Saturday, July 7, 2012

Calendars. Friend or Foe?

I am an organized person.  I always have been, despite what my mother says.  I love calendars.  Pretty ones.  Practical ones.  Small ones.  Pocket ones.  My Google one!  I love having a place for everything and everything in it's place, especially if that place is also decorative.  Containorgasmic, I mean, the Container Store, is mecca.

My house used to be clean, neat and organized.  My car used to be pristine.  I made my bed every day.  I took pride in how things were placed and arranged and I changed it up fairly often to keep it fresh and new. There was no clutter.  I dusted and vacuumed regularly and enjoyed it!  Laundry was washed, dried, folded and put away immediately.  My calendar was easy to read and planned well in advance with room for last minute activities.   I had time to go to the gym, to shop, to hang out with friends, to read a book.  All while working full time!

Then, I had kids.  It took a bit of adjusting after the first one, but I got it down.  I became a SAHM, that certainly helped.  We got around.  The house was still neat and clean, but with kid stuff around.  We traveled, we shopped, we had play dates and we even entertained.  I got to see my friends and family often. I pursued a second part-time career (that included a fair amount of studying and time management) and my house, car and life were still neat, organized and manageable.  My calendar was imperative.

Then I had twins.  OK, I admit.  Priorities changed.  Because they had to.  I couldn't manage two babies and a barely 3 year old and be a domestic goddess.  Trying got me no where but depressed and sleep deprived. My kids were my world.  They demanded and received 110% of my attention.  There was no more calendar, I had no time to write on it nor any time without a baby in my hand even if I wanted to.  Hell, I barely knew what day or time it was for months and didn't care.  We did far less and whatever we did took so much time and pre-planning that it didn't warrant attempting more than one thing in a day, let alone in a week save for taking the big brother to pre-school three times a week.  I self-sacrificed.  I was far less organized.  I didn't get out much.  THEY were my workout!  I had to ask for and receive help.  It was a difficult lesson to learn, but I survived thanks to the generosity and kindness of friends, family and neighbors.  I learned the dishes are far less important than mothering my beautiful babies. Eventually, I started to get my organizational groove back, about the time the twins turned 3.  I was finally feeling like I was close to my pre-kids calendar and domestic management.

Then, one of the twins, my daughter, died.  Tragically and unexpectedly.  The week before Christmas.  I didn't give a flying f@ck about anything anymore.  The house could dissolve in squalor for all I cared.  It didn't.  Thanks again to the amazing kindness and generosity of friends and family and even strangers.  They ran my calendar.  They did my to-do list.  They cooked and cleaned and shopped.  They hired  a housekeeper.  Eventually, I began to participate in life again, with the help of a therapist, the aforementioned friends, family and neighbors and my desire to heal.  I began to write, plan and organize bit by bit.

And then, a year after her death, my husband and I separated and spent 2.5 years in a contentious divorce.  I was grieving.  I was hurting.  I was suddenly a single mother (well, the reality was I'd always been a single mother who happened to be married).  My organizational skills kicked back in.  Getting divorced and raising two kids while grieving the death of another is more than a 24/7 existence.  I eventually went back to work, first part time and then full time once they were in full day school.  I juggled being a PT, a childbirth educator, a doula and a CPR instructor.  I managed the daycare arrangements, the extracurricular activities like town soccer and scouts, play dates, appointments and the day to day household needs.  My house was clean, neat and organized again.  I made an effort to go to the gym or to yoga at least twice a week.  I went grocery shopping!  I even began to date, when they were with their father.

Fast forward a few years to today.  I looked at my calendar for the month of July.  This past week, because of the holiday, has been such a treat!  The next two weeks fill me with anxiety and stress and make me want to cry.  Literally.  I work full time in a job that is unpredictable in terms of "do this now" but when it's now, it's really now, not in an hour.  I'm on call until 7:30 every night.  Although somewhat flexible, I still need to get in my 8 hrs/day.  I worked nearly an 11 hour day yesterday by way of example.  Other days, it might be 6 or 8.  I never know.

