Or how one mom tries to juggle school, work, family life, pets and housework from a two-bedroom house
When I was little, my mother used to call me “kitty” – a) because I used to lick my food before chewing it, and b) because I used to be able to fall asleep anywhere at any time in any position whatsoever. There are probably pictures of me somewhere sleeping on the kitchen table at age three.
The year my girls turned 3 and 5, my husband started calling me his favorite octopus, simply because I had developed the ability to carry a child, a plate, a book, a phone, a laptop, a dishcloth, a fluffy toy, a handkerchief, a conversation and a tune all at the same time with two bare hands (and one mouth).
(he still starts his emails and texts to me with Dear OC, so I guess it has stuck)
I’d like to give you a brief insight into a day in the life of an octopus today, one trying to homeschool, work for herself, play with two kids and two dogs, have a meal with her husband, keep the place semi-tidy and stay sane from a tiny suburban house (inquisitive elderly neighbors included).
If I am very lucky, my mornings start at 6AM, when I promptly roll myself out of bed (careful not to roll left instead of right, as I have been used to my entire life – ever since we’ve moved I still think the bed is facing the opposite direction), grab a glass of water in the upstairs bathroom, and go running (dogs in tow).
If I am not as lucky, the morning starts with the battle cry of “it’s my turn to make breakfast” from my youngest, which means I have overslept and need to catch up.
Breakfast is the only meal where we are all present at the same table, so we make it a point to go over each other’s journal entries then. We have all started keeping one when the pandemic started, just so we can store some memories and thoughts, and that we have a way of venting. We don’t have to share our entries, but we mostly do, at least in parts. I’m sure the girls write about all kinds of stuff they don’t read out.
My husband then retreats to our bedroom to work, and I promptly start school in the kitchen.
We’ve had a very laid back homeschooling experience luckily, as both girls are keen to learn and don’t mind the work, but they do incredibly miss their friends, and I have not come up with any feasible ways to ease that pain. We do class calls once a week, where their teachers and classmates all get together on Zoom, but this is not in any way an adequate replacement.
While they are in “school”, I fish my laptop out and start working (I work as a freelance editor for myself), and am happy to answer any questions the girls have.
At 11.47AM sharp, my husband runs down from upstairs, realizing his chore alarm has gone off precisely 17 minutes earlier, telling him it’s time for him to make lunch, while the girls clear the table and generally sit themselves down in front of the TV (thank god for HBO).
I then migrate upstairs, laptop in tow, and I either reply to emails, look for more work or jump on the occasional client call when and if I need to.
When lunch is ready, I receive a text with some sort of food emoji, and drag myself downstairs.
Let me take this moment to reiterate how lucky we are to have children who are old enough to somewhat fend for themselves, and who are happy to go along with the “everyone is at home all the time” routine. They do their chores (we have a chore wheel, but we don’t really use it, it’s mostly a who wants to do what kind of routine), they are reasonably quiet when we need to work, and they only get really fussy when “school” is over and we have a whole lot of time until bedtime.
After we wolf down the excellent speedy meal my husband has made (Jamie Oliver to the rescue every single time), we go back to work – me to the kitchen, him to the bedroom (he’s a designer, so he needs lots of space and silence to work), and the girls to playtime.
This is my time to get stuff done. The Dynamic Duo is usually closeted in their room (thankfully), so I can do any of the following: give the dogs a bath; wash the dishes by hand since our dishwasher is not exactly working (but is not broken enough apparently for us to buy a new one); iron the pile of clothes I have not touched since last week; call my parents and go through how to use the webcam for the umpteenth time; call my husband’s parents and see what they need from the shops; go to said shops with full-on mask and baseball cap (I have this thing about letting my hair down in public, don’t ask); come back from shops and stock cabinet; start cooking dinner; or get some actual work done.
We also have a “bonus” school session somewhere in the middle of this mess – I find it helps the girls have something to do, and it’s also a great way to keep their skills up. We’ve recently taken to these reading comprehension sheets, as recommended by their teacher.
Afterwards we usually let the kids and dogs loose in the garden (we have two labs – one was mine and the other my husband’s – and they are the worst treat-stealers in the world), and try to get some more work done (I usually start making some serious mistakes at this point).
This is without a doubt our favorite time of day, mostly because my husband is off work (and he really is off, he works until 5PM and no longer) so the Dastardly Trio can get up to all kinds of shenanigans while I try to edit out my own mistakes, finish dinner, tidy any potential mess, and take a shower (or bath, on a really productive day). They are now into ice skating in the kitchen (which at least mean I don’t have to wash the floors as often).
I usually run the dogs out at this point too, but we used to do this as a family – not as much today. I stop by my in-laws with the groceries, troubleshoot any TV issues they have, and take myself home.
This is the interesting part – the girls have dinner on their own, and the two of us eat ours as a couple, dogs and girls usually around a board game, waiting for us to finish. We’ve established this rule when our oldest started school and I opened my own business, as we found there was no other time when we were really alone. It has been a dream.
After dinner, it’s mostly games, coloring books, and bedtime stories (which are read to us, and not vice versa, with Rob jumping in for the funny voices when and if needed).
At this point I am usually begging for sleep, so unless Netflix can keep me awake, I zone out in front of the TV and drag myself back upstairs at some point, having been woken up by one of the dogs trying to lie on my head.
And that, my friends, is this octopus signing off – I hope you’ve had a bit of a laugh imagining me with 8 tentacles trying to get through a massive list of work and home stuff. And I also hope you are managing your pandemic life as well as we are – because despite the setbacks and the isolation, we have been managing to pull through as well as can be expected.