From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide


You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave.

~Quentin Crisp

I love the above quotation because that’s how motherhood can feel, especially when your children are young. The demands are relentless, you never catch up, and you’re always tired. You are most certainly “under fire,” as most of us try to pack an awful lot of living into our days — more than we should — but not as much as we wish we could handle!

This collection of stories is meant to entertain you and support you while it also painlessly imparts some valuable lessons about how you might want to run your life and your household. My husband and I have four kids, all grown now, but I wish I had been able to read stories like these when the kids were younger. They would have helped put things in perspective, and since the stories are short, they would have made for great reading interludes while waiting… in the pickup line, at sports, during tantrums, for late kids, etc.

In our chapter on “Making ‘Me Time’ ” you’ll hear from moms who have “been there, done that” and have already come to grips with the need to create some balance in their lives. In “R Is for Randi” we meet Randi Mazzella, who had an epiphany when her friend gave her a pendant with an “R” on it. Randi had focused so much on her kids’ initials that it hadn’t even occurred to her that she could wear her own initial. As Randi wrote, “I realized that to be a good mother, I also had to be my own person — not just someone who solely existed to take care of other people.”

The “Feeding the Family” chapter will make you laugh, and for those of you who are not domestic goddesses in the kitchen, there is some comfort in these stories too, as mother after mother discloses her own food-disaster story. I have one of my own stories in there, which can be summed up by the following excerpt: “My daughter came home from school, excited about something new that she had learned in kindergarten. ‘Did you know that in some families the mommy cooks?’ ” You’ll also find some tips about how to bring the family together in the kitchen and around the dinner table.

Speaking of tips, we received so many wonderful stories filled with great advice that I wish I had heard when I was starting out as a mother. We selected a baker’s dozen for our “Sharing Good Advice” chapter. You’ll pick up some ideas for reducing sibling squabbling, for giving your kids some control over their lives, for managing privileges like watching TV, and for maintaining the romance with your significant other. Lori Lara sums up one of the most important themes in the book in her story “The Fantasy of Motherhood” when she says, “There’s a special joy that comes from making peace with domestic chaos.”

We all have certain stories that we love to tell over and over again at family gatherings. And most of them seem to involve disasters of some kind, which are quite funny in retrospect, but perhaps not so funny at the moment they occurred. If you need a laugh, turn to Chapter 4, “Laughing After the Fact.” Patricia Lorenz’s story, “The Longest Day Ever,” is a perfect example of a story that we just had to include for you: On a very harried day, when Patricia needed help, she carefully explained to her two-year-old how to push the button to turn off the TV He remembered “push” and “TV” After Patricia heard a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass, she went running. Her son proudly showed her how he had “pushed off” the TV… right off the stand.

And that leads us to housework, which never goes away. Between the housework and the repairs, my list never seems to get shorter. I loved Ann Kronwald’s story, “A Busy Mom’s Guide to Home Selling,” in our chapter about “Handling Housework Hassles.” Faced with a last-minute repeat visit from prospective homebuyers, Ann had to clean up the house in thirty minutes, no easy feat when you have four children under the age of five and you have been baking. In a panic, Ann stashed everything, including the dirty dishes, in her minivan in the garage, finally finding a good use for those tinted windows. It worked and they went to contract on the house the next day!

We moms are always teaching our kids, even as we are multitasking our way through our busy days. But they teach us too, and in the “Learning from the Kids” chapter, we read about the life lessons that our offspring share with us. Diane Stark has a great story called “Building Sand Castles that Last” about the day that her son insisted they keep building sand castles right next to the water, ensuring that each one would be destroyed almost immediately after its completion. Diane couldn’t understand her son’s joy, but then she realized that it was just like all the things she did for her family, like making dinner, and doing the laundry, and cleaning. They all had to be done again and again, and she had sometimes wondered if her friends with jobs were doing more important work than she was doing. Diane said, “I am building something important, something that will last forever. I’m building a family. And nothing matters more than that.”

For those women who do have jobs, along with all the other work of motherhood, we have a whole chapter of stories called “Juggling a Career” that will make you feel like you’re not the only one who has a crazy life. In “Why I’ll Never Be Volunteer of the Month,” author Amelia Rhodes talks about how her daughter seemed disappointed that her working mom was never named volunteer of the month at school. Amelia just didn’t have the time to put in the hours required for the award. Then on a family vacation that occurred between Amelia’s book release and a marathon she was running in (another passion that took her away from volunteering) her daughter said, “It’s so cool to have a mom who writes books and runs marathons.” Amelia concluded that “what matters most — following your passions, being there for your family, celebrating together — those all can be balanced in a way that everyone wins.”

And that brings us to guilt, and why you shouldn’t have it. In our “Feeling Guilty” chapter, attorney Sara Rickover has a story called “Not So Guilty After All” about how her kids used to reprimand her for going over legal papers while she was watching their games. She really had no choice — she had to squeeze in her work whenever she could. Now that her children are adults, with their own careers, she is watching with amusement as they squeeze in conference calls and e-mails during family vacations. I recommend that those of you who are feeling guilty try to defer that guilt for a decade or two — I can almost guarantee that your kids will tell you how much they appreciate what you did for them once they are grown.

So now that you know that you are not alone in your multitasking madness, that you should take some time for yourself, and that you shouldn’t feel guilty, you should read the last chapter of the book, “Slowing Down,” and make a resolution for yourself and your family. Marya Morin wrote a wonderful story called “Special Hour” in which she explains how she decided to give her son his own undisturbed hour with her several days a week after she realized that she was letting too many other obligations interfere with their time together. She says that she is “grateful that I discovered the importance of making time for what was most precious in my life — before being a busy mom made me too busy to be a mom.”

Since we love quotations at Chicken Soup for the Soul, I’ll conclude with one by Anton Chekhov that beautifully describes what it’s like to be a multitasking mom: “Any idiot can face a crisis — it’s day-to-day living that wears you out.” I’m glad that you are taking a little “me time” to relax and read this collection of inspirational, entertaining, and educational stories. I hope that you will enjoy reading this multitasking mom’s survival guide as much as we enjoyed making it for you!

~Amy Newmark

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