(She might be the busiest mom in the world.)
My husband, John, and I have three beautiful daughters, ages 4, 4, and 3. My prosthodontic practice, a start-up, opened its doors one year ago. Recently, our arrangement has included my dropping off the girls at daycare while John picks them up. To do this, I usually wake up around 5:30 a.m., although my first patient isn’t scheduled until 9 a.m. Still, most days I barely make it to the office in time for our morning huddle. Here’s my typical day:
I’m not on speaking terms with my treadmill, but I do have one, which makes me feel better. My mornings are usually a blur of packed lunches, school permission slips, and missing keys. The morning of the first week of ballet camp starts on a promising note, though. Through some odd twist of fate, I am alone in my own bathroom - no husband, no children. This simple thing has evolved into one of the greatest joys in my life.
Eight minutes later, I am joined by my 3-year-old, Rory; at least I guess it’s her when the Dora doll falls to my feet on the shower floor.
The closest I get to yoga stretches this morning is extending one foot to keep Rory from bathing her stuffed Pooh Bear in the toilet while I simultaneously dry my hair and apply my makeup. My left eye is done when I hear the splash that tells me Pooh is underwater … again. I continue to apply my mascara and hope that Pooh will accept having to take one for the team.
8 a.m. - The daycare
A miracle occurs. All three children make it to daycare. The right daycare. And they’re all dressed and with lunches, karate outfits, blankets, pillows, extra pants, two pairs of yellow Dora socks, and underwear. I whisper a silent thank you to the U.S. Navy for the extensive training I received and now use to manage toddlers.
9:04 a.m. - The office
My staff is in the middle of our morning meeting to review our daily schedule. They’re staring. Why are they staring? My office manager is winking at me. My assistant is pointedly twitching her right eye. Oh God. I realize I have makeup on only one eye. This would explain the confused look from my daughters’ daycare teacher. Yes, I look like that scary actor from “A Clockwork Orange,” but my team is the definition of professionalism. They’re picturing me as one of the unfortunate women on the back page of Cosmopolitan with a black bar over my eyes and the caption “Fashion Don’ts!” But, they are professionals. Plus, I pay them. So once again, they graciously cover my fashion faux pas with subdued remarks on how my avante garde appearance keeps me in touch with our younger patients. “How very clever and daring of Dr. Cantwell!” God bless their forgiving hearts. Mental note: Give them all raises.
11:30 a.m. - The ballet camp
I race to pick up my twins from ballet camp. Seriously. During the work week. Instead of lunch. I’m still relatively new to my town, so I know one way and one way only to get to the ballet school. I made it through college, graduate school, and a residency, and I’m still able to get hopelessly lost within minutes. Who can I blame for arranging this? Myself? My husband? Satan?
As I wait in the reception room for their impossibly skinny teacher to dismiss them, I stare at the full-length mirror in front of me. (Mental note: Lose 50 pounds. No, wait - 55 pounds. Maybe just try to get back down to my original birth weight of 7 pounds? Maybe just smash that carnival mirror.) How did I get here? I was just in the front row of a concert. I used to be incredibly cool. I had leather pants. The women sitting next to me at ballet camp are wearing clothes that are ironed. I used to have an iron. Do I still have an iron? A better mother would know where her iron is. They were probably talking about my wrinkled children when I walked in. Correction: when I walked in almost late.
Late to pick up my beloved children who rely on me to be on time. The women next to me are talking about how difficult it is to be away from little Mary/Beth/Tiffany for three hours. I am secretly willing myself to become invisible. I have never been able to lie, and if one of these mothers makes eye contact with me she will instantly see that my children have been in daycare (gasp!), and they will judge me. And I will burst into well-deserved flames as punishment for wanting both a family and a career. The mom closest to me leans over and complains that the dance studio should really have a double-sided mirror so that we can watch our children every second, “just in case.” Thank goodness the door to the studio opens and I’m saved by the arrival of a teacher/waif in tights. My shadow weighs more than she does. I watch as my children come out laughing and joking and suddenly all the running around and stress is worth it.
There is one little girl who has cried each day to the point of being physically ill. Ironically, it’s the daughter of the mom who is afraid to let her out of her sight for the duration of dance class. I have no doubts that her mom is devoted to her well-being. She’s obviously doing what she believes is best for her daughter. But it does make me question my family’s choices a little less, though. My children are well-adjusted and healthy despite my inability to boil water without burning the pan. True, I don’t own a spatula, but my girls are developing at a great pace and constantly surprise me with their language skills. They are even adding Spanish to their vocabulary. At 4, they have a greater command of a second language than I do. Granted, I can barely speak my first language.
12:30 p.m.- The daycare, take 2
I just dropped off the children at daycare and am driving the 20 miles back to the office.
1:07 p.m. - The stalker
I’m running late. Very, very late. My assistant, Kelly, is trying to distract my patients. With a little luck, my patients will not notice that their dentist is sneaking around the side of the building like a stalker. I’ve seen Kelly in action before. There should be an Academy Award for dental assistants trying to maintain a calm environment for a patient. “Certainly not, Mrs. X, that couldn’t possibly be Dr. Cantwell crawling through the hibiscus outside the window! I can see how you might say that, but honestly, we must have at least two or three women in white coats and scrubs in the flowerbed each day.”
5:35 p.m.- The procrastinator
I am off to the car and I have not gotten any of my letters written, calls returned, or charts reviewed. I tell myself I can get up an hour earlier tomorrow and take care of it.
6:15 p.m. - The prize
Best part of my day! I am knocked over by three children eager to share the events of their day.