Category Archives: Family Life

Who Does the Dishes In Your House?

David and I recently got into a conversation about daily chores.  I jokingly asked him; “what do you think I do during the day?” I was truly expecting him to have absolutely no idea and although he missed some of the small things he did grasp the big picture.  He quickly rattled off, “you do the laundry, all the grocery shopping, cooking, and everything to do with the kids from dressing them to planning their school days”.  He left out some of the smaller things like dishes, trash, cleaning the house, buying presents for birthdays, planning family gatherings, etc, etc but I was actually impressed that he recognized as much as he did.

David has a very demanding job that requires that he be out of the house from 8AM to 7PM.  There just isn’t a lot of time during the day or weekends for him to “help out”.  As a result this is how we divide the work load:


  • Pays bills & money management
  • Car & home maintenance
  • Lawn care


  • Everything else
  • Hires housekeeper to clean house

For some people this may seem unfair, but most of the time this arrangement works just fine.  David and I have pretty good communication skills so when one of us needs more help we ask for it.  For instance, I’ve already begun asking for more help in the evenings. I’m pregnant and tired and the evening demands of the kids is are hard on me.

This now makes me curious – how do you divide the workload in your house? or do you? Do you strive for everything to be equal? Have you sat down to make a list? Is this a chronic source of tension in your marriage or have you come to peace on this issue? I’ve read in several places that household chores is one of the most common problems married couples face (next to sex and money).  I’m always fascinated how other couples navigate this tricky ground.  Seriously, how do you split up the work?

A Brand New Day

When you become a parent for the first time you are overwhelmed by a wave of understanding.  You are flooded with the biggest “aha” moment of your life.  Your parents weren’t as crazy as you thought they were.  However, this deeper understanding of your parents behavior and action doesn’t end when your child is born.  No, it continues to drip and dribble as you have new experiences with your own children.

Today was Lucy’s first day of school.  I have been anticipating this day since she was born.  I have spent a laborious amount of time researching and educating myself about schools, curriculums and the best option for my sweet, tender, shy, gentle little girl.  I felt confident in our choice and knew that she would blossom in the environment we selected.  Although Lucy was eager to go to school this morning she had the appropriate amount of anxiety.  She chatted nervously in the car and as I walked her to the front door of her classroom she squeezed my hand a little tighter.  The teacher swung the door open and Lucy easily fell into the routine and walked off without looking back.

Lucy's first day of school
Lucy's first day of school

I almost made it to the car before bursting into tears.  I sobbed uncontrollably, my breathing coming fast and in bursts.  As I sat there trying to regain my composure I talked to myself.  “She’s fine. She’s totally fine. You’ve done the right thing. This is the best thing for her. ” I took deep breaths and felt my body start to relax.  “It won’t be like this with Max. Max WANTS to go, he can’t wait to go. It is harder because Lucy doesn’t want to go. She’s scared.”  Pow! And just like that a flash of understanding.

How many times did my mother put on a stoic and strong exterior for me as she pushed me into my own life? How many times did she cry silently knowing that she was doing the right thing for me even though I was scared?  How many times did I mistake her lack of emotion as not caring or disinterest in my own fears?

Suddenly I no longer knew what I was crying about.  Was I crying because I was sad to see my little girl leave? Or was I crying out of acknowledgement of my own mother’s emotional sacrifice that had been ignored for so long? Or was it just because I’m pregnant and emotional?

When parents discuss what children bring to their lives they talk about the texture and richness. It is hard to explain and that is because it is multi-faceted.  Children allow you to explore and discover the world all over again.  They are a mirror holding you accountable for all of your behavior (both good and bad).  They are also your personal teachers, showing you your own life in a new and unexpected perspective.  The irony to being a parent is that the days and events that impact YOU the most are rarely the ones your children remember with any kind of significance.  For Lucy today was just the day she started school and for me it marked an emotional epiphany.

I’m Not Laughing At You, Well, Maybe

I stood in Hobby Lobby with the kids waiting in the perpetual line to check out.  As the kids perused all the tantalizing craft items and candy hung temptingly low I considered what the rest of our day looked like. We had a few more errands and then hibernation from the 100+ degree heat.  The kids had been getting restless at home and I was desperate to find something for them to do.  Just at that moment Lucy held up a package with three containers of what appeared to be an off-brand glitter version of Play-Doh.  She pleaded, “Mommy, can we PLEEEEEEEAAAASSEE get this?”  I looked at the price – a mere $4.  I considered the hours of pleasant play time this would provide while I did laundry and I said happily “sure, babe. This looks like fun.”  When we got the package home and opened it up I was a bit surprised to realize that it wasn’t actually the consistency of Play-Doh but more like — well — goobers.  It was slightly sticky, liquid and yet also a solid.


The kids could not have been more delighted and hours of play and experimentation transpired without a whimper of argument or whining.  The kitchen table was happily occupied and I took the time to finish up some chores around the house.  As I sat at my desk doing email Max walked in giggling and said to me, “Lucy is sad and hiding.”  I turned around and saw this:


He had stuck this material in his hair and I knew that was going to be VERY bad.  I leaped out of my chair and exclaimed, “WHERE IS YOUR SISTER?” Max, still finding the whole situation quite funny said slyly, “She’s hiding.”  I instantly knew that if Lucy was hiding it was bad.  I started calling her name but she was nowhere to be found.  After ten frantic minutes of searching I found her hunched behind the family couch, squeezed next to the wall.  Her low whimpers and cries barely audible.  “Lucy, what happened Honey? Are you okay?”  She stood up and stuck within her curly strands of hair was an entire container of this goober, glittery gunk.  It was spread evenly from roots to tip covering the entire front half of her scalp.  Tears were streaming down her face and I knew that she felt both shame and panic. “Baby, how did this happen?”  She lowered her eyes sniffling and just shrugged her shoulders.  I laughed. She cried harder. I suggested we take a picture to send to Daddy and she exploded in embarrassment, “NO!! DON’T TELL DADDY!! I DON’T WANT A PICTURE!!”  Her embarrassment was absolute and no amount of assurance from me was going to make her feel better. I calmed her down and told her we would wash it out of her hair and she shouldn’t worry.


We marched into the bathroom where I broke out the baby shampoo and started washing. And washing. And washing.  This goop (that was obviously made in China by people who don’t have children) would not come out of her hair.  Not even a little bit. I started pulling out every kind of cleaner I could think of to remove this stuff from her hair; baby oil, vinegar, adult shampoo, olive oil, dish soap.  Every new solution that I took out made Lucy cry harder and Max giggle.  Lucy was frantic and I was starting to get concerned that I was going to have to cut her hair off.  After an hour and a bottle of dish soap we finally got the goop out of her hair. Her eyes red and puffy from crying, she stood up and a meek smile spread across her face, “I love you Mama”. Not a true expression of affection, as much as a request to be reassured that I still loved her.  “I love you too Honey.  Mama isn’t mad at you. No worries. Okay?”  Lucy meekly nodded her head and toddled off to watch cartoons.

It was funny. As a matter of fact I burst out laughing several times during the process of washing her hair. It seemed like such a typical thing for a child to do and one of those great stories that every parent has.  And yet for Lucy, for sweet rule-abiding, must always be right Lucy, it was a moment of shame.  She had ventured outside of the rules (more than likely due to the prodding of her brother) and the universe instantly punished her for it.  My heart was sad for her and I wanted her to be able to laugh at herself, at the situation, to see the humor, but perhaps that is too much to ask of a five year old.

Dear Grandparents…

We, of my generations of mothers, have a question for our parents.  Where did all the toys come from?  Every parent I talk to between the ages of 25-45 complains about the size and quantity of toys that seem to be over-taking their homes.  None of us had a play room growing up and  all of our toys seemed to fit into our bedroom. We don’t remember baskets of toys or books tucked under coffee tables or concealed beneath TV sets.  We don’t remember birthday parties or Christmas’ when the opening of presents seemed to take longer than any other activity.  And yet, we all remember having toys, loving toys, and being well satisfied.  So where have they all come from?

Parents complain that grandparents have gotten out of control.  That each child is receiving five, six, seven presents from each set of grandparents.  Grandparents complain that parents are buying too many toys themselves and spoiling their children.  Well, somebody is buying toys and we all need to stop.  The same overture is heard again and again in my house during the holidays; “This year we are scaling back. We are giving fewer toys.” And yet, that never seems to happen. Our houses are bigger, our rooms larger, and yet the quantity of toys has grown exponentially larger. Why? I don’t think we all have more disposable income. When I compare my lifestyle now with what I had as a child I think it is similar.  I don’t buy toys regularly for my children, but periodically they might be allowed to purchase a toy for accomplishing a special goal, or because of a special behavior.  However, I recall my parents doing the same.  And yet, the absolute obnoxious amount of toys that seems to spill out of every corner of my house is ridiculous.

Does this have to do with the fact that we no longer trust our children to play outside unsupervised? or ride their bikes around the neighborhood without an adult? Does this have to do with fewer Moms being at home and so fewer houses that kids can run to during the day for an impromptu play date? Does this have to do with our desire to structure our children’s days into camps and lessons and school and athletic activities?

I am rather diligent about staying on top of my kid’s toys and regularly throwing out toys. I’m heartless. I’m brutal. Anything that might be worthy of another child is donated to church, or to charity.  And yet, even with my “take no prisoners” style of toy management I’m left overloaded.  I don’t even believe in “junk” toys but toys that stir imaginative play.  Even with that policy I can’t seem to control it.

