There’s a magical hour in our house. It’s right around sunset, before the night descends into a departing winter blackness. My husband is home, the kids are (usually) napping which frees my hands to cook dinner and life is perfect. The overwhelming “aloneness” of being the only adult with my children dissipates and is quickly forgotten. It’s family time. The picture I had in my mind of what it would mean to have a family actually materializes. The children play on the living room floor as hubby reads or watches the news and I attend to the business of cooking and serving dinner.
After packing away tonight’s leftovers, I snuggle on the coach with my hunny. Well, I should say, I wake him up from his snoring sleep, make him scoot over to make room for me then curl halfway into his lap. As soon as I plant a kiss on his face just because, here comes our two shadows.
“Give me a kiss, Daddy,” Thing 1, my oldest demands with his lips puckered.
Such a ham, that one. Hubby smiles and grants the request. I mean, how could you not?
“Gimme tiss, Deddy” Thing 2 chimes in, running as fast as his little legs would carry him towards his father. Daddy obliges with a chuckle.
I look over at my kitchen in disdain. I need to wash dishes, clean off the counter tops, sweep and mop my floors before I can go to sleep with a clear mind. I like to clean as I cook but there are days when that is absolutely out of the question. If the kids are awake while I’m cooking, they will not let me out of their sight.
“I wanna help,” my almost four year old would chime as I’m cooking, pushing a dining chair towards the oven. I have to be hyper-vigilant to keep him from burning himself on any hot surfaces – his favorite place is right beside me by the stove. He wants to chop, season and stir right along with Mommy. Most days, this is our time to make memories. But on some days when my sleep deprivation and constantly churning mind gets the best of me, I find myself snapping at him.
“Move! Move out of my way! Look at this mess you made!” I recently bellowed at him, frustration rising because he gave me more to do. I look over at the mess of chicken bullion powder and curry seasoning he had knocked over.
Great! I had swept the floor not even five minutes prior.
“I’m sorry, mommy,” he said, his eyes welling up already.
The guilt I felt was like a gut-punch. It really was not his fault. My baby wanted to help his mama cook. His elbow knocked the uncovered spices over as he was attempting to grab a spoon for me. It was mistake that I could have easily made myself and I made my son feel bad for it.
Lord, please do not let me damage them. I am doing my best.
My thoughts collide wordlessly on themselves and I blink back an unannounced sting of tears.
“It’s okay, baby. You didn’t mean it. You were just trying to help, Mommy, right?” [He nods wordlessly, wiping his eyes].
“Mommy is sorry for yelling,” I state, reaching down to envelop his small shoulders in a hug. “You wanna help me clean it up?”
He smiles and nods enthusiastically. All is forgiven. Oh for the mindset of a three-year old who forgives even the gravest offenses in the blink of an eye and thinks nothing of them again.
God, please don’t let me break them.
As munchkin and I continued cooking, Pumpkin (my youngest) noticed that my attention was diverted and began to whine. “Mo-mmy? I waaaannnn duce (juice),” he demanded like the tiny boss of the house he knew himself to be.
“You’ve had enough juice today, boo boo. No juice. You can have water,” I state sternly. My mind remembering his oldest brother’s last dentist visit. No cavities but his teeth were showing weak points that demands we eliminate sugar from his diet. The fear passed down to his younger brother’s dental health.
I gotta watch how much sugar they are eating and drinking, I remind myself.
The “no juice” verdict sends Pumpkin into a tailspin. You would have thought his favorite pet died the way he wailed and threw himself on the ground. The tears flowed as he mourned his existence. What cruel world would deny him the sweet nectar of the gods? His growing mind must have wondered as he laid on my kitchen floor, a puddle of tears and toddler angst.
I roll my eyes in his direction as I grab his sippy cup. I make a concoction that is three parts water and one part fruit juice and snap it shut.
“Here, boo boo!” I thrust the cup in his direction, and like magic, the fountain of tears dry up and immediately he is on his feet.
“Tat you (thank you), Mo-mmy,” he sniffs as a small smile plays on his lips.
Mommy – 0, Toddler – 3,451. The running tally in my head flashes like a scoreboard.
