt it," she said.
"My husband couldn't have gotten that scan. Because he is a man. He doesn't have ovaries. I don't think this is a difficult concept to grasp."
"Well, it says here that your husband has ovaries. And they saw the ovaries."
"Do you know what ovaries are?" I asked, my voice a thinly controlled squeak. "It is impossible for my husband to have them!"
"You're telling me your husband can't have ovaries?"
"My husband. Doesn't have. OVARIES," I said, enunciating every syllable.
"Well, well," the woman huffed. "Someone's in denial."
I slammed down the phone. It was pointless. I'd let my husband play "What Are My Body Parts?" with the insurance people. Maybe they'd believe him.
I went upstairs and woke my daughter. I hated interrupting her peaceful nap. Like I do every day, I cursed the bus stop for being so far away that I couldn't bring a baby monitor out to the front yard and let the poor girl sleep. We picked up my first grader at the bus stop and raced back to the house. We had 12 minutes before it was time to get in the car and pick up my kindergartener.
In the car, I half-listened to my 6-year-old talk about seeing Peter Pan at her friend's house. When she mentioned someone called "Captain Dong," I almost crashed the car.
"Who's Captain Dong?" I demanded.
"Some guy," she said.
"Some guy at your friend's house?" I asked nervously, trying to remember if I'd ever met her friend's dad, and whether or not he wore tinted sunglasses with a pilot bar.
"No!" she said laughing.
"Is Captain Dong from school?" I asked, imagining some guy in a trench coat lurking in the woods by her school. I tried to remember where I'd put our copy of Your Body Is Your Own. We needed to read that again.
"No!" she laughed again. "On TV," she said.
"TV? Did they show you some weird movie at school again?"*
Just then, the kindergarten doors opened, so I ran out to get my daughter.
"Have you ever heard of Captain Dong?" I grilled her as we headed back to the car.
"Yeah, it's Captain Hook," she said. "On the movie, he hits his head and makes a sound like 'dong!' So we call him Captain Dong."
I felt my chest unclench. But we were still going to read Your Body Is Your Own tonight.
As soon as we got home, my older daughters began talking at once:
"I need help with my homework." "Can we bake cookies?" "I want to make my egg carton-toilet paper roll alligator now." "I'm hot, can I put on my bathing suit? Let's play beach party!" "Where are the paints? Oops..." "Look what I made at school." "I have to bring a hundred Q-tips to school tomorrow for the 100th day of school." "I'm bringing a hundred dollars!"
Then, my 2-year-old walked in from the toy room, holding a toy train bridge.
"Build it, b*tch!" she said.
"Bridge! Bridge!"I said happily. "You're saying build it 'bidge,' not 'b*tch!' You mean build the bridge!"
"Bidge! Bidge!" she said, happily waving the bridge.
I looked at the clock. I had two hours to make dinner, help with homework, clean up paint, find 100 Q-tips, find Chicken Soup with Rice and Your Body Is Your Own, and repeatedly tell my children to clean the crumbs, crayons, schoolwork, library books, scarves and mittens that somehow took over the kitchen table within two minutes of them walking in the door. And I'm sure a toilet, somewhere, needed plunging. That left plenty of time to play trains. And maybe once the kids were in bed, I'd be able to sit down and wonder if I'm bored.
*Three music teachers at three different schools have played Fantasia for my children and it ticks me off to no end. The "Night on Bald Mountain" montage is terrifying. And the whole thing is freakish and deranged. If I really think my kids need to witness drug-induced, psychedelic graphics as part of their education, I'll show them something decent, like The Wall.
Excerpted from the ebook Scotch Tape is Cheaper Than Botox: and more not-so-helpful tips for parents, spouses, and other tired people available at Amazon.
When do I have time to write? I write in my head during the random moments when no kid is in my face asking for juice. If I actually try to type, my youngest climbs in my lap and yells "See Big Bird?" over and over until I go to YouTube. And/or my oldest looks over my shoulder and demands, "are you writing about me for your blog?" When I have enough material in my head, I type it up in bed at night, or on week-ends.