Raising kids is like living in a frat house. There are too many all-nighters, there’s never enough coffee or Top Ramen, the toilets are never clean, it’s no surprise if someone is puking, and you never know who is going to be in your bed when you wake up.
I find myself falling back on old college tricks to survive raising my kids. Convenience foods, acceptance of messy living quarters, questionable laundry guidelines, tolerance for sleep deprivation and development of self-degradation may not be featured on the glossy college brochures, but they are invaluable post-secondary educational offerings for any future mother.
Naturally, I want to prepare wholesome, organic, additive-free meals for my kids, but sometimes a bowl or three of Puffs-o-Sugar is the best I can do at 7:00 a.m. Maybe I’m too tired from a late-night research session for a freelance article. Maybe I’d rather sleep in or actually get a shower before noon. Whatever the reason for not providing my children with a hot, nutritious breakfast, I rationalize it by pretending that I am giving them the gift of autonomy by allowing them to pour their own bowlfuls of chemicals to start their day.
When I’m working on a deadline, I provide the kids with a box of four-for-a-dollar macaroni and cheese mix and don’t even gag when they add sliced hot dogs to it. I have, however, managed to encourage them to add frozen vegetables to their ramen noodles. Nutrition, after all, is the stuff of healthy development.
While we’ve never had a food fight of National Lampoon caliber, you’d never know it by looking at my house. I am arguably the world’s worst housekeeper. The dust bunnies behind the big screen television require their daily feeding, and I hate to think they might starve. I am, if nothing else, an advocate of animal rights. There is no housemother here, though I am thinking of applying for some sort of accreditation so that I can hire one. The Wright School for Wayward Children, perhaps.
The laundry that piles up from seven children is unfathomable for those who haven’t either been foolish enough to collect seven kids or owned a laundry service. Even though I don’t have to dig around on the floorboards of my car for quarters to wash a load of clothes anymore, I still find myself administering the “sniff test” to clothes that might make it through one more wear before laundering. I’ve found, as my boys have become teenagers and my girls have begun playing sports, fewer items pass.
When Mr. Wright and I started out, we had a king-sized bed that all too frequently bore the burden of two adults and five kids molding it into submission. When the kids got too old to sleep with us, we downsized to a queen mattress and, in short order, found two more kids to fill it up. Even now that the littlest ones sleep in their own beds, I can’t get a decent night’s sleep without a knee in my ribs and a foot in my face.
By “sleeping in their own beds,” of course, I mean that the toddlers are placed in their beds at 9:00 p.m., scream for Mommy until 9:30, and are finally rescued by Daddy at 10:00, who brings them to our bed and pops in a Disney video for them to watch. I tell myself that this routine is acceptable, because, as I learned in Child Psychology 201, “routine” is important for children’s development and stability.
If I’d known how little sleep I was going to get as a mother, I would have spent more time sleeping in Professor Drone’s Intro to Theater class my freshman year. If no one is teething or throwing up, someone needs help with a science project they forgot about that’s due in the morning or someone is late for curfew or someone is going to wake me up at two in the morning to inform me that they need a costume for the school play. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with the nearly irresistible urge to rouse each of my kids and ask, “What are you not telling me? Why am I awake? What do you need?”
Motherhood feels, at times, like a particularly sadistic type of hazing. Who else but a mother or a Greek Week pledge would allow another human being to vomit into her cupped hands? Who else would march down Main Street dressed like a clown, balancing a wheelbarrow and wielding a shovel behind the 4-H ponies? Who else would willingly become a slave to a group of boisterous human beings under the legal drinking age?
To those women who have graduated college, only to find themselves with an unmarketable degree and a student loan to rival the national deficit: Take heart! Motherhood is always hiring, and your college experience makes you more than qualified.