Chicago mom: 25 things I can’t do when my kids are awake

I’m not sure how anyone with small children accomplishes anything. Sometimes I’ll see a mom with kids around my boys’ ages with coiffed hair and impeccable clothes with nary a trace of yogurt stains. I want to ask, “How are you doing this?” Not to accuse or judge. Quite the contrary – I want to know her strategy. I want to implement it. I want to be her.

My kids are currently 4- and 1 ½-years old. This seems to be a stage where nobody is allowed to do anything that doesn’t directly tend to their needs. Here is a list of 25 tasks that I cannot perform during their waking hours:

Unload or load the dishwasher. (Is that door open? I should probably crawl into it.)

Talk on the phone. (“Is that daddy? Is that daddy? I want to say hi to daddy. Daddy, I pooped in the potty. Look, I’m a dinosaur! Daddy, are you looking?”)

Use the phone for any of its smart purposes. (““Mine? Mine? Mine?”/ Can I watch videos? Can I watch videos? Can I watch videos?”)

Leave any doors open or stairs unbarricaded. (Are the basement stairs exposed? Awesome! I haven’t had a head wound in days.)

Clean. (What’s in that spray bottle? I’ll find out by squirting it into my brother’s face; see how it plays. Wait, are the toys put away in bins and not spread out all over the floor? No. I cannot let this stand. Hey, that vacuum looks fun. I wonder if I can ride it? Worth a shot, anyway.)

Do any task that requires travel between rooms or multiple floors. (Sweet freedom! I will jump off the stairs, land on my face and then throw everything on the floor as fast as possible before mom can stop me.)

Watch TV. (“That man just said ‘stupid.’ He gets a time out.”)

Do laundry. (Did you mean to make neat piles? That can’t be right. I’ll fix that for you.)

Cook. (Is that oven hot? I should check. With my tongue. Ooh, mom’s distracted. I should use this opportunity to empty the pantry. Maybe overturn the flour bag.)

Pee alone. (“Mommy, what are you doing? Are those your privates? They are different than my privates. Why do you have different privates?”)

Work on my computer. (Is that a glowing screen? Bet that would be fun to slam shut. Does mom seriously think she can spend one minute not looking at me? I’ll fix it. There. Fingers smashed.)

Grocery shop. (“Can I have gummy snacks? Can I have a pouch? Can I have them now? Do they have dinosaurs here? Can I have a dinosaur? Where’s my dinosaur?”)

Eat. (Is mom’s food different than my food? It looks the same but … hers might taste better. I won’t know unless I smear my fingers into it and try. There. Nope, it’s the same. Well, I’m already here. No reason to stop now.)

Sleep. (Is mom asleep? I can’t tell. I’ll pull her eyelids open, just to be sure.)

Blow dry my hair. (I worry that mommy cannot hear me. I will significantly increase the volume of my voice to compensate. /“That’s too loud. Can you put it away?”)

Exercise. (“This video is boring. Can we watch ‘Winnie the Pooh’ instead? Hey, why does your tummy look like that?”)

Craft. (Glue? Scissors? Crochet needles? I feel like whatever happens here isn’t on me. Consequences be damned.)

Read a book. (“Why doesn’t that book have pictures? Mommy, I’m talking to you. Can we do ‘Dragons Love Tacos?’ I’ll go get ‘Dragons Love Tacos.’”

Shower. (She brought me in here so obviously she intended for me to throw everything within arm’s reach into the water.)

Eat at a restaurant. (Thank you for putting this food in front of me so that I could throw it on the floor. It looks so much better there. This is really fun! Wait, don’t pick it up! How dare you! I’m going to scream and cry now. And I will accept absolutely no comfort. Other people are staring? Let them. I’m committed to this.)

Change clothes. (Are those clean clothes? I think I still have some peanut butter on my hands from breakfast. Her knees are right there. Mom’s basically a human napkin, right? / “Mommy, are you still not ready yet? I want to go to the park.”)

Have my arms free. (“Up! Up! Up! Up! Up!”)

Apply makeup. (“What are you putting in your eye? Is that a crayon? Can I put the crayon in my eye, too?”)

Home repair. (What’ s a hammer? My brother seems to know. Oooh, that looked cool. / ”Look, mommy, I just did a project in the wall.”)

Have a conversation with my husband. (“Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mo-mmmmmy?”)

What does this leave? We spend a lot of time playing and dancing. Sounds alright, sure, but they also enjoy food, shelter and clothes — just not the means for me to supply them. It puts a lot of pressure on the time between 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. I have four hours a day to do everything on this list, so each night I have to choose which are the most important.

Do we need groceries more than I need to work? Do we need clean clothes more than a tidy kitchen? Would I rather hang out with my husband or read a book? I know this is just a blip in my long life as a mom, but I do look forward to the time when I can tackle even half of this list in any given day. Until then, I gotta go. I haven’t showered in days.

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