Help Wanted

For the past few weeks I’ve been struggling with balancing home and work. As a work-at-home-mom (WAHM), one of my biggest battles is getting my work done and still having time to be wife, mother and household manager, and maybe even enjoying some time for myself.

With Dawson now in preschool two days per week, I had great expectations for those coveted 2 1/2 hours sans child. I imagined I’d get my work done faster because there would be fewer interruptions. I was certain I’d have time to clean the house, tackle the never ending pile of laundry and still have time to do the things I enjoy, like read and blog and take a nap.

The nap thing fell to the wayside when I realized I could get a lot done in two hours as long as I fuel up on Caramel Machiattos. Those coffee drinks are the equivalent of a shot of caffeine straight to the veins. Sleep is definitely out of the question after downing one of those.

Here’s a typical Thursday in my life:

  • Wake up between 5 and 6 a.m.
  • Make a quick breakfast
  • Work for 3 hours
  • Wake Dawson, get him dressed and fed
  • Drop off Dawson at school
  • Go to my bi-monthly MOPS meeting
  • Pick up Dawson from school
  • Go home and eat lunch
  • Work for another hour or two
  • Vacuum floors, start a load of laundry
  • Walk to the library down the street and return and/or check out books
  • Stop at the park to let Dawson burn some energy
  • Go home and put laundry in dryer, wash dishes
  • Let Dawson watch an hour of television while I finish any housework
  • Try to persuade Dawson to take a nap
  • If child does nap, attempt to enjoy the peace and quiet (or maybe pay bills and balance the checkbook)
  • If child does not nap, try to engage him in a quiet activity like coloring or looking at library books
  • Check e-mails, update my blogs and read others’ blogs
  • Tackle any writing or review deadlines for the day
  • Start dinner
  • Wait patiently for husband to come home to "take over" on my behalf (he’s the cook of our family)
  • Drag Dawson to the dinner table and threaten to take the Nintendo DS away if he doesn’t eat everything on his plate
  • Read books to Dawson after dinner
  • Walk the dog
  • Fold laundry and put it all away
  • Get Dawson ready for bed
  • Watch Grey’s Anatomy after child goes to bed
  • Check e-mails and blogs while watching the news
  • Get myself ready for bed
  • Fall asleep reading a book

Now, I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but with a child in tow it feels like a triathlon that I always finish in last place. Throw a monkey wrench my way and the whole day is shot.

For example, last Thursday Dawson’s teacher asked me to make a dozen cupcakes for his preschool bake sale. The cupcakes are due today. I had a week’s notice, and I couldn’t even accomplish the simple task of baking. Do you think they’ll be upset with store-bought cupcakes tossed in a Tupperware container?

I mean really, it’s hard enough to remember that Dawson has swimming lessons on Tuesdays, that I teach CCD on Tuesday nights (at church), that my husband has dart night every Wednesday (a.k.a Guys Night out), and to get my butt to the gym five days a week. Let’s not forget grocery shopping on Saturday and attending church on Sunday morning and…. holy freakin’ crap….when’s the last time I HAD A LADIES NIGHT OUT? Now I have to find the time to make cupcakes? Are you kidding me?

What really stuns me is that when I worked full time, I didn’t feel as stressed as I do now. Why do I feel more frazzled as a WAHM?

The answer? I’m my own boss. I have higher expectations for myself. I expect to get everything done, every day. I’m harder on myself than any manager has ever been on me. I put too much on my plate and feel disappointed when I can’t choke it all down. It’s a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

The other day I realized chaos had set in. The laundry was overflowing in the hamper, the kitchen was piled with dishes, Dawson’s toys were scattered all over his bedroom floor and slowly creeping into the living room, and I hadn’t taken a deep breath in several hours. I actually considered hiring Super Nanny to step in and stop the insanity! (Did I just channel Susan Powter right there?)

I lost my temper with the dog because he wasn’t coming inside when I called to him. I yelled at Dawson because I stepped on a matchbox car. I nearly killed my husband because he wasn’t reading my mind. How was he supposed to know that I wanted him to lift a freakin’ finger around the house?

And then it hit me. I don’t ask for help. Oh, my gosh! I don’t ask for help!

Remember that husband I mentioned? Yeah, I need to remember to delegate some of this stuff to him. I mean, he’s perfectly capable of housekeeping duties, right? Yes, he works many hours to bring home most of the bacon, but he can’t really expect me to be Super Woman can he?

I think that many women believe they can do everything. I’m one of those women. I’m a control freak. Subconsciously, I believe that it’s "my job" to be an amazing wife, a perfect mother and a successful career woman all at the same time, and when I fail to be and do everything, I feel guilty.

It’s time to banish the guilt and realize that doing my best is good enough. It’s time to stop doing expecting so much of myself. It’s time to go out with the girls and have a good time. It’s time to relax.

Maybe I can convince my my husband to dress up as Mrs. Doubtfire. You know, for Halloween? Do you think he’ll dig the idea of a dress and wig? No? You’re probably right.