When I left msnbc.com six years ago to stay home with Bini, they threw me a farewell party. We had a big cake, and adult beverages, and my bosses and colleagues stepped forward to say nice things about me. One comment that’s stuck with me came from a guy that I’d worked with for years, back at washingtonpost.com. He remarked that I was one of the most organized people he’d ever worked with, and that the newsroom was that much poorer for the loss.
Oh, if he could see me now.
In the ensuing six years, I have gone from being a list-making, agenda-creating machine to being forgetful, frantic and perpetually late. In just the last week, I forgot to pick up the carpool, I showed up at the wrong time for a meeting, I forgot to cancel a babysitter and I sent Evan to preschool with the wrong sharing item. (“The apple was for last week,” the preschool teacher said with disappointment in her voice. “This week is soup.”)
I know what’s happened, of course. I have a marriage, two kids, two dogs, two cats, a nanny, and a job. I also sit on the board of our adoption agency. We’re in a school carpool. Evan’s preschool requires parent volunteers. Bini has martial arts twice a week, piano and tutoring once a week, Evan has speech therapy and swimming. Some days, Evan goes to school until 11:30. Some days, he goes until 2. On Mondays, he’s doesn’t start school until 10. There are lunches to pack and healthy dinners to make, permission slips to sign and play dates to remember.
Someone, human or beast, always needs to see a doctor for some reason. The dogs need to be walked; our new dog needs to be trained. The cats inevitably vomit on the carpet, usually as I’m racing out the door. There is laundry to fold, bills to pay, closets to purge. I really like the floors to be clean, and Steve and I like to spend a little kid-free, laptop free time together each day. I try to exercise five days a week. I try to call my mom when I can.
We have our methods for corralling the chaos: I have a dry-erase calendar on the refrigerator where I put in all family appointments and obligations. I have my personal and work calendars merged on my phone. Every week, Steve and I make a list of everything we’d like to accomplish, and divvy it up. I have reminders on my phone. At work, I diligently put all of my tasks into a productivity app, and check them off as I accomplish them.
Something always goes awry. The nanny will call in sick for three days, the elementary school will schedule half-days for conferences all week (ALL WEEK), I’ll slice my finger with a giant serrated knife and spend a few hours at urgent care. But even when the train chugs along as it should, I still screw up. I’m always apologizing to someone. I’m forever saying: “This week has been crazy.”
I really don’t like being a disaster. So I’m throwing myself on your mercy, dear readers: How do you keep it all straight? What systems do you use to keep your multi-faceted lives in order? I know that there are families out there that are as busy (or busier) than ours, so how do they do it? Because at the moment, it feels like we’re limping across the finish line of each week, battered and bruised, only to turn around and do it all over again.