Living in 15-Minute Increments

by Eileen Wacker on Feb 8, 5:05 AM

I am the mother of four kids, aged eight to 14, and trying to launch a business. I live life in 15-minute increments.

Our house wakes up at 6:00 A.M. during the week. Getting everyone to eat is a challenge, so I let them eat whatever they want—leftover pasta, soup, macaroni and cheese, cereal, bagels, whatever. Just eat something. At 6:45 I either drive them to school or go to my office and start to work. I usually have appointments racked and stacked as I work with a team scattered from Korea to India, Vancouver, San Francisco, Mexico City, New York, and Honolulu.

Today I’m also trying to keep fish from dying. My son went to a birthday party and the party favor was a betta fish. I groaned when I saw it and inwardly vowed to get even with the mom. My son named the fish Medallion because it was like gold to him. So yesterday I went to the pet store to get some accommodations for Medallion, and we left with six molly fish and an aquarium. The kids named the mollies Blaze, Spike, Buster (girl), Anna, Crusoe, and Razor.

This morning I caught our dog, Buster Brown, with the fish food container in his mouth. He had eaten nearly the whole can and I had to wrestle it from him. Apparently, he had climbed up on a chair to snatch the food. He stood there with fish flakes sticking all around his mouth, obviously pleased with himself and not even trying to look ashamed as I yelled at him. And he apparently scared a fish to death. Poor Spike had met an untimely end.

My assistant arrives and we crank through as much work as humanly possible. Then school pick-ups start at 2:45. Someone helps with the driving but we are both in our respective cars from 2:30 until 6:00 every day. Each child has a sport and an instrument. We also have doctor and dental appointments, birthdays, school orientations, parent conferences, school fairs, dances, and play dates that take us from one end of Honolulu to the other.

I arrive home at 6:00, picking up my 13-year-old son from tennis along the way. My eight-year-old daughter runs to the door to remind me the bake sale is tomorrow. We promised to send in cheesecake brownies cut into pieces, bagged, and labeled. Luckily, I have brownie mix and cheesecake filling. We preheat the oven and start buttering cake pans. I am making dinner at the same time, boiling water for pasta. So it appears to be working out. Then I discover we have no canola oil. I rush to the store to get the oil. I am almost home when my oldest texts me: “just ran out of milk.” I text her back: “drain the pasta and I’ll get milk.”

As I walk in the door, one of my kids runs up to report an “infestation“ in the kitchen. Sure enough, there are a thousand little ants by the door. We douse them with enough Raid to fill a bathtub.

I have three kids to help with homework (the fourth kid is very independent and refuses to let me see his work). I listen to how everyone’s day went, and then showers, piano practice, and finally a little free time. If I don’t tell them to go to bed, they forget (but if I attempt to send them to bed early, I am accused of committing crimes against children everywhere).

Just when I feel like my “sportsmomship” might give out, my kids give me a hug and tell me I’m the best mom ever. I get re-energized and work a little longer; my teammates in India and Korea are up and beginning their workdays. I have a glass of wine with my husband and ask him about his day. I usually don’t remember his responses because I am so exhausted. At ten, I go to sleep.

Every Sunday, we look at the calendar and figure out what events we have in addition to the regular routine. I slot them into the schedule in 15-minute increments. My youngest son likes to play flag football and says he is great at “juking.” This is modern-day parental “juking.” Tomorrow I will start booking summer camps and vacations and mapping out more schedules.