In the kitchen, I can hear the kids yelling in another room. It sounds like my son is trying to get his sister to play and from what I can hear, she isn’t being compliant. I am about to call out for them to “play nice,” but think better of it and let them be. When I glance down at the floor I notice the flour dusted on the carpet. I can’t remember when I had the flour out last and suspect the kids might have had something to do with it.
I hear the hum of the fridge and the tick of the old oven as it heats up. When I turn toward the window I notice the crunchy snow that is still on the ground, surrounded by patches of brown grass peeking through. Out of the corner of my eye I see the dishes stacked beside the sink, and think it’s a never-ending cycle of cooking and cleaning. The snow on the ground is a lot like my kitchen lately. As soon as the snow begins to melt and I think I can finally shout “spring is here!” It snows again. In the same way I feel a satisfaction when I wipe down the counters at the end of a long day, tomorrow there will be another meal to cook and another sink of dishes to wash. Our dishwasher has been acting up lately, leaving me to wash all the dishes by hand. Surprisingly it hasn’t bothered me as much as I anticipated; it’s somewhat relaxing to have my hands in warm water and the feeling of accomplishment when the dishes are clean and dry.
The spell has broken and the kids have become bored of each other and find me. This is the hardest part of the day, when bedtime is looming near, but not soon enough. Stomachs are nearing empty, and trying to keep them from the snacks is my biggest challenge until dinner. My daughter latches onto my leg as I stir the sauce on the stove, while my son begins to climb the counter in search of something to eat. In the next half an hour, their dad will come through the door and there will be shrieks of “dad!” like they haven’t seen him in weeks. I will no longer be the most wanted person in the house. With that thought, I let out a deep sigh in anticipation of the relief I will feel when I’m no longer alone. I give in and hand each kid a cracker to tide them over until dinner. This seems to satisfy them and they run off happily, leaving a trail of crumbs behind them.
I turn back to the stove, add the noodles to the boiling water, and start thinking of all the other things I need to do. The load of laundry in the dryer, the floor that needs mopped; but I wonder if there is any point to mopping until the snow finally melts for the last time. As I’m about to check the temperature of the oven, the door from the garage opens and like clockwork, I hear the pitter patter of tiny feet running down the hall to greet their dad. He kneels down and with a big smile he opens his arms. My oldest snuggles right into his dad’s chest, his favorite place to be. All is right in his little world—his hero back home. Our youngest tucks herself into the fold and my heart swells seeing the three of them together. I smile, then turn back to the stove.
I feel like I have so much to share with my husband about the day, but I’m not sure where to begin. I also wonder how many words I’ll be able to get in before the kids interrupt our conversation. The hours between dinner and bedtime feel like a constant battle of who wants more of dad’s attention. The homemade spaghetti sauce, my husband’s favorite, starts to bubble and I grab a spoon to taste if it needs more seasoning. The oven has finally preheated and its door creaks as I open it to put in the French bread. As I close the door I wonder what it would be like to be the one gone for most of the day and have everyone so excited to see me when I walk through the door.
However, if I were gone all day I wouldn’t get to experience the random dance parties, the first tastes of cookie dough, and the spilled flour—all in the kitchen. While it sometimes feels like I am burdened to the daily chores of running a house, I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with my children. From this spot in the kitchen, I can see where my son took his first step, where my daughter sat for her first haircut. I can see the place in the living room where I told my husband we were going to be parents for the first time. From the kitchen I can see where we became a family. The stack of dishes by the sink aren’t just dirty dishes to be washed, they are the first dishes my husband and I bought as a married couple. Remembering this, I begin to pull the clean plates out of the cupboard to set the table.
I know someday I will stand in this kitchen and all I will hear is the hum of the refrigerator, maybe a drip of a leaky faucet. Hopefully the old oven will be replaced by then. There won’t be shrieks of laughter from the kids or the sound of them running down the hall to greet their dad. I won’t have to keep anyone out of the snacks before dinner.
My husband walks into the kitchen and greets me with a hug and says, “Dinner smells great.” As he pulls away I can hear the hesitation in his voice as he asks, “How was your day?”
How do I put into words the exhaustion and joy that is staying home with two kids? Before answering, I notice the chunks of Play-Doh still on the floor, even though I swept this afternoon. There are a hundred things I could complain about: the kids not listening, having zero time for myself, cleaning up mess after mess … and the list goes on. I pause and take a deep breath, smelling the sweet smell of spaghetti sauce. My mind flashes back to this afternoon when I watched my daughter wobble on her balance bike for the first time; as I stood next to her clapping and cheering. I glance down at my son, knowing I lost count of the many times I heard him say, “I love you, mama.” My gaze moves back to my husband’s face and I smile, “It was fine.”
The ding of the kitchen timer chimes. Dinner will be ready soon.
Guest post written by Stacy Bronec. Stacy lives with her husband and two young kids in Central Montana, where she found herself living in the middle of nowhere after unexpectedly marrying a farmer. A high school counselor turned stay-at-home-mom, she spends her days surrounded by fields and cows, without a person in sight. Every once and awhile she writes on her blog (usually from her hiding spot in the laundry room), but doesn’t make any promises. You can also find her on Instagram.
Photo by Lottie Caiella.