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Thursday, September 18, 2014

surviving the first weeks of school

September is my favorite month of the year. And the craziest. Not sure how those match up, but for me they do.

I LOVE the crisp fall air where you can wear sweatshirts but also still have on flip flops. I love apple picking and pumpkins and planning for Halloween. I love the leaves and how the sunshine hits them in the afternoon.

The crazy part of fall though, well, that's no fun! I work in a school so have the summers mostly off to myself and the kiddos. Going from easygoing, slow, lazy, sunshine days outside doing what we want and being organized most of the time, to fast paced, rushing all the time, little patience, not enough sleep, too much on the to do list, not feeling organized at all, scattered and busier than ever.... it's a hard adjustment. I think everyone feels this, regardless if they have summers off or not. Getting the kids back into the swing of getting up early and out the door on time is tough also.

The lazy days of summer seem so far away. Where I had meals ready and clothes clean and the house mostly organized.

Now it's rushing here and there, something every weekend when I just want downtime, the house a complete disaster. The first full week of school I literally didn't do a single load of laundry or dishes. You should have seen my house. Worst mess ever. And I didn't care. I had no energy to care.

I've tried being that carefree mom I was in the summer and who I promised to continue to be this fall even though back at work... but I'm struggling. It's HARD. I'm having a hard time getting out the door. 

My work schedule changed so I have to be there at 7:10. I commute a half hour to work. Two kids at two different drop offs. I drive through bus traffic, slow speed limits, red lights, and kids crossing the street. It's HARD. I have not made it to work on time more than maybe 3 times in three weeks. I'm struggling.

Summer seems way too far away. I miss it.

I'm trying my best. Packing everything at night, including water bottles and setting out shoes and jackets. Every little thing happens ahead of time, preparation is key, I know this. I've done this whole drop off thing for 5 years now, I know what it takes to get me out the door. But it's hard. And I'm snipping, rushing, losing patience, have no energy, and feeling annoyed at how long everything takes with kids. I adore them, but they are slow and when you're a busy mom who needs to get out the door to work, slow isn't your friend.

I've done a little bit of the stay at home mom thing and it's HARD. There were moments, sometimes daily, that I said out loud or to myself, "I'm going to lose my mind." It's really challenging to be the one on duty all the time, never getting a break or talking to adults. So hard.

There is something really difficult for me personally though about going back to work after being home. I work in a fast paced job, where the second I arrive to the second I leave there is something going on that I need to do, someone who needs me. I do not ever sit and eat lunch with anyone besides a kid I'm working with or a computer that needs responding to, and when I do sit and eat it's literally 10 minutes. I don't know what a lunch break looks like. I LOVE my job, anyone who knows me knows it's so important to me. But it makes being a full-time working out of the home mom really difficult, to be so dedicated to a job you love, so busy all the time, when you are also a parent.

I'm trying though. I'm trying to find balance. When can I ever work out again like I did daily in the summer? When will I get enough sleep? When will I catch up on laundry? Will I ever remember to send that card that's 3 weeks late? When will I actually remember the grocery list and have time and money to make some meals to freeze?

The answer... who knows! It's just part of the game, I guess, of life, of parenthood, of working.

The only thing I can do is to keep trying to be better than yesterday, to get it right - right for me not right for someone else. I can keep trying to smile and remember that I AM that carefree mom inside of this messy house and working life.

I wrote this for all of you moms, those staying home and finding it hard to balance being a woman and adult versus just a baby feeding-changing-helping machine. I wrote it for those trying to get to work on time without having baby spit up or boogers or mud on your not ironed, totally too wrinkly but you don't care skirt. I wrote it for those who feel they are losing patience too often and who aren't able to figure out what the heck to pack for school lunches.

I wrote it for all of you, moms, who are trying SO hard to get things right, and who are feeling like they are defeated and failing, not getting it the way you hoped it would be.

I write this for you, to know you aren't alone, that you aren't sucking at this whole mom thing, that you are doing better than you believe, because you are continuing to try every single day to get it better than yesterday for your babies.

The first Friday of the first week of school it was GORGEOUS outside. I opened my window in my office and closed my door, thinking, "OK, I have so much to do and plan to get things organized for next week..." Phone calls to return, emails to organize, messy desk to clean, etc. I opened the window and glanced at a picture of my kids. I looked back at the mess... the mess that is always going to be there, not an emergency. I left 5 minutes later.

I realized the warm weather won't always be here. The mess at work will be.
I thought, my kids won't always be this little where they LOVE surprises from mom. The duties will be.
I realized, I needed a break. Already, yes, already, even a few days into this fiasco of going back to school/work. Work won't give you a break. But you can give yourself one when you need it.

So I picked them up and said I had a surprise. The smile on their faces was priceless! They knew. They know our happy place, Mom's happy place. THE BEACH!

So we went. In school clothes. In my skirt from work. Without swimming attire, without shovels or towels. We just went and jumped right in!

We ignored how tired we were. I forgot about the chaos I left at work or how messy my car and house were right now. We just went and existed together, happily, like in the summer.

Too often we moms are hard on ourselves. We expect the world for our kids, so we expect way too much of ourselves. Well, I am learning that yes, I'm failing at a few things, I'm making mistakes, I need to figure out better methods in the morning to get myself and the kids out the door. I'm working on it though, that's what matters. Losing my mind or patience in the process is not OK.

My friend at work told me, "Before you get into work, you're a mom first. So just be their mom and do your thing, then get to work and be a great worker." She's so right! It's that simple. 

It doesn't feel that simple, I know, but it really IS that simple. I'm mom until I walk through those doors, so that means I need to slow down, focus, be present and supportive and awesome for my littles, then I can transition into being a great worker. I CAN find balance and I CAN do it all, just going to take some practice and patience with myself I suppose.

So here's what I know I'm doing well lately:
*Making sure every single day there is time. Time for hugs, "I love yous" and bed time stories. Time to laugh. We all need that, but especially me.

*I'm still trying to find time every week to do something fun, to take "adventures" like we call them.

*Yesterday I only had one drop off so we had an unexpected 10 minutes before we could get to preschool opening. So, I took my son to the playground. At 6:50 a.m. and 45 degree weather, for only 8 minutes. But it was the BEST morning we've had before school/work so far in three weeks!

*All kids are dressed, fed, and telling me they love me daily. I'm doing something right.

To the moms struggling to get things right these first few weeks returning back to school, please know you aren't alone. It's not all rainbows and butterflies, right? We'll all get there. The kids will sleep better again soon and they will eat their lunches we labor over. We'll get into a routine of cooking something other than pancakes for dinner, and all will be well again. Trust me, it's all OK. Hang in there, Moms.

Happy back to school!

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