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Traffic Jam: My Head Is Full of Teens

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Who ever said being a stay-at-home mom was less work?

exhausted looking mom with teens

Sarah Bowman: Everyone in my house is gone by 7:20 in the morning. Gone are the messy weekday breakfasts and that extra half-hour to practice piano before school. Teenagers start class at 8 AM and, let me tell you -- just rousing two teens from slumber is a daunting task, and their grunting irritation is a far cry from the yummy hello-mommy hugs of yesteryear. The "most important meal of the day" happens on the fly, and my most vital role is to report on the weather ("pants or shorts, mom?"). Oh, and confirm the afternoon pick-up time as the eighth grader clambers into his carpool, juggling a piece of toast and multiple backpacks.

It feels luxurious for about ten minutes after everyone shushes out the door -- my husband takes the opportunity to fly the coop with the kids, beating the traffic to his downtown office. I have time to walk the dogs and shuttle the newspaper around the kitchen table for a few moments before turning to the tasks left on my desk by the departing herd. A Staples run for an English project. Lipitor at the drugstore, or a new set of cleats for that never-ending soccer season. If there aren't any errands (hurrah!), there is an endless stream of paperwork for field trips and club teams. After the bills get paid, I turn my thoughts to getting holiday gifts in the mail and planning a college trip with my daughter over spring break.

We parents are supposed to step back from managing our children as they grow up; we are encouraged to transition to the role of consultant. I relish the change -- never having been one to stand over the assignment book or pester my child with questions about the details of her day. But lately, this new job feels alarmingly secretarial. On the calendar, my day looks pretty nifty. I have time to write (my day job), occasionally work out, and make dinner. But the endless rat-a-tat-tat of tasks supporting the kids' busy lives amazes me; was it this complex during elementary school? Maybe I'm getting cranky in my old age, but it feels like the benefits of staying home from the office to be with your children are fast depleted once the kids are in middle and high school.

When they do get home, we share a few sweet seconds of recognition -- my 11th grader actually remembers to ask about my day. Then her forehead furrows as she remembers that she has to bake a batch of cupcakes by the morning (she says she'll start after her physics homework, which is a cue to mom to fire up the oven), or floats the idea of going to a football party on Saturday night (I prepare for a slew of phone calls to other parents to check this out). My son gives me a sideways hug and drops the uniform that needs to be cleaned again by morning. I compliment him on remembering to ask, and go about finishing dinner -- with a tall glass of wine by the stove.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous December 9, 2009, 10:15 AM

Now imagine having to do all that AND still work full time. Yes, it’s hectic to be a stay home mom, but even more so to be a working one.

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