A (too long) day in the life

Everything happened yesterday that needed to happen. Everyone got where they needed to go. Unexpected issues were accommodated. But the day was also just really long. If I were given to writing about the modern time crunch, using myself as an opening anecdote, yesterday might find itself deployed in the cause.

My husband was out of town; our nanny was on vacation. Since the 3-year-old had preschool in the morning and a “by-myself” art class in the afternoon, and — more importantly — I didn’t have any real back-up options, I figured I’d just cover and try to get the day’s work done around the edges.

I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. So at 5:30 I made coffee and worked until 6:20. Then I checked that the 16-year-old was up, and took my shower. I woke the middle school kids at 6:50, and was in the car with the high schooler by 6:55. This early drop-off meant I didn’t get stuck in traffic, so I could be back to get the middle schoolers on the bus (they left the house 7:30). I helped the little boys get ready and hung out with them for the morning. They motivated themselves for getting dressed and such by deciding that if they were done in time they could have a sword fight. (Toy swords!) So…they did. And we got in the van 8:40. I dropped them off at their two schools.

Meanwhile…I was getting texts from the 16-year-old that his throat was sore. I sent him a note that I had a very limited window to get him — before a 9:15 recording, and then not until after my 10:00 dentist appointment. When I didn’t hear back, I went dark at 9:15 to record for 30 minutes. Then… when I looked at my phone at 9:45 on the way out the door to the dentist there were 14 texts from him. And then the nurse called.

Given that I (and the nurse) didn’t think he was actually dying we all discussed this and he agreed to stay until lunch (after my dentist appointment — which had taken me a long time to get scheduled…). I got my teeth cleaned, then picked him up at the high school (funny story, the security guard asked what I was there for, and I said to get a kid, and he said “I hope your own kid.”)

I dropped him home and gave him painkillers (which seem to have done the job, and he’s fine today), then ran over to the grocery store to get everything we were out of, and put gas in the minivan, before getting the 3-year-old at noon. I brought him home, at which point he proceeded to need to go potty multiple times. I guess it’s hard when you’re newly trained to figure the timing out exactly, so we kept going back and forth to the bathroom for much of the 45 minutes or so we were home. We got back in the car at 1:15 so I could take him to his art class. I decided to come home during it, though that was perhaps not the most efficient choice. In retrospect I should have just sat in my car and worked or something but I didn’t. I was home from about 1:40 to 2:25, picked up the 3-year-old at 2:45 and came back.

We were then home for a grand total of 20 minutes before we needed to get the 8-year-old. Normally he has been taking the bus home. But he was doing karate belt testing this week, and at his Monday night class he had not exactly demonstrated proficiency on his form. So they told him to come back for a different class that week. The only night I could make this work was Tuesday. To make a 4:15 class, he needed to be picked up at school. So I’d emailed the teacher with this dismissal change, put the karate bag in the car, and went to get him (the middle schoolers got home somewhere in here but they’re fairly self-sufficient!).

We dropped the 8-year-old at karate, then the 3-year-old wanted Wawa, so we drove to one nearby (it would have been hard to watch the whole class with the 3-year-old… I’ve tried). We got back in time to see the last 15 minutes, which the little guy wiggled through. This time the 8-year-old did much better, and will now get his next belt. Phew.

We got home around 5:40, at which point I started the oven and ran around making sure everyone knew the evening schedule. I cooked for me, the 16-year-old made himself eggs, and I put the 14-year-old in charge of making mac and cheese for everyone else. Then the three older kids were put in charge of the younger ones for the evening because it was time for…back to school night!

I headed over to the middle school in plenty of time but so did every other parent, and I got stuck in a huge jam up getting into the parking lot. So I was still about 3 minutes late to homeroom (starting at 7:00). I spent the next 90 minutes going back and forth between my daughter’s various teachers. I was in the car at 8:30, and home by 8:45, at which point I took over for my daughter, who was trying to get the 3-year-old to go to bed.

I gave him milk and read him a story. He wanted me to sit in the room with him but I told him I had to clean the kitchen. So he told me to come back after that, but of course he was out by the time the job was finished, both because he was tired and…the kitchen was trashed. I don’t know what happened but there was stuff everywhere and while everyone was safe and fed for the evening I guess cleaning up the dishes wasn’t part of the deal. I cleaned until 9:40, then started working, then needed to print stuff for another kid. I went up to say goodnight to the big kids and wound up helping the 16-year-old with National Honors Society application stuff.

