Regroup, Recoup, Recover

When you’ve had excruciating leg cramps twice in the night, got up to pee 3 times, had to settle a crying toddler once and got up again to take him to pee in the wee hours, you can expect, well, more than the usual set of challenges the following day.

That day, I wondered – as I sometimes do, but with particular intensity then – why my 3 children had to get up somewhere between 6.30 – 7.00 am and never entertain a thought of sleeping in.

Never, ever.

It was always “Bang!” from the word “Go.”

On that day, Sweet Man had to work. On a weekend.

I had forgotten and had a dozen chores, grocery shopping and writing projects scheduled.

I thought of 3 laundry loads ahead of me, a dish rack of containers to return to the kitchen cupboard, floors in our two-storey house to vacuum and mop, homeschooling materials and crafty bits to sort out before the start of a new week. Sure, the part-time cleaner would come once, mid-week, to help with tougher jobs but the house had to be put in order again before my Teacher-Marm hat could feel right.

I was ready to crumble. And I hadn’t even got up yet.

The morning sunshine glared in through bare windows that needed new curtains. Two months ago, I finally ditched our 30 year old curtains, hand-me-downs from my mother in law. They had a lovely bamboo print and still held together well but were so bleached over the years you could hardly see the design.

I squinted through heavy eyelids and lay in bed, all of 10 kilos heavier, feeling like a drugged beach whale.

(Not that I know what a drugged beach whale feels like. But it’d feel heavy. Real heavy, I’m sure.)

My littlest one moved and turned inside me, getting up already. I watched tiny feet or hands, possibly knees or elbows make ripples across my belly as I shifted into a more comfortable side lying position.

Sweet Man was getting ready for work and I murmured, “Must you? Oh must you?”

He was sorry, but he had to.

In that moment, when all you can think of is how good a soft bed and warm sheets feel to your aching body, it’s hard to appreciate the fact that when a man works hard so his wife can devote time at home to nurture the kids, it’s a good thing. A very good thing.

He gave me a bit of time to roll slowly out of bed and went to make sure the kids got through their morning charts. I overheard snippets of a little pep talk about helping Mama a lot extra that day. Then, the familiar turn of the key in the lock as he left.

I somehow managed to fix a decent breakfast for everyone. They wolfed it down and ran outside to play while I sat, unmoving, at the table slowly sipping chilled kefir and still thinking of all that had to be done.

Amidst screams of laughter and the rushing sound of bicycle wheels, a little voice piped up, “Mama, can you take us to the park? Please, please?” This was followed by a chorus of other voices, “Yes, yes! Oh yes! Park! Park! Let’s go to the park!”

I drew a long, deep breath and thought, “This is IT. The unending list of ‘to-dos’, ‘can yous’ and ‘I wants’.”

I went to the window and called everyone inside for a Sit Down Table Discussion.

“Guys,” I said, “I know you want to go to the park as we always do.”

Smiles. Nods. Clasping hands.

And I said, “Do you know what I want? Have you thought of asking me what I want?”

They shook their heads and I continued, rather mercilessly, “Papa has gone to work. It’s a day he is usually with us and could take you to the park. There is This and That and The Other that I have to do. Look at the laundry. The containers. The floors. I don’t even know where I’m going to begin. I would love to go play with you at the park. But I am soooo tired and if I get even more tired going to the park, who is going to do all this work that has to be done before school starts again next week? Who?”

Finished with this considerably dramatic, lengthy and sorry speech, I looked at them with the most drudged up face I could muster – and it wasn’t that difficult to do.

Almost immediately, Lamb shouted, “Me!!”

And Puppy and Piglet shouted, “Me too!!!”

I’m not kidding. The innocence of the lot.

So we worked out who was going to do what. Puppy washed the breakfast dishes while Lamb and Piglet started matching covers to containers. I sat on a low stool and showed them where they went in the cupboard.

That was a day I was simply never so relieved for pay back from daily practical life skills training at home.

I was so thankful I didn’t need to contend with whining about why they didn’t get to do what they wanted.

They sometimes did, of course. (By the way, childish whining is like someone driving a screwdriver into your head and screeching a silly song at the same time.)

But on that morning, I was spared. My punks rose to the occasion and made me so glad.

As I meditated on this, I decided, by hook or by crook, I would vegetate on my fat butt no longer. I got up and got lunch prep going.

The three of them started folding the laundry, putting every item into neat piles – Papa’s, Mama’s, Puppy’s, Lamb’s and Piglet’s. I turned occasionally from the sink to watch them, listening to their incessant chatter.

How to fold a shirt. What to do with socks. What to do about a wobbly pile too full of clothes.

Laundry and lunch done, I let them sort themselves in front of the computer to watch one of their favourite cartoons on YouTube. It was a Saturday, the one day in the week they get some pure entertainment screen time.

I still felt somewhat miserable about having to miss our traditional Saturday family breakfast and family time together and having to spend the morning at home doing chores, but resolved we would make it a good day. The time would soon come when I could lie down to rest, after lunch. Knowing that helped me and I got out the vacuum and started working the floors.

