A day in the life of Mum

In honour of Mother’s Day on 12 May, we reached out to mums in Cayman, asking them to share a peek into their lives. We gave the mothers an open assignment: journal a day in their lives and report back to us. The hope was to get an honest snapshot of motherhood in Cayman. We had a few brave mothers step up to the plate. Below, take a moment to appreciate the vast sacrifices mums make as they run on very few hours of sleep and juggle the demands of family, home and work. (And might we suggest letting mum sleep in a bit this Mother’s Day.)

Justine Plenkiewicz celebrates with Charlie on his third birthday.

Justine Plenkiewicz, 40, mother of Charlie, 3

“Mommy wake up,” whispers a little voice into my ear. I roll over to look at the clock: 5:44am. Charlie, my 3-year-old son, is sitting up in my bed, wide awake. It’s early even for him. I am wishing that I hadn’t stayed up so late catching up on Pinterest.

I should have known that Charlie would wake me up in the middle of the night, as he always does. But late evenings, after Charlie goes to sleep, are the only solid stretch of ‘me time’ I have. Welcome to single motherhood.

I give my toddler the iPad in the hopes of buying another precious few minutes of sleep.

“Mommy wake up,” I hear again. It’s now 6:12. I managed almost an extra half-hour of sleep, for which I am grateful.

“Just five more minutes,” I try to plead with him.

“No! Mommy wake up. The sun is wake up.”

“What do you want to do now?” I ask.

“Mommy play trains with Charlie.” My heart warms when I look at his precious little face, which motivates me to get up.

We play for a few minutes, then I turn on the TV, as I need to distract Charlie while I get us ready for the day. I warm up his oatmeal and he eats in front of the TV. I make his lunch for daycare and my own breakfast and lunch. Time is always short in the morning.

Charlie asks me to play with him and I’m sad to tell him I don’t have time.

I dress Charlie, then it’s time for me to shower and dress. Charlie is wearing his favourite pyjamas and wants to wear them to day care. It’s not a battle I’m willing to fight. We’re quickly out the door. After I drop off Charlie (no tears today, yay), I drink my breakfast smoothie in the car on my way to work while listening to a podcast. My commute is my downtime before a busy day at the office. That’s our routine every weekday morning and it’s exhausting.

I leave the office at 2pm for a late lunch. Today is a special day: it’s Charlie’s third birthday and, since his party isn’t until the following weekend, I want to at least do a little celebration in his daycare class.

I rush home to make a cake from fruit, getting inspiration from the Pinterest images I found the night before. After 20 minutes, I’m pleasantly surprised at how it looks: almost Pinterest-worthy.

At day care, kids sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Charlie, while he buries his face in my thigh. Kids devour the cake and it’s time for me to get back to work. Charlie cries and my heart breaks.

I leave work in time to do a quick 30-minute workout on the stationary bicycle before the 5:30pm daycare pick-up limit. I try not to think about the fact that my child is always one of the last ones to be picked up. Mommy guilt is real and it is painful.

That evening, Charlie opens his two presents: one from me and one from grandma. I made pizza for him, followed by ice cream (his favourite) but today he is so tired that he only eats half of his portion and asks to go to sleep. Two Peppa Pig books later, he’s on the road to dreamland and I’m not far behind. It’s just past 8pm. I try to read but I fall asleep before I finish the first page. I did not even have the energy to turn off the light.

When I first realised that I would have to raise Charlie alone, I was still pregnant, very scared and angry. However, motherhood has been beautiful and joyful beyond anything I could ever have hoped for. Single motherhood has its perks. God and biology willing, I will have another child and I have no reservations about doing it on my own.

Flavia Abu-Kessm, has dinner at Camana Bay with Benjamin, 18 months.

Flavia Abu-Kessm, 34, mother of Benjamin, 18 months

5:30am – Ben is wide awake and ready for the day. I let him play in his crib for a while as it is too early, but I am already up now. So, I just lay down on the bed next to his crib and relax a little longer.

6:15am – I change Ben. He is in a good mood, although I can see he is tired.

6:30am – I give him his breakfast and then we play a little inside with his toys and outside with his ball. He loves kicking his favourite blue ball around the parking lot of our condo. He is getting better each day. It is so cute.

8:30am – Ben has swimming class. He is always a little scared at first, but as the classes progress, he gets more confident and starts showing how good a swimmer he will be.

9am – We go wake up daddy and doggies. We take the doggies out for a walk as a family. This is one of Ben’s favourites. He loves to walk his fur brothers.

9:30am – Ben plays with daddy and his brothers while mom cleans up after breakfast and starts working on lunch.

11:30am – Ben has lunch. He still has a hard time eating. It is very frustrating. He doesn’t like to get fed anymore; he wants to do it by himself. I encourage him to do so, but he still needs lots of guidance and he gets very frustrated and ends up not eating properly.

