Hi, my name is Desiree and I'm a working mother. I have three children, all girls, aged nine, five, and three. This is my story.
Five years ago I took over operations of my husband's business. It all started innocently enough- we needed more income for our growing family than the business could provide so one of us needed to get an outside job. The most logical choice was he. It wasn't too bad at first. The business wasn't very busy and I had time to meet all of my family's needs and still work. But it never stays that way, does it? We've all been down this road, we know how the job takes over our lives. I thought I could control it. Ha, that's a laugh. I wish I had listened to my friends when they tried to warn me. I thought it would be different for me. I was in control. My house would never be in disarray, my children running rampant. And for a while, that was true.
Before I knew it, things changed. In those five years, I gave birth to two of my children. The business continued to grow. I fooled myself into believing I had everything under control. Soon I was able to overlook the growing mountain of laundry, unfolded and wrinkled, that was accumulating on my couch. I was able to justify the tangled hair of my children because we weren't going anywhere that day anyway, so why put them through the torture of the comb? The kitchen floor, once a place where my children played with their wheeled toys, now took the fuzz off our socks when we walked on it. No one dared to venture there barefooted. But it didn't need to be clean enough to eat off of as my mother's generation was proud of announcing. There was no time for home-cooked meals anyway, right? Why bother with McDonald's less than a mile from my house? In the worst moments of my addiction, I even convinced myself a Happy Meal with lettuce and tomato was a balanced diet. I see the looks of shock as I admit this, yet I know each of you are guilty of at least one of the things I speak of, maybe all of them.
I sold the business. It was one of the best decisions I could have made. I had wonderful, glorious free time. I jumped into home improvement and repair projects with both feet. My house was cleaner, more organized, and prettier than it had been in years. No longer distracted by business calls or obligated to count cars on location, I was able to devote all my attention to my children. Rules that had been ignored because I was too busy and distracted to enforce them were once more followed. My nine-year-old's grades improved. We had clean, wrinkle-free clothes and could even find them. Socks reunited with their long-lost mates. Not only was I not working, but a mix-up in my scheduling at college meant I had to wait two-and-a-half months to begin my second year classes too. I gained weight and lost the sallow shade that no amount of foundation had been able to hide. An additional eight pounds meant I needed new clothes. For the first time in my life, the universe lined up correctly and I had everything in order at the same time: the need for new clothes, the time to shop, clearance sales, and money in my pocket. I made multiple excursions to the mall to seek out the best deals. My three little girls, freshly bathed and braided, followed behind me in a well-behaved duckling line while shod in matching Buster Browns. Old ladies couldn't help smiling at us, and the harried, disheveled mothers marveled. At the end of our shopping trips and other outings, we returned to a clean, orderly home that smelled faintly of a pleasant mixture of Spic and Span and vanilla candles. Bluebirds lighted on our sills and sang sweetly outside our windows.
Then the monkey came back. Don't look at me with those eyes! I tell you I had no control over what was to happen! I didn't want him to start the new business! I tried to resist, or at least I tell myself that. The business wasn't supposed to take all my time this time- it was supposed to be a low maintenance Internet business to register bikes! We had miscalculated our household budget on one income. Maybe we made the mistake because we were trying to do math while sleep deprived. Maybe it was the head injury from tripping on Duplos in the dark. I don't know anymore what's true or not. I'm too tired again to think. Whatever reason, each month we were coming up short and dipping into our savings to cover it. Sure, our house was clean and the children were content, but we couldn't afford to replace their clothes as they wore out or provide the birthday parties they wanted. Then my husband's car started making ominous sounds. What was I supposed to do? I see you in the back row nodding your head- you understand, don't you? Don't you?!
The bluebirds no longer sing outside our window sills- they're too afraid to look in on the horror that is my house again. My oldest has so much paper and junk stacked on every flat surface in her bedroom it has become a fire hazard. The younger girls have more unfolded clothes stacked on top of their dresser than they have inside it. My livingroom, only a short time ago so pretty and inviting, now looks like the headquarters of some strange bicycle-riding terrorist group. The dog, for reasons we haven't yet been able to figure out, keeps committing random acts of gastric violence on the carpet if we don't leap up and force him out the back door in time. The baby of the family has finally learned to be gentle with the cat she got from Santa, but the middle daughter is insisting snails from our yard are pets and has them living in the bathroom. I look before sitting on the pot without even thinking now, and am reluctant to go in there in the middle of the night no matter how badly I need to. She asked me this week if I knew that snails don't like bubble baths. I didn't bother to question her- I don't have the strength. I just grabbed the can of Ajax and cleaned the tub.
I'm not asking for your forgiveness or even your understanding. However, if you can find it in your hearts, I ask only one thing: pray for me.
By Desiree R.