It’s okay. We will brush extra long tonight, I console myself. Anything to keep my hands free so I could finish dinner and supervise my sous-chef in the kitchen.
Making dinner with two toddlers in tow is equal parts a battle of wits (between the adults and their tiny overlords) and actual food preparation. There is a reason I do not attempt my longer, more complicated recipes unless the children are asleep. I literally do my best cooking between the hours of midnight and five.
Now that today’s dinner has been long digested and I am getting some good snuggle time with my husband, I remember my night time chores. I sigh deeply as I pull myself away from my husband and his warm embrace.
The kitchen awaits.
Pumpkin suddenly remembers that mommy has not read him a story today.
“Mommy, I want weed eet (read it),” he says as he scrambles towards me, book in hand.
Ugh! I have got to clean this kitchen!
“Boo boo, take the book to Daddy. Daddy will read it,” I say, passing the buck to my partner in life. This is a favorite tactic of mine. When the kids are driving me absolutely crazy or one of them has a dirty diaper that smells like death (and my stomach is feeling particularly weak for whatever reason), I send them to their dad.
“Go to daddy” is my rallying cry for “I don’t wanna deal with this right now,” and most times it works. Alas, tonight will not be one of those times. The man I just left on the couch is snoring again and Pumpkin is approaching a full-blown meltdown if nobody reads him this book.
“C’mon baby, let’s read,” I beckon to my youngest, attempting to nip the tears in the bud before they start.
After story-time, we begin our bedtime routine. I wake my husband and invite him upstairs with us. I really want to skip bath time tonight; the dishes in the sink are still beckoning to me. No sooner do we get to the top of the stairs do my kids run towards their bathroom.
“Mommy, I wanna bap,” the youngest declares.
“Yay! Bath tiiiiiiiime!,” the oldest chimes in doing his best impression of Sid the Science Kid. How come children always know when you are at your most exhausted and pick that exact moment to be their most demanding? No worries. I got something for them. As I run the bath water to the perfect temperature for both children (oldest hates to be cold, and youngest hates to be hot), I plot my escape.
“Okay baby, time to get in the bath,” I help each child out of their food stained, juice-stained, slightly peed on (I’ll explain later) clothes and into the bath. After I hunt down rubber duckies, plastic balls and foam letters to keep them company, I walk towards my husband in our bedroom.
“Babe, can you keep an eye on the kids for me? They are in the tub and I really need to get that kitchen together,” I ask as I softly wake him from his stupor.
He nods groggily and I make a mad dash downstairs before any of my three men could ask anything else of me. As I walk downstairs, I pick up socks, shoes and toys that have lost their way and gather the pile together. I put toys in the designated baskets downstairs and leave the clothes on the stairs as a visual reminder to put them in the kids room.
I am not going back up there until they are all asleep.
Cleaning the kitchen is strangely therapeutic. I do my best thinking when I am left alone with a sink full of dishes. After scrubbing all the dishes by hand (old-school Nigerians are allergic to dishwashers, ask anyone), I put them in the dishwasher to dry and clear off all my surfaces, putting everything in cabinets or the kitchen pantry. When my work space looks perfect, I breathe a sigh of relief and smile. A quick glance at the clock tells me it is already after midnight.
So much for getting to sleep early tonight.
I make my way back upstairs to bed, grabbing the pile of clothes and socks on the stairs as I go. When I stop inside the kids room to drop off the clothes, I notice the mess of toys and clothes on their floor.
Can’t leave it like that.
I organize their clothes and shoes into their respective side of the closet and toss all the toys and books into the baskets that line the wall. Baskets are strategically placed all over the house for quick clean up because what I am not going to do is kill myself trying to clean up after a house full of men (who share none of my OCD tendencies for cleanliness). Baskets make organization easy. A roomful of toys quickly becomes clean floors and organized space with enough baskets.
I stop by the kids bathroom to turn off the lights and notice that the bathtub has not been drained. I let the water out and scoop out the mountain of bath toys that were left behind. Then I grab a towel to mop up the water on the floor, organize the vanity space littered with tooth brushes and toothpaste before finally heading towards my bed.
