Motherandering: (n)  A close cousin to meandering

An example of the way I run my household is chronicled in Laura Joffe Numeroff’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. For those unfamiliar with Numeroff, the picture book is a story about a little boy who offers a cookie to a precocious visiting mouse, which sets off a chain reaction of events.

When I wake up in the morning, sit on the couch, and read the newspaper, my sons, like the mouse in the Numeroff story, decide they want milk. When I try to ignore them, it gets difficult to concentrate on the newspaper in front of me because both boys sit two inches from my face and repeat, “I want milk” no less than twenty times without taking a breath. So I get up and walk toward the kitchen.

On my way, I notice that the man of the house has, once again, mistaken the couch for a clothes hamper, and I pick his shirts off the cushions and arms of the sofa and head into the bedroom to drop them in their proper place.

When I see our hamper spilling over with clothes, I’m reminded that I need to do laundry, so I walk to the washroom to get a basket for our dirty clothes. At the door of the utility room, which is in the boys’ bathroom, I notice my little Hansels have left me a path of clothes, instead of pebbles, that lead from just outside the door to the bathtub. I pick up shoes, socks, pants, shirts, and, finally, underwear and then walk into the boys bedroom to deposit their clothes in baskets, and I notice that their beds are unmade.

I start to straightened up, and as I pull off the linens from the mattresses, I notice a pile of superheroes at the foot of each bed, so I collect all the action figures and walk to the playroom to drop them in a toy box.

When the boys see me walk by, they ask for their milk. I set the toys on the floor in the living room and walk into the kitchen once again. I search inside the cabinets for two plastic cups. I don’t find any because every plastic cup we own is either dirty and sitting inside the kitchen sink or lost in back of the station wagon.

As I open the dishwasher to load the dirty dishes, I find clean dishes inside. When the boys ask for milk again, in a panic, I root out two plastic bowls. The bowls are tall enough to pass as cups and, more importantly, are clean.

I open the refrigerator to get the milk and am slapped with an odor similar to what a dead armadillo smells like after lying on Highway 79 for a week during a Central Texas summer.

I find what looks like molded armadillo inside a plastic container and set it on the counter, because the boys are still screaming for their milk. I pour the milk into the clean bowls and take them to my sons who have wadded up the newspaper I was reading into small balls.

I hand them both their milk and the oldest says, “Uh, Mama, these are bowls, not cups.”

“Look what you’ve done to my newspaper!”  I bark then add, “Pretend you’re a dog.”

For the first time ever, this child does as he’s told and he laps up his milk with all the neatness of a puppy getting a bath. His younger brother, never one to miss an opportunity to act like a canine, follows suit. They drench their pajamas and the crumpled newspaper I had started to read.

So I sit down and take stock of my meandering. I realize that I won’t read the newspaper this morning, I haven’t washed our clothes, or made the boys’ beds, or picked up the toys off the floor, or emptied the dishwasher, or cleaned the kitchen sink. And like the boy in Numeroff’s book, I’m exhausted. I try to figure out why nothing got done this morning, and I’m baffled because I know I’ve been busy and can’t figure out why my house smells like a dead armadillo.

QUESTION and CHALLENGE: Do you motherander? We want to hear your funniest example in the comments below!


Milk image:


  1. Laima says

    I did exactly this, and I felt like I have to solve this, but I couldn’t. So I asked my own Mom for advise. She told me to finish every single thing I start doing (except if my baby starts crying, or anything like this). Now I am trying this. Hard for me, as I am really, really chaotic person. But it really works.
    My advice on using this advice – when you start, do exaggerate a little, it makes you learn new habits faster.
    So, if I am making the bed, i will make the bed and NOT start pairing socks and NOT call my friend about todays visit. Finally the bed will be done! And I will approach the next huge project (doing laundry maybe).

  2. rachel.nielson says

    Hysterical!!! I motherander ALL THE TIME. Most of the time, I forget what I even originally set out to do!!

