My hand slams down on the whining alarm clock that tells me it’s 5:00 a.m.
The day begins.
There’s no time to hit snooze.
It’s go time!
My students rely upon me.
My colleagues do, too.
And our three boys just might not make it through their daily routine without a little help from Mom.
Getting ready for school in the morning is a marathon in itself - a very...slow...marathon. Think of molasses. Now think of something moving slower than molasses. That’s our boys.
While I am not a morning person, I have to pretend to be one. Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I give a pep talk. Most of the time, I just leave it to my sweet husband to take over while I do other things to get us ready for the day. “Divide and conquer.” Isn’t that the mantra for all parents?
Like a parrot, the commands are on repeat.
“Out of bed.” “Take a shower.” “Eat breakfast.” “Get dressed.” “Hey, get dressed!”...”Umm...did you hear me? We are going to be late.”
“Brush your hair. Brush your teeth.”
“Do I have to?” the kids ask.
“Yes, you do. Do you really want cavities?”
And if one or some of those things don’t happen, then oh well. I’m done saying the same thing over and over again.
“Just get in the car! And bring your breakfast with you.”
As I rush to the car, I glance at all that remains from the war zone of getting ready in time for school. And I wonder when I’ll find time to put it all away. Never mind the never-ending mountain of clean clothes that may never get folded this week, the pile of mail that I’ll never find time to get through, and just the overall clutter of sports equipment, instruments, and toys in every corner.
I take a deep breath, close my eyes for a second, and tell myself that I will one day have time to organize my house - one day…it won’t be this weekend, or the next, or the next because we have sports and Cub Scouts events…and frankly, I just want to spend time with our boys on the weekend. Who wants to spend their free time organizing a mess when you can finally spend time with your family?
But I do hear that such a day exists. The day when one finds time to unclutter. I long for that day. But for now, I do my best to close my eyes and remind myself as the stress overcomes me, that the day will come, when my house will be organized. For now, I will do my best to enjoy the chaos.
I jump in the car as my coffee splashes on my newly ironed dress for work and shrug my shoulders. I guess I’ll be sending this dress to the cleaners...again!
I check the back seat. Everything is in the car.
Lunchboxes. Check. Instruments. Check. p.e. bags. Check. Backpacks. Check. Thank God for my husband. Without his help every morning, we would be late for school on a daily basis.
Off to school. We finally arrive after our 30 minute commute. I kiss the boys and send them to class. A little bit of stress exits my body, and I breathe a sigh of relief because I know that they have all made it to school on time.
Now, my focus is 100 percent on my students. Grading, planning, standing all day - in a sense - performing all day. I realize that history and English are not the favorite subjects of all students so I do my best to use all of my energy in order to energize my students. The days of teaching are long, but they are rewarding. I love teaching, and there is nothing I would rather do.
But, then...my school day ends between 5:00 and 5:30. Then there’s the rush to the boys’ after school activities a couple days a week. First, the long commute home. Then, dinner. Homework. Thank God, again, for my husband who cooks nightly.
Then, there's the bedtime routine. Snuggling, reading books, brushing teeth.
And then I begin thinking about the next day. Time to clean out the lunch boxes, iron the boys’ uniforms, and put the instruments and backpacks by the door.
I stay up grading papers. Maybe I get a little bit of my own writing squeezed into my evening. And I have uninterrupted conversation for about 30 minutes or so with my husband, unless one of the children comes down the stairs for his fifth glass of water for the night.
I close my eyes and think about all the things that I didn't get done and pray for my family's health and safety. And in less than two minutes, I am out. I am completely exhausted.
Sound familiar? I know it does.
I used to think the early years of parenting were tough, but what I have discovered is that EVERY stage of parenting is difficult - just in different ways.
I know you can relate. Whether you are a first time parent, or this is your third or fourth time around. Whether you are a single parent or have a partner. Whether you have babies or teenagers at home. Whether you are a stay at home parent, a parent who is working part-time, or a parent who is working full time - parenting is NOT easy.