Noon – Ben goes for his nap (supposed to be at least two hours).

1:00pm – Ben wakes up earlier from his nap. I am very frustrated as I am exhausted from waking up at 5:30am. I needed to relax a little. I go get him in his nursery and I am welcomed with an excited “Mommy” and a big smile; we have a long cuddle. Frustration is gone. All I feel is love.

4:30pm – We take Ben to Camana Bay. He loves to run around and play at the fountains. He used to want to be on our laps all the time, now he wants to explore. Now we need to chase him around as he goes everywhere! He is also getting more social and tries to interact with the other children. He is growing up so fast. It makes my heart ache as I miss my little baby, but at the same time it makes me so proud of him and all his achievements.

7:00pm – Ben is exhausted. So, we take him upstairs for his bed routine (bath, massage, song, bottle and sleep). It doesn’t take long for him to fall asleep as he is super tired.

We are both exhausted and just want to go to bed, but we stay up watching a movie and having some quiet time before going to bed ourselves. The funny thing is, we keep looking at the baby monitor screen just to see our little Ben sleeping. We miss him when he is upstairs sleeping. That is LOVE.

Kirstin Micucci poses with Arya, 5, and Danica, 3.

Kirstin Micucci, 36, mother of Arya, 5, and Danica, 3

4:45am – The first alarm goes off and so begins the first of many negotiations for this day. Do I get up and study? Exercise? Take the dog for a run? Studying wins. Slog down and waste/spend half of the available time coaxing the brain to some level of function above drooling. Coffee. All of the coffee.

5:19am – Footsteps upstairs. The heavy, staccato footsteps only a toddler can make. Bananas. She’s up. And trapped on the toilet because that’s the furthest step in potty training independence that we’ve reliably achieved. Maybe if I wait, her dad will notice and get up to assist.

5:21am – Not today. Sigh. Here we go.

Cue morning chaos; the ‘Groundhog Day’ experience of chasing tiny humans who are determined to negotiate their way out of life’s basic necessities for no discernible reason while waving a mascara wand around like it’ll magically pop onto one’s lashes. Who thought vanity drawers at a child’s chest height was a good idea? It’s not long before Mummy’s eye starts to twitch and phrases like ‘Fluffy kittens!’ and ‘For Pete’s sake!’ no longer suffice and mummy lets slip a few words that are generally reserved for sailors. (Please don’t repeat that in school.).

We haven’t quite figured out the incentive (read: bribe) adequate to motivate the girls to actually eat their breakfast, get dressed and brush their teeth. “It’s BOORRRRRIIINNGGGG,” she says. Like every part of this process isn’t blindingly boring.

8am – Am I the only person who loves Monday mornings? My co-workers must think I’m nuts. But here there is hot coffee. And nobody touches me. And I have value beyond being a walking snack dispenser. It’s glorious and I love it.

5pm – The Witching Hour. What is it about dusk that brings out the werewolf in otherwise sweet and very adorable little girls? “What should we have for dinner, girls?” “POOP!” Perfect. Super helpful. Hitting Hurley’s on the way home – haven’t seen the ladies there in close to 24 hours now. Ham and pineapple pizza covers most food groups, right?

6:45pm – We’re nearly there. And the trade-off of bedtime vs. making adult supper and tidying the endless stream of stuffed toys, hair bobbles, water bottles and balloons from a birthday that was four weeks ago. Today Dad is doing bedtime, bless that beautiful man, and the Instant Pot and Google have banded together – hopefully successfully – for supper.

8pm – Commence Netflix and napping. 8pm is a socially acceptable bedtime, I’m sure of it. Tank. Is. Empty. No further communication will be made. Mama needs a break. I should be more grateful. I love my life and I wouldn’t actually trade it for anything. I cannot imagine not having these girls who admittedly drive me mental, but I love them so very much it physically pains me to think about something happening to either of them. I know I shouldn’t wish this time away. They’re so little and for such a short period of time. I have to do better, do more for them. God I love them so much. I miss their tiny faces and their sweet voices. I should go check on them.

8:45pm – *stubs toe on door frame, wakes the little one who now wants a drink and to pee and a cuddle and a story and another drink* Sigh.

Aimee Randolph cuddles with her two boys.

Aimee Randolph, 35, mother of Fox David, 2, and Lincoln Jay, 2 weeks

4:30am: I’m up. I don’t like it but I am awake and my day has begun. The tiny tyrant that demands my breast milk is awake and I am here to serve. Gotta love feedings in the dark.

4:35am: The babe is latched and I’m off! Well, my brain is. My body is not quite ready to face the day yet. What is today’s schedule? What will I supply for breakfast? What appointments will I try not to miss today?

Work. I wonder how the shop’s going … Payroll, need to do it. Oh wait, I’m on maternity leave. People needing to get paid trumps mat leave. Money, groceries, bills. What’s for dinner? The endless thoughts of my brain.