That said, misery (and pregnancy hormones?) had to somehow take its full course. Sweet Man came home in the evening and relieved me of childcare immediately. Later, I told everyone they could start dinner without me. I lay down on the couch – and the tears came. First one, then another. Each one for every moment I chose to suck up my feelings and just “get on with it”.

It felt so good. Letting it all out.

When Puppy came to tell me that dinner was getting cold, she observed me passing my hand over my eyes and said, “Mama, you look kinda sad.”

Her empathy touched me. I had no words. I quickly mumbled something about just being tired and sent her away to tell the others I was on my way. Sweet Man came shortly after and helped me up.

But as hard as the day had been, it had been good. It had been filled with so much faithfulness and love.

I knew that my guys, 1 Big One and 3 Small Ones, could pull together when it really mattered. When they understood that it mattered. Our long-awaited, littlest one would arrive in 9 weeks’ time and everyone would chip in to help.

They couldn’t wait. They even had homemade Christmas presents all prepared in advance.

At the end of that day, I felt stronger.

And more grateful, than ever before.


Have you ever had a day you thought you couldn’t cope? What did you do?

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  • Christine@theAums
    October 15, 2013 2:57 pm

    Oh, mama, you take me back to some really difficult times. I am still so in touch with the me who was always pregnant while tending to my littles. Strangely, I miss it. But I do agree with this line whole-heartedly, “That was a day I was simply never so relieved for pay back from daily practical life skills training at home.” Those skills were/are an investment and a life-saver. I got a lump in my throat when you wrote about your tears…reminded me of that quote- No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader…something like that. Anyhow, sending you positive energy from one mom of 4 to another.
    Christine@theAums recently posted…Ode to My Little DoveMy Profile

  • Jin Ai
    October 15, 2013 3:07 pm

    Thank you, Christine. Your words mean so much to me. These days my internal self is galloping from one extreme to another, mostly depending on how the night’s sleep went. Holding on tight!

  • shia
    October 16, 2013 1:40 am

    You have done a great job jin ai. All alone with 3 children and another one in the tummy. Dont be too hard on yourself. Let loose and relax a little until u regain energy. Who cares if the house is messy =) anyway you have helpful little ones that u can rely on now from now:) im jealous! 🙂 well 9weeks will come before u know it 😉 all the best dear

  • Jin Ai
    October 16, 2013 2:33 pm

    Thanks, Shia! Yes, the time will pass all too soon. Hard as it sometimes is, I think I will miss the time this baby is inside of me. So precious to be able to carry a baby everywhere without even using my hands or a sling!

    Unfortunately I am one of those ones who can’t function properly as a homeschooling mama if the house is disorganised. I wish I could! But my mind goes all wonky and confused when pencils or books aren’t where they should be and small guys are running all over the place while I look for them, ha! Must wing it better 🙂

    Hope you and your little one are well over that side of the country!

  • Rorybore
    October 17, 2013 1:53 am

    I am somewhat sad and sheepish to admit, on days like this, I let the cleaning go. well, not completely — I kind of go for the “illusion of clean”. LOL And on the really bad days, I am totally okay with a movie day for the kids with floor pillows, sleeping bags and popcorn. I get criticism for using the TV, but like I said – this is the really bad days where I know I just have nothing left and need to recharge somehow. I figure it’s better for them to have a movie day – while I sit on my own pillow folding laundry or writing in my journal, or in between baking in the oven: then a day of a tired, worn out, struggling mom who is probably more than a little short on patience and coping skills. Sometimes you have to struggle through because stuff just has to get done — but I’ve learned to also go with the flow from time to time too.
    So glad your littles came through for their mama on this day!
    Rorybore recently posted…WW: Fall GardenMy Profile

  • Jin Ai
    October 17, 2013 5:30 pm

    Trust me, we have Saturday as our “TV Day” but when I am about to collapse, TV has saved me on more than one occasion too. Hang the guilt!

    I have had days when cleaning flies out of the window too. Sometimes the eventual pick up is too hard to manage though, so I try my *best* not to get to that point. “Illusion of clean”, yes! Hehe… And you’re right, going with the flow is an absolute sanity saver on some days for sure!

  • Alison
    October 18, 2013 2:35 am

    Jin Ai, I couldn’t do what you do. Homeschooling 3 children with another on the way, and a home to clean and organize (and I totally understand the need for your environment to be organized before your mind can do the same – I’m that way too). That you had one day where you just wanted to not look at the to-do list with cheer and get-go, that’s okay, and human. It gave your children the opportunity to step up, and step up they did! I think that’s much to be proud of.
    Alison recently posted…Blogging, Social Media and NegativityMy Profile

  • Jin Ai
    October 22, 2013 1:47 pm

    I couldn’t do what you do either, Alison! 2 young kids, a successful blog and social media consultancy business? Hats off to you! You are great at what you do and your passion is infectious.

    And yes, clean desk = clean mind – I need that every day. Curse or blessing? My hubby tells me many successful people have disorganised spaces, but I just can’t function that way!

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