The Many Tasks of Mothers
4:50 a.m. Alex, the baby, crying and half-asleep, climbs to the side of Helen, his mother. Two other children—Penny (5) and Joanna (12)—and husband, Nick, are sleeping. Helen hoists Alex up into bed and nurses him. She is unable to go back to sleep.
5:45 a.m. Helen tiptoes to the kitchen, makes coffee, and reads.
6:15–7:20 a.m. Nick gets up. Helen wakes Penny and Joanna, makes breakfast, does some housework. At 7:15, Nick leaves for work and drops Joanna off at school. Helen’s mother arrives to baby-sit Alex.
7:30 a.m. Helen drops Penny off at her kindergarten. The commute to work gives Helen time to reflect on the reality of motherhood. “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had,” she says.
8:10 a.m. Helen faces a desk overflowing with tasks. She is concerned that another pregnancy might mean the loss of her job. The family needs the extra paycheck.
10:43 a.m. After Helen hangs up the phone—a call about her children—her coworker Nancy consoles her: “You’re doing such a good job with them.” Tears roll down Helen’s cheeks.
12:05 p.m. Helen grabs a sandwich and reflects on the time before her first daughter was born. Back then she had projects planned for her “spare” time. ‘What a joke!’ she concludes.
3:10 p.m. After several phone calls from home about Alex’s antics, Helen mentions the special bond she has with her little ones: “It’s like no other love I’ve had for any other person.” This depth of feeling helped her overcome the initial, unexpected difficulties.
5:10 p.m. After picking up Joanna, Helen runs errands. She calls Nick and reminds him that it is his turn to pick up Penny.
6:00–7:30 p.m. Back home, Helen releases Grandma from ‘Alex duty,’ does housework, prepares dinner. Asked about the demands of a baby, Helen sighs: “A baby craves nothing less than the whole of its mother: her arms, body, and milk and takes the sleep from her eyes.”
8:30–10:00 p.m. Helen helps Joanna with homework and breast-feeds Alex. While Nick reads to Penny for half an hour, Helen does more housework.
11:15 p.m. After Penny and Joanna have gone to bed, Alex is still awake in his mother’s arms, but then he finally falls asleep. “I think he’s ready for bed,” Helen tells Nick, who is half-asleep.