Maa-maaa!” My two-year-old daughter, Alex, called from her crib. I bounded up the stairs, excited to have the whole day to play with her. I was now, officially, a stay-at-home mom. Lucky enough to have the option, I’d made a tough decision and quit my job as a registered nurse.

“Ready for some fun?” I picked up Alex and gave her a tight squeeze, grateful to finally have the time to conquer all the “mommy-and-me” projects I’d collected from parenting magazines. I could never get to them on weekends, and I was ready to catch up. Alex and I would make animal masks out of paper plates in the morning and homemade Play-Doh in the afternoon. My life could finally be full of the magical moments I imagined filled up the days of stay-at-home mothers everywhere.

While singing nursery rhymes, I poured pancake batter into heart-shaped molds, a breakfast that literally showed my love. By the time I changed her clothes, cleaned up the breakfast mess, started the laundry, changed a stinky pull-up, and answered two phone calls, I was already way behind schedule. When would I have time to fit in my list of magical moments?

On my way out the door,

I noticed a note from my husband telling me to please Express Mail the important papers he’d left on his desk to our accountant. The note went on to say that he needed his shirts from the dry cleaners for tomorrow’s business trip. I sighed. “Well, Alex. We better get moving.” —