Gather round, ye fellow SAHMs, for a grueling yet enlightening tale of life lessons learned while attempting to replace a broken dishwasher, starring the dunce-like novice known as myself, her spirited, wily, and loving Airedale, and her beloved daughter…
Our dishwasher broke.
I informed our landlord and he told me to pick out one I liked within a certain budget and that he’d write me a check to reimburse.
Simple. Easy-peasy. Another to-do to be ticked off on an uneventful Tuesday. At this point, I consider myself moderately skilled in the household management department; I unceremoniously rated this endeavor a 3 on a 1-10 scale in terms of difficulty.
This was two months ago.
We still have no dishwasher.
Le chain of events:
- I picked this dishwasher after doing my research. I really wanted a Bosch 300 Series (the best-reviewed, quietest machine on the market, I believe), but it was out of budget once I tacked on delivery and installation. If you’re in the market and have the budget, do yourself a favor and buy a Bosch. I’ve been obsessed with that brand ever since I nannied for a family while in graduate school and noticed how silent their appliances were — and this was well before I thought about such things as appliances, so my notice of them stands out to me even now, many years later — and they were all Bosch.
- I called before placing the order to confirm that they would be able to provide a certificate of insurance before delivery, which is required for all deliveries and installations in my building. (Such a royal pain in the ass, but not uncommon in old buildings like mine in Manhattan.) I was assured, after playing ring around the rosy with multiple customer service reps and being placed on hold four times, that it would be no problem — I was to “call after placing the order to arrange it.” (<< This should have been a red flag.)
- I placed the order. I called to arrange “it.” I was told I needed to call back 6-8 hours later, once the order had processed with their delivery subcontractors. (<<Pit forms in stomach.)
- I called 8 hours later. After spending a blissful, spa-like12 minutes waiting, I explained the situation, played ring around the rosy again, and then got confirmation from good old Jane that this would be taken care of. (<<I did not trust Jane.)
- I called two days later to confirm that they had submitted the required paperwork to the building. Played ring around the rosy. Pondered taking up knitting to pass the time, bought something online because I was bored, and then was “patched through” to the subcontractor delivery people with JCPenney on the line as well to explain in detail what was needed. I did so. I then asked whether they would be able to call me or email me to confirm once it was done. I was told, intriguingly, “we can’t place outbound emails or outbound calls.” Hm. Problematic. As that would make it impossible for them to send a COI to my building. I let it slide and asked the JCPenney rep to call me or email me after they had checked into it to confirm it was done. “Sure, yeah…only…well, maybe you should call us.” “No. I spent a lot of money on this dishwasher and I’ve wasted too much time on this. You call me once you’ve confirmed.” (<<I knew she wouldn’t call me.)
- She never called me.
- The night before delivery day came and the subcontractors called to confirm the convenient (har har) 6 hour window for delivery the following day. I said: “As a reminder, you will need to submit a COI to the building before entry. Can you confirm that this will be done.” “Did you leave it in the notes?” “Yes. I’ve called and spoken to 238 people. You need to have it.” “OK, then it will be fine.” (<<Strong suspicion it would not be fine.)
- It was not fine.
- Delivery day came. No COI had been submitted. The delivery men were turned away. I was yelled at by the delivery team because it was clearly my fault and oversight (!!!), who then attempted to rush a COI over email, but it wasn’t approved in time, and they left my building for another job.
- I rescheduled.
- Second delivery day comes. The team shows up an hour before the scheduled time and is not permitted into the building, which does not accept deliveries until after 9 a.m. They have grumble at me and ask if I can “do anything” by “going downstairs to talk to the building.” No. No, John, I cannot.
- Once they’re angrily at my door, they spend three minutes in the kitchen and then inform me: “The hose we brought is not long enough. And your counters are marble. [Ed. note: they are not.] So we can’t install.” I look longingly at the bottle of wine in our wine rack and then exasperatedly tell them to just leave the damn washer in our house and I’ll find a local plumber to finish the job.
- We have a box the size of Alaska taking over our meager entertaining area. This, when I’m preparing to host three couples in our home for the first time since moving to New York in a matter of days. I call the building handyman (he’s amazing) and explain the bind I’m in. He’s not technically supposed to touch certain appliances like dishwashers — he’s more for repairing minor problems like leaking faucets or dripping pipes — but he senses the distress in my voice and offers to do it as “a private job,” meaning I pay him to do the job after hours.
