This school year I was (am) determined to stay on top of things. Last year, we got off to a rocky start compounded by an ill-timed vacation from which I feel like we never fully recovered. We also switched up the routine last year by not having a babysitter for after school care and instead the boys attended the YMCA sponsored program. While the Y has been great to us, the after care situation didn’t work for a number of reasons and I felt like I just didn’t have enough control over things.
One of the hardest things about being a working parent is dealing with child care. Finding the right person or daycare or program to take care of your child while you are working is ridiculously stressful. I had been super lucky in the past with having sitters I could trust, but after a few missteps in that direction, using the Y after care seemed like the best alternative. However, it just didn’t work out the way I needed it to. As the boys get older, I need someone who can be there to supervise homework and get them to all of their activities and feed them the food I want them fed, and basically do all the things that I want to be able to do.
So, I’ve found a great sitter and have been trying to establish and maintain a routine in hopes that we can all have a relatively peaceful and productive school year.
It’s been about four weeks and I’m already reaching for the Xanax.
Things aren’t going badly, per se, but I’m reminded almost daily that what I really want to be able to do is just be there for my children when they get home from school. I want to be in control. I want to set the routine. I want to be present. But, alas, I have to bring home the bacon.
Surely, there is a way I can do both. I just need to figure it out.
My anxiety comes from my fear that by the time I will figure it out they will be grown and I won’t have been able to do everything I wanted to do for them. I suppose part of it is having a fantasy that were I fully present during my time with them, my time wouldn’t only be spent as a nagging, stressed out mom who is preoccupied with feeding them, making sure homework is done, making sure her own work is done, making sure their teeth are brushed and their bodies are clean and they aren’t spending too much time in front of a screen and that my role in the house would be more than a glorified housekeeper/landlord.
I want my kids to look forward to their time with me instead of dreading it. I want to enjoy our time together instead of it being a checklist of everything that must get done before bedtime is strictly enforced. In theory, I have a pretty good work-life balance. But in reality, the “life” part isn’t balanced at all. And “me” time–the me-mom balance–is pretty much non-existent.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy working. I have friends who are stay-at-home moms who remind me how good I have it to engage in critical thinking and adult conversations pretty much daily. I’m lucky in that way. I am also lucky I have a job I like for an organization I believe in. Who am I to complain?
But if I could redesign my life, I’d do it a little differently.
And I hear myself telling my boys that they can do or be anything or anyone they want to be. And I feel the urgency as I tell them to work hard now so their opportunities aren’t limited. And I push them and push them because I feel like they need to START NOW and make it happen because I was once so full of potential which I squandered and I find now I am trying to gather the seeds I so recklessly scattered and plant a fertile garden, but it is so hard and it would have been so much easier if I had begun sooner, if I hadn’t gone off course, if I had just realized the future can be affected by the actions we take even when we are at the tender age of ten.
Then I laugh at myself.
If I had done everything that I was expected to do, if I had never wandered down that less traveled path, if I had worked up to the potential my teachers saw in me and never deviated, never daydreamed, never chosen socializing over work, never explored, I would never have even discovered who I am and what I am here to do.
I would probably be no better off than I am now. In fact, I might be living a soul-crushing life of drudgery and living up to other’s expectations. I might have been a vet, though. Or making a living at being a writer. Or married and a stay-at-home mom. Or a psychologist. There were a lot of other paths I could have chosen. But I didn’t.
I’ll never know.
As parents, we want our kids to be happy. We want our kids to find their lane and what they are good at and what makes them feel alive. We want them to live up to their potential. The trick is letting them discover for themselves. My instinct is to be the Tiger mom. To push and push and know what is best and have them thank me for it later. But that is the EXACT opposite of the path I chose as a child. I had a lot of freedom. My parents pushed me, but not hard. They let me fail. They let me figure it out. They let me.
It’s hard not to be in control.
So, as the new school year unfolds, I struggle to push myself beyond the limitations I have wrought upon myself and to ensure my children don’t follow the same shaky path. Do as I say, not as I’ve done.
And of course, among my many thoughts on how I could be a better parent, I am reminded that if there were another parent to shoulder the load, if I had a partner that was helping to fill in the gaps, if only I could share all of the responsibility of making sure these boys both enjoyed being kids AND reached their potential of being successful and happy beyond their wildest dreams…maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be such a giant ball of stress and nerves all the time.
It’s single parent’s curse, I guess. Maybe I feel the need to push because I want them to prove the statistics wrong. I want them to be the über successful kids of a single mom. I want to make sure that no one will ever say, “Well, it’s no wonder…they were raised by a single mom”.
Part of me knows this is ridiculous.
The other part yelled at them because homework wasn’t done to the best of their ability.
It’s going to be a long year while I figure it all out.