5:45am: Man this kid is a feeder! Time for coffee because at this point I’m awake, he’s awake and my 2-year-old will be up anytime now ready for breakfast, potty (hopefully we make it in the pot) and TV time before he has to be dressed and out the door for school.

7:50am: Toddler and dad are out the door off to school and work. Luckily, my mom is here, but only for another five days before she heads back to her normal, calm, child-free life. I am using her for all she’s worth, which is like a million bucks at this point! Wish I had her around all the time. She’s so handy and knowledgeable and great with kids. Obviously, not her first rodeo. She’s a star.

9am: Doctors appointment, for me. Make sure all my parts are going back into place after being shifted and sorted during pregnancy. I had an emergency caesarean this time. Same as last. Tore me up. Definitely harder to heal this time around, emotionally and physically. Not a lot of moms talk about it. Sometimes they are shamed for not having a natural birth. Listen, at the end of the day, we all sacrificed our bodies for nine months to create a human being. We all made a miracle. Doesn’t matter how that tiny human came out of our bodies, we all had to endure the aftermath one way or another. Women are amazing creatures and many of us do it multiple times. You go, girl!

10:30am: Doctors appointment, for baby. Gotta make sure he is at or above birth weight and the slight jaundice has disappeared. Basically, the doctor is checking that he is fed enough and got his daily sunlight. I’m like, come on! This kid is living his best life! My nipples on the other hand …

We get the ‘all clear’ and we are homeward bound.

The rest of the day at home flies by like a montage in an action movie, minus the rad music accompaniment. Somewhere in there, the toddler is collected from school, eats lunch, gets down for a nap. The newborn gets fed another thousand times, diaper changes, put down for a nap. Now all is quiet on the Western Front and the biggest debate begins: sleep when the baby sleeps or eat, do laundry, prep dinner, check emails, peruse Facebook, shower? Then I remember my mom is here, so I eat lunch and decide to sleep; she can handle whatever happens in the next 1-2 hours. I completely crash out.

4pm: I awake to a toddler breathing in my face and the distant cries of the newborn losing his mind because it’s time to eat again.

5:30-6pm: Dinner is on the table. Thanks, Mom!

7:30pm: Toddler is bathed, brushed and pyjama’d up! Hubs and I tag team wrestling the wild beast to bed with stories, songs and a sound machine.

8:30pm: I take a quiet minute to myself. Well, as quiet as it can be while the breast pump is going and I hop on my computer. As a small business owner, I feel the need to check in at work. Whether via emails or Facebook messages to my two amazing business partners. Checking in on orders, sales and upcoming workshops. People need to get paid and the business does not stop just because I created life. The real need to be a mom that ‘does it all’ isn’t lost on me. Women are constantly under pressure to perform well at work leading up to maternity leave, prep work in our absence and then immediately return to work whether we are ready or not at 6 or 8 or 10 weeks after giving birth. I wish I could just turn my brain off for 12 weeks and waltz right in back to work. Not happening.

10pm: Baby is back to feeding and I’m getting solid Netflix time in with the hubs. Ah date nights, I miss the ones outside the house. I dream about them. One day!

11pm: I finally get into bed after a quick shower, dry shampoo in the hair and a cup of tea. Better settle in quick because that next feeding is only four hours away.

Being a mom is the hardest and yet most rewarding job I’ve ever done. They are the most important things in my life. I enjoy watching them grow up (too fast in my opinion!) and look forward to seeing who they become. Being a mom is tough and emotional and never ending and 100% worth every moment of every day. These boys are my life and I would not change any part of it, not in a million years.

Sweet Labitad enjoys a moment with Atuz, 8.

Sweet Labitad, 37, mother of Atuz, 8

I get up early and always start my day with a prayer for loved ones, friends and colleagues, our leaders, for the people who are sick, weak and in need … and, of course, for my little 8-year-old boy, whom majority of the time, I have been far from. I then do my 15-minute exercise, shower, prepare breakfast, and get ready for another hectic day at work.

It is not always easy as when I start my day, my son just finished his in the Philippines, and now he is preparing for the next day.

Work begins at 9am, sometimes earlier, and most of the time, finishes later than usual.

Thinking about him, while I’m getting through my stuff, anticipating what he has for the next day, blend it with the demands of my time as a working mother in a different time zone. Conscious of him, what he’s doing, feeling, experiencing and his needs.

After work, I need to get started in preparing dinner. He’s just getting up, and I need to be energised even though I just finished a long day.

Balancing how I stay in contact and show love, guidance, provide discipline and care is not always easy. I’m not there to physically hug him when it’s challenging at school and assure him that everything is going to be OK.

What is constant is the love, the care and the thoughts in helping him be the best person he can be and fulfil his dreams so in that way, I’m like any mother – just with a different couple of challenges.

These are the sacrifices to provide for my little one.