Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just A Day

There is a lot to do today, I thought as I silenced my alarm yesterday morning.
I am swamped with Mother's Day jewelry orders, and I had to get three orders in the mail by 5pm.   I was proud of myself, because I knew it was going to be a busy week, so I went to the jewelry store Monday and stocked up on all the supplies I would need, trying to avoid my usual last minute mad dash to the store with a 4 year old in tow.  

I woke up with a plan - my whole day sketched out:  eat breakfast, get Greta on the bus, go to the gym, lunch, playtime with Finn, a friend/customer coming by around 2pm to pick up an order (that I needed to finish first) and then the afternoon dedicated to making the orders that had to be mailed that day.   

By 9:30am it was clear the gym wasn't going to happen.    Finn has allergies, and was cranky, tired and needy.   He refused to go to the gym's daycare, and threw himself on the floor screaming as I was trying to get out the door.

I worked out at home, with Finn draped across my chest as I lay on the floor doing sit-ups.    My half hour exercise routine took over an hour, what with stopping to get him a snack, fetch toys or change the television channel in a desperate attempt to distract him.  

At 11am Finn and I had a picnic lunch outside, played on the swings, and kicked the soccer ball around while I tried not to glance the clock.   At 12pm we went upstairs for a snuggle; I was hoping he would take a nap.    No such luck.   I gave up at 1pm, went back downstairs and plugged him into a movie, wincing at the thought that he was watching television on a gorgeous day. 

I settled down in my jewelry studio (read:  dining room table) and was pulling together the supplies I would need when the big yellow bus pulled up outside.   I had completely forgotten it was a half-day at school for Greta.   As she bounded up the driveway I cursed myself for my absentmindedness - what if I hadn't been home?   The mother-guilt dug deeper.

Greta and I chatted about her day, I got her a snack and sent the two of them outside to the swing set.   My friend came by with two of her kids, and I finished up her order while our kids played.   

She left at 3:15pm, and I drew a deep breath.   I have just enough time to finish these bracelets, I thought. 

Greta and Finn started fighting, something about Finn touching her favorite stuffed animal.   I separated them - Greta played at the computer and Finn watched his movie.  The first two bracelets took 30 minutes to finish.  As I started on the third order, Finn streaked by naked and screaming, Greta burst into tears because her computer game crashed, and the phone started ringing - a local customer calling about the status of her order. 

"MOM! The phone is ringing!" Finn shouted as he streaked by again.   The dog started barking and chasing Finn, and Greta was tugging on my sleeve, sobbing about her computer game.

A low roar began in my head; if I didn't get the last order in the mail, someone wasn't going to get their Mother's Day gift on time.    One kid was crying, one screaming, and the phone rang again.   I felt tears well up, and as calmly as I could I asked the kids to go play outside.   

"But, Finn's NAKED!"  Greta wailed.

"Please help him get some clothes on, and then go outside so I can finish what I need to do," I said in my low, dangerous voice.

"I have to do EVERYTHING around here!"  Greta screamed, and stomped out of the room, dragging a squirming, naked Finn behind her.

Hot tears began flowing down my face.   It's too much, I thought.   I can't even organize one simple day.  I looked at the clock - 4:15pm.     Greta and Finn were fighting in the next room, and the dog was still barking.   I slumped down to the floor with my head in my hands.   Why is it so hard for me?  What am I doing wrong?   I should just close down the jewelry shop.  I can't do anything right.

Just breathe, I thought.  Sit here and focus on your breath.    In.  Out.  It's going to be okay, just do what you can.  In.  Out.

I tried to put things in perspective.   Who would have thought, three years ago, that one day my biggest problem would involve balancing life and my own small business?  That I would have one whole day of playing with my children, creating jewelry, exercising - and not have one thought of a drink?

I picked myself up off the floor, and sat back down at my beading table.    Just do what you can.  

I finished the last bracelet at 4:45pm.    We piled into the car - Finn was wearing one of Greta's dresses and both kids were barefoot, but we made it to the post office in time.   On the way home, Lady Gaga's "Telephone" came on the radio, and we all sang our hearts out.

It's just a day, I thought.   A regular, crazy, horrible, wonderful day. 


