How I Do It

[Note: The following is my contribution to the “How I Do It” series at the New York Times’ Motherlode.  I thought the series provided a unique way to really see parenthood in action – there is no better way to answer the question “How do you do it?” than really laying it out, warts and all!]
 
Motherlode asked parents, from members of Congress to retail clerks, to share “how they do it” on one typical day.

Rebecca Hughes Parker is the editor in chief of The FCPA Report, a legal publication about anticorruption issues. Previously, she spent eight years as a litigator at a large law firm, a job she took while pregnant with her twin girls. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three daughters, 8-year-old twins and a 2-year-old. Her husband is the primary caregiver for the children. They have never had a nanny or a housekeeper.

Manhattan, Tuesday, May 14
5:20 a.m. My husband comes in from the truncated overnight shift he did at the local television station –  he freelances as a news writer for the morning show there and does a shift once every two weeks or so. Today he worked midnight to 5 a.m. He takes the dog out.

5:40 I peel myself off the bed and go into the room that my three girls — 8-year-old twins and a 2-year-old — share. I nudge Alex, one of the twins. “Are you sure you want to go?” I say, hoping she will say she wants to cancel ice skating and we can go back to bed. “I want to go,” she says. I tiptoe out of the room, thankful that for once the 2-year-old, Charlotte, does not wake up. The other twin, Natalie, sleeps like a log.

6:15 We are out the door, trying to hail a cab, she dragging her skates, me dragging mine. In the cab, we hold hands and look at the Hudson River. We answer the Jeopardy questions on the taxi television.

6:45 Alex is on the ice. I catch up on some reading for work I printed out the night before. I realize I have not ordered a car service to take us home, and I don’t see anyone there who can give us a ride. We will not be able to get a taxi back to the Upper West Side at this hour.

7:25 I am on the ice for my ice dancing lesson. It feels great to skate again, better than I had thought it would. I started about six weeks ago. I am there anyway; I might as well get a little exercise. I forget the steps to the fiesta tango and my skate hits my coach’s skate. He is patient with me.

7:55 Frantically trying to order a car home. Even with the hassle it is still better, and cheaper, than having a car in Manhattan. Really. It must be.

8:09 We finally get a car. I send a few e-mails to my associate editor on the way home, and one to the publisher.

8:25 Home. Charlotte is in her high chair, gleefully eating cereal Doug made for her. “Mommy, you go i-kating? I have beekfast!” She offers me a bite, which I take. I let Alex eat my muffin in the car.

8:35 Lots of drama as Natalie cannot find one the shoes that she “has to wear.” I get mad, and then feel bad for getting mad. The dog sits by the door looking at us expectantly in the chaos. The twins, the dog and I arrive at school, barely four blocks from our apartment, 20 minutes late. If I had remembered to order the car, we could have been on time. It’s tight, but we can do it.

8:50 Back home, I make some eggs and cuddle with Charlotte on the couch. Doug is folding laundry. “Eggs!” she says excitedly. I hand over a few forkfuls. We watch a little bit of our favorite shows, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street,” together. I sneak a few looks at my iPhone as we watch (I have seen both episodes already anyway). She wraps her arms around my neck as I start to disentangle from her to get changed. “No work, Mommy!” she says as I peel her off me. After eight years at a law firm, last year I became the editor of a legal publication about anti-corruption issues called The FCPA Report. It’s much more flexible, and sometimes I work at home, but it is still a lot of work. I am still the primary breadwinner for our family, after all.

9:45 At my midtown office, drinking a caffè misto from Starbucks. The subway ride was quick, but the car was packed, even at this late hour. The MTA has improved broadband service in the subway, and I am able to read three New York Times op-eds in the train.

10:30 I spill the coffee while on a conference call.

12:30 p.m. I eat the almond butter sandwich I made last night, post a photo on Facebook and comment on a few others. I text Doug to remind him he has to leave Charlotte’s Mommy-and-Me class (obviously a misnomer) early to pick up the twins from school to take them to the  eye doctor. I will meet him there. He knows this; I don’t have to remind him. There is no reason for me to go. But I want to. I always have questions. The twins have been going to the eye doctor regularly since they were infants because they were born over 10 weeks early. Natalie has a minor eye issue that needs to be monitored.

1:00 I am the co-class parent of Alex’s class, and I swap a few e-mails with my partner. We need to remind people to sign up for our booth at the Spring Fair.

2:55 I run out of the office to the subway, which thankfully comes quickly and I am there by 3:15. Doug and the three girls are waiting for me outside the eye doctor. Charlotte thrusts a drawing she made at her class at me. “For you!” she says. Doug tells me it was the last class of the year. I was hoping to make it there one more time (next year she will be going to real nursery school), but I shoo away any regrets. It is done.

3:30  In the examination room, Natalie is reading the letters on the wall. Charlotte looks at her, puzzled, and starts announcing the letters she knows, looking at us proudly. She says, “Me too!,” which is her favorite refrain, whether it be a request or an observation. Doug takes her into the waiting room. Natalie has a new prescription, and he will take her after school tomorrow to pick out new glasses.

4:00 We all get ice cream as they walk me to the subway. The twins are fine with me going back to the office. All they have known their whole lives is their mother working and their father staying home. Charlotte is just happy with her ice cream. I tell Doug I have an article to finish and I don’t know when I will get home. Doug tells me to stay as late as I need to stay. I know I want to see the kids before they go to bed. They wave goodbye as he walks home with them. I’m back in the office before 4:30.

7:45 I start packing up to leave and my computer freezes. I lose the download of a recording of a webinar we are reporting on. I silently curse the computer and download it again. I make sure I didn’t lose any edits in all the documents I had open. I did not.

8:15  Home. All the kids are bathed and ready for bed. Charlotte is dancing in the living room; the twins are reading and they don’t look up when I come in. I change my clothes and realize that I haven’t put away the clean clothes Doug has left for me in days. The piles on my dresser have tipped over onto the floor. I leave them. Char toddles in and demands we listen to the “Daniel Tiger song on computa” so we do. The twins join us and we all sing along.
8:30 “No bed!” Char yells as I hand her to Doug to put her in her crib. I heat up the dinner Doug left me (he cooks almost every night), and I eat it while watching “The Daily Show” from the night before. I ask Doug if the twins did their homework. He says they did. I make a mental note to try to look more at their homework.

9:00 I stretch out on my beloved foam roller and write another work e-mail on my phone while lying on the roller, MSNBC in the background. Doug runs to the market downstairs to get milk, and brings me chocolate. I hear Charlotte singing and she turns on the light, which she can now reach. Natalie comes out to inform me of this. Doug ushers her back in bed and turns off the light.

9:30 Doug goes to bed. I work on some personal writing, read the paper online and some articles from my Twitter feed. I get water from the refrigerator and realize Doug has cleaned it out. I had complained about the dirty refrigerator the other day, arguing that we should just hire a housekeeper so he doesn’t have to do it. As he has for years, he steadfastly said we do not need one.

10:15  I take the dog out and exchange a few texts with a friend about to have a baby this month, remembering the excitement, and discomfort, I felt before Charlotte was born.

11:00  I bring my phone and my New York Magazine to bed. I make my moves on my “Words with Friends” games, exchange a few texts with my associate editor. We publish biweekly and tomorrow is publication day, so the morning will be busy. Alex and I will not be skating. I wonder if I can fit in a spin class at Flywheel after we publish and look at the online schedule. I probably cannot. I put the phone down and pick up New York. I am a week behind. In the corner of my eye, I can still see the piles of clothes on the floor.

Copyright 2013 New York Times Company


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