Motherhood Math

Common Parenting ProblemsFolding ruler, calculator, and letters spelling out mother

  • What: Motherhood Math
  • When: Pregnancy to college
  • Why: Laugh more, cry less
  • Where: At home

Did you excel at math in school? Maybe you hated the subject, but find yourself using the skills more and more after becoming a parent. After the recent article in The New Yorker, A Few Math Problems for Mothers, I thought I’d share some of my own motherhood math.

If your child gets motion sick at the rate of one cup per minute of remaining flight time, how many free tiny barf bags will you need to avoid using your hands as a container?

You’re three weeks postpartum and can barely keep your eyes open, but you can pump one ounce every ten minutes. Your infant needs to be fed five ounces for every twenty minutes since they last nursed. When will you ever leave the house again?

If you go on vacation for two weeks with a five hour flight, a two hour layover, and a three hour flight, how many diapers and wipes will it take before you arrive at your destination? Bonus points: Can you fit them all in your carry-on bag AND change a dirty diaper in a) your lap while not allowed to move about the cabin or b) a space smaller than a cutting board while your child screams bloody murder and thrashes wildly?

If you have three kids in four years, how many years will it be before you own nice clothing again? What about nice clothing that fits for more than a month AND doesn’t get ruined by the ice cream left on the sofa, spilled milk, or ketchup?

If your husband works for eight hours a day (and needs eight hours of consecutive sleep to pull that off) and you “don’t work” for 24 hours a day while never sleeping for more than two hours (if you’re lucky) at a time for two years, how many years does your partner need to take care of everything to make up the difference?

If you haven’t read a book with more than twenty words and big bright pictures on every stiff page in three years, how many months will it take for your vocabulary to contain more than one hundred words again?

If your child leaves one LEGO on the floor for every thirty minutes they spend playing with the building bricks, and cleans up only ten percent of the bricks they play with, and you have three children, how many bricks will you step on each day?

If you live in a house with four other people who can’t leave because of a pandemic, how many cups will you need to keep everyone from being thirsty each day? Bonus points if you can answer how many times you will need to hunt down all the cups and run the dishwasher to keep a clean supply.

If your first child grows at an average rate of eight pounds per year, and your second child is two years younger but grows at an average rate of twelve pounds per year, how many years until you need to buy two of everything so they both have shoes and clothes to wear?

If you have an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler, and own two cars, but carpool with another family with two children once a week, how many car seats and of which type will you need for an entire school year? Don’t forget that the morning drop off requires a different car than the afternoon pickup.

What about you? What are your best mom math problems?

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