The best of everything

October 09,2008
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.

I had the chance recently to have coffee with a good friend of mine from high school, whom I hadn't seen in 21 years. We reconnected through the marvels of Facebook, and further happy coincidences gave us the chance to meet for coffee for a few hours on Saturday. It was wonderful in every way. Sometimes you have these encounters--friends coming together again after years and changed circumstances and relocations and life's twists and turns--and you find out you can't really be friends anymore (has this ever happened to you?). But my friend and I discovered we were still good friends, even after all these years, and it was the best feeling inside--one I carried with me the whole rest of that day, long after we had parted ways.

As we caught up (how DO you catch up on 21 years?), we talked about being moms and wives and about parenting and juggling work, and she said to me, "You know, some days I juggle so much, no one gets the best of me." And right there she had so neatly summed up how I often feel, and how I've been feeling these past couple of weeks. I have so many days when I leave campus knowing I haven't finished everything; the work piles up, projects half-finished, meetings I can't make, deadlines fallen by the wayside. Then I slip into the world of being a mom--the world I love most--but one which I sometimes can't meet head-on with all the energy and gusto I used to have. There are days when my work, my kids, my husband, my home, and my ME get only a fraction of what they need and deserve from me, try as I might to get all the parts to add up to 100 percent (or 150 percent!).

This is something I know lots of moms experience--working moms, stay-at-home moms, and working-from-home moms, too. We multi-task like crazy, juggling it all, giving so much of ourselves, and when one ball falls, the rest of them seem suddenly in jeopardy--a domino effect. If I'm behind at work I seem to be behind at home, too--scrambling to get it all done and make it to the weekend.

Which is why I'm so looking forward to today. In a few hours the kids and I will hop on a train and head north for a long weekend with my family. In true tag-teaming style, though, Scott already had his long weekend during Fall Break last week, so he has to stay behind with the fish, the dog, and the rabbit. Crazy though it might sound, I'm actually looking forward to spending six uninterrupted hours with my kids (check back with me AFTER the trip--maybe I will have changed my mind). We stopped at the library yesterday and loaded up on chapter books: T. picked several in this series, and L. picked this one to read, along with this golden find. I hit the dollar store earlier in the week, and now the backpack is stuffed with coloring books, stickers, pens, and enough paper to last the trip up there and back again. I think we have more than enough snacks to last us the length of the trip, and last night I downloaded some fun podcasts onto my iPod for the kids to listen to when times get tough.

But mostly I'm just glad to get the chance to settle down for a few hours and watch the landscape whiz by the train windows; the chance to sit and catch my breath, read my kids some good books, have a cup of tea, and maybe--just maybe--sneak in a few quiet thoughts of my own.

Happy weekend everyone! See you back on Monday.