motherhood, mental health & mormonism

Day in the Life

I see these over at FMH all the time and I love them, but I kind of doubt they’d take mine. I don’t exactly sit at the cool feminist lunch table. But here’s mine, a typical day in the life of a work-from-home freelance designer/LDS feminist/crazy lady.

6am – Baby wakes up, husband gets up with him. I think about getting out of bed and getting ready, but the thought puts an anxious knot in my stomach so I roll over and go back to sleep.

7am – Husband wakes me up, it’s my turn. I breathe through the anxiety and try to force myself awake. I know if I rush this I’ll have a panic attack, but it makes everyone else crabby if I stay in bed too long. I stretch, pray for calm, and head for the bathroom. While I’m in there I do everything I can to justify hiding behind a locked door for just a couple more minutes – brush my teeth, braid my hair, that’s justified right?

7:15 – Put on my smile and greet my kids. They’re happy to see me. I make two bowls of oatmeal and four scrambled eggs and feed them. I’m not hungry yet, so I chug 24 ounces of water while I read my email on my phone: one of my clients is already panicking about a Money Mailer ad I didn’t turn in before I went to bed last night. My editor is hoping I can have some full-page ads ready for proofing by noon, but he knows I never see my computer before 1pm, so I force myself not to worry about it. My visiting teacher’s sister is interested in having a website built for her salon. I write her number in my planner so I can call her during naptime.

7:45 – Husband comes to kiss me good-bye. He hugs me longer than I’m comfortable with and I bite my lip so I won’t get claustrophobic and freak out. I’ve been working on this, I know it hurts his feelings when I pull away first. But in the end I have to do it anyway because I realize the stove’s still on from cooking eggs. Husband leaves and I go back to my emails.

8:00 – I realize that breakfast is now over. Miraculously, there are no eggs on the floor. The kids are playing “club house” behind the curtains and shrieking with glee. This could go on for 30 minutes or more, I know, and I move to sneak some work time in, but they’re just so cute that I decide against it and watch them and laugh instead.

8:45 – The kids are still playing nicely together so I start cleaning up. The mess is overwhelming and suddenly I realize that I’m hungry so I make myself a green smoothie. The baby appears from behind the drapes to beg half of it off me, but I don’t mind. We don’t drink milk or eat meat, so he’s got to get calcium and iron somewhere.

9:00 – Now I have to get serious about cleaning up. I grab the broom and sweep all the clutter (toys, crayons, junk mail, and a condom wrapper?? how did that get out here???) out from under the table and scoop it into a laundry basket. I’ll put it all away later. I vacuum the entire upstairs except for one square foot beneath the baby’s obstinate diaper butt. I’m feeling motivated so I tackle the stairs too.

9:30 – I play “worker bee” with my 5-year-old. I give her a basket and fill it with related items out of the stash from under the table to put away in her sorta-organized toy bins. She holds the basket behind her back against her bum and runs around saying “bzzzzzzzzz!” The baby wants a basket too so I dump one out and hand it to him. I put a car in it and he starts buzzing around too.

10:00 – I realize that we’re going to be late for play group and throw some clothes on as fast as I can. Thankfully the 5-year-old is already dressed so I stuff the baby into some shorts and we’re out the door. I notice several voice mails and texts from other moms and flare with irritation. I did a facebook post, sent an email on Friday AND sent a text last night and somehow “meet at the Church at 10am” isn’t clear enough for everyone. I’m really not fond of leadership roles, but I’m the only person in the ward who cares enough to head this thing up, so here I am.

10:15 – My kids are still playing by themselves in the empty cultural hall but we’re loving the air conditioning. They love running around in a wide-open space like this. I’m still astonished at how nice they’re being to each other when my daughter shoves the baby roughly off of her scooter and he cries. She gets a warning and gives him a grudging apology and a kiss. He’s happy again.

10:50 – A few more moms have shown up and I’ve got my nicest “social” face on. I have to work hard not to say inappropriate or controversial things, it’s actually really exhausting. But I do enjoy their company. It makes it hard for me to stereotype them as mindless Mary Sunshines when I see how they’re overcoming struggles in their own lives. I wish we could all be more open with each other, but it’s like pulling teeth just to get them to show up for play group in the first place, so I don’t dwell on it for now.

12:00 – We’re home for lunch. We all eat bean burritos – I force mine down because the baby eats more when we all eat the same thing together, but I’d rather just pull my smoothie out of the fridge. Which I end up doing anyway, because the 5-year-old just ate half of my burrito. And then I let her finish off the smoothie too. She’s my picky eater, so I know she needs it more than any of us.