The next two weeks, I have the following schedule for the kids only.  My work is 8-5.
-I get up at 5:30 to exercise, have a half hour of peace and rally/prepare children for the day
-8:10 am- leave house
-8:30 am drop one off at camp in W. Boylston
-10am, drop other one at different camp 1/2 hour from home
-3pm pick up the second one from camp and bring him home
-4:30 pm, pick up first one from camp and bring him home
-5pm leave for soccer game (or practice) 30- 45 min away for second one (or both) - it is possible that they will both have soccer practices/games at different places at the same time
-8ish pm arrive home
9pm- do whatever work I can that didn't get done from earlier in the day

I ask you this, when will I get my work done?  When will they eat?  How will I get anything done around the house?  How can I be in two places at once?  How can I do my job when I'm driving all over creation for approximately 3 hours every day just for them?!  How will I not lose what's left of my mind?

It doesn't get better the rest of the year.  I work every day.  The kids have something every single night, usually soccer.  They will have soccer games every Sunday.  Tournaments nearly every long weekend.  The one night a week they are with their father, I have a 2 hour dance lesson because that's the only time we can do it. It's the only thing I do for me.  I can't even do it as often as I'd like because many of the classes and practice sessions compete with the boys' soccer.  I stay up way too late or get up with the sun to do things like answer email, pay bills and wedding related tasks because it's the only time I have.  Good thing I know how to function in a sleep-deprived state.  Once they start school, I also have homework supervision and project management for my ADD high school freshman and figuring out how to deal with after-school activities and no late bus.

I know, you are thinking one of two things.  Get help or tell the boys they can't play soccer.  Right.  Well, I'm a mother.  The boys need to get exercise, learn to be part of a team, manage school and a sport and they love it and have tremendous potential.  Not to mention, they are both playing for premier teams that I paid a small fortune for and they and I are now in a full year commitment.  I knew this.  They are at critical periods in their growth and development as well as their educational future.  I want to encourage socialization, participation in extracurricular activities, good organizational skills for them.

For the record, I have asked for help.  From their father and step-mother (who does not work and has a 4 month old adopted baby girl).  I got a wishy-washy 'we'll see what we can do' after asking multiple times.  I ask my fiance to help on occasion, mostly when I know I've got a work commitment or appointment that I really need to attend.  But he works 9:30-7 and doesn't wish to nor should he have to rearrange his schedule to accommodate MY kids.  He is great and helps around the house and offers to do other things like shopping and it's greatly appreciated.  He is a fantastic step-dad and attends to them in a beautiful way from a guidance and supportive standpoint.   It's all helpful, but not enough to give me a sense of control or sanity. I don't know enough people on the older boy's soccer team to ask for rides.  The younger one I could get help transporting if I need it on occasion. They both want me there, of course.

The stress of seeing how much needs to be done, knowing I'm the only one that has committed to doing it (and paid for it), wanting to do the right thing by my kids and being worried I can't do or could literally lose my job over this summer schedule is making me crazy.  

It's a double-edged sword.  On one hand, the calendar is a life, week, day at a glance look at who needs to be where when.  It's a great planning tool.  I use the Google calendar and there are many colors and entries on it every day!  I have lists and post-it's everywhere.  So far, I've not forgotten anything.

On the other hand, it's a huge source of stress for the above mentioned reasons.  To see 6 things per day, some in direct conflict in time and place that make it logistically impossible to manage almost defeats the purpose of the calendar in the first place.  It's supposed to be a tool for planning, not stress.

Yes, I created this bed and now I'm lying in it.  I don't expect any of you to have an answer, although misery loves company, so feel free to weep with me!  If you do have any ideas for other time management tools out there, I'd love to hear about them.  What I really need is to not work full time.  That, of course, is not an option.  Are there other jobs out there?  Sure.  Will they afford me the same salary, benefits and flexibility as the one I have now?  Not likely.

I thought the kids were more demanding when they were young.  Turns out the older they get, the more time consuming and difficult they are to manage on every level.  I totally get why parents can't wait for their kids to be able to drive on their own.  I may not survive long enough to see that day...

They have chocolate in the soft walled rooms, right?

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