Giving Motherhood All I’ve Got—by Jamie Levine
I’m entering the fourth week of my fourth semester (out of five) as a full-time graduate student; prior to that, I spent four semesters taking prerequisite undergraduate classes, so I’m no stranger to juggling schoolwork, freelance work, and single motherhood. However, this past week, the reality of what I’m undertaking hit me harder than ever: It’s been incredibly tough to accomplish everything that I need to do at school, work, and around the house, while trying to be a stellar mom. In fact, it’s near-impossible. Maybe it’s because now, in addition to taking my graduate classes and being a freelance copywriter, I have an externship that’s quite demanding…and on top of that, Jayda just started kindergarten. Suddenly, I’m feeling a lot of pressure (possibly even self-induced) to be super-mom—to be focused on Jayda whenever she’s home, spend quiet time with her every evening while she does her now-nightly homework, keep the television turned off as much as possible when we’re home, and be present at all the school functions that arise; already, I showed up at a “Second Cup of Coffee” gathering on the first morning of kindergarten, met Jayda at the playground two Friday afternoons in a row so she could play with her new classmates, attended a back-to-school picnic this past Friday evening, and volunteered to be a candidate to chaperone Jayda’s class on a pumpkin picking trip (on a day when I’m supposed to be working). I’m exhausted.
I love my externship—and I have no regrets about the path I’ve chosen: I’m focused on achieving a career as a speech-language pathologist. But right now, I am so tired of graduate school. I used to settle for nothing less than A’s—but this semester, I’m already praying for just B’s. Not because I’m not smart enough to continue to earn those A’s…but because I have no desire (or time!) to open up my text books and study: It’s become my last priority. If I have any spare time after spending seven hours in a speech-language classroom, squeezing in a quick workout, and interacting with Jayda before she goes to bed, I just want to collapse.
I’ve always prided myself on being not just a Mommy—but a single, social woman, too. However, these days, I rarely have any time that is separate from being “Jayda’s mom” and fulfilling my obligations. I only see my friends on playdates, and I’ve made it clear to a guy I’ve been seeing that I have no time for a serious relationship. Though I don’t miss Library Guy anymore, I do miss the convenience of dating a man with kids; it maximized our time together. These days, I can barely get out of the house one night a week. And because my externship immerses me in a school setting (and I’m exposed to amazing resources there), when I’m supposed to be focused on gathering materials for the lessons I’m leading, I find myself, instead, searching for kindergarten materials to share with Jayda. Super-mom, indeed.
For what it’s worth, Jayda is thriving: She loves kindergarten so much that she sulked on Saturday morning when she realized she wasn’t going to school—and at the back-to-school picnic last week, I barely saw her for over two hours while she danced, played, and ran around with all her new friends. And now that I’m spending so much time in an educational setting, I feel as though I understand her more—and appreciate her, too. Some of the children whom I work with have major developmental issues and are severely delayed. I’m so lucky to have a smart, social kid as my daughter. I’m also lucky that I have a bright future ahead of me; I just wish it would get here faster! Because while it’s crucial that I continue to perform well, we all know that even the best jugglers drop a ball after awhile….