As I toss the towel into the hamper, I noticed it is filling up so I load up the washing machine instead. As the machine fills with water and begins slushing about, I continue my journey towards the bed. A quick peep into the darkened room reveals my husband passed out with our youngest on his chest (pumpkin still doesn’t sleep well on his own), and munchkin sleeping diagonally across our king-sized bed. How do two little people take up so much room on an adult size bed? There’s literally no where for me to lie down unless I curl into a ball at the foot of the bed.
I make my way to the guest room and flop on the bed. Thirty minutes later, I am still auditing my day in my head, going over each detail to ensure I have not missed anything.
The sixteenth since it is after midnight, my phone screen confirms.
The light bill was due on the fifteenth and would be scheduled for disconnection if payment was not received by 5pm. I am already seven hours too late but better to do it now and call them in the morning to throw myself on someone’s mercy if necessary. I rush back downstairs to retrieve my purse and debit card and make a call into the system. I make the $250 payment and head back upstairs, making a mental note to check with the energy company in the morning.
The night passes as usual. The youngest woke me up with his whimpering around 3:30AM when their father got up for work. My oldest is still splayed all about on the bed, making it impossible for anyone to sleep beside him without making bodily contact.
I suspect his X position on the bed is on purpose. His favorite past time is rubbing up against me like a cat when I am trying to sleep. As someone who HATES to be touched as I am falling asleep, his touch irritates me into wakefulness every night. I have resolved to building a barrier between us using the comforter. Sometimes it works, sometimes the system is defeated.
I lull my youngest baby back to sleep and pass back out until the sun wakes me. I slept through my alarm. It is now 8:30. Thankfully, today is low-key day.
I check my calendar to make sure.
I have an appointment at 1pm, which means I need to be dressed by 10am, an hour for our morning routine, another hour for breakfast and whatever shenanigans the children can create to delay us from leaving the house and I should leave the house not a minute after 12 noon to drop off the kids and still make it on time to the office.
The client is a referral from a friend. My girls are forever boosting my business and recommending me to colleagues. I don’t want to disappoint. When I call my mom to check in, her voice tells me that I woke her up.
”He-hello? She croaks out, her voice cracking with the strain of answering her phone while not fully awake.
”Sorry, Mommy! I didn’t mean to wake you. I was just calling to say hi. Call me when you wake up,” I quickly hung up before I told any more lies. I forgot my mom worked yesterday.
She can’t watch the kids. She works 12 hours during third shift and needs the mornings after work to rest. Hubby is at work till 6pm and my dad is out attending to work duties. Both my in-laws work nights and sleep during the day as well and none of hubby’s siblings or mine are around.
Dagnabit! (I’m officially an elderly white man trapped in a 30 something year old black woman’s body).
Where are all those people who were praying twins, triplets and quads on me during our last baby shower? If you want me to birth a football team worth of kids, the least you can do is watch them for me while I work.
After racking my brain for a few minutes, I head towards the office with the kids in tow. I don’t have a choice. They are coming with me to meet a brand new client.
This is about to be the most shambles that has occurred in the history of working while Mom-ing.
Times like these, I remember why childcare costs two grand a month. When you’re desperate, you do what you have to do. My current budget is stretched so thin, I can see through it. An extra two thousand a month in expenses would put us in debtors prison (God forbid).
Whatever. No time for shoulda woulda coulda. I have to deal with the present. When we arrive at my office, I pull out coloring books, crayons and snacks from my office stash. We have many clients with young children so we maintain a decent activity area to keep them quiet.
”Okay boo boos. You guys color and let Mommy work, okay.” This is bribing 101. Don’t judge me unless you’ve been held hostage by toddlers before.
Let’s just pray it works.
“Okay, Mommy” they reply in unison.
Liars! My instinct tells me. But my optimistic and slightly panicked mind says to believe them.
When the client arrive, I walk down to the lobby and meet a surprise. The couple awaiting me is an interracial duo. The wife seems to be from Eastern Europe if her accent is any indication and the husband is one of my skinfolks. We exchange greetings and I prepare myself for the maylay this is about to be. (I left the kids playing in the office to make the quick walk to the lobby).
