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Marny Stebbins.

I’ve been running on 5% since March.

Literally, my cell phone has been in a perpetual state of urgency, flashing red battery graphics and curt pop-up reminders, since the kids came home from school and traded in their heavy backpacks for mandated hours of e-learning screen time. One can only assume, their hunger for knowledge must have eaten up every charging cord in our home as the designated “cord drawer” in our kitchen is as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

In response, with an open mind (and my last 3% of energy) I turned to the source of all creative home organization solutions: Pinterest. And while I can appreciate any excuse to employ the whimsical options of Washi Tape, it appears the heart of our problem lies with boundaries rather than any type of creative labeling techniques.

For example: Child Number Two walks into the living room with a matching lavender Gatorade and [adorable] lavender polka-dotted labeled charging cord.

“Is that my cord?” I suggest with a wink.

“I don’t know,” Child Two replies.

“Well, it says ‘Mom’ on lavender polka dot Washi Tape, right there at the top…” I explain.

At which point, Child Number Three tucks a cord into her pocket with the speed of a caffeinated toddler.

“Oh, I thought that meant is was for everyone.”

Note: Without the aid of an electronic shock-system (which is an increasingly attractive option…) any value of the labeling system is rendered useless when “Mom” equals “General Use.” Perhaps Pinterest should partner with Invisible Fence because it appears you can Washi-tape your heart out and remain at the bottom of the supply chain. (Also, wouldn’t those electronic collars be so cute in polka dots or buffalo plaid?).

Five percent has become my new normal and my energy seems to be keeping pace with my phone battery: Recharge Now. But where do we retreat and recharge when home has absorbed the roles of our entire day-cycle?

We work at home.

We teach at home.

We socialize from home.

We shop from home.

We parent at home.

We advocate, coordinate and exercise at home.

We clean and cook (albeit with lackluster attention) at home. Do not look at my floors.

Since the onset of social distancing, home is where 95% of our days occur. That is a small footprint for a family to share, no matter how much square footage you pay for. From a former stay at home mom, I can tell you with confidence it is not easy to recharge where you work. The dishwasher always needs to be emptied and the dryer is always about to beep — you are never off the clock. When you have to start making Post-It Note reminders to wear pants for upcoming Zoom meetings, you can bet the Work-Life Balance is reaching a new level of complexity.

I don’t know what the answer is (besides wearing pants everyday), but I do know this precarious balancing act will not be going away any time soon. We are going to need a full battery and a giant helping of grace to do it well. And maybe a little humor.

“What. Are. You. Wearing?” my twelve-year-old asks.

“It’s a charging tail. You clip it to the back of your pants, like this, and then you always have it with you. You can borrow it anytime you want to, Cowgirl. Just come over and sit by me.”

“Does it have… fur?” she asks.

“It’s not real hair,” I explain with a swish of my cord.

“Do not wear it outside of this house,” she says with real fear in her voice.

“I don’t neighhhhd to,” I smile.

Pinterest : 0

Mom: 1

And, just like that, I’m back to 100%.

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a staunch believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy.

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