98: All in Good Time

98: All in Good Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

All in Good Time

I am not Superwoman. The reality of my daily life is that I’m juggling a lot of balls in the air… and sometimes some of the balls get dropped.

~Cherie Blair

School. Work. A preschooler. It was a juggling act, and every week I had to scramble to make sure everything didn’t come cascading down on me. I was recently divorced and I was taking college classes at night, on top of my day job working at a residential facility for children. And in the hours squeezed in-between, I tried to keep up with my daughter.

I had to make creative use of my time. When we went to the park, I took one of my college textbooks along to study while I kept an eye on Virginia as she arced back and forth on the swings and scampered around on the jungle gym. When I was cooking dinner, she would play with the pots and pans and I’d join in. On the drive to work, before I’d drop her off at preschool, I’d talk to her the whole way — about everything. The weather… What I was going to do at work that day… What we were going to have for dinner later that evening. The more we “conversed” (and back then it was more a monologue than a dialogue), the more her speaking skills improved. Every minute of my day had to be used wisely.

After my college instructor would dismiss us for the evening, I’d pick up my daughter from my parents, and we’d go through our nightly routine: a bath, a story and then bedtime… for her. I longed to feel a pillow under my head, but a multitude of things begged for my attention: the spills on the kitchen floor, the dirty dishes, the laundry, the research papers and projects that were due, the quizzes and tests that were looming — there was never a shortage of things to do.

A year of juggling those three things — work, college and my little girl — was taking its toll. At the children’s facility where I worked, I was in charge of infants who had been abused. A large part of my day was spent rocking and feeding the babies. I didn’t trust myself to spend too much time sitting down in a comfortable rocking chair because there were times I was afraid I would nod off.

During my classes I would occasionally fall asleep mid-lecture. You could look at my class notes and tell the instant I started to snooze because my writing would become illegible and eventually “flatline” across the page. It was like I was on automatic pilot. Even though I was asleep, my hand kept moving across the notebook, as if it had memorized its role.

It was obvious I was beginning to fail as a juggler.

One Sunday afternoon, Virginia was playing with her dolls on the floor. I lay down on the couch with my geography textbook. I had a test coming up the following week and needed to study. From where I was positioned, I could re-read and highlight the chapter on geomorphology while I kept an eye on my daughter. Unfortunately, the diagrams and dull scientific passages failed to keep my attention, and not even my little girl could keep my sleep-deprived brain focused. Apparently, I dozed off because my head jerked upright as I awoke, startled, to a clattering noise.

Rushing to the kitchen where the commotion was coming from, I looked down. Kneeling on the floor was Virginia, safe and sound. However, she was also busy. In front of her was a mountain she had created. Flour. Sugar. Milk. Eggs.

Looking down at the white sloppy mound, tears came to my eyes. That mountainous mess was an obstacle, just like the insurmountable string of responsibilities that made up my life.

I couldn’t be angry with her — it was my fault — so I cleaned it up without even a frustrated look cast her way. As I was sopping up the liquid and scooping up the powdery globs, I thought to myself, “Something’s gotta give. I cannot keep up this pace anymore.”

It could have been so much worse. Virginia could have climbed onto the counter and gotten into the knives. Thinking of all the horrible ways it might have ended, I felt fortunate. It was as if someone had been watching over my little girl, since I hadn’t been.

When the semester ended, I quit college. Six years later, I re-enrolled and finished. Keeping up with the pace the college professors set was still difficult, but this time I had a husband who supported and encouraged me. I resigned from work so I could go to school full-time. Eventually, I became a third-grade teacher.

Can women have it all? Can moms juggle a family, career and college, and keep everything from tumbling to the floor?

I don’t know about most mothers. I just know that in my case, I realized I could have it all. just not at the same time.

~Sioux Roslawski

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