As we near my door, I can hear the cries of my children. I guess they looked up and found out I snuck out.
“My children are in the office today because I couldn’t get a sitter,” I offer by way of explanation.
This has got to be the most ratchet consultation in the history of law practice. I’m actually completely embarrassed but I put on my best unbothered face, take a deep breath and open the door.
What I meet is utter chaos. My children have dumped a box of plastic balls on the carpet. Broken crayons and torn coloring books littered the carpet like toddler-made confetti. My two offsprings look up with cherub-like expressions. Someone else must have made this mess.
Weren’t y’all just crying?
I swear I was gone for all of 30 seconds. How did they do this so fast?
“Where did you go, mommy? Why did you left us?” My oldest asks accusingly.
”I only left for a little bit, Munchkin. See I came right back,” I explain, avoiding the couples’ eyes.
This is SO janky! I hit a mental face palm while smiling confidently in my would-be clients’ directions. If they take off running and don’t look back, I wouldn’t blame them.
”Excuse the mess,” I say as unfazed as I could manage as I round the table to sit in my designated area. “Please have a seat,” I motion to the waiting chairs. “How can I help you?” I ask once they are both seated.
The next thirty minutes were filled with preventing my children from pushing over an office printer and shattering it into a million pieces, wrangling a chocolate bar the size of his head away from munchkin and eventually, obliging Thing 2 when he insisted on sitting in my lap as I offer legal counsel. In between dying from being utterly mortified, mothering and lawyering, I am able to piece together the clients’ story.
The wife came from the Czech Republic two years ago on a visitors visa. She was married at the time but her husband stayed behind. She meet the real love of her life while in the US and they decided to get married. She forgot to get divorced first before remarrying (really, ma’am?). What could they do?*
My advice was short and to the point. Annulment. You can’t get married while you’re married. Annul the second marriage because no court is gonna recognize it as legitimate while she’s still married.*
But the first marriage was all the way back home. No one would know if she didn’t tell them, she insisted.
I explained the paper trail that one leaves behind when dealing with international travel. Her visa application probably told the truth of her marital status. She can’t hide it now. Annul the second marriage and if you’re still in love, divorce your husband and remarry for real for real.**
We conclude their consultation and say our goodbyes. My kids are still operating with all the decorum of Tasmanian devils but that’s neither here nor there. What matters is we survived and I’m no more edge-less than I was when the morning began (thanks, Post-partum shedding 😒).
My nerves are completely SHOT! I decide it is time to head home. With my computer bag over one shoulder, my purse on the other arm. I grab hands with each kid and we march on to the car.
I open the door to put Thing 2 in his car seat first. I had to carry him for the walk in the parking lot because he was slowing us down but now my shoulders are burning like nobody’s business.
What have we been feeding you, little boy?
As soon as I release his hand to latch his little brother inside the car seat, my oldest takes off from my side. My heart leaps inside my throat!
He knows better! Even at the age of three he’s had multiple lessons on the dangers of cars and oncoming traffic. He usually makes it point to stay close to my side in parking lots and near streets.
But this is my fault too. I usually put him inside the car and close the door before I put his baby brother down. He saw a chance at freedom and he took it.
“Come here, NOW!” I say in my best disciplinarian voice.
He most have sensed my fury because he shuffles over quickly, his head down and mouth hanging.
”What did Mommy say about running where there’s cars?” I ask sternly, my heart still beating from the terror of what could have been.
“But, I want to get the dandy yayin (dandelion),” he mutters, bottom lip quivering.
I noticed the enticing weed sprouting up in the landscaping by the door.
“Are you suppose to run when there are cars outside though?” I ask, my anger subsiding since I am no longer terrified.
“No,” he admits, a rare occurrence.
“Okay, so you know we don’t do that. The next time, you disobey Mommy, you will be on punishment,” I state with finality. I usually leave the disciplinarian portion to my hubby but I can’t very well let the children run haywire while he’s at work.
Still can’t believe somebody gave me whole children to raise.
