Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Single Working Mom: When on earth do I mow the lawn?

Dear readers, I've got questions for you (they're at the bottom of this post).  Can you help?

I am relearning my routines as a single, working mom.

I did it before, and I can do it again.  Actually, I'm super excited to be doing it again, because the pieces of my life are slowly coming together, and having the career piece of the puzzle snapped into place is nothing short of marvelous and miraculous.  So, this isn't a's a question.

How on earth do I get all of the necessary things done?  And how do I fit in enough of the fun stuff, balanced with the responsible stuff?  And when do I schedule down time?  Because if I don't schedule down time....oh boy.  I think I might implode on myself, vanishing into a cloud of dust.

I've got my Sunday routine figured out again: I must start the week with the meals completely planned (including twice a week when I can't cook, so there must be something pre-made that Katherine can heat up before I get home to pick her up for gymnastics), and that means the grocery shopping must be done.  I don't have time to do errands during the week, so I need to get them done during the weekend, too.

We've instituted TV night on Sundays....with folding.  We've got a little system of dumping all of our clothes on the sofas, sorting them into two baskets (Katherine's, and mine + household towels etc.), and then folding while we watch The Voice on demand.  It's not total quality time, but it is a way to start the week somewhat prepared but also time to relax.

I get up at the crack of dawn, and I make sure that Katherine has a good breakfast, that I have gallons of coffee, and I make both of our lunches (tortellini is her favorite; salad is mine) and pack them up.  She gets on her school bus, and I hop in the car, and it works pretty well.  In the evenings, there is just enough time to make a simple meal, sit at the table to eat it, and chat a bit before getting ready for bed.

I feel like I'm getting the big stuff done: we're clothed and fed, work and homework are getting done.

But what about the rest of it?  Car washing and lawn mowing and dog brushing?  How on earth do people fit everything in?

I've been working some longer hours, doing a bit of work from home in the mornings and evenings on top of my regular hours; there have been a couple of days when I've needed to arrange extra childcare due to work functions.  That doesn't help, of course.

Tonight I was so tired that I was barely functional; I made a silly mistake while cooking and splattered hot olive oil onto my arm, leaving nasty red marks that burn intensely.  I barely talked to Katherine, too tired to do more than scold her to eat her veggies.

And then I looked at the back yard, and saw that the sun was shining after some days of rain, and the grass was long.  This combination almost made me want to cry: I had no excuse for skipping the lawn mowing (it rained on the weekend, a perfect excuse), but after getting up early, working through lunch, making dinner, etc. I could hardly fathom mowing the lawn at the end of the work day.

I changed into my ugly shorts and a pair of rubber boots (thank goodness our fence is tall because I was a sight) and trudged up and down, mowing.  I couldn't do it tomorrow (gymnastics) or Friday (friends coming for dinner - oh Lord what was I thinking to entertain at my house on a Friday?!), and on Saturday we've got plans and do I really need to mow the lawn on Mother's Day?

I mowed.  I had Katherine clean up the dog poop in the yard first ("Mom, do I HAVE to?") while I did the dinner dishes, and then while I mowed, she swept the hardwoods.  We're regular Cinderella's over here, but she did it with minimal complaining, at least.  (So grateful.)

Surely there is a way to manage all of this without collapsing or losing my mind or letting the balls drop or being a completely boring all work and no play girl.  Please offer suggestions!  I'm thinking about dating (but how? and when?!), and I want to do so much more than function, I want to live a vibrant, amazing life.

Is it just because I'm in the adjustment period?  Surely this will get a bit easier....because this is hard!  And when mowing the lawn starts to look like a Herculean task, I know that something's off.  My yard isn't that big, after all.

These are problems that a zillion middle class women face; I'm not that unusual - I'm just one of many.  These are middle class problems, and I know it.  I own a home, and I have a yard - this makes me fortunate; I have a good job that, while it doesn't make me rich, means I don't worry about putting food on the table.  On the other hand, hiring people to do these jobs is not an option; my budget is of the "I'm never going to retire" variety and there isn't that much wiggle room.

And just to be clear: the yard is just what triggered the post, but it's all of it.  All the many balls that need juggling.

Isn't there a magical cure?

Or some potion that would mean I could live without sleep so that I could just catch up at night?

I'm too tired to read at night, and my copy of The Orchardist (which I'm enjoying a great deal) sits unopened on my bedside table, taunting me, but my eyes are too tired to open it.

I know that the edging is never going to get done and that I'd better figure out some low maintenance shrubs because my gardening is, well, a thing of the past.  The car needs vacuuming, but as long as there's no trash in it, I can live with it.  The house is tidy and the toilet doesn't have a ring in it....but if you're allergic to dust, you'd better avoid this place, because dust is something I just don't seem to deal with very often.  I barely even dream of going to plays or live music, because I don't have the energy, though I did go on a little hike last weekend.

I'm trying to figure out the balance of all of it.

Readers, I'm really hoping you chime in on this one.

How on earth do you do it?  When do you mow the lawn, brush the dog, deep clean the fridge?  How do you do the routine stuff like vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms and making meals and cleaning them up, on top of homework and kids' schedules, without completely losing yourself to the mundane in life?

And how many hours can a single mom reasonably work in a week?  I need to start counting, but I know I'm doing too many to sustain it right now.  I get comp time so it's worth my investing some extra time to bolster my vacation days, but how much can I handle?  Today was my first 8 hour day since starting, and it was only because I was too tired to stay one more minute and I could barely string together a coherent sentence as a result.  (I announced to my boss: I just hit the wall.  He smiled and said, "Go home.")

Guide me.  Commiserate with me.  Make suggestions.  I am listening!


  1. I am going to be in your spot soon - so i hope that other readers of your great blog - reply ....I am ready to read their comments as well :)

  2. It only means that you’re one self-empowered woman. And I think there’s no question about it. For as long as you know you can do it, and that you have to keep on moving for your kids, everything falls into place. Just remember that you are a great woman. You’re not able to do incredible things if you’re not. Cheers!

    Carlos Strey @ The Bridge Across