Tales of A Working Mother: Home Alone
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
My husband was out of town this past weekend and I was home alone with my three sidekicks. I generally try to face these single parent days with a positive attitude, because the alternative is pretty bleak.
Its not that I cant handle a weekend on my own with the kids, its just that its so hard. Theres just no denying that three-on-one often means I lose.
There are two philosophies from parents of three or more kids.
There are the parents who say Once youve had two, the third is no big deal. The older ones help with the younger ones. You hardly notice the third kid.
Then there are the parents who are not in denial.
There is no way one more person does not require more work, more love, more energy.
This became alarmingly apparent to me when I realized I had 72 hours to fill with activities, 10 kid-friendly meals to serve and nine bedtimes to enforce on my own, with no backup.
I begin these spouse-free weekends with high hopes on Friday afternoon. I entice my kids with all of the fun things well do if their behavior holds up. But no matter how well-organized and optimistic I am, something always happens because I cant be three places at once.
Here are just a few of the happenings from my weekend.
On Saturday afternoon we arrive at the pool down the street from our house. Weve been there only 15 minutes when my son bounds out of the pool screaming, hopping on one foot. Im in the baby pool with my toddler who doesnt swim and cant be left alone. The more I call to my son to come to me, the louder he howls as he hops around the pool and provides entertainment for the other guests. The lifeguard finally guides him over to me so I can watch my daughter and take a look at his foot. He ends up having a splinter (who knew you could get a splinter in the pool), and my attempts to remove it revive his screaming, causing me to choose potential infection over further embarrassment.
An hour later, foot apparently healed (thank god for chlorine), I instruct my son to shower so we can get going. After the longest shower known to man or boy, he comes toward the table where were waiting. When hes just steps from the table he decides it would be a good idea to walk on top of, instead of around, the lounge chairs separating us.
Before I can stop him hes got his full weight on one of the chairs rubber slats. His leg plunges through the opening between slats and he falls forward, the entire chair hanging off his leg. I manage to grab his head before it hits the ground. The lifeguard runs over and extricates his leg before the whole chair folds and collapses on top of him. As we leave the pool I dont make eye contact with anyone.
When we get home I announce its quiet time and everyone must take a rest. I am exhausted and collapse on the couch with a magazine. I doze off and when I awaken I realize my 2-year-old shadow has left my side. I get up to look for her and as I enter my bedroom I see her through the open bathroom door. She is naked and lifting a dripping scrub brush out of the toilet and rubbing the floor with it. I am incredulous until I reach the bathroom and see her soiled clothes on the floor and the yellow puddle shes trying to mop up with the toilet brush. She proudly tells me Mama, I wet to the bafroom all by myself.
After cleaning her and the floor and getting her dressed, I realize its pushing 6 p.m. and Id better make dinner before they turn on me. Everything is coming together nicely. Ive got macaroni and cheese for the little ones and Im broiling steaks for my older daughter and myself.
I leave the kitchen for a few minutes and when I return I notice the tea kettle is whistling and shaking on top of the stove. None of the burners are on, so I cant figure out whats making it so hot. I open the oven and get my answer.
Our steaks are on fire and flames are leaping out and tapping the cabinet doors. I slam the oven shut and jump back. My eyes rest on my toddler sitting on a stool eating her macaroni at the counter. I wish I could say a calm feeling came over me and I knew exactly what to do. But the truth is I felt sheer panic and a visceral urge to just grab her and run screaming from the house.
Instead, I call my son in and tell him to get the neighbor just in case I need help. Then, I turn off the oven and look for our kitchen fire extinguisher. Ive never used an extinguisher before and through my fear I remind myself to take a deep breath. If I can read, I can figure out how to use it. I pull the pin, make sure I have the can pointed the right way, and open the oven door. The heat is staggering but with only two sprays the fire is out. The kitchen fills with smoke, so I open the doors and windows and burst into tears.
Within a few minutes its all over. The smoke is gone, the steaks are gone, but Ive survived the weekend. While it wasnt perfect, I feel some satisfaction that I retained my sanity through a roller coaster of mishaps. And when youre home alone, thats no small thing.
What are your strategies for getting through a long weekend when you're "home alone"? In the comments section let me know your ideas and share the mishaps you've survived when there are more kids than adults to go around.
Deanna Martin Mackey is the mother of an 11-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. She is an associate general manager at KPBS, and has been writing professionally for 20 years. She is working on her first novel about a family.