By Sheila Gaudet
I vaguely remember a time where I got places on time, neatly dressed and groomed, with all the papers I needed captured in files that were actually labeled in some kind of order. The past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out when, exactly, I fell apart. At first I thought it must be a biological result of pregnancy because it definitely seemed to happen after having children but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn’t it. It would be so nice if there was just a “scatterbrain” hormone that could be adjusted or at least held accountable.
I became a single working parent shortly after my oldest son was born. I had no family nearby and worked a demanding management position in health care at an academic medical center. While things didn’t necessarily always go the way I planned them due to unplanned events like ear infections or leaking diapers, I still managed to have a very organized, solid routine. Meals were ready for us both, there was plenty of clean laundry, Saturdays were grocery shopping and errand running while Sundays were the day I cleaned and paid bills. All and all, I still held it together.
A few years later, several things had changed. I had a new husband, a child in school, and a newborn. I was going to school and working part-time. I was using more lists and had greatly refined my use of a calendar. Things got chaotic with different schedules, an old house that presented varying challenges at different seasons, and deadlines that did not always fit into everyone else’s schedule but I rarely missed appointments or things of that nature. We even managed to absorb into our family twin nieces for a period of time who came in as middle schoolers. I pulled out a whiteboard and got a bigger calendar to accommodate three children in sports, school, doctor’s appointments etc.
No, I think the fall of my organization came later. After a painful divorce, there was more visitation schedules to keep up with and other people to take into account when planning family activities. These cross multiple state line and family boundaries. My youngest son has some special needs in the area of communication, social skills and ADHD. This has led to a less traditional schedule than I had with the older children. Rather than playing sports, he enjoys the arts. He has therapy and more doctor appointments. My “new” husband works two jobs, as a commercial pilot and with the Air Guard. His schedule alone is a nightmare with weekly adjustments, delays, and never-ending changes. I recently left my full-time position for a consulting position with more flexibility. By the way, flexibility means more fluid schedules, which has both pros and cons. Even when I think I have the calendar set up, something changes and if it isn’t written down, it’s gone! Moving three times in the last two years didn’t help either. Everything needed to find new homes in the new houses. I swear they will carry me out of this house though, I’m not moving again.
I think the advances in technology factor in as well. While I love the fact that I can use my GPS to find a location on the road, my laptop computer can be accessed from the kitchen table or my bedroom, and I can be reached by a child in need 24 hours a day on my cell phone it presents it’s own difficulties. For instance, most of my children’s schedules now arrive via a website or email. If I’m sitting in bed at 2 am checking email (and I know there are a lot of people nodding their head with me on that), I read it but can’t print it at that moment and the calendar is hanging up down in the kitchen. So…..unless I remember to transfer it somehow, there’s a good chance it will pop into my brain about 15 minutes before we are supposed to be at practice while I have dinner on the stove.
Because of this, I also find myself multi-tasking way too much. I got lost on the way to the orthodontist last week because my children were being quiet in the car (it was early is my only explanation) and I was running through my to-do list for the day in my head. The orthodontist office is actually on the way to my old office. It wasn’t until I was getting off the exit to my old job that I realized I was about 20 miles out of the way. It wasn’t pretty. I went to get my checkbook out at the doctor’s office and found that it was still on the kitchen table from when I wrote the $6.00 check for the class picture that morning. My cell phone should have its own tracking device, but only within the confines of my house. So far, I always remember the children and usually the husband. The Cub Scout meeting had been rescheduled to the next week, however, it didn’t get crossed off the calendar so we showed up, almost on time last week! That’ll teach me.
I know that there are technological devices that will assist me I’m sure. Those smartphones that my son uses look so handy. But if I set it down on the dryer while folding laundry and the doctor’s office called to reschedule an appointment? I can’t guarantee it would get entered from the back of the envelope I would end up writing it down on.
So, right now I’m hoping that as my kids age, they get more organized with their own stuff. As moms, I think we take on the responsibility for tracking everyone’s activities, schedules, due dates, shoes, backpacks, homework assignments, and everything else. I saw a sign one day and thought about ordering it from the catalogue, but that would have required going downstairs to get the credit card and by the time I did that, I probably would have misplaced the catalogue it was in to begin with. It said something like, “God made mothers so that someone in the house would know where everything is”. In my case, I think it’s more like so that someone in the house would know to tell people where to look for everything, under a time constraint. I look at it this way, my children will eventually get annoyed enough to keep up with their own stuff and then my “mommy brain” will be able to rest.