busy working mom

Survival Mode

Are you in survival mode?

By Janet Farrar Worthington

I just vacuumed my kitchen table.

Don’t judge me. I was vacuuming the wooden floor, using the attachment, and I noticed some crumbs on the table. Then I went ahead and vacuumed the countertops. They look pretty good.

book cover where's the wine and other questions
Where’s the Wine? And Other Questions by Janet Farrar Worthington

I’m tired, I’m in a hurry, I have more work to do this morning than I can possibly get done, so I’m doing what I can do. I haven’t taken my shower yet but I’m wearing workout clothes, which I hope makes it somewhat more acceptable that I look like crap.

I’m in Survival Mode.

Survival Mode is when you just do what you have to do. You wake up and hit the ground running. I get up at my customary 6:30, awakened as always by Molly, putting her big Chocolate Lab head by my pillow and exhaling loudly.

Let out the dogs, feed the dogs, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, give my younger son, Josh, who is not a morning person, a 30-minute snooze alarm, empty the dryer, load the dryer, load the washer, check on my older son, Andy, who is a freshman in college but living at home, to make sure he’s got his alarm set, exchange multiple texts with Blair, our daughter who is at college in Tucson. At 7:00, start fixing Josh’s lunch for school, give him one last snooze, fix his breakfast, get my husband Mark’s lunch ready and find a dishwasher-safe travel mug. I hide the ones you have to hand-wash.

Josh and I were up late last night doing his homework. He has just started middle school. I know his every grade, because I obsessively check the school’s website. They had a video on insects in science, and Josh was supposed to take 25 notes. He took 11, and got an F. But he might be able to pull up the grade by revising the paper. The problem is, he didn’t remember the video anymore.

“What was on it?”


I Googled and found numerous possible videos, hoping we could just watch it again. Struck out totally. So I started asking about bugs.

Were there ants on the video? Yes. Can you remember anything they said about ants? Leaf cutter ants can hurt a forest. Okay, let’s make a sentence about that.

Moths? No. Butterflies? No.

Termites? Yes, the soldier ones have big heads. Also, the queen lays thousands of eggs a day. We couldn’t find out how many, but we found a sentence in a BBC story online that said the queen lays an egg every three seconds. Somehow we figured out a daily number of eggs that this equals.

Cockroaches? Yes, they can make your food bad. So can weevils. Locusts? Yes. Bees? Check.

Butterflies? You just asked me that. I’m sorry; I’m tired. By now we were at about 8:30, I had gone to the grocery store, taken Mark’s shirts to the cleaners, picked up Josh at school, picked up our farm share and made kohlrabi pickles, sautéed the kohlrabi leaves, candied some carrots, and then balanced all that healthiness out with sloppy Joes and Tater Tots. Mailed the signed form required for the roof people to fix our chimney cap, which leaked in the big storm we had this week. Wrote two stories for one of the five publications I’m simultaneously writing for.

Wasps? No. There was some bug that lives in the water. Water strider? No. Get back on Google. Water boatman! Okay, what do they do? I can’t remember.

Butterflies? Yes. Really? Yes, the Monarch butterfly has a long tongue. Thank God!

We finally got to 19 facts. If the teacher accepts them all, that will be 76 percent, which is better than 44 percent. Josh has A’s in everything else, except for this one bad grade, so I hope we can get this resolved and get on with our lives. Tonight we have choir at church at 6 and hockey across town at 7, so Mark will come and get Josh at choir at 6:30 and take him to hockey, then I will leave choir and spell Mark at hockey until it’s over at 8:30, hoping to God that Josh will already be done with his homework.

Also, I signed up to bring a fruit plate to school tomorrow. I have no fruit.

How to Survive in Survival Mode: A Few Tips

Here are a few things that have helped me get through the crazy times.

Perfection is the enemy of the good.

Trying for perfection when you’re just struggling to do everything you need to do is kind of masochistic. It’s not going to happen, and really, you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to do your best.