So grandparents everywhere, tell me, what has changed?  Did you also face these problems? Where are the toys coming from? How do we as parents stop this madness?


Sometime during the 1960’s David’s grandfather, Reveau Stewart, bought a piece of lakefront property for $650.  Since he was a skilled carpenter and craftsman, he built a small vacation house for himself and his family of nine.  Today it is the focal point, and gathering location for the Stewart family.  This past Fourth of July there were approximately 25 people staying at the lake house, all of whom were closely related.  The love, joy, fellowship and connections that are shared during these big grand weekends is only eclipsed by the large amount of food that is also shared (8 loaves of bread, 10 pounds of lunch meat, 3 chocolate cakes, etc).

Lucy & Max with their cousins
Lucy & Max with their cousins

As the sun sank behind the lake and everybody nestled onto blankets or lawn chairs to watch the fireworks I looked at my children.  My kids who were dark skinned from a week of swimming in the lake.  My kids who were covered in a sticky combination of sun screen, popsicle, and sand.  My sweet children who will grow up being surrounded by a family that reaches as wide as it does deep.  And as the fireworks blasted in the sky and Max burst from his mouth; “AWESOME DUDE!” I thought this is what America is all about and it is indeed awesome.

Our Lesson Today Is…

Parenting is the kind of job that places relentless demands on a person.  You are never “off-duty”.  The duty may change, the needs alter, but the job is forever. FOR-EVER (yes, you young teenagers who are having sex I’m talking to you!) When you have small children, like I do, the demands are physical.  You go years with little or poor sleep. You are on constant alert to help with potty needs, help to get clothes on, in and out of cars, across the street, food to eat, etc, etc.  You become a servant whose only job is to attend the little selfish pixies that inhabit your home.  Some days you don’t mind, but many times you find yourself mildly resenting that nobody does those things for you.  Why doesn’t somebody get up and make ME breakfast? Why doesn’t somebody think to wash MY clothes? Why don’t I get to sit around and do the things I want to do all day long?

And then last week my mother-in-law (who will forever be known as Saint Nana) took my children.  I was once again alone and at home.  I had longed for this moment.  I counted down until my children would be out of the house and I could relish in the silence and solitude of my own home.  The moment that I had yearned for arrived and I was going to wallow in the beauty of not serving or helping a single person but myself.

By Wednesday I discovered that without my children my life is selfish and lacks purpose.  The whole reason why I had kids was because I was sick of thinking about myself and I was ready to take care of another person.  I wanted the opportunity to introduce a new person to this great world and help them see and experience it’s wonders.  I wanted to care for another person, serve another person, love another person and without them I’m a selfish turd.  I hated it.  It was nice to sleep in, until you realize that the reason why is because you have no reason to wake up.

I’m grateful for the time David and I had to reconnect as a couple and it was truly a gift. However, I’m more appreciative of having the opportunity to rediscover why I became a mother in the first place.

Is One The Loneliest Number? Really?

In three days both of my children will be leaving for “Nana Camp”. This is an annual event in the Morley family when my mother-in-law takes all of her grandchildren over 3 years old and hosts them for a week.  During this time the kids revel in eating ice cream and pizza at every meal, swimming until they collapse, not bathing, not eating vegetables and basically being allowed to do whatever they want.  It is truly a child’s paradise and I’m lucky to have such a mother-in-law.  The last two years Lucy has been old enough to go but not Max.  Although this was very sad for Max, I was glad to have one “little chick” at home.  Alas, this is the year that both will leave me.

I’m thrilled.

I’m sad.

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m excited.

I feel like I’ve been counting down to this moment since Max was born and yet now that it is here I’m feeling less sure.  What will my house be like without my kids? I’m going to come home from class to what? Silence. The last time my house was totally silent was the moment before I woke David up to drive me to the hospital for Lucy’s birth.  Part of me has visions of being this super-productive person who organizes closets, cleans under the kitchen table, and finishes up the kid’s baby books. But instead I fear I will be unfocused and unsure of what to do with my body.  Without my children will my day lack all structure and direction? And is that something that I should worry about?

I lived alone once.  I have the pictures to prove it. A small 680 square foot apartment with one bedroom and a fireplace. It was smartly decorated, spotlessly clean, and every inch was a reflection of me.  Now, I live in a 2,000 square foot house that holds the footprint and reflection of a family – husband, kids, in-laws, friends, etc. I don’t know how to exist alone in this space. This is a space no longer intended for one person.  How will it feel to have a glimpse backwards to a life that I no longer have and no longer want?

As of now I’m going to focus on how lovely it will be to sleep in, go to a movie with my husband, eat out, cook breakfast for MYSELF, and take a shower without an audience.  On second thought, ignore everything I just said.