The longest part of the day seems to be from making dinner to putting the kids to bed. I am not and probably never will be a morning person. So I can’t say that morning is an “easy” part of the day for me. But after my first mug of tea, I can adjust and start to get going. Yet nothing compares to that end of day which begins at about 4pm.
It’s hard to believe that after my first and second child I went back to “work” at night to teach classes. I would start teaching at 6 or 8pm and not get home until 11 or 12. Yes, one college had a class that started at 9:30 pm! It was one or two nights a week and I had grandparental help. When my first child was almost one, I commuted earlier so I left dinner and my son transitioned to his grandmother putting him to bed. It was nice for both of them, and it was good for me. After my second was about one, I helped with feeding and put the baby in before driving off to a closer job. That was harder because she was more attached, and the work started later: my first class didn’t start until 8pm. Somehow I was able to summon up the energy to go out and function and actually teach students writing!
Now I have four kids. I stopped teaching after my third was born because it seemed like a lot to ask for someone to put three kids in so I could work. I didn’t have to thankfully, but I did want to. I enjoyed getting out and doing something I enjoyed and connecting with other people on a different level.
Now after what seems like and sometimes is two hours of shepherding kids through bedtime routines, I feel like falling over. I think, how did I go out and work after this? Of course, I still have dishes, laundry, and oh– the toys that magically appeared all over the floor that I’m tripping on? I think I’ll leave those for tomorrow. At this point, I am eager to go to bed myself. After all, I too would like a little milk, a good book, and to relax in my pjs. But alas, there are still dishes, laundry and tidying up which typically falls by the wayside, ergo the clutter grows as fast as crabgrass.
I can’t say I’ve been the best at teaching my kids to help and be a “team”. The oldest doesn’t help the youngest; they “forget” to put their toys away; they drop books on the floor after reading them. No, this isn’t the most –shall we say–disciplined household. And that makes it a lot harder. But sometimes I also expect a lot. Is it too much to ask, for example, that the shampoo actually gets washed out of your hair if I’m not helping you? Well, there is that learning curve…running the water over your hair is simply not enough, darling.
But I wonder, is the exhaustion faced by the stay-at-home parent at the end of the child’s day a function of said day or of facing dishes rather than something to look forward to–like eager student faces, some of which are willing to have their eyes and minds opened to the written word? I am doing this at home too…there are loads of books around the house and thankfully my children have adopted the wonderful habit of reading. But being home is different than being out. Being home, you are mother (or father); being out, you are teacher.
Even the kids know that they accept help from their teacher better than they do a parent. After all, kids eventually are embarrassed by their parents and parents don’t know anything. Being home is good all things considered. But it is exhausting: emotionally, physically, mentally. And I wonder how daytime working parents do it: coming home to their kids who need to be fed and put to bed, especially if they are not doing a job they love or even like before they come home. (Speaking of which, my other half often works long days and is usually at work on that last leg of the day!)
Perhaps I am looking for too much. I am not going to start teaching anytime soon. I would need to get help to do it. Someone has to put the children to bed! I started this blog as a way to reconnect to that writing side of myself, but I do push myself to do it. I give and give, and I stopped taking when I stopped doing for myself. Giving is great, but we need to “fill the well” as it is said. I give all day, but I need to give to myself too. If we don’t do things for ourselves, what else is there? How can we teach taking care of self if we don’t take care of ourselves?