  3. says

    This morning I rallied the troops (ages 6, 4, and 2) to clean up their rooms. Both of them got a jelly bean for saying, “Okay Mom!” and then headed to their rooms, where they both began calling for help with the task. I told them to get started without me, because I could see that my garden outside needed close inspection after last night’s hail storm. Before I made it through the door, 6 and 2 were behind me, requests for help forgotten so they could help me inspect my not-so-bullet-proof potatoes, peas, and lettuce. The inspection had barely begun, when I looked behind me and found them harvesting battered peas that were not fully ripe (and at this rate, never will be). So I stopped the inspection to pull them away from the pea patch – SIX times. My final attempt to inspect the hail-ravaged vegetable patch was was interrupted by 6 who pointed out that 2 was balanced precariously on the side of the kiddie swimming pool we left out yesterday, which had become completely filled with water and bits of debris. Running to 2, I picked her up and hollered to 6 that he needed to follow me inside so we could clean up his room. He followed me, (2 making no small noise about her foiled immersion attempt) and before I realized what was happening, tracked cow manure across my floors. I got out a rag to start mopping, and realized I hadn’t seen 4 in a while, which is always a signal for impending doom. The rag was left on the floor so I could go find her, and she was, of course, in the bathroom, with lipstick from ear to ear and a smile no mother could resist. Overcoming my simultaneous urges to strike her, hug her, laugh, and cry, I instead picked her up and put her head directly under the faucet, which caused more of her to get wet than I honestly intended. A little too late, I realized I don’t know how to get lipstick out of white towels, but couldn’t look it up just then because 6 had come to find me. He whined about being unable to make his bed by himself (but at least he remembered!) and I told him I’d be there to help him in a second. On my way out of the room, I spotted my computer on the bed, and realized it needed to be plugged in, and one moment later I found myself here, typing this ridiculous chronology for strangers, while I can hear my 6 destroying the zippers on a suitcase in his room, my 4 incessantly pushing the same button on a toy downstairs, and 2 screaming at 4 to stop it! Will their rooms get cleaned today? It’s not looking good.

  4. Tiffnie says

    Laughed so hard when I read this. I’ve been running around all morning because I had so much to do — my two littles just went to play at a friends house and now I can’t remember why I was wandering the house like a crazy mom with too much to do? Where do I start now that it is quiet?

  5. Julie says

    This is totally me! The most annoying part is that my husband comes home and says, “Doesn’t it bother you that there is a dirty pan in the kitchen? You should really make more of an effort to clean in there.” Grrr…The worst part is, he NEVER motheranders. Somehow he gets it all done! Probably because our daughter is a mama’s girl, so it’s really tough to go from room to room with a 2-year-old hanging off my leg! My husband gets to move freely, sans 2-year-old.

  6. Jaclyn says

    What do you think I’m doing right now? Yep. Motherandering. I came on the computer to email my m-i-l some recipes. So why am I reading this awesome article?!

  7. says

    Days like this made me give up working from my “to do” list. Instead, as I “motherander” & manage to get something done, I put it on my “DONE” list, so by the end of the day I get credit for doing something. BTW, my daughter left the nest 8 years ago, but I still “motherander”!

  8. chinagirlsmom says

    The most accurate piece of advice I got before becoming a mother was “you will never finish anything again; your life will be a series of unfinished things”. As a triple A person, there is nothing more I enjoy than crossing things off my to-do list. My kids have forced e to grow out of this obsession, and learn to live in the world of motherandering!!

  9. says

    I had no idea this was an epidemic but I’m comforted by that fact. Yet disturbed to
    read in one of these posts that “Motherandering” doesn’t end. Why can’t we ever finish an…..

  10. Anna Jenkins says

    Guess how come I read this article right now! Yep…been motherandering…right now…as we speak. Great article! And yes Gina, I have received the same diagnosis. Finally…

  11. Brandy Griffith says

    I do this every single day! Have no idea how to break the cycle either. I have 2 kids. My son is 5 and my daughter is 10 months and it is nearly impossible for me to complete anything that I am ever trying to do. I just go through my day trying to do as much as I can to pick up toys and straighten up the house and then by the end of the day the same thing I cleaned that morning already needs to be cleaned again and the same toys are in the floor. I usually try to make a quick sweep of the toys before I go to bed but I know they will be right back out in the morning. My husband is notorious for making comments on how I didn’t do anything while he was gone to work but he obviously has no idea what “motherandering” really is. The really sad part of it is he contributes to the mess and never picks up anything or does anything at all to help but he loves to talk about how I am not getting enough done. I guess he will never understand. I just realize that I have to do the best I can to take care of my babies and at the end of the day I KNOW HOW MUCH I DID AND HOW HARD I TRIED ON EVERYTHING ELSE, AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS!!!!

  12. Lil says

    Cleaning while you have small children is like shoveling in a snowstorm! Now I am a grandma and when the babies visit it is still the same!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *