Sometimes, it takes a 36-hour day

Categories: Career, Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle, Working? Living?


Hi! I’m Lylah. I’m a mom and step-mom to five kids, ages 1 to 14. I work full-time outside the home (as a newspaper editor), full-time inside the home (cooking, cleaning, laundry, laundry, laundry), and part-time on the side (writing, mostly).

The question I hear most often (other than “Are all of those kids yours?”) is “How do you get it all done?”

Honestly, I don’t know. House elves?

It doesn’t always all get done, really. I don’t have a staff of nannies and housekeepers at my disposal. The laundry sometimes waits, clean and folded (or not), for weeks in a corner of our room. The dust bunnies coalesce into herds under the beds and taunt the dog. If the baby finds a piece of cereal on the kitchen floor, I’m inclined to just let him eat it because it’s technically a food product and a little dirt builds up the immune system, right?

I love to cook, and since two of our kids have food allergies, a lot of what we eat has to be made from scratch. Even so, there are nights when pizza is manna from heaven and I count spaghetti sauce as a vegetable. My husband picks the kids up in the afternoons and I handle the drop-off routine; it took several episodes of arriving at the office with an hours-old cascade of spit-up or dried food on my front before I thought to throw a T-shirt over my work clothes in the morning (my current look: dress pants, pearls, and a ratty souvenir from David Bowie’s 1990 Sound + Vision tour).

So, if it’s such a hassle, why did I keep my career?

For women, working outside the home is often presented as a choice (and a selfish one, at that). But the reality is, many of us have to work. We’re not doing it to amuse ourselves or to get a little more money for a manicure; our families rely on our incomes.

I work because I love what I do (most days, anyway). But I also work because I can’t afford not to.

As for that ever-popular question — “How do you get it all done?” — stay tuned as I try to figure it out. One thing’s for sure: Sometimes, I need more than 24 hours. Sometimes, it takes a 36-hour day.

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15 comments so far...

  • hi Lylah! so glad i am not the only one with scary furbunnies hiding out under funiture only to appear when someone comes to the door! impossible to keep up with, we have 2 cats and a dog and our 1 son! so far i have managed to instill in my son that cleaning is FUN! he even asks for me to pull the vaccum out as if it were a toy! lol!! my hubby just shakes his head, but it makes me smile :) hubby is a SLOB so i am very excited to have 2 against 1 on the mess front!

    Kate  |  November 6th, 2007 at 1:08 pm

  • Hi, Kate!

    Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve hated the sound a vacuum cleaner makes — so, I hate to vacuum, but I love having vacuumed, if that makes any sense. I have a tendency to clutter, which drives my husband batty… more on that in another post!

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Lylah  |  November 6th, 2007 at 1:20 pm

  • How old are the children? Do your stepkids live with you full-time?

    Third reason for letting the baby eat the cereal off the floor: that makes one less thing for the other kids to step in and track all over the house.

    MaryP  |  November 6th, 2007 at 5:55 pm

  • Hi, MaryP!

    My kids are 14, 11, 9, 3, and 1 — the “Big Three,” as I like to call them, are with us for the whole summer and school vacations, plus long weekends every few weeks. So, I guess the best way to put it is part-time full-time?

    Good point about the cereal! :) Thanks for stopping by!

    Lylah  |  November 6th, 2007 at 6:13 pm

  • Hi Lylah!

    I loved your first post here - I think a lot of us can relate. And the thing is, sometimes it just DOESN’T all get done, and we try to make peace with that.

    I like your description of your stepkids as being “full-time part-time” - its similar with mine. They’re with us twice a week, alternate weekends, specified holidays, and one week of winter break. But my child’s grown and on his own now, so it’s not as crazy as it could be.

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

    Florinda  |  November 7th, 2007 at 1:03 pm

  • Thanks, Florinda! I love how you wrote “it’s not as crazy as it could be” instead of “not crazy” — I totally feel the same way!

