She stood at the refrigerator with the door open, staring. A lack of interest, and little success with cooking, left her inept in the kitchen. She stared past the jar of pickles, the hummus that someone had eaten partially with their fingers, the half consumed pb&j sandwich, and the well-stocked-with-beer bottom shelf. Nothing came to her mind. Not just about what to make. Nothing at all could fit in her head that pounded and was too full of thoughts and to-do's. She shut the door and sighed. A small child banshee screamed and careened at her, a small plastic chair flew across the dirty linoleum floor and bounced off of her legs. She closed her eyes and promised she wouldn't yell because she was better than that. She'd promised herself she would not take her tiredness and stress out on her children.
She opened her mouth and shouted: "Knock it off! You- put that chair back in your room. You- stop screaming. Stop. Stop. Stop. I am tired and I had a long day and Mommy needs you to set the table!"
Little eyes innocently blnked up at her, "What are we having for dinner? I'm so hungry! I'm so hungry!"
She picked up little blinky eyes and patted her hair. "Popcorn and Capri Sun." The children shouted with excitement and ran away, barking like dogs and leaving the plastic chair in the center of the kitchen. Almost zombie-trance-like, she popped the popcorn while checking facebook and eating an Oreo. A little red icon popped up on her screen and she smiled. So-and-so-liked her re-post of the weather forecast.
"Mom! Mom! Mommy!" called her eldest.
"Not now!" she shouted. "Mommy is busy!" If only she could have a moment to herself, she thought. She just needed to shut her brain off for a minute and then she could handle the rest of her night. She had a million emails to return, a million more emails to initiate, and a general feeling of guilt that she wasn't doing enough at work. She looked around at the dirty kitchen floor and toys strewn about the living room. She had a million projects around the house to complete, a million things to clean, and a general feeling of guilt that she wasn't doing enough housework.
The microwave beeped a reminder for dinner. " Awww, Shit! Shit!" She swore too loudly and tossed the burned bag of popcorn into the trash. The last bag of popcorn. "Hey guys! We're having graham crackers and peanut butter for dinner!"
She served the "meal" on paper plates and felt guilty about the number of times she looked up at the clock to see how long before bedtime. She corraled the kids into the tub and stopped counting how many times she shouted at them to stop splashing. She plucked her eyebrows and stared at the person in the mirror. When did she stop being 21, she wondered. Wasn't that just yesterday? She thought it funny how much she looked like her mother.
The phone rang and it was her mother. They talked about their upcoming mother/daughter trip. Her mom asked if she was ready to leave the kids for a few days and fly states away from them. "Mom, I'm so over feeling guilty about stuff. I can't wait." When her mom asked if her husband could handle being alone, she reminded her mom that she was alone with the kids all of the time and it was no big deal. She hung up the phone, combed hair, helped brush teeth, read a bartered 6 stories ("If I read 6 stories, you have to go to bed right after and no crying."), and gave lots of hugs and kisses and good night wishes before crashing onto the couch with a cup of tea and an Oreo. She thought about how hard it was to do the bedtime routine without her husband yet how much easier it has become since the kids have gotten older. She glanced at an old photo of the kids and missed them as babies and felt guilty about wishing the time away.