The daily routine is stressful enough, but then add the petty fighting between the children and the occasional back-talk and sass you may receive from one child or two. Each time you are surprised by a 30-year-old voice coming out of your child’s tiny body, and you wonder what you’ve done wrong.
“What the heck?” you ask yourself. I teach my children about respect and empathy and caring for others on a daily basis, and yet, my child just talked back to me?
Mix in the messy house, with the dirty plates in the sink and dirty clothes and used towels strewn about. You have been teaching the kids to pick up after themselves. When are they going to learn? You tell them that we don’t live in a barn. And you find yourself getting irritated and yelling about things that are clearly only the exhaustion speaking.
Add sicknesses to the equation, and our world is rocked. The kids can’t afford to get sick. And as my husband says, “if Mom gets sick, the whole operation shuts down.”
The kids don’t eat vegetables or drink anything green or eat sushi or raw peppers. And now you know you’ve done something wrong as you compare your child’s eating habits to another.
The iPad is occasionally used as a “babysitter” so that you can get something done. And the guilt completely overwhelms you.
You sometimes forget to pack the p.e. clothes or an item for a child’s project. Or God forbid, you are like me - and you accidentally throw out your son’s homework because you thought it was in the “keep at home” side of his folder. Ugh! Will our child’s teacher ever look at us with non-judgmental eyes?
And there are the occasional “Sex in the City” moments when we find ourselves becoming Charlotte, hiding in the kitchen pantry so the kids don’t see our tears.
None of the moments listed above are award-winning “Parent-of-the-year” moments.
In fact, these are the days when I think I have failed as a parent. But then I get up the next day and vow to do better. And I’m thankful for another day to prove that I am a good Mama.
And when the moments or days or weeks are really tough, I have my people.
I don’t have a tennis team. And I don’t go out on girls’ nights.
But I do have my people.
Thank God I have my husband, without whom my world would not function. And I have my incredible family who will drop anything to get me out of a bind when I just can’t get three kids to three different places.
But the people I'm talking about are my two best friends in the entire world. I grew up with these girls, so they know all about me - the good and the bad - and they love me for ALL of it.
These girls are the ones who will NEVER judge. They are the ones who are there when I just need a laugh and a reminder that I AM doing a great job.
These are the girls who will just listen when I need someone to listen and who will top my “bad mom” story or tell me that the exact same thing happened to them.
We all need to find our people.
We don’t need emails about how to declutter or how to make our houses more peaceful.
We don’t need to read self-help books about how to be less stressed.
We don’t need to medicate or start therapy.
And we certainly don’t need to be judged.
We just need our people.
I need my people. Those who are not going to judge or tell me how to live my life. I just need my people who will listen to the good and the bad when I need to share, and then they will lift my spirits and make me laugh, exactly when I need it.
I need someone who can relate and say, “I know. It’s hard. No one ever told us it would be this hard.” That’s all we need to hear as parents sometimes.
I love our three boys with my whole heart and soul. Everything I do, I do it for them. Every decision I make, every action I take; it’s truly for them...Okay, The Police may have inspired some of my words here.
But truly, our boys are on my mind when I wake. They are on my mind when I’m teaching. And they are on my mind when I go to bed at night. I love them so deeply and passionately, even though each day can be challenging at times. I love my kids with all my heart. And I know that you love your kids, too.
The good outweighs the bad in parenting. We all know that. It is a blessing to be a parent.
But it is so important that we all find our people when we need a pep talk. It is better than therapy or medicine or a day at the spa. Knowing that you can reach out when life is tough and that someone else understands exactly what you are going through is so important.
Keeping our mind and bodies healthy as parents is even more important.
When we feel that we are alone in our battles, it can be a difficult journey. But it doesn’t have to be. On those tough days, find your people. If you don’t have those people, start looking for them. And if you need a person, I can be that person for you. Just reach out.
We are all in this amazingly wonderful, crazy, rewarding, sometimes difficult journey together! Know that you are not alone and that you are doing an incredible job as a parent. Keep up the great work.
And as “MY people” always tell me - remember this - “Our kids are lucky to have us.”