- He arrives the next day and informs me that the hose is, in fact, the appropriate length and that the delivery guys could have installed it. (<<Oh. my. God.)
- He spends an hour and a half wrangling the old machine out, disposing of it (praise be to God — I would have had no idea what to do with the old one), and installing the new one. He even breaks down the box and disposes of that for me.
- We test the dishwasher.
- Water floods all over our kitchen.
- The machine is faulty — there’s a missing piece: some sort of plug that just was not in the machine.
- I pay the handyman because, I mean, it’s not his fault that there’s a missing piece and he just spent two hours working on it. It’s like watching two hundred-dollar bills ignite in flames before my eyes.
- I call FREAKING JCPENNEY BACK, now terrified that I’ve disposed of the dishwasher box.
- They tell me that the manufacturer will come to install a new one free of charge, but I’ll now need to coordinate with them on delivery, install, a COI, etc, etc etc.
So that is where we are. No dishwasher, no dignity, and I’m still unconvinced that our disposal of the box the washer came in will not factor into future problems in this never-ending story. We’re currently living that Amish life, cleaning plates by the moonlight.
I should also mention that I know there are many people who live in New York (and beyond) without dishwashers, but those people are not us — a dishwasher was a baseline requirement in our apartment hunt because we cook A LOT. In fact, we rarely eat out! My friend recently asked me, mystified, eyes wide: “I mean, you cook every night?!” Yes’m. And with mini’s bottles and separate mealtimes and me working from home most of the time — IT IS A LOT OF WASHING BY HAND THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
But the point of this post is not to dwell on this petty and admittedly humorous tale of frustration (though please learn from my mistake and do not order from JCPenney ever…ever, ever…and if you’re in Manhattan, only use local folks that do deliveries and installs routinely in the area). The point is that I learned a lot about being a part-time SAHM through this experience.
Lesson No. 1: SAHM = SAHM + Household Manager
One of the biggest surprises in becoming a part-time stay at home mom has been the assumption of all household management duties. Mr. Magpie and I used to shoulder a fairly equal burden — but now, with me working from home three days a week and then caring for mini the other two, it simply makes more sense for me to handle the home. Why would Mr. Magpie take a day off of work to coordinate a dishwasher delivery when I’m here? Why would he be responsible for arranging Costco deliveries and grocery shopping after hours, or mapping out mini’s meals when he’s not here during the day? Etc. But, my friends, it is a lot to assume on your own. It took me a good several months of frustration (“ughhh where does the time go?!?!!”; “I have no hours in the day!”) to realize that running a household on your own — especially one in the complicated city of New York, with a dog and a baby, after you’ve just moved states and dissolved a business and are in the midst of selling a house — can eat up a good couple of hours of your day…every day. I finally realized, during this dishwasher debacle, that the “admin to-dos” on my list every morning aren’t “getting in the way” of me doing my job — they are PART of my job. Dealing with the bozos associated with the dishwasher disaster is part and parcel of my new role: just like filing expense reports or turning in performance reviews in a more traditional job, they’re inconvenient things that need to get done to keep the ball rolling, and they’re annoying, but it is what it is. I don’t know why, but this revelation was freeing for me. Oddly, it made me feel more in control. I had been racing against the clock for weeks and weeks, confused as to why the hell I was only “starting” my day at noon. Now I understand that all of the errands and phone calls I’ve been handling in the morning are the day. This is part of the job! Part of the territory! So now when I’m sitting down and I see that the number one thing on my to do list is to follow up with the manufacturer to coordinate the COI, I don’t feel enraged — I view it as something that needs to get done before I can move on to work on this post, or take mini to the museum, or what have you.
Lesson No. 2: Don’t Overstuff Your Days
The morning of the installation of the faulty dishwasher by my handyman, I almost tossed another fly in the ointment owing to an annoying habit of mine to “overstuff” my days. On this particular morning, I hustled out the door at 9 a.m. to run to the grocery and drugstore and then rushed back home to unload the groceries, transfer mini into her umbrella stroller, and head uptown to the Children’s Museum for an hour or two of free play before the dishwasher would be installed at noon. I should have known to just forgo the museum because the handyman had said “noon-ish,” I was having a baby-sitter come by for an interview in the early afternoon and I needed to take Tilly for a walk, prep for a meal I was cooking for company that evening, and clean the apartment — it was just too much for one day. But I did it anyway because I’ve been hell-bent on taking mini on adventures twice a week, and I felt I owed it to her. Sometimes it’s a playdate, or lunch out, or a music class, or a museum — but I have this idea in my head that if I’m going to stay at home with her a few days a week, I need to make the most of our time together by exposing her to new things around this magical city of ours. Not a bad aspiration, I don’t think, but, on that particular day, when the handyman called at 11 a.m. to say he was outside my door, I realized that I was letting some bizarre vision of myself as supermom get in the way of practicality and reason. And honestly, I probably took some of the joy out of the experience because I was worried about the 34 other things I needed to get done, and how they’d all fit together, and when would she go down for her nap, besides?! Do other moms do this to themselves? Make their lives unnecessarily complicated in pursuit of some inborn image of what it means to be a “good mom”? Reality check.