Finally at 10:20 I was back in my office for…the work I did not get to during the day. I had to turn in several podcast ads so I found the notes, created the scripts, and did the recordings. I sent in the files, at which point it was approximately 11:15 p.m. I went up to brush my teeth and wash my face and was asleep by 11:30.

So, a long day. But today will be different — I have a lot more focused work time and fewer activities going on in the evening. Phew.

In other news: My Before Breakfast series on my favorite writing tips continues! Today’s tip is to “Make it shorter, make it better.

In other other news: Several friends of the blog/podcast have new books out! KJ Dell’Antonia’s new novel, Playing the Witch Card, is a fun read for Halloween. Farnoosh Torabi’s book, A Healthy State of Panic — which is out next week — makes the case for taking your fears seriously to understand how to approach and succeed at life. And Devorah Heitner, who was a guest this summer on Best of Both Worlds, just launched Growing Up in Public, the book we briefly discussed on the show. This is about how to navigate parenting when anything your kids do can be immortalized and spread widely. Good stuff!

Photo: Not the actual weather yesterday. It was drizzly all day. I just like these clouds. 

9 thoughts on “A (too long) day in the life

  1. Oof, what a day for you!

    I stayed over in work city last night as I had meetings yesterday afternoon and 9am teaching today, which requires a 5am bus…

    I thought I’d escape early but ended up in a really lovely productive meeting with a colleague who I think is also going to be my new work friend. I didn’t manage to get a train til 5:30 and got on and realised I hadn’t had lunch/no snacks in my bag. Sadly no cafe car, so I think it might be a takeaway at the train station night 🙂

  2. Wow – kudos for getting through that. Today is my first day back to work after 7 work days of vacation and I’m exhausted! Also, not done yet.

  3. We skipped back to school night this year because it always feels like a performative waste of time and I have a grant due. But yes, basically my entire last month has been like this. I’m on call all night tonight and looking forward to the break.

  4. Wow! As I read this, I am really struck by how similar your Tuesday was to my Wednesday this week. I will spare all the gory details, but it also involved a traveling husband, sick child (swimmers’ ear, not too tragic but resulted in a doctor’s visit, missing swim practice and some overall changes in plans), many (MANY!) kid drop-offs and pick-ups, and trying to sneak in work on the margins. I only have 3 kids to your 5, but I also have two large one-year-old dogs who sometimes make it FEEL like I have 5 children! It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I hope things calmed down for you as the week went on.

  5. It is really amazing that you were able to get any work done at all and really to your credit that you at 11 p.m. still have that much drive and determination!! You are amazing! That is pretty amazing to have that kind of energy and drive for that at that hour! I also think that it shows that even if you only have55 minutes at nearly 11 p..m. and that initial 40 mins early a.m. you can still get a lot done especially if you stick to what actually needs to get done or you really want to get done professionally or for making a living. I think this is why it is so important to offer working women childcare in some form.. An after school program say that occupies a child well say till 430 vs. 330 or say 7-9 or 530-730 can provide a working mother with a much-needed and possibly in an hour or less enough time say to really work and make progress on important personal-professional goals or at least flexibly make a living. It also shows how much work time is wasted by other people and orgs not dealing with the constraints you are and getting less done… and focusing on as you mentioned here and have written about before this vs. actually task-based work.. what is getting done not where did it get done or how many hours did it take
    However, Laura Vanderkam, author of “I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time,” noted that there are more jobs that could be remote than people actually working remotely. The data from Coworking Cafe corroborates this, with remote-eligible jobs for Washington and Arlington four times as high as the share of remote workers.https://www.huffpost.com/entry/best-cities-working-parents_l_6504983de4b07d9e8b560b13?utm_source=Just+A+Minute+Newsletter&utm_campaign=969f778354-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_June2021_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ec8af55665-969f778354-193027813
    Also as a society our men do need to own their choices… They make children too and they need to also bear equally the workload. I see that a lot of upper middle class women are essentially single parents while say their spouse travels for his career. This is maybe necessary for earning but it is a problem also we should not be afraid to talk about. If men in the U.S. needed the childcare the way women do and their labor were presumed in so many default settings unpaid or at least at some great personal and probably GDP or other opportunity costs, maybe we would have it better funded the childcare and better supported our careers-self-actualization.

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