While my sister Miriam was in Europe for work, I agreed to be her children’s main caregiver for three of the days. Let’s just say it’s a respectable number of children. In many ways it was nothing like being a real mom but it was intense and actually, in retrospect, it must be what it feels like to be on a reality show, being thrown into a sink-or-swim situation. Over the three days I learned a lot about mothers. Here are some of my greatest take-aways:
Moms don’t shower.
How I never noticed this before is crazy but showering oneself does not fit in a mother’s schedule. You wake up in the morning, take care of the baby—feeding her breakfast and playing with her. Then you quickly get dressed and wake up the rest of the kids, which sort of feels like it takes forever. Then you all rush out the door 15 minutes late.
You go to work, they go to school. You hope they’re OK.
You get home to the kids. You’ve hopefully thought about dinner. You hopefully have ingredients for dinner. You prepare dinner, talk to the kids, help them with their homework or whatever else needs attention, you serve dinner, eat dinner, clean up from dinner.
You start bossing everyone around: Go take a shower (you lucky child, you), go finish your homework. Did you prepare your school bag for tomorrow? Please take containers out of your bags! Please take containers out of your bags! Did you put books in your bag for tomorrow?
Once they’re all in bed, it’s time for you to do one or more of the following: prepare food for the following day, laundry, clean up from dinner, some work-work or, yup, take a shower.
But who can think of showering then? Besides the fact there probably isn’t any hot water left, it’s time to do the stuff that must get done and, hopefully, relax for a few minutes before getting an early night, knowing you’ll probably be woken up during the night and you have a very early morning.
Moms are broken records.
I fully believe people are allowed to need things repeated. But as a mom you spend your whole life repeating things. In case you need examples: Get your bag ready for tomorrow. Take the container out of your bag. Brush your teeth. Choose your clothes for tomorrow. Please be quiet while I’m putting the baby to sleep! Be nice!
These requests/questions/commands and others like them take up around 70% of a mother’s speech.
Being woken up three to four times in a five-hour sleeping period catches up with you.
Being snapped out of your slumber is stressful. More than that, trying to fall asleep when you know that at any moment you might/will probably be awoken is really stressful.
It’s a miracle any families are ever on time.
Most of us were deeply committed to getting out of the house on time.
If I’d babysat them longer I’d have tried different tactics but always, when it was time to leave, I’d then notice the kid without shoes, the kid without food in her bag and, of course, there was the kid who would start crying bitterly about going to gan.
We were sorry about being 10 minutes late one day but realized the next day that 10 minutes late is early!
It’s easy to be a great mom for three days.
I decided to take this on as a challenge to be good and kind and fun and attentive and to prepare nice meals and to bond with the kids. There are a couple interactions that make me cringe but for the most part, again, with the help of my niece and the other older kids, things went beautifully.
We enjoyed so many lovely moments together. I loved watching the sunrise with the oldest daughter—who knew I could find someone as enthusiastic about it as me at 6:35 in the morning! I loved the little one being in such a sweet mood in the morning, bonding with her over her breakfast. I loved feeling like I had things under control. I loved feeling like we’re all on the same team making sure things happened. I loved putting out the meals in the morning in order of age (with my meals on the far left). I loved knowing I’d see them after work. I loved succeeding in dealing with things that came up with the kids during work. I loved coming home to them. I loved having my seven-year-old niece chat away with me as I prepared dinner. I loved serving them healthy meals, all of us eating together. I loved preparing meals with my nieces. I loved reading to my nine-year-old niece before bed, laughing whole-heartedly at the adorable book she chose which she’s read many times. I loved giving her a kiss goodnight.
But, all that being true, I am still getting over the ordeal. And I have no idea how women do it beyond three days. I didn’t only feel like a broken record, I also felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day where the same day repeats over and over again (until he changes his ways)! Yeah, the kids are growing and things are happening, but the level of responsibility and alertness necessary while putting aside so many other things is truly daunting.
So all I can say is, hats off to you, mothers. And maybe we should bring sponge baths back into vogue so you can at least wash the snot out of your hair and the sweat out of your armpits, feeling nice and fresh for the next day of trying hard to be a good-enough mom. Again.