Saturday, May 29, 2010

Survival Guide, version 2010

So I survived my first (and only) full week of work. It was really, really good. Not to say that I didn't cry Monday morning--there might have been some tears combined with ridiculous statements like, "Make sure to tell (the babysitter) that she likes to be held on your left shoulder," but once again, the world continued to spin on its axis and life went on. I walked into my classroom Monday morning to find a handmade sign on an old piece of cardboard that said, "Welcome Back Mrs. Ziemnik!" with my students signatures all over it. So that helped.

It also helps that it's only for 2 1/2 weeks. But I love what I do, and I know that I am not supposed to walk away now. Back with Bug I wasn't quite sure, but now I know for sure.

The mornings are a little nuts, though. Trying to get two kids fed, with some semblance of hygiene, and dressed appropriately (Bug wanted to wear his dinosaur costume from Halloween the other day, and I was this close to just letting him), make sure their lunches are ready, and then somehow get MYSELF in a work-appropriate outfit with all hygiene needs met is quite challenging. I seriously, seriously don't know how people with more than two kids do it. With two kids, you can at least use man-to-man defense. With more than that, you gotta switch to zone.

So, in an effort to clarify to my future self (in August, when I go back "for real") how best to do all this stuff, I'm going to make a little list here. Maybe it will help someone else out there, but maybe not. Every job is different, every kid is different, and every mommy is different. So if you find some good tips in here, awesome. If you laugh at my shortcuts or futility as you juggle WAY more than I do every day, hey, that's awesome, too. But Self of August 2010, here's a few things to remember when you have your inevitable freak-out-OMG-HOWAMIGOINGTODOTHISALL moment:

1. Cheat. Cheat like crazy. This is the same advice that my cooperating teacher gave me when I was student teaching, and it is great advice. Beg, borrow, and steal all you can. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT reinvent the wheel or drive yourself nuts in the name of working-mommy-martyrdom. You'll want to bang your head against the wall. HARD.

How does one cheat? Well, for me, it involved hiring someone to help clean (BEST thing I ever did--as my OCD cleanliness is covered without me spending hours on the weekend during precious naptime trying to do it all) and sometimes going to those meal-assembly places even though I enjoy cooking and actually am quite good at it. It's all about the shortcuts. The way I see it, I am paying for my time (and in some cases, my sanity). I don't do mani-pedis. I don't get my hair DID. I've never really paid full-price for any article of clothing I own. THIS is my splurge. And I love it.

I also work through lunch. I have a 54-minute lunch, which usually consists of 5-10 minutes checking email and maybe some light stretching (since I never sit down), 10 minutes for lunch, and the rest grading papers. More done at school = less to take home. And more time with the little ones. I don't really miss the lunchroom, anyway. It's not that exciting.

2. The mornings are YOURS. You might think you want to work out later, but you don't. Really. In the wee hours of the morning, no one needs you. It's just YOUR time. You can fill it with a treadmill run watching a combination of Jon Stewart and The Hills if you want--mornings don't judge. Then you get to spend all evening relaxing with your Bug and Bean and Matt, and it's all good.

3. You can succeed working out inside. It's not ideal, by any stretch of the imagination. Would I rather do a hard 8 mile tempo run outside? With friends? Of course. But to coordinate that during either a naptime or an early morning with friends who are exactly my pace and goals and can adapt to my schedule is virtually impossible. Save the friend runs for leisurely trail runs for now, so you don't feel like puking and can actually talk. Kick your own ass in your basement if you need to. Alone. You'll survive, and your race results won't suffer. There's a time and a place for everything--just as friendships go through phases, so does your relationship with running/riding/swimming. The long bricks followed by an hour of lingering over coffee might be gone for now, but because you WANT them to. You'd rather be snuggling with the kids watching Sesame Street--for now. That relationship you used to have will come back someday--when you want it to. Before New Orleans 70.3 last year, I barely got outside (except to run) at ALL. You know what? I still did okay. It's possible.

4. Mommy Guilt is powerful. And Mommy Guilt is STUPID. REJECT the MOMMY GUILT. This has been the hardest thing for me to understand. Because it is this crazy, instinctual thing programmed within me. Just as I never really got the "Mama Bear" instinct that would make me rip someone's head off if they harmed my kid BEFORE I had a kid, I never understood Mommy Guilt until October, 2007, either. It's pretty horrible at times. But you have to remember that happy mommy = happy babies. Unhappy Mommy--one who feels they have lost themselves and part of their identity to raise their children--well, that definitely is not a happy situation. Sometimes you have to leave a toddler screaming at home for 38 minutes so you can go hammer out a nice hard run. From my experience, about 90 seconds after you leave, said toddler stops freaking out, and you come home all refreshed (although sweaty) and ready to deal with any future meltdowns should they occur.

5. Do the best you can, everyday. It's good enough. I promise.

I may add to this list as I go, but for now, Self of August, there is your manifesto.


Christi said...

Awesome post! You have got some great ideas on the list and I hope you remember them well.

Clare said...

amen. i'm still figuring out one kid. everything you said is true!

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Michelle Simmons said...

I agree. Reject the mommy guilt! :) And yes, workout in the mornings!

Nitsirk said...

Amen sister. Mommy guilt is the worst. It took me awhile to realize that it's ok to buy dinner sometimes and to pay someone else to vacuum. I also spend considerable pre-dawn time in my basement on the 'mill or trainer. It feels great when you have time to spend with the family after work. Great post.

Alili said...

So great and SO true. :)

Veeg said...

This is a great post, Sara. Especially the part about ditching the Mommy Guilt.

Mnowac said...

Wonderful post, boy does momma guilt suck it.

PS - I am back to my old blogger blog -

Heather said...

Hi Sara,

Heather Sweet here...Cara Sweet's sister-in-law. I have been following your blog for a couple months now, but since I have discovered some exciting news for Andy and myself I thought it would be privy to "officially" follow your blog. :) Thanks for sharing your survival guide. I will refer back to it in January of 2011. Take care and have a great summer.