Aerobics at 5:30 a.m. is how Derindia Shapiro starts her day. It is perhaps the only time she'll have to herself during the day. Even then, she pauses her workout video to throw some laundry in the dryer.
Mrs. Shapiro is a working mother of three, ages 3 to 7. She has mastered the art of thinking ahead; she juggles the extracurricular activities of her three children with ease and has a list for everything.
Before long, her three children are up and getting ready for the day.
"We have a time schedule - they wake up at a certain time, they have to be downstairs at a certain time, they have to eat breakfast at a certain time to get to the bus. They have to be on a schedule or she'll miss the bus, then I'll miss work. It's a chain effect. I have to have a schedule."
A quick breakfast of bagels and string cheese is combined with some last-minute homework help for Elizabeth, 7.
Mrs. Shapiro steals a second to hide a special note in Elizabeth's backpack, as she does each morning.
"Three minutes," she shouts upstairs as the kids scramble to finish morning routines.
AT 7:50 A.M., Mrs. Shapiro backs the Chevrolet Suburban out to the bus stop, which is just two houses down in their Columbia County neighborhood. With one eye on the children, Mrs. Shapiro eats breakfast mix out of a bag and puts on her makeup using the visor mirror. She and the boys, Josh, 5, and Lee, 3, wait at the bus stop until Elizabeth boards bus No. 910, headed for Stevens Creek Elementary School, then Mrs. Shapiro drives to her job at Open Door Preschool.
She teaches the Shining Stars class, which consists of 4 and 5 year olds.
"All three of my kids have attended Open Door," she said. "I was on the board and thought that is what I'd be doing for the rest of my life."
But when the school was in need of a teacher, they turned to Mrs. Shapiro. With 13 years teaching the first grade, six teaching special education and three master's degrees (school counseling, special education and early childhood education), she was more than qualified.
FROM 9 A.M. TO 1 P.M. Mrs. Shapiro, with the help of two other teachers, tends to 19 children. She teaches them the Pledge of Allegiance, their phone numbers and songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Two of her students have learned English in just the past year.
By 1:30 p.m., each student has been picked up, so Mrs. Shapiro gathers her boys back in the car.
There is enough time to have lunch with a friend before Elizabeth gets home from school at 3:30 p.m.
Today is Tuesday. That means tonight Josh has T-ball and Elizabeth has dance class.
"Tuesdays are our busiest day; we'll finally get home and to bed around 10," Mrs. Shapiro said.
"They can each pick two activities," she explained. Elizabeth also has Girl Scouts and Josh takes a speech class. Right now, Lee goes to Little Gym twice a week. When he gets older, he can choose another activity.
Typically at the end of the day, Mrs. Shapiro gets her family ready for bed while her husband, Mike, cleans up the kitchen.
"I couldn't do this without him," she said.
Mrs. Shapiro also volunteers with the Heart Council and is a co-leader for her daughter's Scout troop.
"My sisters both have kids and I used to think, 'How cute, they're always running," she said with a laugh.
Mrs. Shapiro spends all day taking care of children. But while it may seem a little chaotic, working is one of the things she does for herself, she said.
"I'm not working to support my family, I do it because I enjoy it," she said. "Technically, I break even because I really do spend money on my classroom."
Before she had her family, Mrs. Shapiro spent quite a bit of time on herself and her education. She had been married four years and was 34 years old when she had her first child.
"When you're pregnant, everybody says, 'Oh, your life's going to change'... It doesn't change. Your life ends and the new one starts," she said.
Although Mrs. Shapiro said had she gotten married earlier, she would have had more children, she recognizes the benefit of waiting.
"I think I wouldn't have wanted to spend as much time with my children as I do now," she said. "I did what I wanted to before. It wasn't that much, but now I'm ready to concentrate on them. I don't think I would've been as prepared, mentally or financially, before."
THE MOM: Derindia Shapiro, 42, working mother of three: Elizabeth, 7; Josh, 5; and Lee, 3
THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE MOTHERHOOD: Fun, Exciting, Chaotic
BIGGEST BLESSING: "When they hug me goodnight and tell me, 'I love you to the moon and back."'
BIGGEST SACRIFICE: "There's not one."
Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org