That's what it feels like these days. I'm never caught up. I never finish the pile of tasks in front of me. When I am at work, I finally process what went on at home. When I am at home, my mind is on the problems at work. I think very clearly in hindsight. But while I'm having all these deep thoughts about what I was supposed to do in the other setting, I get further behind in the current one.
I am well-versed in the concept of mindfulness. Of being in the moment. I know the talk. I've read the books. I've spoken with the experts. And you know what? It's all crap. Ok, maybe not crap. But it's not practical advice for me right now. Balance, taking time for oneself, focusing on the right now and ignoring the unimportant chores...great concepts. How exactly does a single, working mom of two children under the age of four do any of that? She does it if she makes six figures and hires lots of help. She doesn't do it if she's me.
And seriously, which unimportant chores should I ignore? The garbage overfilled with stinky diapers? The dinner that must be cooked? The sticky, crunchy carpet? The mound of laundry? The unbalanced checkbook stuffed with unpaid bills? The overgrown lawn that is dangerously close to choking the unused mower? The jug with less than 15 mL of milk? The dog that has been crossing his legs for eight hours?
Yesterday as I left work, I turned to a colleague to joke about how stressed I felt at the end of the week. This newly pregnant woman said to me, oh, you should just stop for a massage on the way home. Oh, really? Just stop. On the way home. I have exactly one hour and fifteen minutes between the last bell and the pick-up time when my children turn into pumpkins and are left on my front step. My commute is 45 minutes long so that would leave me 30 minutes for the massage. Perfect. Um, who is going to go to the bank? To the grocery store for Liam's organic milk? Let's not forget, teachers don't get to leave at the bell. If I hop in my car fifteen minutes after the busses start loading, I'm lucky (and I'm also the recipient of some icy stares from my colleagues). But I'll get right on that massage thing. Thanks.
Being a half day behind, sure it's because there is just too much for one adult to do in a finite amount of time. But there's another, more subtle, explanation. At work, my main activity is putting out fires: students behaving inappropriately or dangerously, frantic parent emails asking me to intervene with another teacher, administrators demanding data. There is no time to create and teach engaging, developmentally appropriate and individualized lessons. At home, the phone is ringing, the dogs are barking, the dinner is burning and the boys are fighting. Is it any wonder that in each setting I want to escape to something I can control and complete?
At home, I can answer work emails without the bell ringing for my next class. I can write a lesson plan without being paged to the office because so and so has just been suspended. On the other hand, while in a faculty meeting, I can write a grocery list and strategically plan our family calendar for the next month without trains flying through the air and dogs peeing on the carpet at my feet.
So am I really a half day behind or am I caught in a purposeful cycle of avoidance? Well, one thing is for certain, it's a dysfunctional way to live and it's not benefiting anyone. (ok, that was two things) A few days ago, I finally sat on the floor to play trains with Henry. He said, "You can go back to your computer, Mom." I pretended I didn't hear him. I couldn't possibly allow myself to hear him. But then he said it again. And again.
Something has to change. With a little luck and a lot of self-discipline, maybe I'll catch up with life in real time. At this point, I'd settle for falling a full day behind.