The term stay-at-home mom is used to ineptly categorize a significant percentage of the female population with children in this country. I am not a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I’m not even a mom; I’m the commonly seen working dad who spends 8-10 hours a day away from my family in an office while my wife raises four rowdy boys. Based on my one day substituting for my wife, who had the flu, and all the running around (yes, like a chicken without a head) I had to do with the kids that day, I recommend erasing stay-at-home mom from the English lexicon and forever replacing it with the more aptly descriptive run-around mom. Fellow non-run-around moms – unless you are prepared to experience a sensation which can only be described as clinical exhaustion – do not try this at home.
8:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Waking up was just like any other day with the baby-ninja sneaking into the bedroom and curling up with my wife while one of his tiny feet knock me in the face followed by an assault by the toddler jumping onto the bed and leaping into a flying elbow-drop onto my chest. This, however, is usually where our days diverge as I get ready for work and overhear the insanity that ensues while everyone is dressed for school and fed. Since there was no school due to a holiday, dressing was not as urgent as feeding. Having almost no skills in the kitchen, I had already accepted the fact that all food consumption would be of a take-out/fast-food nature. With everyone up and still in their pajamas and the two little guys already equipped with their milk-cups for the ride, jackets, hats, and gloves were secure as they filled the mini-van. If it takes my wife and I ten minutes to get them geared up for the outdoors and into the car we’re lucky; it wasn’t less than forty-five minutes before everyone was warm and safely harnessed to whatever car seat the law requires putting us at about 9:00 a.m. to leave the house for the first time. After a debate that tested my nerves over what everybody wanted for breakfast, the orders were in. Twenty minutes after departure, the shopping bag of food from McDonalds and the males were back in the house. In the middle of a syrup-filled breakfast, the oldest tells me about a birthday party he has that day. By now, my sickly wife has migrated from the bed to the couch where she informs me that the party begins at 11:00 a.m. and we don’t have a gift yet.
10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Back in the car and to the nearest toy store for a gift. Of course my son provides no intel on what this kid would like so I opt for the safe bet – the gift card. Thinking that I saved myself a trip because the gift card had a space to write a message, I have my boy write the proverbial Happy Birthday greeting right on the gift card; a shortcut I found out days later was uncouth since that meant there was no Happy Birthday card within which the gift card was to be placed. Pull into the parking spot at so-and-so karate at precisely 11:00 a.m. and enter the loudest room on Earth at that moment. Pick-up time is 12:30 p.m. so back to the house by 11:10 a.m. giving me just about forty-five minutes before preparing everyone to get back in the car again. Pick-up at 12:30 p.m. with one fed child and three getting hungry soon, but its too early for lunch. Spend the next forty-five minutes trying to run five errands but due to the monumental effort it takes to take four kids out and put them back in the car, accomplish one. Call in a pizza order on my way to the place and pick up one large pie for the group and back in the house around 2:30 p.m. only to learn that the baby has a doctor’s appointment at 3:00 p.m. because he had recently exhibited some flu symptoms.
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Flying itty-bitty pieces of pizza into baby’s mouth while managing to devour some form of nourishment for myself and I’m ready to leave the house again for the pediatrician. Pull into the spot a few minutes after 3:00 p.m. and swiftly carry the little guy into the office. Before I enter, I am faced with a choice of two doors – one for sick kids and one for healthy kids. Still perplexed by the healthy-kid door, I use the sick kid door only to find out that both doors lead to the same really big waiting room with a huge empty fish tank dividing the two spaces. There is, however, a playroom filled with toys with a sign indicating that the room is only for healthy kids. Not being able to read, the little guy darts into the room where the parents of the kids who are at the doctor for no apparent reason give me dirty looks for letting Mr. Sniffles into their kids’ hyperbolic chamber. Waiting room into small examining room where the little guy is poked and prodded turning him into a siren of misery. Before getting back into the car with a miserable child, a text arrives indicating that “we’re out of milk and o.j.” Detour into the CVS, pick up the items, and back en route to the house where I arrive at approximately 4:15 p.m. Before I get through the mail, the two older ones are beginning to get shoes and jackets on as unbeknownst to me, they’ve got an art class that begins at 4:30 p.m.
4:30 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
Make a drop at the art class at 4:30 p.m. and return home by 4:45 p.m. giving me an hour and fifteen minutes until the last pick-up of the day. I know it sounds like a lot of time but its really not, especially when you have to entertain two smaller children while trying to figure out what to get for dinner. McDonalds for breakfast, pizza for lunch leaving only Chinese for dinner! Call in the Chinese order to time it perfectly to be ready to pick-up on my way back from the art class. Leave the house at 5:45 p.m., make final pick-up of people and food for the day and return home by 6:15 p.m.
6:15 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
So I’ve been running around all day from one drop-off to the next pick-up for 8-10 hours and the hardest part of the day is still ahead of me. Getting four boys of varying ages to eat a meal is akin to training a family of chimpanzees how to do long division – there’s a lot of screaming and screeching, food everywhere, and afterwards everyone needs a bath. Which leads me to bathing time. Somehow everybody is cleaned albeit not fully rinsed. Then comes the final and most difficult task of any parent – something I am familiar with but never had to do while already so exhausted – bedtime. It is hard enough to help my wife put the kids to bed after a day behind the desk; it was absolute torture doing so after a day of driving around Long Island like a yellow cab. So much so, I just gave up with the little guys and instead of reading them a book or singing them a song like I usually do, I just took them into bed with me at 8:00 p.m. and called it a night.
I always knew that being a parent would be the most important role I play in my life – much more important than being a lawyer. I also always knew how dedicated my wife is and how hard she works to ensure our kids are dressed, fed, healthy, well-rested, etc. Although I wasn’t clueless about the toll being at home with the kids took on her, I severely underestimated the patience, energy, mental awareness, driving skills, organizational skills, and physical strength it actually takes to get through a day with the kids. Nevermind the fact that there is no stretch of time long enough to really get too into anything which effectively means no time to watch a full television show, read more than a few paragraphs in a book or article, work-out, or even call customer service to inquire about why a product you ordered a week ago hasn’t yet arrived. As such, I reiterate my original thought – lose the term stay-at-home mom.
Even for those moms with very young babies who don’t drive around all day dropping and picking up – you’re still running around the house with feedings, diaper changes, naps, etc. I know when I’m asked what my wife does, I will NEVER respond with “she’s a stay-at-home mom;” I couldn’t think of anything more insulting to describe what she, and all those other parents that either choose to raise their children or do so out of necessity. Run-around mom/dad (or run-arounder for short) just sounds right to me.