Monday, April 20, 2009

Eye of the storm

Occasionally, I forget how many balls I juggle. When I get to put one or two down, I realize how much I'd been carrying. As of last night, teaching became very, very calm. I sent back all 50 papers to grade, and my 12 other courses (that's not a typo, by the way) are all strangely in sync with a quiet period for the next week. For my classroom classes, I am giving final exams to both nights...so I can do other grading while they work. Nice.

So you know what I was able to do today? 4 loads of laundry, backed-up dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, making Incan Stew with Jack, help both kiddos make toys out of clay, cleaned up the backyard of toys and clutter, swept and mopped the kitchen. And, the regular portions of baby-nursing, toddler snuggling, preschooler "question answering" and the other things that make motherhood so hoppin.' The day seemed so calm! So productive! So clean!

The flexibility of my work, I think, can make it deceiving (to me) how much time is invested to it. If one or two kids go to sleep, I make a mad dash to the computer to do grading chunks. I punctuate the monotony with Facebook checks or blogging or emailing a friend, but at the end of the day, I've invested any quiet portions of the day to work...often, in lieu of housework. Whoops.

For a month or so, we hired a cleaning person to help with the housework elements...but then realized that it was more stressful to prepare for someone to help, instead of just not cleaning on the busy weeks. Not sure that's the ideal system, but having to be out of the house for 4-5 hours with three small children (none of them in formal schooling), made for a yucky day. So we went back to self-maintenance and no external resources. I think it was a good plan, although at times I'll look around and wish I could hire a magic fairy to do my dishes while Steve plays in the back with the boys and I grade.

You might think this realization would prompt me to consider quitting, but alas...I function better at chaos-levels than when I twiddle my thumbs. So there you have it. I think my kids actually get more quality time with me when I am forced to design my day like a Rube Goldberg machine. Laundry might not get folded, but my students will get thoughtful responses from me, and my kids will have had some creative quality time with me. Or...worst case scenario...I'll plop them in front of a video during Simone's nap and do my grading at lightening speed. Yeah, that.

Plus, I could never give it up. Emotionally, I can't say no to the opportunities to teach. I love it too much. And...every new teaching contract usually means a trip we can take or funds that create less stress, ultimately, than more. I can always sleep when they grow up and move out...

People always tell me how much they'd love to teach online, and I DO love it. In my heart and soul, I really do. It's mind-blowingly complicated to organize so many classes, though, and it's taken me 8 years of teaching to find my groove. I think it's only a positive if time management is your super-power, you don't mind not folding your laundry for weeks on end, and you're slightly addicted to scheduling chaos. =) And, can sustain yourself on less than 5 hours of sleep at night. It's that last one that always kicks my butt.

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