Every day I marvel that someone out there trusts me to be somebody’s mother. Most days I feel like the same 17 year old girl who got dropped off for her first day of college, petrified of getting things wrong and desperately wishing my mom was here to hold my hands. But nope. I’m somebody’s mama now. Two somebodies in fact. And I’m closer to 40 than 18.
No sooner did I put the car in reverse did munchkin announce, “Mommy, I’m hungeee!”
SMH! I have got to get my life together!
I’ve had these kids all afternoon and did not think about lunch. Just because I can go from morning to 6pm before having my first meal does not mean my children want to participate in my “I’m too busy to eat” Olympics.
They like food. And I don’t blame them.
”Chick Fil A it is!” I announce enthusiastically to no one in particular. There’s no way a home cooked lunch is happening today and I don’t feel the least bit bad about it. As far as I’m concerned, CFA is God’s anointed restaurant so it doesn’t count as fast food.
When we pull up to the drive through, the line is at least 40 cars long and yet by some miracle (Jesus works the register Himself and the Holy Spirit fills the orders), we got our food within five minutes.
I told you, this place is anointed.
Thing 2 has fallen asleep on the ride so his older brother uses the opportunity to eat both orders of chicken strips because he was still “hungweee” after eating his own lunch and washing it down with two cups of CFA sauce.
The rest of my week was uneventful if you don’t count the “Instagram war” with an associate’s wife. Before you get all judgy on me, let me preface by saying it was not my fault. I saw them at a mutual friend’s wedding and said hello to both parties. For some reason, the lady took offense, took to my instagram page and cussed me slam out for being “disrespectful.” And she called me a fake born-again. I have zero clue what crawled up her breeches and I don’t intend to find out. I blocked and deleted both parties. I’m not one for dealing with a husband and not the wife. Y’all are one flesh so you can be blockt (with a T) together in one accord.
And that “fake born-again” thing could have really hurt my feeling if I was still a hypocrite. But me and Jesus sorted things out about nine years ago so I’m cool. I let the comment roll off my back and keep it pushing.
The best thing about having children this age is watching their relationships with each other. My kids are exactly two years and a week apart. I’m extra fertile in the summer, I guess.
Or maybe hubby is extra h-
Uhm…you know what?
The point is that having my kids so close together makes parenting the hardest job ever but it’s an absolute joy watching their friendship and bond develop.
Annnnnd, my oldest is 90% out of diapers. Not 100% but accidents are few and far between and he only needs Pull-ups for overnight sleeps. Considering that his diapers alone were costing me $50 a month, I’m glad to be almost done with this phase. And have you ever smelled a three year old’s poop? He smells like a grown man. That’s no baby. The last time he accidentally pooped in his underwear, I wanted to fight him. Like literally, square up little boy because you’ve offended all my senses and there will be retribution.
Putrid. Absolutely putrid. When that happens I throw his clothes away. Because who’s hand washing poop? And who’s putting that foul stench and matter into my good washing machine? Not I! My Nigerian people would call it being a “suffer head,” which I am not.
Throw the whole baby away, they said (the innanets). If I could lift him, believe me I would have.
The best part of my life is I get to watch my children grow up on a day to day basis even while earning an income for my family.
The “least best” (there is no “worst”) part of my life is that I still haven’t mastered how to care for myself while caring for my family. When I neglect my needs (sleep, proper nutrition, therapy and self-care), everyone suffers – my husband, my children and even my clients.
I’m not always the wife, mom or professional I desire to be. I still worry about money because it feels like I don’t make enough. And ever so often I get this nagging feeling that another woman would do better with my life than I ever could.
But it’s not true.
Opening my life up this way is not about pretending perfection or even moaning and groaning about how difficult my roles are to navigate. My goal in sharing my confessions was to give you some insight into my day to day life and to remind myself that my circumstances do not have to be ideal for me to find joy, humor or contentment in my current stage in life.
Whatever point you find yourself in life, find what works for you and flourish. It doesn’t have to be perfect for you to own it
*fictional clients with a fictional scenario. I’m not giving y’all real life info because I like having a job.
**this is not legal advice for you, reader. This is a blog. If you want a consultation, call a lawyer (not someone who plays one on TV).