Op/Ed

Babies & Families: A dream and a whiteboard

MEGAN JAMES

Years ago, when I was the mom of a toddler and a preschooler, I bought a large whiteboard calendar at TJ Maxx because I thought it would bring order to the chaos of my life. I brought it home, popped open a pristine dry-erase marker, wrote out the month in bold, confident letters — and waited for the magic to kick in.

If you had asked me at the time, I would have told you I liked my life. I loved my children, obviously. And it was clear to me, even through the blur of exhaustion, that caring for them — the physicality of it, the way it forced me into the moment — had turned down the volume on my self-critical mind. A gift.

Still, I felt overwhelmed every day: disgusted by the food-crusted, slime-slick surfaces of my house; enraged by the disproportionate domestic responsibilities that fell to me despite my loving and supportive husband’s best efforts; desperate for 20 minutes with no one touching me; starving to be alone with my thoughts for long enough to finish them.

The whiteboard calendar spent the next year or so untouched beneath a heap of clutter, while I wondered how other people with children seemed to be able to maintain social lives, clean their houses, exercise, brush their children’s hair, brush their own hair.

When we packed up to move in early 2020, I uncovered the whiteboard, still unused. I will never be an organized mom, I told myself. But I brought it with us anyway.

Days later, COVID shut down the whole world.

During that first disorienting week at home, I wrote all four of our names on the whiteboard. We brainstormed 12 different household chores, wrote them on sticky notes and arranged them next to our names.

“Chore Day” fell apart very quickly. But the whiteboard calendar secured a prime spot propped up near our front door, and it has never left. And gradually, we started using it exactly as I’d envisioned it ages ago in TJ Maxx. 

We do it together, the girls and I. They write the month up top and number each little square. Then we go through our Google calendar, transcribing everything relevant to them. 

It’s a joy to get excited together for special things coming up, and we all take some comfort knowing what lies ahead. The whiteboard is everything I dreamed it would be.

I just wish I’d known sooner after I bought the stupid thing that all hope wasn’t lost. 

That gradually, I’d start to feel more in control. That life would get better, the rewards richer, as the kids got older and more capable. And that I would get more capable, too.

Megan James runs the Minibury website, is the multimedia editor for the Addison Independent and the mother of Joni and Frankie.

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