1:15 – The kitchen is almost clean again, lunch is put away and the baby is asleep. I tried to talk my 5-year-old into putting some puzzles together, but she just wanted to watch Super Why on Netflix and I have a lot on my agenda today so I gave in. Now I’m partaking in my one indulgence of the day: brain games on Lumosity.com. Some days it’s a sudoku puzzle or spider solitaire on my phone, but today it’s Lumosity. It gets my brain ready for grown-up interactions and work. At least that’s what I tell myself.

2:00 – I’ve finished my games and caught up on some emails and put a couple of Money Mailer fires out and I’m just getting to the heart of my main project today – a 10-page magazine feature layout – when the baby cries out from his crib. I freeze, heart rate through the roof. NO, I think to myself. No, no, no. And then I start praying. I need this time, I beg. Please, please, please. He settles back down and goes back to sleep. Apparently God likes me today. I breathe as the wave of panic ebbs and get back to work.

3:00 – There’s a knock at the door and our beloved babysitter is welcomed by the 5-year-old with a loud “SHHHHH! BUB’s still SLEEPING!” The babysitter is 16, almost 17, and she’s watched my kids since she was 13. I don’t know how we ever got so lucky to find her, but I trust her more with my kids than I do my own mother. Because of that I pay her really, really well. (She almost went and got a job last summer so I tempted her with a raise. It worked.) She’s already got the broom out and she’s sweeping last night’s couscous out from under the table (how did I miss that?) and planning adventures with the 5-year-old. Some days she gives the babysitter a hard time and pretends not to want her there, but today she’s excited to have a big girl to play ponies with.

3:20 – The baby wakes up and I jump up from my desk to close and lock the office door. He cries a little when it’s the babysitter, not mama, pulling him out of the crib, but she carries him around like an infant and he loves that. I’m about halfway through my magazine layout and starting to feel really good about it – my editor isn’t that picky about aesthetics but this magazine is my baby and I like it to look good. They rarely pay me on time, and once between owners I didn’t get paid at all, it’s stressful and it wreaks havoc on all my other regular freelance work, but it’s still my favorite project.

4:30 – I get several emails from a dental office that needs seven different circular ads designed by 5pm today. I commit to three of them and lovingly tell him to take the other four elsewhere. He tries to offer me a nice rush fee, but I can’t afford to be late on this magazine. Until it prints, none of us get paid. I stand my ground and he relents and says I can have 24 hours to finish the rest of them. Gee, thanks.

5:00 – the babysitter is getting ready to leave and the baby is banging on my door saying “mommy! I see you!” meaning he wants to come see me. I open the door and scoop him up. The 5-year-old is pouting on the couch making whimpering noises, she doesn’t want the babysitter to go. I didn’t spend enough time connecting with her today and now she’s going to make me pay for it.

This is the worst time of my day. Everyone is hungry and grouchy. I resist the urge to turn Baby Einstein on (emergencies only, I remind myself) and instead spread some oversized coloring pages out on the kitchen table and try to get some dinner going. I forgot to take a frozen meal out to thaw this morning, and again forgot to start the crock pot at lunch time, so now I’m winging it. I decide on some fried rice. I make really, really good fried rice. I have a hard time cooking when I don’t have an appetite, so fried rice is my fallback and no one ever complains about it.

5:45 – Husband gets home about 30 minutes late. He plays so much ping-pong at work (undefeated champion for three weeks in a row – it’s his one daily indugence) that this is a pretty normal thing. I’m anxious to turn the kids over to him, and he jumps right in.

6:00 – Dinner is ready. Baby wants to say the prayer, so I whisper across the table to him and he mumbles incoherently in a mock-submissive whisper, head bowed with his dimpled little arms wrapped around himself. Husband is red, snorting with suppressed amusement. I kick him under the table. We go around sharing our favorite parts of the day – a gratitude habit I’m trying to keep alive to fend off my depression. Husband’s favorite thing was beating his boss at ping-pong again. Mine was “club house.” We ask Baby and he says “LEGGIES!” We are all mystified.

6:30 – Dinner is over, except the 5-year-old is still pushing carrots and soy beans around her plate and whining. Normally we would clean up together and choose a project to work on – weeding, cleaning, laundry, etc, but with my magazine deadline I need all the work hours I can get. I ask, and am granted, permission to hole up in the office for the rest of the night. I work and listen to the sounds of dishes, dessert, fighting, and playing.

