Today I felt the weight what my immediate future holds.
I woke up well before my eyes opened, to two tiny baby feet in my face, and the unsettling sound of a dishwasher and vacuum going. I was immediately aware that my day off would be yet another one full of challenges. My husband was awake, cleaning everything in sight. He likes to do this on my days off, because normally he stays at home with our children, and due to the demands of babies, he is rarely able to spend focused time cleaning. So when I’m not up at the butt-crack-of-dawn to open the Starbucks store, and am able to care for our 2 babies, he gets all too giddy to vacuum those floors.
Thirty minutes go by, and I’m able to be a sneaky ninja just enough to reclaim my bed space, and to keep my son – 1 and a half years old who had a fever all night – from waking up.
Just as we get comfy and snugly, I hear the faint cry over the baby monitor as my younger 7 month old daughter wakes up, hungry and a diaper well above capacity. The dishwasher is still going, and seems to be much louder the earlier it is in the day. This is my alarm. This is my day off.
We get our kids up and fed. The quiet peace that surrounds breakfast time is amazing. Unfortunately it only lasts about 10 minutes, and at this point I haven’t even really woken up yet. My hair was all knotted, my face still dry and smeared with the make up I forgot to take off as I crashed to sleep the night before.
I always resent myself for not using that first 10 peaceful minutes to infuse my body with the caffeine it so desperately needs. I chose to shower instead.
I only have one mission on this day off, and that is to finish my online Starbucks College Achievement Plan orientation.
In my head this seems do-able, but in real life… hmm.
My husband is at his wits end dealing with my constant messy style of living, and our children who have been in and out of sickness, test his patience with their sleep deprived outbursts. I decide this is the morning to pop open that $1.98 can of happiness – cinnamon rolls. This lifts his mood, and I decide to seize the opportunity to jump online.
I get about 1/3 the way through the first assignment at hand, when that tiny little baby girl comes crawling fast towards me. This can only mean one thing for her – she wants to eat from mom. As much as I cherish her cuddliness, I know that I don’t have the energy to sustain focus on what I’m doing with multiple interruptions.
My husband sees the need, and with his tummy happily full of buttery cinnamonny goodness, he shares the magical word that make everything better. “Outside”. To an infant, this means sleepy escape. To a toddler, this is a nirvana of unexplored wonder. To me, this meant 20 minutes of hard core ‘study’ time.
Upon them leaving, I nearly finish everything.
Decent ending to a decent morning.
But this gives me a glimpse into what my immediate future holds. This was just the orientation. I haven’t even started actual courses yet. What will it be like when it’s Poli Sci 500, and 20 page research papers are due, and I’ve got a week of over time ahead of me?
I have yet to do school successfully after an 8 hour shift at work. For starters – my legs can’t move for a full 10 hours after work, so how could I even make it to my computer? Impossible! And other than that – just no. So I know my days off are my best chance at getting through this coursework. Bigger chunks on less intense days. It’s honestly my only option. My children will never stop needing me, and knowing what it’s like to stay at home, I KNOW my husband needs a break too.
So how can I do this? How can we do this? Maybe you have a different day to day. Maybe you substitute the word child for “sick grandma” or “second job”. How can this be done? How can we improve our quality of life while simultaneously swimming (drowning) in responsibility?
First of all, we can never sacrifice what’s ACTUALLY important. If you look back, and your family doesn’t know who you are, it is in fact, not worth it. But you can balance this concept by choosing to be truly present.
Sometimes, that means spending 5-10 solid minutes of me staring into my daughters eyes, telling her she is loved and valuable, instead of spending 2 hours “watching” her play. If 2 hours isn’t what you have, do it better than you ever have in 5 minutes.
That means instead of unwinding with 2-20 hours of TV (which I previously thought were absolutely necessary), I take myself and my exhausted hubby off the couch, and we eat cereal in bed and marvel at the videos he snapped of our kids that day.
(Correction – I eat cereal in bed. He doesn’t like the mess it makes.)
And second, if we can just remember that long term reward can take short term sacrifice, it makes it so much better. If it’s hard now, it’s okay, because a better future is ahead because of the difficulty. Don’t let the challenge be what stops you. Take it, master it, and win.
Lastly, work smart. I am in online school because of how I live my life. I’m not at all interested in being 40 and having my first child. We got started young, and I do not apologize for that. But that makes it a little more tricky to balance in a culture that doesn’t respect that method of family raising. I had the University experience when I was first married, and they did not understand that I had other things going on. I am truly thankful that the Starbucks College Achievement Plan really gets it. I found what works for me. No excuses any more! Master your time!!
In the words of Shia LaBeouff “Just DO IT!” Let’s go!!