The secret revealed: What working moms in Chicago really do at night

I have discovered the secret of what working moms do at night.

I recently changed jobs. While I had already been working full time, I telecommuted several days each week. That meant I often didn’t lose time to rush hour, grocery shopped during lunch, and did laundry in between spreadsheets.

Trust me – there were downsides to it as well, which is why I am back in an office at my new gig. But all the same, working at home made a lot of things easier on both myself and my family.

Now, I race to drop the kids at daycare, try to maintain normal blood pressure levels while driving through summer construction, sprint through my work for nine hours, then gather the kids. Dinner. Baths. Try to fit in some time together, with varying degrees of success. Read books. Sing songs. Bed.

So what is it that working mothers do at night after the kids are in bed?

They move piles from room to room. For hours. And that’s it.

Don’t believe me? I was amazed at the extent of time suck that goes into this simple activity. But it’s true. A large part of it has to do with the fact that I am now a Sherpa. The kids each have a backpack for day care. If it’s soccer day, there’s a bag with balls and another with gear and snacks for when I pick them up. I have my purse, my laptop bag, and if I’m incredibly organized, my lunch. If it is a day that the kids are going to stay at their dad’s house for the night, add two suitcases to the mix.

So yesterday, for example, since they had been at their dad’s the night before, I carried seven bags in when we got home. With laundry, sports gear, leftovers from lunch, dishes, paperwork, office bags, and a hodge-podge of randomness gathered around my feet in the kitchen, I began moving piles while cooking dinner.

Four things go in Austin’s room. Three to Abby’s. Grab the laundry while I’m there. Stir the dinner. Chuck the laundry down the stairs for later. Take the trash out to the garage. While out there, grab paper towels and dog food for the kitchen.

I have to say – I’ve become very efficient with my movements, but they simply never end. At the end of the night, I realize I haven’t actually checked anything off the list. I’ve simply done the minimum to keep us moving through the week.

That’s okay. I now understand my mom friends who have been working outside of the home much better – Why they are reluctant to go out when the kids are still awake, or are more difficult to make plans with, even for that “quick” cup of coffee.

I miss my little people when I’m away from them all day, and I want to be the one to tuck them in. On the weekend, I would love to have coffee – but getting to every errand, appointment, and cleaning is a challenge. (And to my neighbors: I apologize about my yard…)

We do what we need to. And whether with the kids or friends, when we do take the time to sit down to catch up, we appreciate that conversation that much more.

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