  1. All I can say is, I'm proud for you. You rock Ellie.

  2. Your post brought tears to my eyes. At first they were tears of empathy. I know how that feels. I am #1 when it comes to freak-outs and self-doubt. Then the tears turned into proud tears. Congratulations! Not one thought of a drink! That is absolutely amazing sweetie!

    You are awesome. You are also my inspiration

  3. Ellie,
    To get through days like that (or maybe after I've gotten through it) I try to remind myself that some day I'm going to miss this. My oldest is already at the point of not needing my attention (wants me to leave her alone really) and I'm honestly afraid, very, of the days when all of them feel that way. What will my purpose be then!?!
    So, be thankful for this craziness. Also, be very proud of yourself for not reaching for a drink, for being present for your kids, and for making some Moms very happy this Sunday.

  4. Hey, you did it! How cool that you gave yourself permission to do whatever you could, and you still got all the orders out the door. By the way -- "one simple day"? Doesn't sound simple at all to me.

  5. No offense to your kids, they sound perfectly normal, but why in the world do you want to stay home with them, if you're trying to get work done? If I've got the toddler, there is NO way I can do anything houseworky (laundry, cooking, etc.), let alone work-worky.

    Would we expect someone to be able to bring a kid to an office and still be productive? I don't get it. For me, there's either childcare, or everything else. And most of the time I'm taking care of the toddler, I'd rather be doing the everything else.

  6. Tzipporah - what you say is at the heart of my quandary. We can't afford to send Finn to school for more than three half-days per week, and babysitters are (a) hard to find and (b) ridiculously expensive. So, I try not to work on days we're home together, but when it gets busy I don't have a choice, and the craziness kicks in.

    Every time this happens I think "I'll just get more organized and this time it will go better". It doesn't go better, of course, because 4 year olds march to their own I-want-it-all-and-I-want-it-now drummer.

    The only way I ever get through it is find acceptance (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) that it won't always be like this, and I just have to do what I can.

    It's nice to know, though, that I'm not the only one who realizes how HARD it is to juggle everything, so thanks for your comment!


  7. Ellie, Good for you for getting through the day! That is something to celebrate!

    My 6 yr old Sydney said to me yesterday "you never cuddle with me, you always are on your blog". They know how to turn the knife in the heart.

  8. It is hard. I'm sorry about the financial aspect - I can justify what we spend on childcare because I HAVE to pay it so I can go to work. But you seem to take your jewelry work pretty seriously, so I wonder whether you would expect your husband to do what you are trying to? Would it be ok to say, "gee hon, I have these orders to finish, so you'll have to take Finn with you today?" My guess is no.

    As mothers, we tend to undervalue our own needs, and our own work, especially if the "objective" measures of it (like a paycheck) are smaller than our partner's.

    I feel like I have to put aside hobbies in order to deal with my family's wants, but I shouldn't put aside "work" for it. If your jewelry making is actually a business (which it sounds like), maybe you need to treat it like one. And expect your family to treat it like one too. (And treat you as the entrepreneurial, successful business woman that you are!) :)

    I know, easier said than done...

  9. Ellie, I had the exact same day today. Well, neither of my sons ended up in a dress, but besides that---the exact same day. :) Hang in there.

  10. Ellie, all I could think when reading this entry was that you're incredibly hard on yourself. I second what Tzipporah said: How are you supposed to do deadline work while your house explodes with your children's needs? There doesn't even seem to be a door for you to close behind you while you work. And the more you try to sideline the four-year-old, the greater the racket. Of course!

    Pat yourself on the back for what you've managed to get done in the face of total chaos, and ask for support by friends and husband when you're on a tight schedule. You're worth it!

  11. Yep, it does feel like every day is like that doesn't it??? You have such great plans, such realistic, factor in "one" unforseen thing and I can still get this done and then the Stuff hits the fan from out of nowhere.

    thanks for writing this, sharing it with us..and for letting us feel less alone, since we are all sitting her going..we does it all go so wrong in 10 seconds? LOL

    kudos to you for finishing too, I would have just grabbed the chips and given up...I think.

  12. Hey, you did it! How cool that you gave yourself permission to do whatever you could, and you still got all the orders out the door. By the way -- "one simple day"? Doesn't sound simple at all to me.