By Teresa G. D’vall
Dear Absent Parent,
Raising six children means that nothing is ever quiet, clean, or routine. We always need milk, the lemonade pitcher empties in minutes and a box of cereal only lasts 3 days if I hide it before going to bed.
Our children are 3, 7, 9, 10, 17 and even though the 23 year old mostly visits, my house is always chaotic.
You said I need to do my share since I don’t work. Here’s what I do on a typical day during the 157 hours of the week you don’t have them:
Awake to tormented wails:
“He’s copying me!”
“She spilled Cheerios on me!”
“I have nothing to wear!”
“There’s nothing eat!”
Vacuum Cheerios from everywhere while my coffee gets cold. Start the laundry. Clean up after the dog who was just let in but prefers to pee inside. Clean the cat litter.
Scrub a 1/2 dozen cups and sticky dishes in the sink because there’s nothing to eat and the only dishwasher is me. Mumble to myself that peanut butter is nearly impossible to get off a spoon after being left in the fridge all night.
Pick waffle off floor. Ask why there’s toast in the bathroom.
Gather book bags, coats, the homework Lou left on the counter, find my purse.
(I stash it somewhere new each night because the kids are always looking for gum).
Ask kids to clean up Cheerios. Again. Mop the floor on the way out the door to catch the school bus wearing slippers because it’s quicker than searching for my shoes. Remind myself of the time I arrived at school wearing one black boot and a brown one.
Start second load of laundry. Hang first load on makeshift clothesline. (It dangles precariously over a fence and if I don’t hang strategically, the longer garments get stuck on it; then fall off).
Make 5 beds. Pick up clothes, remnants of toys, empty wrappers, dirty utensils, duct tape stuck to floor and Cheerios in boys’ room. Empty water bottle that doesn’t have water in it without attempting to find out what it is.
Worry about finances. Apply for employment.
(22 applications so far this week) Child support isn’t enough to cover rent. Even though I went back to school and finished my bachelor’s degree, most available jobs pay little more than childcare costs a week.
Email our fifth grader’s guidance counselor and exchange a dozen texts with his therapist while trying to make an appointment at three different psychiatrists, all of whom don’t accept Medicaid.
Email our fourth grader’s teacher to make sure he turned in his homework.
Ask 3 year old why there are Cheerios stuck in her hair.
Wash 3 year old’s hair.
Vacuum Cheerios that were spilled, along with milk; while I hung clothes on the line. Mop the floor. Twice, because spilled milk is reluctant to be cleaned up.
Arrive at food pantry. Wait in line. Go to Walmart Supercenter for everything the food pantry didn’t have.
Realize the kids have a 1/2 day of school and l’m going to be late for the bus unless I abandon my cart immediately and leave.
Collect children from bus, drive home. Hang second load of laundry. Throw third load in washer and realize I forgot to get more laundry detergent. Drive to the dollar store because household supplies are cheapest there.
Leave dollar store with a renewed certainty that I will never, EVER go there with children again.
Realize I have 20 minutes before fifth grader’s teacher conference and no one’s had lunch.
Arrive at Burger King and manage to feed 4 kids with the six dollars in my wallet that’s there because most of it is change.
Apologize to fifth grade teacher for being late.
Explain that I didn’t realize the kids had a half day of school when I scheduled the appointment for 1:10.
Apologize to teacher who entertained three year old because her brothers argued during conference and she fell over during the scuffle.
Feign shock as teacher down the hall recounts lecture she gave boys about using the word ‘balls’ inappropriately.
Leave in shame.
Interrogate fifth grader about missing homework and having a 50 in social studies on way to car.
Arrive at playground to fritter away 25 minutes until the high school bell rings even though boys deserve confinement instead of fun after ‘balls’ faux paux.
Try in vain to look in three directions while being commanded to push a swing and “Find a potty” because 3 year old has to pee.
Create provisional toilet out of Little Mermaid ride on toy that we’ve been traveling with for no apparent reason. It has a liftable seat compartment so I line it with Walmart bags that I keep for when the kids get car sick.
Rapidly walk to closest garbage can at farthest end of playground with leaking Walmart bag. Hope no one’s watching.
Pick up moody teen age daughter. Affix magnet of shame that warns:
“Please be patient, student driver.”
Arrive home safely with student driver and headache.
Take second load of laundry off clothesline. Hang third load.
Ask Lou to do his homework.
Email fourth grade teacher to determine that Lou’s lying about not having homework. Again.
Console 7 yr old. Send 10 year old to his room for hitting him with a “sticky hand” toy; in the eye.
Lecture 10 year old about sticky hand which is broken, no longer sticky because it landed on Cheerios and also, not his.
Plead with 7 year old to stop hopping around the kitchen, holding his eye and screaming:
“He broke my sticky hand!!!” at a decibel level so loud it sends a flock of birds out of the tree Lou’s now climbing instead of doing homework.
Ask Lou why he’s on a tree wielding a stick he wrapped in duct tape and not wearing a coat. Beg him to do homework.
Refuse to discuss why I only give Cheerios as a snack.
Find 3 year old. Order boys to stop fighting. Again. Pack everyone in car amidst protest.
Drive moody teen to work. Command 3 year old to get back in her booster seat. Resort to threats. “Hurry! The police are coming!”
Arrive home and realize the cat’s with us.
Serve dinner and almost sit down to eat it then realize the dog peed on the floor again. While cleaning dog’s ‘accident’ she pulls 3 year old’s dish onto floor.
Ask for the vacuum because rice is nearly impossible to wipe off a floor, but everyone’s finished eating and gone already.
Call for help clearing dishes, receive none. Declare 5:30 bedtime since they’re too tired to help with dishes. Only the 3 year old returns to help. (Clears every dish with a smile, proclaiming she’s a big girl).
Give her the dollar I found in Lou’s sock drawer earlier because I know he took it out of my purse without asking.
Bribe Lou to do his homework with gum. Bathe 3 year old. Wipe flooded bathroom floor because shower door leaks and I forgot to buy caulk.
Exit bathroom and find kitchen curtains knocked off rods, a broken mop, and Louie wrestling his older brother who he claims just stabbed him with a fork.
Realize it’s almost 9 and send everyone to bed.
Tuck everyone in snug like a bug in a rug. Lay with 3 year old who asks to sing me ‘Muffin Baby” tonight instead.
Savor the moment as she belts out her version of “Hush Little Baby”
Notice she fell asleep clutching the dollar I gave her earlier.
Pick up moody teen at work. Listen to her tell me I shouldn’t complain about leaving the house to get her after 9pm because I don’t do anything all day.
Sit down to “relax” for the first time and begin to answer various emails from teachers and therapists, apologizing for doing so at such a late hour.
Delete to junk employment scam emails.
Wonder if I’ll ever find a job using my degree.
Worry about finances.
Realize the third load of laundry is still on the line.
Fall asleep with dinner on my shirt because I forgot to shower.
Your Lazy Ex-Wife
For my mother, because I grew up to have one just like me.