The alarm blares in my ears and my heart does that automatic panic it does every morning when I attempt to get up without waking the kids.
7 A.M. already? It felt like I slept for 15 minutes. My eyes burned from the three o’clock cries of my almost two year old who still doesn’t sleep through the night. And the urine soaked sheets that had to be changed at 5 in the morning because his older brother had an accident. By the time I found new sheets for the bed and put a towel over the wet-spot, the sun was creeping up. Mocking my silent plea for just three hours of uninterrupted sleep.
It was not meant to be.
My husband had left for work two hours before sunrise. If I wanted a shower, this was my only window of time. I drag my weary body towards the master bath, trying to keep the house as quiet and still as my babies needed it to complete their 8 hours of rest. At this age, they should be sleeping for 12 hours each night!
Ha! In order to achieve that, I would have to keep them in bed till noon. Gone were the days when my youngest would fall asleep faithfully at 8PM each night. Even when we go through their bedtime routines by 7PM, they sit wide-eyed until 11:00/11:30 on most nights. It takes 10,000 cups of juice, water, milk and dozens of snack bribes before they run out of requests and sleep will no longer be denied. Neither one of them will sleep without touching me in some form or fashion.
What happened to my sweet babies who slept in their bassinet or crib from the first day they arrived from the hospital? Toddlerhood has morphed them into these two men-in-training with personalities bigger than their combined 50 lb frames.
I love them with a fierceness that keeps me kissing their cheeks and praying for their futures even when my brain reminds me that I have not had one minute to myself today.
I turn on the shower to the hottest setting before entering. The scalding heat seems to melt my weariness away for a few minutes and I sink into the deliciousness of the water on my skin. Even when the kids are asleep, my mom brain tells me not to linger too long or one will wake up in tears and wake his brother. They panic when I’m not in the room to meet the morning with them. As if the house has swallowed their mom whole.
Ten or fifteen minutes is all I allow myself. I moisturize and move to my closet to choose my uniform for the day. These days, I dress with purpose. A collection of new dresses from my mom and Mom-in-love means I have options. Every day my outfit most reflect my new role as a woman who works from home. My look must be comfortable but polished. Professional yet low-key. Most days I go from making breakfast with the kids to making a run to the courthouse for a client to meeting a new client at the office. Wardrobe changes would only slow me down.
I choose a black and white sweater dress which is mid length and appropriate for all work duties. A new favorite since the weather decided our free trial of spring was over and temperatures now hover in the 40s on most days. Again, the dress reminds me to be grateful for hubby’s mom who knows my size instinctively no matter how it fluctuates, and who also happens to have amazing taste in clothes. In another life, she would make a superb personal shopper or stylist.
No sooner did I slip the dress on, my youngest cries “mom-my?” Their cries seem to affect me differently than it does their dad. If they are not hurt or in distress, my husband can tune them out for hours at a time. I, on the other hand, have heart palpitations whenever one of them seems to cry in pain. Even when they are crying just because it’s Tuesday, the noise interrupts the effective functioning of all my major organs. It’s a biological response. I literally cannot think straight when their crying is prolonged and uniterrupted.
I scoop up my youngest pumpkin and plant a kiss on his soft, brown cheek. “Good morning boo boo,” my nickname for both kids since they were en utero.
“Tood monin, Mommy.”
How could you not love that cuteness? The next two hours are filled with bath time, picking out clothes, dental hygiene and all the like as both kids are wide awake now and ready for breakfast. We head downstairs towards the kitchen and I turn the TV to PBS Kids or Rootle as it has been renamed. Breakfast is simple, pancakes that only need one minute in the microwave for a stack of three and my (almost) world-famous scrambled eggs with red peppers, tomatoes and onions – a family favorite. As the kids sit down to breakfast, the requests for juice, milk, Daddy, chocolate chip cookies or a new toy from the store pile on, uninterrupted. I say yes almost automatically. Not exactly promising anything but mainly attempting to get a few minutes of silence so that the food will actually make its way into their tummies.
My kids are a joy except when they are hungry (which is every 45 minutes). I am not trying to deal with toddler attitudes today so for all of our sanity’s sake, breakfast is a most.
It briefly dawned on me that I had been awake for three hours and have yet to sit down. I shrug off the thought as my youngest declares he is done with pancakes and hunts down a book for me to read aloud. It’s the same “First Words” book we’ve read 981 times at this point but it’s clearly a crowd favorite. Before I could sit down to oblige, my phone rings. The number an unfamiliar one, I hesitate briefly then answer. Hopefully it’s not a telemarketer.
”Hello, my name is *insert generic Yoruba name* I got this number from *insert unique Yoruba name of someone I do not know*. Please how can I see you today? It’s urgent. I have some matters with immigration that someone said you can help me with.”
I take a mental deep breathe or sigh, careful not to make my thoughts audible.
Why do Nigerians do this to me? Even if the matter could be explained in five minutes over the phone or via email, they insist on meeting in person. I’ve resigned myself to our culture and no longer complain. Immediately I do some mental calculations. If I’m desperate (I am), I can ask my mom to watch the kids for me while I make this meeting. We are dressed already so it would take me 30 minutes to get the kids unloaded at my moms house and another 30 say goodbye and drive to my office.
“If you’re free now, I can meet you in an hour or so? Do you want to meet at my office by 11:30pm?” I offer.
”Yes, that will be fine. Please send me the address.”
”Okay, I will text you now. Thank you, sir,” I reply, hoping I sound gracious and professional, while trying to keep the children’s background noise to a minimum.
