OK, so I’ve never been the world’s most organized person. But when I was working full-time I had a good file system going. One file folder for each project I worked on. I knew the contents of my files and had plenty of room to store them in drawers. No problem.
But office work was easy compared to work-at-home mothering of two busy little elementary school students. Now I’ve got a full-time job just dealing with their paperwork. Seriously.
I dread the moment, every school day, when my darling girls come home and pull their red folders out of their backpacks. It’s not fair, because the folders are bulging with papers that are mostly mine to deal with. Two might be offerings for sports my girls have no interest in, several pages of old class work to be saved or tossed, an invitation to a school event I know I’ll hear about three more times before it happens, a half-page Bagel Day reminder, at least one fundraising pitch, a field trip envelope that needs a check and a signature by next week. And finally, there’s the all-important homework to be dealt with this afternoon. Now multiply all of that by two girls and I have a big old pile of papers.
The girls groan over the homework, but I want to tell them that their few story problems and spelling words are nothing compared to all this paper that has just come in for me! What am I a mom or an executive secretary!?
The smart thing to do, at this point, would be to immediately separate the trash from the "deal with now" and the "deal with later." But no. There are snacks to make and dance classes to attend and homework to help with! Instead the papers go straight to my version of an inbox – the kitchen counter – right on top of the piles from the last few days.
And then the mail comes! Usually it’s six to 10 envelopes of ads, bills and pure junk (which the senders have camouflaged so I won’t have the nerve to toss them before wasting time opening them). They get absorbed into my paperwork pile, too.
When I finally get the spare moment to sort through all this mess and create separate little files for papers going back to the girls’ teachers, the PTO or mortgage and utility companies, I often run out of time to sign at the bottom, write out checks or gather up quarters, so the little piles go right back into the big pile which will become the foundation of tomorrow’s new piles.
Every now and then, I do succeed at smashing my paper mountain down to a mole hill. I get the bills in the mail, stash the art and school work worth saving and stuff the completed documents into the girls’ backpacks. Voila! I’m a genius!
When I make a mistake, though, they come home talking to me like grumpy little bosses.
"Hey, mom!" Suzi will demand, "How come you forgot my field trip permission slip? It was due today!"
"And I didn’t have my bagel money," Patti will pout.
I smile weakly and vow to do a job better next time. But inside I’m thinking that next year, I better be getting a big present for Administrative Professionals Day.