Time of my own - FamilyEducation

Time of my own

May 19,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Summer school teaching started this week. I'm teaching an 8:00 a.m. class, and another one at 10:15--every day for four weeks. In keeping with our trademark tag-team parenting style, Scott takes the afternoon shift, and teaches from 1:00 5:45. I always forget, over the course of the year, how exhausting it is to teach two two-hour classes in a row. It's easy to get settled into that cushy 50-minute teaching time. You barely have time to take roll, clip through material, do some group work, and suddenly it's time to switch and move on. But two-hour classes, that's a very different thing entirely.  Despite having to get up at 5:45 every day to make it all happen, and despite trying desperately to get an 8:00 class up and moving and responsive, I enjoy teaching in the summer. I like the fact that I get to see my students every day, and that we can establish a good rapport early on. There's always a sort of "we're all in it together" attitude about summer school. I like the relaxed pace, the smaller classes, the fact that summer school students are always much more motivated to do well then regular semester students. I also like the quiet time I have, in my office, to write--it reminds me of a certain summer, over a decade ago.

The most personally fulfilling and productive time--from a professional standpoint--of my life happened one summer, back in 1998. I was studying for my graduate degree qualifying exams and I'd take the bus to campus and get there around 9:00 am. I'd work until close to noon, then walk over to the swimming pool and swim laps for about 45 minutes. Then I'd head back to my office, eat lunch, and work again until close to 5:00. Maybe that doesn't sound appealing, but I loved it. I felt so on top of everything--mentally and physically. Of course so many personally fulfilling times have since happened since, but I haven't managed to be as productive. Somehow between then and now, becoming a new mother twice, and juggling my children's health issues and challenges (and ferrying them back and forth to OT and/or speech therapy and/or assorted other medical professionals), and freelance work and the other practically full-time job of helping L. get through elementary school have all consistently eaten away at my time. I've become the master of working in fits and starts and, while that can be a feat in and of itself, it can also be frustrating.

I haven't ever been able to recreate that summer of 1998 for myself, and that's been okay, because I've had some pretty amazing summer experiences since then. I wouldn't want to go back, and I wouldn't want to trade the riches I have now, for the simple pleasures of back then. But still, I get frustrated now and then, remembering that summer, and being only too aware of how little time I do have to work for myself. These past two weeks, though, I've enjoying the time after my classes to get my work done, and I'm making a lot of progress with my own writing project. I feel back in touch with some of my own goals, for the first time in years. In two weeks L.'s school will let out for the summer. I'll trade in my 2 1/2 hours of almost uninterrupted office hour writing time for for the bits and pieces method of working I've grown accustomed to. 

All this is just to remind myself--and all of you busy parents out there--to exhale a little. Think about a time in your life when you felt the most together--when you felt on top of it all, physically, mentally, psychologically, and try and recreate that space for yourself--even if just for a short while--an hour, a day, a week or two. I'm sure it's long overdue.