I scoop up shoes, jackets and preferred car toys in their various sizes and push the kids towards the garage. I open the door for my oldest munchkin and encourage him to get in his chair “like a big boy!” He does so with agility and I round the back of the car to buckle his baby brother in his car seat before returning to secure my first born. My arms are burning from the combined weight of my son and a mountain of jackets and toys but we are locked and loaded. Ten minutes later, we pull into my parents drive way. The ranch styled house took a while to grow on me after living in two stories my whole life but now it’s home too. I use my key and nudge the kids inside while I peep into the master bedroom to find my mom.
”Hey Baby!” She calls from the bathroom.
”I have a meeting at the office, can you watch the children for me?”
”Sure, that’s no problem. Go ahead and go. I’m coming out now,” my mom emerges from the bathroom smelling like flowers and warmth. Her hair still in a silk bonnet even though she’s dressed for the day.
”Thank you, Mama. I should be back in like two hours or so,” I give a quick hug and kiss on the cheek and dash off.
“Bye baby. Listen to Grandma,” I directed to no one in particular as I hug both boys. Within minutes I am driving towards my office. I arrive 15 minutes later and shoot a quick text to my appointment.
“Please call when you are in the parking lot so i can meet you in the lobby.” The winding hallway of our business building winds along in four different directions when you enter and it’s easy to get lost. Six years after moving in here, I still don’t know our suite number so I can never give it out with any semblance of confidence unless I am looking at the door.
I take a few minutes to tidy up my desk, find a notepad and move to the front desk that belongs to my office mate and colleagues. Her desk is more impressive than mine hidden behind the bookshelf that separates our work spaces so I prefer to meet clients there when she’s not in.
I rack my brain, trying to place the name of the person who referred this new prospective client to my office.
I’m better with faces than names so it could very well be someone I’ve spoken to dozens of times and I’ve never bothered to ask their name.
“I’m here,” my text messages buzz, interrupting my reverie.
“On my way,” I reply without a thought.
When I walk to the lobby, the only unfamiliar face belongs to a man, early thirties, skinny and dark complexion. I smile a hello and walk towards him.
“Mr. *generic Yoruba name*? I ask with an uncertain smile.
“Yes! Nice to meet you,” he replies, beaming as he extends his hand.
We shake hands and walk towards my office. “I’m glad you were able to find the building okay,” I say by way of conversation.
“Oh yes. You are very close to my uncle’s place. He lives on this side on town,” he volunteers.
When we sit down at my (colleague’s) desk, Mr Generic Yoruba Name begins telling me the cause of his visit. Someone had told him that their sister’s cousin’s niece’s best friend got their green card by filing as a ward of the state. Did I know how he could do the same and how much would it cost?*
I explain that I have never heard of such a thing and that he should give me time to investigate it.
Do I know if he could travel to Nigeria if he’s visiting visa is about to expire?*
We went over the stipulations of his visa and after twenty more minutes of questions, he was satisfied and ready to take his leave. He promises to follow up with me if anything changes and I also determine to look into the matters we discussed to see if there was any merit to the information he was given.
When he leaves, I check in with my office-mate who informs me that one of my traffic clients dropped off a past due payment. It’s in the office on my desk. I walk back over to my desk and notice the inconspicuous blank envelope under my printer.
The money is enough to pay a utility bill at home and put gas in my car for the week.
After making the deposit into my business operating account, I head back towards my parents’ house. I actually need to sit down and write today. And I need to eat. My hunger pangs remind me that I skipped breakfast this morning and haven’t stopped for lunch yet.
When I get back to my parent’s house, I grab a banana and a piece of baked chicken from the oven. The kids are lost in the magic of Disney Junior so after their initial squeal of glee at my entrance, they go back to ignoring me, fixated on the screen. I sit down and savor my snack. I could go home now to write which may or may not happen because being back home with both kids in tow means going back to running back and forth fixing snacks, getting toys, changing diapers, assisting with potty breaks, breaking up fights, cleaning up messes and praying desperately for nap-time
At least if I stayed at my parent’s house for a couple of more hours, I had some help. After relaxing for 30 minutes, I bite the bull by the horn. It’s time to head home. I want to figure out dinner before my husband gets home at 6pm. I load up all our diaper bags and toys and my mom helps me buckle the boys into their seats, and we are off.
By the time we pulled up to our garage, both boys are asleep. I say a silent thank you to God and gingerly unload them. My oldest sleeps like the dead when he naps. I unload him first, laying him on the coach and carefully removing his coat and shoes before returning for his younger brother.
My youngest pumpkin stirs in protest as I move him out of his car seat. My heart thumps within me. Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up. He quiets back down and I find my breathe again. I lay him on the couch with the care of a bomb-squad disengaging a homemade explosive. One wrong move and the whole house will explode into chaos and I can kiss writing (or peeing by myself) goodbye until their dad gets home.
By some miracle, we made it without either child waking up. I sit down to work on my novel. I started the story when my youngest was a newborn and abandoned it at various times because of the challenges of motherhood. But inspiration has been calling to me over the past weeks and it will not be denied today. As the story of Nora and her loved ones unfolds before my screen, I look down to discover that two hours have gone by. Time to get dinner ready.
I need something easy and delicious.
Fried whiting, baked sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables. I make quick work of the dinner preparation and when my husband walks in, I’m washing the last of the dishes.
“Hi, hunny!” I greet him with a grin and a hug before planting a kiss on his lips.
“Hey!” He replies with a twinkle in his eyes, his gaze roving over my body in appreciation.
He still makes me blush.
(Look out for Part 2)
*Conversations portrayed here are fictional renditions of the types of inquiries I get at my office. I would NEVER actually disclose the contents of my conversation with a client because client-confidentiality is a thing (a big thing) and so is the State Bar. I don’t want those problems.