Every morning Brandon and I shower, dress, and go down to the kitchen where our hot oatmeal and eggs are waiting on the nicely set table. After breakfast is done, I leave to complete my morning chores. When I come back down an hour or so later, the kitchen is clean, along with the girls' room, the living room, and the study. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I go up to the third floor to exercise, and the whole room is clean. And I didn't even touch a single toy.
My days as a mother of small children are over.
It seemed like I'd never reach this place in my mothering career, the place where I don't physically have to do every single thing in the house, or even personally oversee every single thing that is done in the house. I've graduated to directing every single thing that is done in the house. When it's time to go swimming, I only have to get myself dressed, pick up the baby from her nap, and get in the car. Kathleen has put the towels in, Sophia has put the pool bag in, and Edwin and Joseph have dressed themselves and gotten in to the car. Joseph can even buckle his own car seat now.
When friends who have one or two small children look at me with five and wonder how I do it all, I always want to assure them that I don't do it all. Nobody with five children can do it all - that's why we have five children to help us. On laundry day I spend forty-five minutes folding and putting away Brandon's clothing, my clothing, sheets, and bath towels. Everything else the children fold and put away. I haven't had laundry this easy since before Kathleen was born.
I remember the days of rushing around, timing my day to the minute so that I could get everything done just in time so that I could get everyone to bed and relax. I'm so glad those days are over. I'm so glad that I will never ever ever have three small children ever again. Even though I still have the same number of small children I've had since Sophia was born seven years ago, somehow they just aren't as stressful as they used to be. Maybe I've gotten old. Maybe I just don't notice in the general din. But it sure is nice.
Dinnertime is no longer the last slog in a day-long slog to force my will upon every living thing in the house so that the universe keeps turning. Now we sometimes have interesting conversations and three of the five children eat their entire dinner without me ever touching any of their utensils. It's like a minor miracle.
When we go swimming, I don't watch every single child, keeping all within arms' distance just in case one of them decides to drown. The other day I read a book while Edwin, Kathleen, and Sophia swam around the pool and Joseph and Eleanor kept me company on the pool chairs. After fifteen or twenty minutes of reading, I got back in and gave Joseph a ride, but it sure was nice to read my book for those fifteen minutes. I used to longingly watch my friends with older children sit by the pool and read a book. It seemed like I would never ever get to that day. And now it's here. I'm not sad about that.
I'm not sure what I would do it I was just back to two little children again. The girls bathe Eleanor, dress Joseph, cook my breakfast, clean up my breakfast, clean up the toys, change sheets, fold laundry, put away laundry, tidy rooms, wash dishes, unload the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, fix lunches, pack snacks, play with their siblings, read stories, fetch blankets, pack suitcases, help cook dinner, help clean up dinner, get their siblings ready for bed, and keep me company. Often I feel guilty shrugging off so much of my work on them, but Brandon tells me that guilt is not fashionable anymore. The children need to learn how to replace me, because one day they'll be running their own households. I still feel a little guilt, however. But just not enough to do all of that work myself.
Some day I'm going to be alone again and I'll miss all of the help. I'm not sure how good I will be at cooking breakfast after a twenty year hiatus. I'll probably have forgotten how to make zucchini bread. And it will be a shock to have to cook dinner all by myself every single night.
But until then, I'm going to enjoy it. Bring on the books by the pool.