“You’re trying to do three things at once, aren’t you?” Jenna asked.
Of course I am. I like to multi-task. I thrive on doing 100 things at once. Busy is my middle name. But, you know, it often helps more than it hurts.
Tomorrow my daughters both have an exit project due for the gifted program at school. It’s a big project, one that requires a research paper and five sources and a nicely-decorated tri-fold backboard. It’s a project that requires fabric and lace and markers and chalk and stickers and a lot of Mommy Overtime. It also requires a lot of Cabernet Savignon. (For me, not them.)
The project is on problem solving in careers; one daughter’s topic is teaching, the other’s is fashion designing (and Gunnar Deatherage from “Project Runway” and a couple of my friends agreed to personal interviews for the projects; they’re all THE BEST).
But the real problem solving came in teaching my 10-year-old and 7-year-old how to (1) search the Internet, (2) record information/research, (3) record their sources (they needed at least five) and (4) write a research paper simultaneously without losing my … um, cool.
It’s a hard thing to do, especially when you’re flying solo with the parenthood gig and have about 50 million things to do in addition to helping your children with their projects. This weekend, for instance, I needed to:
- Put in extra hours for a special publication due out this week (our graphic designer moved on and the new one doesn’t start for still another week, so I’m both the graphic designer and editor in the interim)
- Read The Metamorphosis, The Guest and The Man Who Was Almost a Man #zomg
- Complete two quizzes, a discussion question and an introductory paragraph for my next research paper #zomgtimestwo
- Scrub out my kitchen cabinets
- Help clean up the yard at the new house
- Make final decisions on paint colors, tile, what items would be sold, etc.
- Do laundry
- Clean our existing areas
- Go to a Vietnam Veterans’ memorial event
- Continue searching for bedding for the kids and I
- Go to my nephew’s soccer game
- Go to church
- Pick up a light fixture I bought from a Facebook friend
- Create an ad for a program for a committee I’m on
- Create an ad for a program for a separate event and separate committee for church
- Sleep, eat & shower
Let me tell you: not all of that was completed. A majority of that was not completed. It’s just how things work when you’re a mom, and especially so when you’re a single mom. Sometimes things fall by the wayside, they don’t get done, and that’s going to have to be okay.
I’m trying to learn that I don’t have to be everything to everyone (remember that old Everclear song?), but it’s difficult. For instance, now more than ever, I rely on my job and my little salary to support my family, so I don’t want to do anything that would cause my employment to be in jeopardy (it isn’t, I’m just saying) and, in turn, I work hard. At the same time, I work for a newspaper and I don’t know what the future holds for the industry, so I’m going to school to make sure I’ll be marketable should the time comes when I need to find a new job.
And, of course, the most important thing is my family. My little (but big) family of four. The kids need me, and they’ll always need me, so I need to make sure I’m here for them, whatever it takes. This weekend that meant taking a deep breath and diving in to get the work done, allowing other things to go undone and teaching them a thing or two about research papers (and not only that it’s more efficient if Mama types it up). It’s a good thing – or a bad thing, perhaps? – that I was in Comp II last semester, Lit II this semester and I’m an editor by profession, so I’m super hard on even a first grader’s research paper (they’re properly formatted for MLA, including parenthetical citations).
My point in all of that: I work hard because I have to. My kids’ livelihood depends on it. And I want to teach them to be hard-working, productive, responsible adults, to do what they have to do for their families when they’re older, but I don’t want to teach them that they have to do 100 things every day if they don’t need to.
I’m looking for balance and reorganization of my priorities. Is that even possible? Achieving that delicate balance between work-family-the rest of life is like the Holy Grail for mothers. It’s like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot in that I’m not sure it even exists.
I’m an overachiever by nature, but I’m slowly trying to teach myself that sometimes done is better than perfect (whatevs, I’m gagging at that thought) and that I am only one person. Only one! I can’t do it all and I’m exhausting myself trying, but man, those are going to be some good-looking backboards and well-written papers.
(And for the record: three. It took three glasses of wine to make me chill out and help them be productive for a few hours.)
This post first appeared on Echo Day’s blog, Life’s Like This, on April 15, 2013. Copyright © 2013 Echo Day. Not to be republished without written consent.