I have three children: an 8-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter, and an infant daughter. And last week, I made an astonishingly poor decision: I gave in to the big kids’ requests that I sign them up at separate summer camps. Which means this week my son is at Sports Camp with five of his friends, my older daughter is at Art Camp with three of her friends, and my baby daughter is in daycare.
Three separate morning drop-offs and three separate afternoon pick-ups, while trying to work full time in between. In other words: I am barely hanging on by a thread here, you guys.
And then yesterday, hilariously, a friend of mine — who does not have any children — sent me an article on “How to Survive as a Working Mom.” It was full of quippy little tips like “Pack lunches the night before!” (gee, never heard that one before; how novel!) and “Keep a bin of clean socks by the front door!” (for the record, this works until the day my daughter decides she needs her sequined rainbow cat socks, which are inevitably nowhere to be found).
The article was good for a laugh if nothing else, but it also got me thinking: What do I actually need to survive these days? What are my must-haves?
Here is my very honest list of what it takes to get through the week.
1. A steady stream of (strong) coffee.
As I mentioned, I have three children. One of them is a little baby who is teething, which means I am running on about four hours’ broken sleep most days. (Side note: Teething is the most poorly designed biological process ever. Why do hard lumps of tooth have to burrow their way through soft pink baby gums? Nature fail.) So coffee is nearly as great a requirement as breathing air. I like my coffee black and strong enough to strip the enamel from my teeth, and I drink it all morning long. (Until noon, when I switch to Diet Coke.)
If coffee was available via IV drip, I would
probably definitely opt in for that.
2. Decent mascara and foundation.
I am willing to shell out department-store money on exactly two types of makeup, and only two: Lancome high-definition mascara and Supergoop CC cream. If I have at least five minutes to get ready in the morning, that means I have enough time to use these little beauties. Using the two combined results in me looking at least 50% less haggard than I actually am. Worth every penny.
3. A substantial, all-black wardrobe (largely made up of stretchy cotton or some other forgiving fabric).
Oh black clothes, I love you so much.
Don’t even try to tell me this is boring. Everything matches, and I can be dressed — and look reasonably polished and put together — in one minute or less. It also has the added benefit of letting me switch things up quickly when necessary: Black skirt feeling a little tight today? No problem, I can just throw on my black pants, which match the black top I am already wearing!
It’s genius. And it leads me to …
4. All of the baby wipes.
At this point, I should really own stock in these things. Because while, yes, they’re a total necessity for anyone with a baby, they’re also good for so much more than just cleaning up a yucky diaper. I’m serious, baby wipes are a game changer.
Did the baby smear a little strawberry yogurt on my all-black outfit? Easily fixed by one quick sweep with a wipe! Did the cat throw up a hairball in the hallway? Clean up the mess with a wipe! Good work shoes scuffed up? Give them a quick polish with a wipe! Baby stuck her hands into the trash can and is now attempting to eat an old tissue? Throw that tissue away and scrub her hands with a wipe!
And on the days I want to prevent the baby from getting into the trash can in the first place, I use …
5. A travel crib designed like Fort Knox.
Or as we like to call it in my house: the Gated Community. Yes, I park my baby in a glorified playpen when I work from home, and I feel no shame about it. I have two other kids who require feeding and tooth brushing and sunscreen application and I myself should probably brush my hair before leaving the house. The baby spending 10 minutes in the Gated Community is good for my sanity and has probably saved her from some sort of Lego-related bodily injury.
6. Cheap sunglasses. ( I repeat: cheap.)
I strongly recommend spending no more than $15 on sunnies. This way, when the baby uses them as a chew toy, or my older child “borrows” them for playing dress up, or you accidentally sit on them and destroy them, you are far less likely to cry about it than you were in the good old days, when you owned fancy sunglasses.
7. Baby bottles with the least amount of washable parts possible.
When my baby was a newborn, I bought several fancy (read: expensive) bottles that turned out to have no less than five washable parts each (seven if you use both the internal and external travel lids!).
Nope. Just, nope. After a couple months, I switched over to much cheaper bottles with three washable parts each (and really, one part never even touches the milk, so do you really have to wash it after every single use?) and never looked back.
8. Dry shampoo and hair ties.
Back to personal hygiene for a minute. (Or at least, back to shortcuts that help me fake my own personal hygiene.) Three separate drop-offs for my kids means that the idea of washing my hair every morning is laughable. Enter my beloved dry shampoo from Dry Bar and hair ties, which enable me to sweep up my sad unwashed hair into an up-do. (OK, I just put it in a ponytail, but at least it looks non-greasy.)
9. A portable charging brick.
Between Pokemon Go, Minecraft, and my own excessive Facebook scrolling, my iPhone is perpetually at about 17% battery. It spends so much time plugged into the wall charger that it’s basically a landline at this point.
Enter the mobile charging brick, which a friend gave me as a birthday gift. It made me tear up, it was so thoughtful, and showed such a thorough understanding of my life and who I am. Some friends just get you, you know?
Which brings me to …
10. That one kind friend who will gladly volunteer to pick up one or more of your children when no one else will.
So far this week, two of my friends have offered to pick up my kids along with their own children and drive them home from camp. That is true friendship and kindness right there, and it has saved me from a mad dash between the first camp (which ends at 3 PM) and the second camp (which ends at 4 PM, but is a full 35-minute drive away). It’s friends like these who are really helping me navigate this crazy summer, and I’m so, so grateful to have them in my village.
Speaking of which, I should probably buy those lovely people each a charging brick to thank them … Or maybe some baby wipes.
11. A hearty glass of wine (preferably with chocolate) to congratulate yourself on surviving another day.
Look, it’s a cliche because it’s true. After handling the dinner/bath/bedtime routines for three separate children, Mama needs a glass of wine. Scratch that — Mama deserves a glass of wine. Possibly with a side of dark chocolate. Because, you know, wine and dark chocolate have proven health benefits. And self-care is important!