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There IS a Dish Fairy, and Other Lies I Have Convinced My Family Are True

Sometimes one can do a job too well. Since I quit my full-time job to stay home with my kids, I have seen most household responsibilities as part of my job.


Taking care of their health and well-being has been my top priority, but the everyday maintenance that comes along with living in a house with a group of people is also part of what I do. Since I accepted these responsibilities, it is perhaps unrealistic of me to expect others to take them on, just because they see that they need doing. (Although that has been part of the problem, they too often do NOT see that these things need doing.)

Over time, they have come to see these things as my responsibility, but I also have inadvertently convinced them that certain things are true.

There is a dish fairy.

Unless you are willing to spend extra money on disposables and contribute to filling landfills, you have dishes. Dishes need to be washed, generally after each use. (And let’s not forget the pots and pans used before you put the food on the dishes.) With a family of six, the sink fills up. Sometimes I have other, more pressing things to attend to, and the pile sits. I have taken to casually mentioning that we really need the “dish fairy” to show up. This is usually met with a chuckle and life’s busyness goes on. At some point, I empty and fill the dishwasher (which seems to take less time than when anyone else attempts it) and the problem is solved.

Now, I could have started when the kids were little and insisted they do the dishes. In my husband’s family, each child had a dish night; in mine, my sister and I would trade off – one did the dishes and the other the pots. Instead, once my children were tall enough to reach the sink, they also had a crushing amount of homework. Doing well in school is important, so I made the decision that school is their “job” and they could help with dishes and other chores on occasion. They are expected to get their dishes to the sink, but for the most part, their responsibility ends there. (I do have the rule that no food is allowed in bedrooms, so I thankfully have avoided needing a “dish collection fairy” as well.)

I guess this makes ME the dish fairy. (Honestly, most days I don’t mind as the window over the sink provides entertainment with the variety of birds that frequent our birdbath, I just wish sometimes the dish fairy would visit before I get there).

I have nothing to do with my time

Once all the kids were in school, I arranged my daily routine around the school day. They would leave, I would run errands, do household chores, make phone calls, plan events, and hopefully squeeze in some “me time,” like meeting a friend for lunch (and usually running errands before or after).

When they got home, I was available to hear about their day, help with homework, and drive them places. After dinner, I tried to minimize personal obligations that did not directly impact my family. Weekends were likewise set aside for kid-centric events or whatever someone else in the family needed or wanted to do.

I realize now that by doing this, I have made it look like I don’t have anything important to do. When they are around, I am there, for whatever is needed at the time. They don’t see all the mundane things I regularly get done while they are away from home. Even when they hear about my day, they have no true concept of how much time it takes up. On unscheduled days off, I have heard complaints that I am “too busy.” Well, that is my “job,” every day.

I have their schedules committed to memory

I have always had a mind for dates and times. I am frequently the go-to person when someone needs the date for a birthday or anniversary. I have four children, spanning ten years, with different interests.  The family calendar is color coded, by individual and sometimes by activity.

Thanks to the way my brain functions, for the most part, I could keep track of all the comings and goings without too much difficulty. Since kids often need it, I made a habit of providing a warning that “soon” we had somewhere to go.

As they got older, I realized they could be responsible for keeping track of these things themselves. I stopped giving warnings and they managed just fine. Since I no longer had this responsibility, I wasn’t paying as much attention to their calendars and sometimes would forget they had anywhere to be at all.

When I showed surprise that they were leaving, or that it was time for me to take them somewhere, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I was supposed to remember these things. After all, isn’t that Mom’s job?

I know where everything is

This, I know, is a common mom phenomenon. Almost every family I know looks to Mom when something is missing, whether it be keys, library books, or shin guards. It is reinforced when, more often than not, she tells you where these items are (usually where you left them). When I am scattered myself, and don’t have the answer, I get a strange look and, “But you’re supposed to know, you’re the mom.”

I know when they are out of anything

Things run out, like shampoo, deodorant, clean underwear. I am expected to know when these things are close to running out and make sure a replacement is at hand. This, unfortunately, is something that I have mostly been very good at over the years. I notice details and have a strange sense of when things should be purchased again. I don’t keep written notes (if I did I would likely put them in that elusive “safe” place), sometimes it is as simple as a bottle falls over and I notice it feels light, or I am making a list or looking at coupons and remember to ask, just before something is needed.

On occasion, I have messed this one up, and there is whining and gnashing of teeth. I protest that it is not my job, that one should know when they are using the last ____ , and to let me know so it can be replenished. This is something that they all got better at, especially once they got to college.

Clean clothes magically appear

Laundry is one of those dirty words (pun fully intended). This is one of the chores that is NEVER complete. Again, I have taken this task on, of my own free will. Everyone in my house knows how to do laundry – how to sort it, and how the washer and dryer work. They also know that complaints about something not being clean will result in them being told to do it themselves. Therefore, they have also learned to not complain and to do without.

Like the others, this is a chore I chose. Yes, I could make each child do their own laundry, but then I would lose control of the washing machine. My main argument is that if everyone did their own, we would use more energy as we would be doing more partially full loads each week. This is true, but my hidden agenda is that by letting them all use the washer and dryer, it will likely be full when I want to use it. I really don’t want to have a laundry schedule, where everyone would have assigned times. I don’t want to manage such a schedule, and I want to use my machines when it is convenient for me.

Some people have told me that I let my kids off too easy, that they should have had more responsibilities around the house, starting at a younger age. There may be some truth in this, but I think we are all doing okay. They know how to care for themselves (even though they sometimes pretend they don’t) and are well on their way to becoming productive members of society. I am fortunate to have been in a position where I could do these things and possibly reduce the amount of stress in all their lives. They know that everyone has to pitch in to make society work and are among the first to volunteer when they see a need.

To be fair, my family takes care of me as well.

Several years ago, when I sprained my foot, badly, they wouldn’t let me get out of my favorite comfy chair except to go to the dining room table, the bathroom, or to bed for four days. That is how I learned how well the human body can heal itself, if you let it. (I have had not a twinge from it since.)

More recent illnesses have also had them stepping up and taking care of the most important, basic needs (the stuff they KNOW I do), while insisting that I rest and get better. At these times, I know that what I do every day is noticed and appreciated. Once I am again healthy, though, taking care of the house and them, well, that is my job.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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