A Balancing Act—by Jamie Levine
The other day, I observed some children playing Jenga, and watched them for awhile, completely mesmerized. If you’re unfamiliar with Jenga, it’s a stacking game. Each player takes a wooden block and piles it on top of the others to build a tower; the goal is to keep the overloaded tower from toppling over. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this game reminded me of my life.
Being a mom is a lot of work. Being a single mom is even more work. And being a part-time freelance writer/full-time graduate student/single mom requires the most work of all. Ever since the birth of my daughter almost five years ago, my life has been a juggling act, but lately I feel like I’m completely overloaded—and with just one poorly-executed move, everything might topple over.
Last semester, my first in graduate school, was a bit stressful for me, but I successfully attained a 4.0. This semester, I’ve taken on an extra Education class (a prerequisite if I want to work in a school setting, upon graduation), as well as started working in the clinic, and now have seven clients: one adult, and a group of six preschoolers. While the work, itself, is interesting and rewarding, the preparation and paperwork is overwhelming. Not only am I expected to map out complete session plans and formulate short-term and long-term goals for my clients, but I need to explicitly write up the session results, fill out detailed early intervention forms for my kids, and meet with my supervisors weekly. That, on top of my regular class work and freelance work, and every morning, afternoon, and weekend spent entertaining my daughter (not to mention the time I spend at the gym, food shopping and running errands) has me pretty tapped out.
This entire week, Jayda is home on winter break, but my classes and therapy sessions don’t stop. I’ve already resigned myself to working late every night since my days—when I’m not at school or the clinic—are consumed with play dates. But I’ve neglected to factor in exhaustion…and the fact that I might want to get to bed before 11 p.m. Not likely. And forget about having a social life. There’s no chance of me getting out again any time soon. Yes, I’m feeling a little sorry for myself. But most importantly, I’m worried. If just one thing in my meticulously scheduled life falls out of place or doesn’t get done appropriately, I fear that everything else will topple over.
My parents often berate me for being such a stickler when it comes to getting my daughter to bed on time. She often cries and begs for more TV-time or playtime, and does everything she can to avoid going upstairs to her room. But I consistently rush her through her evening activities and get her up to bed on time so we can read and cuddle, and, as she fights me, I can force her to close her eyes. Bedtime is often a battle…but it’s a means to an ends. Most importantly, my daughter needs her rest…but just as importantly, I need my nights—every minute of them. My daughter has to be asleep by 8 o’clock—so I have enough time to finish my work.
Sometimes it seems that just when I think I can’t handle any more work or stress, life throws another challenge at me…and somehow I overcome it. Next year, I’ll have externships to contend with—on top of my schoolwork—and I know I’ll somehow get though that, too. But sometimes, in the moment, it’s hard to believe I’m going to get everything done…without collapsing. Here’s hoping that, just like in a good game of Jenga, I keep balancing everything, stand tall and proud, and come out a winner.