It’s not even eight p.m. on a Friday night, and already I’ve been in my pajamas for over an hour. Most likely, I’ll be passing out around nine o’clock because, as the working mother I’ve been for the past seven weeks, I barely make it through the week. There have been countless times the past two months where I have composed blog post titles in my head or written down thoughts and quotes to revisit on thousands of sticky notes. I’m (clearly) not a writer who has to spill my thoughts frequently, which is a good thing because lately I barely have the time to brush my teeth, much less do the things I love like bake bread, play music, or write blog posts. But I do feel empty or fragmented when I go this long without some brand of reflection. Writing makes me feel like I’m rounding home base, like I’m giving a victorious high five after a tiring game.
As much as this teaching assignment is robbing me of my entire life, I continue to be grateful I was given the opportunity. Black River is a unique little place. And even though it’s not my place, I’m happy to be there for this stretch of time. I started the job several steps behind due to the month of August being a total bust (see previous post about pink eye and strep). And, honestly, I continue to pay for it because I’m rarely more than a week ahead in planning and preparation. Sometimes, I’m lucky to have the next day mapped out. As a teacher, this is the most stressful way to navigate one’s way through the school year, but it was the hand I was dealt. Still, I have found joy in lesson planning, reading, test-writing, and—gasp!–even grading. After seven years of teaching and subbing, education feels just as good of a fit for me as it did when I played school at five years old. Even though I’ve fallen on my face a few times, my teaching skills are improving and I’ve had a few “lightbulb” moments with students that give me the hope and fuel to keep going. It helps of course that the students and teachers at Black River, overall, are rock stars. The kids are mature and motivated, two huge factors that create a healthy, dynamic class culture. My head is often barely above water, but I really couldn’t ask for a more vibrant, challenging, and encouraging work environment. It’s been a huge blessing.
The most challenging part of the working mom gig–particularly as a full-time teaching mom–isn’t actually the school day. And it isn’t even the stack of reading and grading I return to at 9 p.m. most weeknights or even the full Sunday afternoons of studying and planning. Really, the hardest part is the window of time between three and six p.m. These are the hours that demand the most of me and remind me that motherhood is by far the most demanding job on the planet. Josh doesn’t come home until six, and without a moment to breathe after my long work day…I’m on duty for what I now call “second shift”: caring for my children at their worst hours while also making and serving a recognizable meal. By the time we attempt a family dinner (this is also not factoring in the rushing off to karate, counseling, small group, or meetings) and clean the kitchen, it’s nearly eight and I’m so tired that I’m surprised my head isn’t rolling on the floor. And yet the nighttime bath and tucking-in routine still requires a solid hour of full energy and focus just to get through it.
I am exhausted.
It hasn’t helped that during the seven weeks so far at BRPS, Mr. Oliver has decided to cut six teeth. That’s almost a tooth every week, folks. When I say my child is always teething, I’m not exaggerating. This past Wednesday, stuck in the thickness of a hard week, Ollie refused to be anywhere but in my arms during these three trying hours. As a result, I twisted my back so painfully that I had to teach the following day leaning over. Yesterday, I looked like a human “L”.
Even though I feel like our family may as well be in a blender right now, I am able to stop and see a lot of beautiful things unfolding in our lives. First, Jack is speaking Spanish as a result of his Spanish Immersion Kindergarten program. He has taken more responsibility for his little self, and even though I feel like it’s from a mile away, I love watching him blossom. And his wild little brother took his first steps yesterday!!! Thankfully, it was while I was on the kitchen floor with him. I had dropped (literally) all of my things by the back door and spent good portion of the afternoon on the tiles, watching his steps and plops. I’m so glad this didn’t happen while I was away at school; those first steps were with me and toward me. And I’ll always be grateful for that.
Somewhere underneath this glorious mess, Josh and I are holding everything together. Some days it feels like it’s all going to break and spill. In addition to the chaos, Josh and I are digging deeply into our marriage to replace some broken pipes. Emotionally, we are raw and weary. But we know we are not alone. Truly, God is at work during this crazy time, using dinnertime Bible reading, bedtime storytelling, late night pillow talk, early morning coffee spills, and living room “fire ball” games to keep our family together.
Romans 5:3-6 says, “wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
We certainly aren’t suffering compared to some, but we are in uncharted territory that is requiring a great deal of everyone. And we will persevere to the end and hopefully look back and know each difficult day was worth it. And until this is all said and done, we’ll manage to squeeze in a date night, a family wrestling match, and good Porker and Pudge story to get us through.