7:30 – Editor calls, he’s not happy with some edits I made to his cut lines in order to fit them beneath his photos in the 10-page feature. That’s a pretty big faux pas for a designer, but he knows I’m a grammar nazi so I usually get away with making text edits during the design process. I convince him that it was artistically necessary and he admits that the feature does look really nice, and now I have a new favorite part of the day.

7:45 – I head out to the back yard where husband is up to his throat in his prized tomato bushes and the kids are throwing sand at each other. He’s lost track of time so I send the kids inside for pajamas. I send two more emails before I realize that husband’s still out there, so I remind him that he needs to change Baby’s diaper and put his pajamas on for him. He rolls his eyes and kisses me. He smells sour like tomato leaves.

8:00 – The kids are in bed and Husband is asleep on his back outside their door – our ritual bedtime vigil. Baby is technically sleep-trained but he freaks out if he can’t see us while he’s falling asleep. We haven’t figured out how to move past this phase to the point where we can actually close the door and walk away.

9:00 – I get a text from my workout buddy, she wants to go swim laps at the gym but won’t do it alone. If it is my last deed in this life, I will teach her how to be more independent. She is a textbook Mary Sunshine, SAHM and returned missionary, outspoken Tea Party conservative with a tyrannical husband who I hate passionately. She and I get along OK though, she is admirably and refreshingly guileless and I can almost be myself around her. She’s the closest thing I have to a real friend in this ward. We disagree on almost everything, but somehow our workouts are always the highlights of my week. I tell her I have too much work tonight, but promise to swim with her tomorrow night after the magazine’s been submitted.

10:00 – Husband is now snoring outside the kids’ open door and I worry that he’ll wake them up, so I rouse him and send him to bed. This irritates me, he had promised to mop the floor after they went to bed. I’m exhausted but the magazine is almost done so I grab a slice of leftover birthday cake and sugar up for the next couple hours. I listen to books on tape as I work and end up listening long after my work is done.

11:40 – …which is a good thing because I just got an email from the editor that he forgot a couple of ads and needs some typos fixed. I bristle at the subtle inference that the typos might be my fault. I actually call him on the phone to put him on the spot for it – “You’re the editor here, dude, not me.” He laughs and backpedals. I tell him I charge extra for actual dedicated copywriting after hours, which really isn’t true. I proof his stuff for free all the time.

12:50 – I climb into my bed for one last cathartic game of Spider Solitaire, then turn the light off and meditate until I’m relaxed enough to sleep.

6 Responses to Day in the Life

  1. tadeina says:

    1. My feminist lunch table is the coolest of all feminist lunch tables, and you will always be welcome there.

    2. Gaaaa! Not enough sleep!

    3. I really enjoyed your “day in the life.” It did make me want to give you lots of hugs–or rather, do lots of something that makes you feel the way I feel when I get lots of hugs. Give you lots of puzzles, maybe?

    But, you know. . . so many of us struggle with various forms of anxiety and depression. This is almost nothing like my life, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who will feel less alone after they read this entry. I’m really glad you chose to make this blog.

  2. Embracing Light says:

    Loved it! You should have tried to submit this to FMH. It isn’t too late. :)

    By the way, love the worker bee idea!! My kids are a little too old, but I am passing it on to anyone that will listen.

  3. Marie says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your day and I also think it would be a great post at fmh too. It is so validating to know I’m not the only one who struggles through anxiety and depression to get through everyday tasks. Thanks for being so real!

  4. Jerilyn (Aunt Marvel at fMh) says:

    You should totally submit this to fMh. There is no cool feminist lunch table. That’s just a fabrication of the patriarchy. Or something. I’ll make room for you next to me.

  5. Jessica says:

    Pepper! I just read your comment on FMH about being unfriended 20 times in 48 hours and it just makes me a little sick even thinking about it. I’m sorry that happened to you. I am ashamed to admit that I’m way too wimpy to “come out” to the world as a Mormon Feminist, even though I’ve been one for about 2 years now and if I could sum up what Feminism means to me it would be “self determination” and “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Post conference, I feel like most members equate Feminism with viewing motherhood as exploitation, an agenda of “sameness,” and (above all else) “divisive.”

    Anyway, you are admired.

  6. Pepper says:

    Aww thanks guys! Feminism was a scary place for me at first but the more feminists I meet, the more I prefer this to my old comfy life in the mainstream. Thanks for the comments! :)

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