You know that expression "It was the straw that broke the camel's back?"
Well, I'm the camel.
And I'm still having a hard time processing that there really is a "maximum load" for what I am able to handle. But I've been forced to do so in the last few weeks. Since I'll have some time in a body cast while things work themselves out before I can heal, I guess I'll have some time to process everything. But it's still pretty fresh. (I'm hoping this post will help.)
For anyone freaking out right now, this is a metaphorical body cast. I am physically as fine as I ever am. (Actually, better, since I'm 10 lbs. lighter than most of the last year, thanks to the Slique Experience diet I was on.)
So, what do I mean?
Apparently, my plate, or my pack, or whatever, was already as full as it could possibly get before we got a baby in the family. Little did I know.
While I may not have been able to spend extra time on my businesses or the three courses I was taking at the time (working those around the first priorities of family and home school life), I was able to dedicate some time to them every week, and usually every day. (Businesses: Winters Distributing, Young Living, clothing design, and songwriting; Courses: 6-week Songwriting Course with Pat Pattison through Coursera, Portuguese from Mango Languages, and How to Think Sideways 6-month novel writing course from Holly Lisle.) And, other than the time-blitz required for year-end books and taxes that I was in the midst of finishing, I was still able to spend time with my husband in the evenings several nights a week and actually get a decent sleep, for the most part.
Levi changed that.
And I am NOT upset about that. Or him. The whole change was very sudden, not the way it would have worked if I had peed on a stick, praised God for a miracle, and got to spend the next eight months changing my commitments to allow for the extra work of adding a baby into our lives.
In a few days, we just had a baby--verging on a very busy toddler--without much time to think of the repercussions that would result. And, like a stone thrown in a pond that makes the ripples expand outward, we are still finding out where we need to make changes to accommodate this new addition. And, also like the ripples, each new thing seems to be bigger than the last.
Here is what my schedule looked like before Levi:
I know it's too small to read the words, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that the only "unscheduled" time on this 24-hour/7-day schedule is the white stuff, totalling about 23 hours/week--and that was where I had to fit 10 hours/week of office work, time with my husband, extra household projects or needs, and any "down time". (To be fair, the tan-coloured Friday night and Saturday are the times I schedule off as fun time with family and maybe friends--and I clung to that each week, because I was sometimes approaching burnout by the time Friday night came along.)
One of the first things to go was Tuesday night Bible Study (in blue.) We had just finished a study, anyway, so it was a good time to take a hiatus, especially during the first two sleep-deprived weeks until Levi started sleeping through the night.
Fortunately, karate (orange) and piano lessons (light grey on Mondays) both ended within the last two weeks.
However, despite that, the books are stalled at the beginning of September, I haven't touched them for two weeks, and taxes were due almost a month ago. Since I can no longer work on them between lessons with the boys, or during any time period when Levi is awake, the extra time commitment required for them has to go into those white spaces--and frankly, I'm lucky to finish my daily paperwork before my brain turns off and it is time for bed, these days.
Then, two weeks ago, a cold virus hit our house. It was the kind of cold that left you a little sniffly, with a bit of a sore throat, but dead tired. And it recycled itself--you thought you were nearly done after three days, but a few days later you had it back again. Almost all of us got it, including me.
Was the cold the straw that broke me, that made tempers flare all day long, and my kids argue with everything I said, even if I was just trying to help them with math? No. It just accentuated a trend that was already occurring. We were all more tired, and me especially. A tired mama has less emotional energy to begin with, but since I was now spending a good chunk of that energy on meeting the needs of a toddler (thank goodness he's a fairly easy one!), I had less in reserve for handling the two strong-willed boys among the other three when it came to timely completion of schoolwork, or even finishing a math lesson.
Home schooling, which I used to love, became a chore for me. Sometimes I wouldn't get the marking done all week, then I'd pile half of it in front of Jason as I begged him to help with the mountain that had accumulated. Doing dishes by hand (which we have been doing since last November-ish you might recall) became not just a task but drudgery that sucked up any remaining spare minutes I used to have in my day, even with the help that the older three boys and Jason were giving in that regard.
Last Thursday after supper, I gave myself a time-out in my room. An hour and a nap later, I emerged, but sadly, my emotions and temper weren't much repaired. After the boys were all safely in bed, Jason and I had a heart-to-heart, and I shared with him just how desperate I had become.
Of course, he's no blind idiot, and he had seen how much I had been struggling over the last few weeks. He had already been trying to make suggestions, one of which was along the lines of "maybe we should put the boys in school next year."
My first reaction was to rebel--I firmly, firmly believe in home schooling, and not only that, I love doing it. It had been my first choice since before we had even conceived Jude. "At least until Grade 3", I had said, "depending on need." Jason had went along with it hesitantly at first, but became more of a believer as time went on and he saw the fruit of the individual attention the boys had received in their first few years of academia.
So it wasn't because he thought I was doing a poor job that he had gently suggested the change. That didn't matter--I wasn't ready to listen when he first said it about three weeks ago.
By Thursday, though, after two weeks of meltdowns (several of which were mine), I was ready to entertain it. Even though I brought it up with the request that we look at any other possible alternative first, in my heart, I knew there really weren't any. Not only that, my main reasons for wanting to home school the boys for their first few grades were no longer a concern--they all love reading, love learning, and have fair-to-excellent ratings on the stability of their value systems. Jude and Jabin both thrive in classroom environments, and Noah will likely do okay, especially if he is able to get some extra, individual support. They all want to go back to school, too.
With the mounting pressures--my kids fighting all day at home (with me and each other), wanting to go to school, Jason wanting to send them to school, and my own increasing emotional instability, it was hard to deny that school might really be the best option. But we decided to take some time to pray about it before making a final decision.
Friday afternoon, hiding in my bathroom, I sniffled into the phone, "Mom, I'm breaking..."
Her response was similar to what Jason's had been--I should not feel bad about having to make this change... I was already a Supermom, and most other women wish they could accomplish half as much... It really might be for the best...
Still, it's hard not to feel like I've failed, at least a bit. I haven't been doing a great job of home schooling for the last month or two. I feel overwhelmed with my "to-do" list all of the time . And if other women I know can home school with toddlers, babies, and grade school children, why can't I handle the addition of a toddler alone?
"You set the bar so high for yourself," Jason says. I need to cut myself some slack, apparently.
Looking at my schedule, and my life, I am trying to. By Saturday, I knew that the kids would definitely have to go back to school--every time I thought of it, I was overcome with relief. I took that as a sign.
I also knew that I needed help now, just to make it through the end of this school year intact.
So, we are working on a few things that will allow that to happen. Even still, last night as I was revamping the rest of the year's science program to make it work, I was still fantasizing about just driving the boys to the school and entering them for the last six weeks of this year... which just seems a little ridiculous. I think there are other, more appropriate solutions to the issue. But still, I took that as a sign.
For now, I may have to allow myself a summer without a garden... or broiler chickens. I haven't decided, but since I've been trying to get to ordering broilers for four weeks, now, and the only time I managed to even dial the phone (with a strange feeling of dread in my heart) the company was too busy to take my call... maybe I should take that as a sign.
I'm not quite sure what the next few months to a year will look like. But for now, despite the relief, I am still grieving the passing of a much-enjoyed chapter of my life. I covet your prayers as I look forward to the best parts of the future chapters, and attempt to see past the mire that is my day-to-day right now.
And thank God that Levi has brought much joy to our household, as well as being the catalyst that brought my house of cards crashing down around me. Maybe I should have made these changes before, I don't know. But now that the need is so glaringly obvious, I think I'd be a fool not to take that as a sign...