This morning I had an 8.45am meeting, but the uniform shop at school didn’t open until 8.30am. Ordinarily the uniform shop opening hours factor into my day exactly never, but not this day. This day Lottie needed socks, shorts and a shirt for Mod Ball because she has mysteriously made it into the PSSA Mod Ball Junior Squad at school.
“What’s Mod Ball?” I asked, after the requisite cheering and wooting at her news.
“I’m not sure,” she answered.
Like I said, mysterious.
The posted 8.30am opening time for the uniform shop was pushed to 8.38am because the team was so busy trying to pack Mod Ball orders. I sweated out the front, staring down the closed Uniform Shop door and joking with my mate KJ that we would storm the joint if it didn’t open by 8.40am.
I bought the kit, slung it Lottie’s way and raced out the door, yelling, “Have fun at Mod Ball today! Play your best! Love you! No really, I doooooo!”
I ran to the car, literally sweating by this stage, slammed the car into Drive, puttered along at 40km/hr for what seemed like days, zipped on home, paused momentarily as I got out of the car to grab the bag of abandoned fried zucchini flowers that were making the car smell like a fat trap (sorry Nonna, we left them in the car last night!), ran up our mountainous driveway, ran up the crumbling front steps, threw my handbag in the vicinity of the hook by the door, carouselled into my desk chair, logged into my computer, clicked on Skype and made the meeting call at 8.50am.
Phew. Five minutes grace is perfectly acceptable, right?
It’s not often my work and home life collide so spectacularly, but peak-hour occurs twice a day like clock work regardless. Those mornings, those evenings.
In the evenings when the kids were small, by 6pm I felt like my head was going to explode. I would probably have let it, but I knew it would be up to me to clean up the mess so no. Things aren’t much better now the kids are older, although, hallelujah, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to supervise a bath or dress a child. The horror hour has switched to 8pm (later dinner time, later bath time, later bed time, means later witching hour), but the feeling of “aren’t you in bed, already?” remains as heavy as ever.
Each night, at 8pm, I’m just 100% ready to clock off. I’ve done the mothering thing, we’ve all had a lovely time, but I want to go home now. Unfortunately, the kids’ bedtime is now 8.30pm for the girls and 9pm for the boy, so… I don’t get to go home when I want to.
Some nights, if we’re out, the kids’ bedtime might even stretch until 10pm or so, in which case I am so over them that my teeth hurt from fake smiling. We get home and all the good nights are said and the cuddles and the kisses and the I love yous and I say, “why are you still here? Why aren’t you in bed?”
Then, because for some reason it never quite went away as the kids grew older, it’s “Tuck In Time”. Tuck In Time involves more cuddles and kisses and I love yous, but this time in bed. With added, “My tummy hurts” and “I’m a bit scared about that thing that’s happening 6 months from now and desperately need to talk to you about it right now” and “I’m bleeding!” moments. Always brought up right at bedtime. It’s really Fuck It Time, but don’t tell the kids.
Mum Peak Hour. We can’t avoid the morning / night traps. We can’t rat run around them. We can’t even elect to go home a bit early to miss the 8pm rush. We are stuck in the bumper-to-bumper traffic with three kids in the backseat bickering because one of them found a stray hair that didn’t belong to them on their leg and someone needs to pay mightily for daring to randomly discard hair. on. my. leg.
I wish I could offer words of comfort for all my fellow mums travelling through Peak Hour twice a day, every day (we don’t even get weekends off! I know!). But there are none. These are the grit-your-teeth-and-just-get-on-with-it moments that every mother knows well. The moments that make us question why we ever signed up for this gig in the first place. But hear this: these are not the moments we should be focusing on. Rather, these are the ones we need to drive straight on past, without a backward glance in the rear-vision mirror.
When are your peak hours and what do you do to get through them?