Every summer in early August, I return to the real world. My stint as a ten-week-long SAHM ends and I have to set up a classroom for a new load of students.
This year, my two-year-old was my little helper. I felt so much guilt for leaving her in two weeks that I couldn’t bring myself to hire babysitters for my classroom prep. I also felt like, Hey…what mom can’t entertain a toddler and take care of work at the same time?
(Newsflash: I can’t).
One day, I dressed Claire in a cute outfit in hopes that my coworkers would think she was adorable and want to play with her (#UlteriorMotives). I packed her underwear, wipes, and three changes of clothes in her Ariel backpack. We also packed all of her most engaging toys, books, and stuffed animals. I dug out boxes of crayons and a packets of construction paper from storage. I shoved ten snacks and a special treat from Dunkin Donuts in her lunch box. We were ready.
Ten minutes in to my “mothering at work” exhibition, she had eaten all the snacks, drawn on all the paper, and was bored of all of her highly exciting toys. For the remainder of the day, Claire watched Super Why on my SmartBoard and took trip after trip to the kids’ bathroom a floor below my classroom. Eventually, I gave up and frantically grabbed everything in my hands, loaded her into the car seat and we headed home. We were only home for a minute when she had an accident and I realized I left my phone back at school. After cleaning the accident, we loaded ourselves in the car for the ride—it would only be a few minutes after all. I went to retrieve her from the seat when we arrived back at school only to realize that she was going commando in a rather short dress…at a Catholic school in the middle of the ‘hood. I shook my head and couldn’t help but laugh at myself trying to make everything work. “Productive Working Mom” should most definitely be considered an oxymoron.
This is my life at this time in our journey together as a family. While we hope patiently for changes, the only thing that works for us is for me to continue working. Some days I love it. Some days I don’t. Some days I feel as if I’m giving my everything to the children I work with and the only thing I have left to give to Claire at the end of the day—while I try to make dinner and workout and take care of bills and clean—is an iPad. Not a day goes by without me praying and wondering if this is what I was called to do: parent and teach.
When I leave to go back to work after this very snuggly, family-oriented Christmas break, I will try to keep my focus on Pope Benedict XVI’s words: We are not called to comfort; we are called to greatness.
While we need these moments of respite in the busyness of day-to-day working life, there is work to be done, children to mold, futures to build, and spirits to guide. Let’s just hope this year brings a little less chaos and a few extra pairs of underpants.
Bio: Alison Mezzanotte, wife to Steve and Mommy to Claire, teaches 7th and 8th grade in Philadelphia. When she’s not taming a toddler or a teenager, she enjoys yoga, running, and spending time visiting her family and friends.