The call came in at 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. I’d just bounced in from my daily jog and was going to corral the family for a meeting on the upcoming school schedule. My youngest was about to start pre-K in the half-day model (8:30 to 11:30 a.m.), and I had just finished writing a year’s worth of checks to BCAP (Be Creative as Possible), the Beacon-based program many parents use to supplement the rest of the day (12:30 to 3 p.m.). My middle child would be at South Avenue Elementary, and my eldest at Rombout Middle School.
“Hello, this is the Beacon City School District,” the voice on my phone said, “calling to let you know that your child has won a lottery seat in Beacon’s new full-day pre-K program at Glenham Elementary. This includes busing. There are 18 seats available in the program. Are you interested? We need to know by end of day. I know this is a lot to take in right now.”
Wow! I was ecstatic! I’d heard about this program coming to other districts. I said “yes” then and there, and then emailed BCAP with a heavy heart to say that my littlest couldn’t attend their fantastic program because I wanted to pursue public school and experience the financial savings.
When school started, on the second day, my fellow mom-friend, who has a 9-to-5 job and one older child, called me: “How are you? You must have so much time! Let’s get coffee!”
And this is where I slammed on the brakes to bring her up to speed with my reality — a self-employed person who can make, break and sabotage her own schedule. I have about two hours to work each day (including to write this column). Here’s why:
Jogging, making dinner or doing anything that is not working usually is cringe-worthy for me, since I’m not being productive work-wise. But this year, I am on my own a lot with three children in sports after school and on weekends. Beacon teachers are keeping caregivers up to date on upcoming quizzes and tests, so there are lots of emails to read. The Parent Portal is a new world, in addition to ClassDojo and Bloomz, which allow me to communicate almost instantly with teachers.
With this much detachment from work, I’d normally be curled up in a ball. If I don’t post articles to my blog, I feel like a failure. My amazing superhero employee makes sure our client work gets done, but when I get The Current by email on Friday morning at 12:15 a.m. (because I’m a member), I sink every time that they have so much more reported than I did. (Amazing reporting this paper does!)
But I got to do what I got to do. I have to exercise and eat breakfast daily. And that takes time. I work from home, so I have to have clean surroundings, with no spilled lemonade. And that takes time. A photographer came over last week and nearly sat on slime.
To do me, I fight daily self-sabotaging thoughts, and some real-life comments, that bring me down. These would be comments like: “Well, you have to stay fit!” But was it said with snark? Is my athleisure-wear triggering stereotyping thoughts, like, “She doesn’t do anything all day, why is she late to school drop-off?” (Answer: Because my other child forgot his trombone but he had it ready but a friend told him he didn’t need it!*!*!*!*)
I defend my lifestyle choices with: “I have to exercise because I have pelvic floor prolapse, and I need everything to stay strong.” Self-deprecation is the norm in female-speak, and I’m quite sick of it. Women tend to destroy themselves to others, in order to stay safe and below the radar. Anything above the radar — into happiness or shining — tends to get smashed down. And that could be by parents or friends or strangers. I’ve heard it from every corner.
Over the years, friends have asked:
“You put makeup on?!” (while nursing)
“You styled your hair?!” (while out shopping with stroller)
“You are running daily?!” (while buried in work deadlines)
Yes, after the lifestyle choices of driving my littlest to Glenham daily both ways (he could take the bus, which would give me two more hours in the day, but I like saying “Hi” to the teachers, seeing the little friends, experiencing the parking drama to see how much Glenham needs an expanded parking lot, etc.), I’m ready to work by 2 p.m. But at 2:30 p.m., I need to leave to pick up my Pre-Ker, return home with maybe a stop at a park, fix my kids a snack that is basically Dinner Part 1 before their practices, go to their practices, fix Dinner Part 2, float into a bedtime routine and collapse into bed.
The worst I could do is self-sabotage and beat myself up emotionally, which is what I normally do. But on the daily, I need to pull back, take a breath and remember that this version of life will not always be this way.
Every October, my former business partner would get into a faraway, funky place. I finally put 2 and 2 together — that October is the month her brother had died at age 14, when a drunken driver hit the car he was in. Their mother ran her own business as a caterer and stopped, as she wanted to cherish her time with her remaining children (two daughters).
I want to cherish this time. I surrender to the schedule. It will work out if I stay in motion, yet on point.