Don’t compare yourself to anybody else.

You don’t know what’s going on inside their heads, no matter how put together they look on the outside.

Have some meals in the can, ready to go. Literally.

If I can get out of going to the grocery store, even if it’s just a quick trip, I’m going to save at least an hour, just getting there and back. Pantry staple meals are lifesavers! One of our family favorites is Tuna, peas, and fries. Three cans of tuna (I like the kind that comes in olive oil), two cans of peas, drained.

A couple tablespoons of mayo. Throw in some spices like paprika – whatever you like – and lemon juice, salt and pepper, and it’s pretty good. Then some frozen fries or Tater Tots. Don’t judge me; the kids love it.

Then whatever vegetables I actually have on hand, like cucumbers or tomatoes, sliced up and served separately. It’s not fancy, but it’s nutritious and it works for us. Another quickie is turkey chili: For us, it’s two pounds of turkey, browned, salt and pepper. Add three cans of beans. I like to mix it up, with cannellini, pinto beans, and dark red kidney beans, but it’s whatever you have on hand. One can of diced tomatoes (I like the Hunt’s Fire-Roasted.) Three tablespoons of chili powder. Then I usually have stuff on the side: black olives, grated cheese, green onions – whatever you have.


Do you really need to do everything you have on your to-do list for today? Really look at it, and see what can go. Be ruthless with your time. It’s valuable. If your kids are doing activities and nobody is enjoying them – this happened when we all figured out that one of my kids hated soccer, despite the fact that his siblings had played – and it was very freeing to say, “We don’t need to do this anymore!”

Snatch any moments of family time you can find in a hectic day.

Whether it’s riding back and forth in the car, or just sitting together for a quick dinner. Don’t let the TV or music keep you from talking to each other. We enjoy “Deck Time” in our family. Basically, we just go sit out on the deck for a few minutes before or after supper, and look at the trees and clouds, and talk to each other. It is just peaceful and happy.

Take a few minutes to close your eyes and just breathe.

If all you have is five minutes, that can do wonders. Meditation – just breathing and doing your best to think about nothing – is kind of like your body’s “reset” button. It’s very good for your stress level. Just set a timer and try it.

End on a good note.

No matter how stressful the day was, it means a lot to sit and talk about it just before bedtime. Were there any good moments in the day? If there weren’t, and the day was just awful, you can talk about that, too, and hey – you survived it! Tomorrow will be better.

 About the Author

Janet Farrar Worthington is a mother, writer, and the author of several books — her latest, Where’s the Wine? And Other Questions is a collection of her blog posts relating to family life.  
Perhaps Janet says it best, “In addition to writing on medicine, Janet also writes about her family, her former life on a farm in Virginia, her desire to own more chickens, and whichever dog is eyeing the dinner dish.”
Janet‘s websites are:  www.janetfarrarworthington.com and www.vitaljake.com(medical information for men and the women who love them).

We hope you enjoyed these good parenting tips! Please comment below.

Janet Farrar Worthington

Janet is the author of Where’s the Wine? And Other QuestionsHappy little snapshots of home and family, animals with attitude, life in a small town, and finding the funny when everything seems crazy.

Latest posts by Janet Farrar Worthington (see all)

https://imgsub.familiesonlinemagazine.com/uploads/2015/12/WorkingMom1.jpghttps://imgsub.familiesonlinemagazine.com/uploads/2015/12/WorkingMom1-150x150.jpgJanet Farrar WorthingtonParenting AdviceEmotional and Social Well-being,Lifestyle,Parenting,Save TimeSurvival Mode Are you in survival mode? By Janet Farrar Worthington I just vacuumed my kitchen table. Don’t judge me. I was vacuuming the wooden floor, using the attachment, and I noticed some crumbs on the table. Then I went ahead and vacuumed the countertops. They look pretty good. I’m tired, I’m in a...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids