Leaving the house in the morning: a mother’s Odyssey

This is not my apartment door. It is way too clean. Credit: Colourbox
This is not my apartment door. That room is way too clean. Credit: Colourbox

My husband does this amazing thing where he can put on his jacket, check for his wallet, grab the kid and leave the house. He can do this if there are dishes in the sink. He can leave if the trash is overflowing and the high chair is still sticky. He can leave if the bed is unmade, if the couch cushions are in disarray. He can leave without checking the diaper bag. He just goes.

It is magic to me.

Because me? I go slightly insane. The act of walking out the door has become crippling as of late. Because what if — what if — we’re all murdered while we’re away and CSU has to come into our apartment? Will they cringe in horror, not at our untimely death but because of the collection of Cheerios on the floor? I think about a hardscrabble detective, close to retirement, looking at our mess. He’ll contemplate parsing the thousands of pieces of dog fur for that one strand of human hair, the key to the identity of our killer. It will take a few beats but finally, he’ll sigh deeply, shrug and stamp “Unsolved” on our case file, then go grab a drink with the guys. I didn’t bother to vacuum for two weeks and now our murder will go unsolved. Way to go, me.

If I think that CSU won’t be aghast at our living situation, I can leave the apartment in time. If not, well, it’s chaos. So many times at the stroke of 8 a.m., I’ve almost made it out the door — my toddler strapped into his stroller in his winter coat, ready to go. I’m in my jacket with my handbag and ready for the day. I put my hand on the doorknob but then, because I can’t help myself, I do one final sweep of the apartment and suddenly spy 14 things that need to be done before I can go. I then sprint back and forth between the bedroom, living room and kitchen, throwing water glasses in the sink, socks in the hamper and breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. I pick up the motley assortment of things that seem to always be on our floor — this morning it was four magnets, two pens, a Swiffer pack, an avocado peel, dog kibble, various coins and three socks (two of which were my husband’s). And, dear reader, I didn’t even bother to touch the discarded blocks and Legos. While I run around, I do a sing-song apology to my now confused and hot son — “So-rey! So-rey! Mommy is coming! One more min…ute!” — as he has inevitably begun kicking to get out of his stroller while stranded like a colorful little boat in the middle of the still-messy living room. Why I can’t do this at 6 a.m. when I actually wake up and still in my pajamas with my son not strapped into his stroller, I do not know. I guess I am just a beautiful mystery.

Here is my defense: As a working mom, when you leave your home in the morning, you leave for the day. There is no coming back. We must pack the things that will sustain us for 9 or 10 hours while out and about. For my son, I have to make sure lunches are packed, that his diaper is clean, that he has the right clothing, and that he doesn’t look too much like an orphan out of a Charles Dickens novel. So many times I’ve just thrown his hat and gloves in his diaper bag instead of putting them on him, as though the act of bringing them is the same as having him wear them on the walk over. I do all of this while attempting to look presentable myself. That means no yogurt on my clothing, brushing my hair, putting on makeup, making sure I match (my son usually isn’t so lucky. Sorry, kid.) Let’s just say that on Yoga Pant Saturdays, I don’t have such a hard time leaving the apartment.

Luckily, I had a pretty easy go of it this morning: I got out the door by 8 a.m. even though I decided to run the vacuum at the last minute. (Watch out possible murderer! You will not get away this time!) My hair — and teeth — are brushed. And yet, as I write this, I realize I’ve forgotten to put on deodorant. (Sorry, coworkers.) But I’m here, and I’m writing. My keys, wallet and cellphone are in my bag. I do not have a lunch packed but that’s why God created Pret A Manger. I got out of the house and for that, I pat myself on the back.


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