Lesson No. 3: GET.OUT.
After the shady deliverymen told me (ahem, lied to my face, but that’s neither here nor there) that the dishwasher hose wasn’t long enough, I was — despite my resolution to view these petty frustrations as “part of the job” — annoyed. I bundled mini up, threw the leash on Tilly, and went for a long walk through Central Park. I was instantly restored. The bite of the January air, the drama of the grandiose manmade cityscape against the arborous Godmade park, Tilly’s exuberant trot — I was re-centered, made whole. This reminded me of my discovery, over the past many weeks, that the secret to staying at home with a child is to get out of it. Even if just down the block for coffee, and even when said excursions can require a good 10 minutes to get out the door in the first place, thanks to the cold weather, the necessity of packing snacks, bathroom trips and diaper changes, etc, etc. It breaks up the day and can feel — oddly enough — like a little pocket of alone time for me, because mini is usually happy in her stroller, not needing a thing from me, for a good thirty minutes. I also find that when I’m home, I’m trying to do 23 things at once: fold laundry, throw the toy to Tilly, read mini a book, preheat the oven for lunch, answer the call from the doorman, etc, etc. When I’m out, I can focus more intensively on mini and her reactions to the world around us. I feel more dialed in, more alert.
Lesson No. 4: Keep It in Perspective.
In the midst of one of the many botched steps of this experience, I received a phone call from a dear friend who shared that she was going through some seriously bumpy times. Hearing her so upset about things that really matter put things in perspective for me. It can be lonely when you’re staying at home with a baby — and startlingly easy to get caught up in the trivial dramas of dishwasher installations and mishaps with the dog and strange interactions with other parents. I can’t fault myself for this because — well, these happenings are the fabric of my daily life; together, they form the web of experiences that now inform how I feel any given day, and what I think about, and who I interact with, just as the projects I was taking on and the dynamics with my team did back when I held a more traditional job. And yet. My friend’s call reminded me, once again, to put things in perspective. So we haven’t had a dishwasher for two months. OK. Handwashing it is. Next? So the deliverymen lied to my face. Shrug — OK, we’ll ask for money back. I mean, these are trifles. I need to conserve my energy for the big stuff in life — for the relationships that matter.
All this, my friends, from a dishwasher.
Post-Script: SAHM Gear.
+I’m all about efficiency at home. I use these wipes to clean mini’s high chair (not her tray — that gets cleaned in the kitchen with proper water and soap) and these wipes to clean mini’s hands after meals. I know a wet paper towel would suffice, but sometimes it’s just easier…
+Now that I probably won’t have a dishwasher for at least another week or two, I’m going to bite the bullet (shoulda done this ages ago) and buy disposable cutlery (how chic is this?!) and plates. I give up.
+This is going to sound weird, but Mr. Magpie and I only have one tupperware to our name. We tossed a huge set when we moved and, frankly, don’t have the space for much here. Instead, we stow things in bowls with saran wrap over the top. (This also cuts down on the washing…) I think I might snag these to help with the situation.
+I’m obsessed with Scout Bags — I have one of these, which folds up into a tiny square that fits into a pouch. These are great for travel (i.e., fold it in your suitcase and then toss toys/beach gear/clothes in it to accommodate whatever adventure is in front of you), but it’s honestly also come in handy underneath her stroller as a makeshift grocery bag! (I also always have this in my diaper bag nowadays.)
+I saw a very chic mom wearing these sneakers the other day — I’ll stick with my Golden Goose babies, but these would be a strong contender if I had decided against splurging!
+Elon Musk has made space cool again (it never was uncool to any of us children of the 80s, but…) and I love all of the space-inspired pieces out right now, like this adorable coat for a little boy!