When my husband goes out of town for work, it usually means one thing—I’m in charge—all by myself. That’s fine up to a point. Sure, I can bark orders at my kids with the best of them—“Do your homework. Take a bath. Don’t lick the dog …” and on and on. But after eight o’clock at night, I’m done. I mean I’m so done dealing with these people that I almost forget their names. The last thing I want to be is MOM. I want to be single Shauna, living alone in my cute loft apartment. I don’t want anyone bothering me. (I realize this is a fantasy that will never come into fruition, but when dreaming big, I refuse to accept mediocrity when it comes to fairy tales.) I want to sit and watch television, or read, or go to sleep—whatever.
And then I woke up. I wouldn’t even begin to explain this to four kids who couldn’t care less about what it is that I want. You see, they believe that planet Earth actually revolves around them. I wonder what genius led them to believe that. Oh yeah, the grandparents. I’ve resigned the fact that whatever I have coming to me in the parental payback department, I earned fair and square. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. That’s usually where my husband comes in. He sees that I’m morphing into what the children have dubbed, “the beast,” and takes charge. He helps me with bedtime, usually picking the easiest one to deal with, but still—he helps.
This is one of those weeks that he’s been gone and things haven’t gone so well. I begged (begged!) my youngest to take a bath early (before I felt the beast-like qualities kick in) and then convinced them that they wanted to lie in bed with me and watch Top Chef. I let them pile all the yogurt, grapes, and crackers and cheese they wanted on a tray and eat in my bed. All the while they’re thinking I’m cool Mom, when really what I’m doing is mastering the art of manipulation.
Instead of putting them to bed (which is what a good mother would do), I just let them fall asleep with me, cracker crumbs and all. It really works out fine—until I wake up in the middle of the night to find four little feet shoved in my stomach—not to mention little bits of food in between my toes. I’d lost out on three hours of sleep because I was too lazy to put them in their beds. Had I moved them, I wouldn’t have been kicked and punched all night by octopus children—or woken up with a spoon print on my arm.
On top of that, I woke up feeling ill. I was sick and I didn’t want to get out of bed but I had a full day and four children who didn’t care—they need what they need and they need it now. It’s not like this day was different from any other day, but most days I could rearrange my schedule. Normally after the kids get dropped off at school, I could lie down for awhile—but not this day. This day was full of musts. And I felt like crying.
I downed cold medicine and copious amounts of vitamin C. I willed myself to feel better and tried to act like it was any other day. I felt terrible. But that didn’t stop me from powering through. As much as I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t sick—it was no use. Instead of dwelling on the fact that I wanted to die, I assumed the position as Mother in charge. I began the daily picking-up-of-the-kids-from-school routine. That wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have four kids in four different schools. Yes, I know, it’s insane. After the last one was picked up, I looked at the clock—4:45. I’d been in the car, driving around, for two hours. And the day wasn’t over. My daughter was having her musical theater production at school and she had to be there early for rehearsal. So we raced home, she changed and gathered her soccer stuff—oh yeah, both older girls had soccer practice AFTER the musical production.
Once inside the theater, we settled in our seats. My son hasn’t grasped the whole idea of “inside voice” yet. In between numbers he would yell out, “I want some gum!,” “I want Gatorade!,” “I don’t want to see Riley, I want to see a bunny rabbit!” and on and on. People kept turning around looking at us like, aren’t you going to do something about him? I mouthed, “I’m sorry,” about a million times and kept leaning into him saying, “Please whisper.” It was totally lost on him. And by now, I was beginning to sweat. It was probably my fever breaking. And the bonus was now my nose was running so much that I had to sit with a box of tissues in my lap. So in between my son yelling, “I want Gatorade,” now I was blowing my nose—every two minutes.
She finished the performance just in time to whisk her and my oldest daughter off to soccer practice. As we hurried to the car, my son was still shouting, “I want to see a bunny rabbit.” Sorry dude, no bunny rabbits here. I had absolutely no idea what that was about, but the man knows what he wants. As we pulled into the parking lot of the soccer fields, the last thing I said to the girls as they bolted out the door was, “Y’all find a ride home!” Because there was no way I was getting back out.
When we got home, I announced to my remaining family members (the ones who are under four feet tall) that for dinner we were having get it yourself night. I popped a Lean Cuisine in the microwave for myself and while it was cooking, helped my son with his evening ritual—standing INSIDE the refrigerator to study its contents. I could feel myself getting woozier by the minute. I really needed to go to bed. But he was just getting started. After all, he felt perfectly fine.
I changed two poopy diapers and helped the little man with three costume changes. I read a book with my six-year-old. At this point, I really thought I was going to die. I lay down and closed my eyes. I tried to tune out the whining and the repeated cries of “Mommy, get me a yogurt.” I tried visiting my happy place. You know, single Shauna in her cool loft apartment where peace and quiet is the soup de jour. You know … the place that doesn’t exist.
The older girls got home around 9:30 and I was borderline catatonic. I could hear them in the kitchen, buzzing around trying to find something to eat. That’s when I heard the CRASH! I jumped up from the bed (feeling a little light headed when doing so) and stumbled on the biggest mess I’d ever seen. One of the shelves from the fridge fell and there were broken bottles of hot sauce, soy sauce, and barbeque sauce ALL OVER THE FLOOR. She hurriedly began cleaning it up when I stepped in and said, “Let me do it—I don’t want you to cut yourself.” She apologized repeatedly and I told her it was no big deal—accidents happen.
I was smiling through gritted teeth, reassuring her that I wasn’t mad, but on the inside I wondered how bad would it hurt if I slit my wrists with this glass? The image quickly disappeared when I pictured the older girls fighting over who was going to get what of my things since I was dead now. I imagined one of them running through the house yelling, “I get Mom’s Marc Jacobs bag!” while the other chased after her screaming back, “That’s not fair—you got her diamond earrings!” Nope, it wasn’t gonna happen today.
Finally, at 10:30, I went to sleep for real—and I slept most of the night, except for the times I woke up to blow my nose. There were no crumbs, no octopus children, no kitchen utensils to speak of. It was just me, married Shauna with four kids, my very overactive imagination, and my second box of tissues.