1. Who are you?
My name is Katie Richards and I live in beautiful Western Michigan with my husband, Brian, three year old son Ben and one year old son Teddy. I studied Spanish and nonprofit administration in college and spent several years working in the nonprofit sector before taking a break to raise my boys. I currently spend most of my time wrangling the kids and trying to bring order to our house but do work part time as the editorial assistant of PostStatus.com, a WordPress news site. Brian is a web developer and works from home as well so we spend almost every day at home as a family. We’ve never known anything different and while it presents its own challenges, we really love the kind of lifestyle we can have because of that flexibility.
We enjoy spending time renovating our home (previously owned by my grandparents), playing in our backyard and the nearby school playground, and traveling with and without kids (especially to Disney World). If I have a little free time, I’m most likely to be reading or thrift shopping.
2. When is your favorite time of day?
My first favorite time of the day is when Brian comes “home” from work after his long commute from the basement office. The boys are giddy with excitement and are thrilled to climb all over him instead of me for a few minutes. Their relationship with their daddy is beautiful to see and their enthusiasm for more playtime is contagious.
Almost tied with Brian coming upstairs at the end of the work day is the time that Ben and I spend together during Teddy’s nap. Ben stopped taking a nap shortly after his 3rd birthday but is required to have some “quiet play time” in his bedroom. He takes a nap once or twice a week but most of the time, quiet play time is an hour long, just long enough for me to shuffle laundry around, catch up on work, and eat lunch without anyone asking to share it. When he comes out of his room, we watch a Baby Einstein or, more recently, Magic School Bus and talk about what the kids are learning. He rarely snuggles but sometimes I’m lucky and he’ll curl up next to me.
3. When is your most chaotic time of day?
I suspect that it might be a common answer but that last 30 to 60 minutes before dinner is absolutely insane around here. My older son is always whiney and my younger son gets HANGRY regardless of how recently he had a snack. From the time Teddy could crawl, he has come into the kitchen to headbutt my ankles, pull at my legs, open drawers, and try to score some extra attention and a snack while I’m juggling knives and hot pans. I am more likely to lose my temper between 5 and 6 pm than any other time during the day.
4. What is your Mom Chaos Confession?
Having a second child absolutely did me in! I dreamed of being a mom for years before our first son was born and adjusting to being at home full time and caring for him was a piece of cake. It took me nearly 9 months after Teddy was born to feel like I could manage anything that could happen during the day. It’s not that Teddy was a difficult baby, if anything, he was even more easy going than Ben. It was hard for me, as a self-reliant type-A, to admit that I couldn’t manage to get everything done on my own.
My confession is this: It might look like I have it all together but I can’t tell you the last time I scrubbed the bathtub, washed the kitchen floor, or we went a day without tv.
5. What is your best tip for managing the chaos?
Set reachable goals! I’ve learned that my to do list is always going to be longer than the amount of time I have to complete those items. I started out by giving myself one “extra” task on top of regular cooking, childcare, and cleaning like stripping sheets off the beds, vacuuming furniture, or cleaning the bathrooms. Once I felt capable of completing my one task, I added one more at a time. Some days I get four or five things finished but there are still days we spend all day in our pjs and I still can’t seem to get the kitchen clean.
6. What does a typical day in your chaos look like?
7:30: Boys wake up. Ben will take himself to the potty chair (after much coaching) so I can stay in bed, check email, twitter, slack, and my favorite blogs while he plays quietly and Teddy chatters to himself. This lasts until Teddy yells to get up and Ben knocks on his door.
8:00: Breakfast and dishes: “It’s DAY! The sun is out!” says Ben. He knows that the sun needs to be up before we can get going on our day. I get Teddy up and change his diaper while Ben runs around the house like a pinball in a machine. I set the boys up with breakfast (fruit/veggie pouches and cereal, usually), empty the dishwasher, and make myself coffee. Ben begs for a show so we turn on his current favorite: Lego Movie. This is my morning chance to do any work so if I have emails to answer or data tracking to do, I like to do it first thing in the morning. This is my favorite time of day to empty the dishwasher too since the boys are too distracted to attempt to “help.”