    You’re so right about trying to make peace with everything just not getting done all the time. That’s part of why I feel like my life is more of a juggling act than a balancing act…

    Lylah  |  November 7th, 2007 at 1:13 pm

  • Hi! It’s really hard to learn that some things (like housework!) just have to wait, isn’t it? I find it’s even harder for me because my hubs is a little bit of a neat freak and gets weirded out about the mess a little sooner than I do.

    Enjoyed the first post!

    Leandra  |  November 7th, 2007 at 2:07 pm

  • If you find those elusive hours, do you think you can share? Sounds like you’re doing a pretty good job of keeping it all together. I certainly like reading your perspective on the balance! I can’t wait to read more.

    Mandy  |  November 7th, 2007 at 2:13 pm

  • Hi, Leandra! Nice to see you! :)

    My husband has selective sight when it comes to housecleaning… it’s the clutter, though, that makes him crazy. Me? I’m a bit of a packrat. Well, more than a bit. I still have journals from 7th grade in our basement. I mean MY journals from 7th grade, not my daughters’…

    Glad you enjoyed the post! Please take a look around Work It, Mom! in general… it’s a great site!

    Lylah  |  November 7th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

  • Hi, Mandy!

    I had to do some pretty unique math to get the 36-hours… I’ll be sure to share in my next post!

    I’m enjoying reading your member notes. I totally realte to how hard it is to catch up after only a single day off!

    Lylah  |  November 7th, 2007 at 2:22 pm

  • I have three - 21, 18, and 14. The oldest lives on her own now. My husband has five - 19, 17, 16, 14, and 12. His oldest is away at university. So that means that half of all vacations and alternate weekends we have five kids — which is down from eight a couple of years ago.

    And then, during the daytime hours when the kids are at school, I run a daycare: five kids three and under.

    “Doing it all” is someone else’s dream. It doesn’t even come anywhere near my radar. Which is just FINE.

    MaryP  |  November 8th, 2007 at 2:04 pm

  • Wow, MaryP, you’ve got a full house!

    I have to admit, I’m happiest when mine is full. It’s hectic, but I love it.

    Looking forward to checking out your blog!

    Lylah  |  November 8th, 2007 at 2:08 pm

  • Hi L! You’ll be glad to know we’re a devoted Globe family. Not only that, but DH is an editor too (Sr Editor at one of the few remaining publishing cos in Boston - reference bks). We both work FT, and live south of Boston. My commute is decent (approx 15-20 mins to RI), but DH does the commuter rail, so his commute is 1+ hr each way.
    Whenever someone asks me what I want (for Xmas, b-day, whatever), I usually immediately scream “TIME!!” Esp time where I have the house to myself. Part of the time I’d CLEAN. I’m a “piler”: I have piles of stuff all over, esp paperwork. (Including Globes I have to catch up on, LOL) But I also need some time to just relax in my house & BREATHE. Is that such a radical idea, that a house can be used as a mediative respite? HA.

    See you around the ‘hood… :-)

    Paula  |  November 9th, 2007 at 9:51 am

  • I have three kids and run a home-based business. I worked outside of the home in addition to my home-based business for a while. When people ask me how I do it all, I say “I don’t.”

    A few things that do help….I lived with my husband for a year before we got married. He knew that if he didn’t do half (sometimes more), then half wouldn’t get done.

    My girls who are 6 and 11 have chores that make a big difference…load/unload the dishwasher, make thier own lunches, clean cat litter, fold thier own clothes. This helps a lot. Our 2-year old son tries to help too. He’s getting there.


    Amy  |  November 9th, 2007 at 10:11 am

  • Hi, Paula, Hi, Amy! Thanks for coming by!

    Paula, I totally identify with the piling of stuff! And I, too, ask for “time,” as a gift but as soon as I get some to myself there seem to be a zillion things that need to get done. I need to work on actually using my time for me!

    Amy — good answer to the “How do you do it” question! Our big kids have chores that they do when they’re with us, and my 3-year-old tries so hard to help, but there are definitely times when it’s easier to just do it myself. Must work on that, too — she needs to learn, even if, for now, learning means unfolding all of the laundry that I just finished folding because she is “helping…”

    Thanks for your comments!

    Lylah  |  November 9th, 2007 at 11:52 am