How To Maximize Your Efficiency as a Working Mom (Or, Why My Children Really Need to Floss. Really.)

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I have a job. This primarily gets me out of doing unpleasant chores at home, such as cleaning the toilet, rearranging the kitchen silverware drawer, and taking care of the children. I’ve discovered it provides a convenient excuse for not doing other things as well- returning phone calls from the dentist’s office, going to the dentist, exercising, grocery shopping, paying fees for forgotten dentist appointments, etc… The problem is that all of the things I don’t have time to do anymore still need to eventually get done. You can only dodge the dentist for so long, especially if your kids think candy is an important part of the food pyramid.  And so, inexorably, I am now cramming all of my to-do list into my three free precious hours each afternoon. 


My last class is dismissed at 12:20, and the bus drops the little angels off on my street at 3:53. Plenty of time, as my husband points out, to exercise, do the grocery shopping, run an errand or two, clean up the kitchen, start dinner, and then meet the bus with a big smile on my face. 


This sounds reasonable. In fact, he is helpful enough to suggest that I bring my lunch and gym clothes with me when I leave for work in the morning, so I can eat and work out without coming home first. He is full of good ideas, my husband. 


So, on Monday morning, I lock the door behind me, burdened like a sherpa with the following items.  

 1. My daughter’s zebra striped backpack: Yes, I know she should carry her own backpack. Don’t judge me. You have no idea the raving lunatic my daughter can morph into before leaving the house in the morning. It is a Herculean victory simply to get her to wear pants each day.

 2. My school bag:  weighing approximately 50 pounds, this contains 7-8 textbooks, various dry erase markers I have pilfered from my daughter’s collection, 4 granola bars, and 1-2 pieces of (slowly rotting) fruit 

 3. My gym bag: which is very light, because as I will discover later, I have forgotten my sports bra.  And my hair clip. And my sneakers.

 4. My lunch: a yogurt. Healthy, and easy to eat on the go! If you have a spoon. 

 5. My purse: the contents of which are a continual mystery to me. For example, on an average day it might contain an Altoids tin full of pennies, an open pack of fruit snacks melded to the lining and encrusted with goldfish crumbs, a punch card for a dry cleaning establishment in North Carolina, a mostly empty stainless steel coffee mug, and a sock. 

 6. A Target bag: Perhaps I neglected to mention that there is a Super-Target across the street from my new workplace. The giant red bulls-eye is a homing beacon that draws me in almost every day on my way home. All under one wonderful roof, I can get groceries, socks, school supplies, shampoo, novelty toothbrushes, new ear buds, a big screen TV, a Frappucino, and a sense of purpose.  Most days, whatever I get is, according to my children/husband/dog, the wrong size/kind/color/flavor/brand and must be exchanged, thus necessitating another trip to Target. And so the vicious (and expensive) cycle continues. 


And so at 8:25 AM the car is loaded for the day’s activities. At 8:35, I drop my children and the zebra backpack off at school (five minutes before the school is technically open, but who’s counting?) At 8:42 I arrive at school and begin my morning of conjugating verbs, sharing cultural tidbits, and helping my Saudi Arabian students learn to navigate our inexplicable society (that’s a whole other blog entry!)


12:25: I am out the door before the bell stops ringing. On my way to the car, I stop to ask the academic director a quick question. 


12:52: I am out the door for real this time. I don’t even stop to punch out. Let them think I worked for 28 hours straight. What a dedicated employee. 


12:58: I ride the gleaming elevator to the 3rd floor of Target.The glass doors glide open with a faint, familiar snick as I grab a cherry red cart, and get shopping. List? Who needs a list? 


2:05: The cold air of the parking garage snaps me right out of my shopping trance. I feel slightly disoriented as I unload the sea of plastic bags into my half full trunk. Why did I get eight packages of turkey bacon? Perhaps the 6 new throw pillows were an extravagance. But the dog keeps eating them. And everything is 5% off with my Red Card! Like I always tell my husband, you have to spend money to save money. 


2:10: Regrets quashed, I peel out of the parking garage determined to make the most of the next hour and 40 minutes. My stomach grumbles, so I decide to eat and drive. Unfortunately, I have forgotten a spoon. God I’m hungry. 


2:13: Stopped at a red light, a woman in the car next to me is staring at me with a look of- disgust? Or is it admiration? I slurp a big glob of raspberry Chobani off my finger.   I want to roll the window down and tell her I used hand sanitizer first. And that it was either my finger or a pencil from the glove compartment. I think I made the right decision. 


2:20: Changing in the locker room of 24 hour fitness, I decide I will improvise. No hair band, no problem! I can tie my hair back with this handy trouser sock! And, I can totally ride the stationary bike in clogs. If I arrange the deep V neck of my t-shirt just right, you can only see the edges of my (non-sports) bra. I realize I will have to be careful not to lean over, or bounce up and down, or basically move.


2:25: I decide to go home and run on the basement treadmill instead. 


2:26: I make a U-turn and head to the library to pick up Jake, because “it’s COLD and he has a TON of homework.” This provides a perfect opportunity for me to return the overdue books that I hope are still in the car somewhere, pay my fine, and get the children some new library books. 


2:58: I stagger into the house with 7 Target bags of groceries on each arm, as Jake disappears into the basement to play the X-box.  I should yell at him and make him start his homework, but I just don’t have time right now. In a flurry of plastic bags, packages of turkey bacon and toiletries, I put away the refrigerated items and rush to get my work out clothes on. 


3:08:  On my way down to the basement, I realize I should really start the dishwasher, since it takes 195 minutes to run. Plus, I need to defrost the chicken for dinner. 


3:32: I get on the treadmill. 


3:49: I get off the treadmill. I have run for 17 minutes, and gone 1.5 miles. 


3:52: As I close the front door behind me, I can see the flashing yellow lights of the school bus at the end of the street. Great. I add another 1/4 mile to my total distance as I sprint to the bus stop. 


3:54: My daughter tearfully reprimands me as we walk home from the bus stop (you were LATE! He wouldn’t let me get OFF THE BUS! etc.) I think about how I need to  pick Danny up at 4:45 from chess club, get him ready for basketball, finish dinner and help everyone with their homework. 


After I get home and fix everyone a nice turkey bacon snack, I realize that making the most of my afternoons is going to take some practice. The dentist may have to wait a few months before I get the hang of it all. 



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Currently residing in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Kristi is an aspiring writer and mother who spends most of her time ferrying her children to various sports practices and doctor appointments. She also substitute teaches and reads romantic fantasies by the bushel.

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