By Holly Vanderhaar
Back from a brief hiatus! It’s been a remarkably busy few months around our house. I was working two jobs for the first part of the summer, and then we had a three-week trip back East. The girls started 4th grade after Labor Day, and the following weekend we flew to Arizona to surprise my mom for her 85th birthday. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get caught up…and in another month or so I will be filling in for a friend/former co-worker who will be taking her parental leave.
This is the part where I admit that single parenting is hard, at least right now. I love my life and wouldn’t change a bit of it—though it would be nice to have a little extra money and a lot of extra hours in a day—but to be honest, I feel like I’m losing my grip on all the things I need to be taking care of, and I feel like I could use some back-up.
Fourth grade has brought with it more—and harder—homework. I’m gradually trying to train the kids to be more responsible and accountable, and I’ve asked the teachers for feedback (like I do every year), so I can gauge how much I need to get involved and how much I need to let them “sink or swim.” And, as usual, I haven’t gotten much feedback so far. They are starting to get grades on individual assignments, rather than whole units, with a rubric and an explanation for each mark-down. I know it’s not trendy to be in favor of grades, but I’m rejoicing, because I think now they’ll finally stop doing just enough to get by. The additional work has been harder for me to keep up with too; they’re in 5th grade math, and we’re skating perilously close to the limits of my knowledge now. Geometry I can still help with, but algebra? :::shudder:::
I’ve been lucky for the last year and a half in that my work schedule has been flexible enough to allow me to work from home and/or work after they’re in bed, so I haven’t had to put them in after-school care. It helped to be able to pick them up at 3:00, have a snack, and get the homework and violin practice done before dinner. They got a little down time before bed, I didn’t feel so rushed with dinner, and we were all better organized. But this year because of scheduling demands, I’ve put them back in after-school care. They like it, and their teacher is fantastic, but getting home at 5:30 rather than 3:00 means we’re scrambling, especially since they still go to bed at 8:00.
But everything else is falling by the wayside. I can’t get on top of the housework. I manage to get the laundry done once a week and that’s about it. I’m buried in stacks of clothes because it’s that time of year to switch out the closets, and I can’t get motivated to finish the job. So I have a pile of winter clothes that need to be hung up, and a pile of summer clothes that need to go in storage bags, and a pile of stuff the girls have outgrown that needs to go to Goodwill. And all I want to do is lie on the couch, drink tea, and watch Doctor Who.
What are your strategies for those times when you just feel overwhelmed by it all?