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Balancing Work and Children: the Unsolved Mystery

It’s July, and for a writer who is also a teacher, summer means work. It’s the time of year when I don’t have to worry about lesson plans or papers and can focus on writing new material. Unfortunately, summer doesn’t signify the same thing to my children. For them, summer is a time to swim, bike, and play foursquare—all activities that take me away from my computer screen. And although foursquare can be played with three people, it’s much more fun when mom is there to make fun of. Still, even my kids would have to admit my game is improving.

Those times that I don’t participate, though, I feel bad. As I sit downstairs, I wonder about the noise being made above my head: was it a cat, a dog, or a kid that just collided with the floor? And how many times can one cupboard door be slammed? It seems innumerable. My kids are older, I tell myself, seven and ten. They don’t need their mom to play. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty for the things happening (or not happening) around the house.

The other night as we sat down to eat dinner, my daughter asked me for a glass of milk. With a sigh, I stood up and reached into the cupboard. To my chagrin, the only glass left was a bar glass that read Jack Daniels. Really? Jack Daniels? But between writing and children, I hadn’t had time to think about the dishes, and my husband had been away at work all day. Yes, my daughter would be drinking her milk from a bar glass, and while it didn’t bother her at all, it made me wonder if I was a second-class mom.

As we ate and talked and laughed, the glass was forgotten. It was replaced by the great feeling of family. At the end of the dinner, as my daughter was helping me clear the table, she said, “I like how this glass curves. It’s cool.” I couldn’t help but secretly smile. It didn’t really matter how many glasses I washed, or didn’t, in this case. It mattered that we had shared dinner as a family.

It’s moments like these that force me to redefine family and work. For me, writing doesn’t mean absolute silence and zero interruptions, and motherhood doesn’t mean coordinating dinnerware and perfected play schedules—although both started out with these ideals in mind. I realize I can be committed to my writing and my kids, even during these hectic days of summer.

2 Comments

  1. Dena on July 30, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Well put Mary! My vote doesn’t hold as much weight as your kids’ votes, but I think you’re a GREAT mom. I love your girls. They’re witty, polite, and confident young ladies. My family is fortunate and grateful to have you and your family as neighbors and friends.

    Enjoy the rest of summer break. We don’t have much time left before transition time, that tell-tale must-do action that parents of school-aged children start the week or two before the first day of school: school days bedtime schedule.
    We (try to) call the kids in from outside play earlier in order to prep for bed earlier, go to sleep earlier, and wake earlier. We definitely love the beautiful evenings, the “singing” of the cicadas, and the later hour of darkness, but alas, the first day of school will arrive and we (as well as the kiddos, although they will never thank us for it) will be glad to have started back on the school days bedtime schedule.
    “Good morning. Rise and shine. Time to get up for school.”

    • Mary Angela on July 31, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      Thanks, Dena! Ah…a bedtime schedule. The next thing to tackle on our to-do lists! I’m putting it right after Buy Healthy Snacks. Hopefully it has a better success rate.

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