9:00: Playtime: The boys have long since abandoned the movie and are playing in Ben’s room together. Ever since Teddy started walking, the boys have played together more often and for longer periods of time, which makes us as parents very, very happy. Brian usually heads downstairs to his office around 9. I try to wrap my mind around what needs to get done during the day and identify my one most important goal (wash and fold laundry).
10:00: “Quiet time”: Teddy no longer takes a morning nap but I still aim to shower around the same time. Teddy gets books and toys in his crib and Ben is given my iPad with parent controls turned on, locking him into YouTube Kids. I grab the monitor and shower as quickly as I can. Even though the boys enjoy their “quiet time” activities, it’s rare that I can shower without someone yelling for something.
11:00: Errands: After my shower, Teddy gets a diaper change (we use cloth diapers so frequent diaper changes are common) and I dress him. I pry the iPad out of Ben’s hands and he gets dressed too. Teddy is getting cranky, which reminds me that they boys need snacks before we can leave the house.
Any errands we need to do take place between 11 and 12:30. We tend to go to 2 different stores during the week and usually have one unique thing to do like a doctor or chiropractor appointment. If we don’t have errands to run that particular day, I like to do an activity with Ben before lunch like play dough, baking, or a letter or number recognition project.
12:15: Lunch: I always feel like I need another arm or two during meals because someone always wants something: another drink, more crackers, a refill of salsa, etc. Lunch is usually a drawn-out event due to toddler pickiness and preschooler stubbornness.
1:00: Nap and quiet play time: Teddy gets a diaper change, book, and is put down for his nap. Ben picks out a few toys from the living room, I set up a blanket fort in front of his closet, and he goes into his room for an hour of play time. I make lunch for myself, work on the family budget, throw laundry in the washer or dryer, check on work, and maybe read if I’m feeling too tired or am caught up enough. It’s pretty common for Brian to be ready for lunch around 1 so we often get to eat together.
2:30: Benny time: Ben was extraordinarily quiet during his play time and didn’t knock on his door to be let out until 2:30. He needs a snack (current favorite: trail mix with peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, and a few m&ms) and a show while I finish what I was working on. I also take the opportunity to fold a load of clean diapers and a load of laundry and pile up toys by Teddy’s door that were taken out to the living room during the morning.
3:00: Afternoon play time: Teddy is awake and I momentarily panic (this happens every single day) that I haven’t figured out dinner yet. We have pretty intense play time until Brian gets home so I need to be ready to hit the ground running at 5 if dinner is going to be ready before the boys hit melt down stage. Ben’s current favorite game involves pretending to be characters from a movie and piling pillows and blankets on his bed. Teddy loves climbing up the mountain and flopping on the pillows. I try to keep them from killing or injuring themselves or each other.
5:00: Daddy time! Both boys run screaming into the kitchen when Brian comes upstairs. Brian takes my place with the boys so I can start cooking dinner.
5:45: Dinner: We try to sit down as a family at the table to eat even if Brian and I aren’t eating until after the boys go to bed. It’s fairly rare that we go out for a date but we love being able to eat dinner and watch a movie together.
6:30: Baths: If it is a bath night, I put Teddy in the tub first and hand him off to Brian after he’s clean. I take Ben into the bathroom and give him his bath second. Brian finishes putting Teddy into his pjs, reading a book or two, and putting him to bed while Ben is in the tub. When Brian is done with Teddy, he takes over bath and bed routines for Ben so I can get the kitchen picked up (I generally give up and leave 25% of the cleaning for morning).
7:00: Relax? If there isn’t any more work to get done and my laundry is folded and the toy hurricane put away, I might get to watch a show or read. I often check with Brian to see what his evening plans are. If he is working after the boys go to bed, I tend to pull out my computer too. My favorite is when I can get into bed before 9.
10:00: I try to start getting ready for bed at 10, knowing full well that by the time I’ve washed up, checked on the boys (Ben likes to take off his pjs before he falls asleep), made sure the outside doors are locked, feed the cats, and do whatever else needs to be done, it’ll be closer to 11 by the time I’m actually ready to sleep.
Are you a mom surviving the chaos? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your chaos!