Thursday, April 19, 2012

New routine means less time, many adjustments

In tomorrow's Briefing:

Just when we all thought the mommy wars were over — or at least a timid truce was in the works — someone says something ridiculous like “she hasn’t worked a day in her life,” and it all gets stirred up again.
This time, as politicians, politicians’ spouses and political experts are debating what defines work and who exactly is interested in economic recovery, I’m tuning it out.
Because what I’ve learned is that the real mommy war, the one that actually counts, is internal.
I have been fortunate enough to work from home for almost seven years. In my case, work has meant taking care of my family, volunteering and freelancing for paying clients.
Some of my work-at-home friends do one or two or all of those as well. Laundry, dishes, building bulletin boards, tutoring kids, managing finances — it’s all work.
In the past month, my earn-a-paycheck workplace has changed. I’ve returned to office life.
Let the internal battles begin — emotional and logistical challenges over child care, housework, downtime, previous commitments and more.
I am calling our current phase a period of adjustment.
One morning last week, I prepared breakfast for Cooper and Katie, packed lunches for all three of us and then put some carrots on the stove to cook for that night’s dinner.
I rushed to my room to dry my hair, apply makeup and braid Katie’s hair. Then I returned to the kitchen, greeted by the scent of burnt carrots.
As I tossed the blackened veggies and lamented my failed attempt to get ahead for the day, Katie hugged me and said, “It’s OK, Mommy. I sometimes do too much, too.”
I was trying to do too much again Sunday night.
I remembered late in the evening that the office was celebrating a co-worker’s birthday the next morning and that I needed to bring a breakfast dish.
It had been a long day of church and Sunday school and Boy Scouts and volunteer work, so I was already comfy cozy in a T-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms patterned with giant, colorful owls. I did not want to change clothes and drive to the store.
So I found a recipe that called for ingredients I already had.
Just as I was pouring apple bread batter into buttered pans, I remembered that I’d also forgotten to get a gift.
I made a quick decision: I put bread in the oven, tucked Katie into bed, placed Cooper in charge and drove to the newest restaurant in town. My goal: a gift card for my ice-cream-loving colleague.
The ice cream shop had been open only four days, and folks in Frisco can’t stay away from new places to eat, so the parking lot was packed. The drive-through line snaked around the building.
When I finally reached the ordering screen, I asked for a limeade (all that waiting made me thirsty) and a gift card.
The server told me that she couldn’t sell a gift card at the drive-through window.
“Please?” I asked. Not because I am lazy. But because there was no way I was going to parade through a crowded ice cream shop two miles from home while wearing novelty pajamas.
“We just can’t,” she said.
I didn’t give up. I asked at the payment window. I asked at the delivery window.
No luck.
I reluctantly left with only a limeade, headed for a nearby coffee shop that does sell gift cards through the window (all the while hoping my co-worker actually likes coffee) and made it home with one minute left on the oven timer and a story that made Cooper giggle.
I’m giving myself some grace. I’m trying to accept that our new routine will smooth out over time, not overnight. I’m working on laughing at myself over burnt carrots and poor clothing choices and yet-unknown pitfalls.
I’m working on internal peace.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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