For many years, I was afraid to not be busy. I associated little activity or staying at home with being depressed or letting anxiety overwhelm me. I still worry about falling prey to negative emotions, thoughts or behaviors. But they’re not the scary monsters they once were. Now I can have a low-key day or several without self-diagnosing a period of depression. This summer vacation has been a good balance of busy and calm. Certain routines have been put on hold like my 5 a.m. wake up time, daily praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, and making time to write on a regular basis. For a long time, my daily schedule and those regular routines felt like a protection from feelings of sadness and worthlessness. I’ve gotten away from that magical thinking. I know those are normal feelings that I will experience. I know I will be able to work through them.
Free time is a luxury I don’t often enjoy. My days strike a balance between being a mom, being a school principal, dance, writing, reading, exercise, socializing, and parish service. In the last few weeks, I have revisited my defunct vegetable garden and am working to revive the soil. (Que bonito, verdad? Un simbolo de mi desarrollo) I have purged our house of numerous unwanted items. (Another analogy. I am rolling my AP English teacher eyes.) I’ve actually ironed clothing.(Can somebody tell me how they avoid ironing? I do not like wrinkles but I detest ironing.) Miracle of miracles, I have even slept in more than once. I have been up and gone back to bed and slept for two more hours. A few times, I have judged myself as being unproductive but I haven’t allowed this opinion to get me down for too long. Para que? I’ve been my own pinata too many times in my life to want to keep doing it. Done. Nope, not today. Tomorrow’s not looking good either. I can enjoy my time however I want.
I head back to work Monday. I look forward to making my schedule less hectic. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to sleep in on work days.
One night this past fall, I was up for two hours between 2 and 4am. M had told me she had misplaced her Moana TsumTsum. She did not yet tell me it had been gone for weeks. M, like both of her parents, is a notorious pack rat so she struggles with clutter. I stayed up looking through things, recycling paper, throwing trash out, and adding to our donation bag. I hoped to find it.
I know I could have used that time in a different way. I could have worked; there are always emails to answer, agendas to craft, a newsletter to compose and translate into Spanish. I could have worked creatively by posting to my blog. I could have practiced one of my dance routines as there are now occasional gigs with my dance group. While I may know a routine, I can always work on technique and precision. That comes from lots of practice. Given my time management struggles, this does not consistently happen.
While I could have used those two hours differently, I sat and knelt in the dark, going through different drawers and boxes to find the missing toy. In the morning, M said I shouldn’t have wasted my time. When I saw how crestfallen she looked at the thought of not seeing this toy again, I knew she would be happy if it was found. She then told me it had been missing for a long time. She decided to ask Santa for a new one. During another round of cleaning a month or so later, we found a bag of toys we had stored during the summer. Moana was there. We had several good laughs about that late night of cleaning.
I do a lot for M because I would like her to feel good or better. When M was tiny, we spent hours up at night. We would play. I would chat with her. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was two years old. (Sleepless in San Leandro)I didn’t know what it was like to get several hours of sleep for a few years. Despite the challenges, it was time well spent. As a mom, I often question my commitment to dance, writing, and my career because of the time they take from M. Making a difference as an educator and as a writer are important to me. She is the person I want to make the most difference for in this life. M is my reason.
Benita Lopez was no June Cleaver
I went from happy mom to guilty mom within 24 hours. My goal this Lent was to be more patient, to yell and nag less, to be more kind in my tone and facial expressions. My inadequate time management has left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. My patience wears thin.
On a typical Monday night, we get to the house at 8pm. M may have two to four pages of math homework to complete with her after completing her weekly 90 minute dance class. I usually have two loads of laundry to fold, ironing that’s been neglected for weeks and a sinkful of dishes to wash. If I was more organized, I’d take care of the household chores and prepack lunches while M and Rambo complete homework. Instead I’m likely catching up with work email and getting the bath ready. Instead, my less than adequate solution is to get up in the middle of night to do laundry and talk with Rambo and sometimes watch one of our Netflix shows. I sleep in. I let M sleep in. Then we’re scrambling. We’re packing lunch, making breakfast, continuing to load laundry, catching up on dish washing, and trying to get out on time. I need to manage my time better.
It’s not that M is sitting back and doing nothing to help. She packs up her lunch and packs up the car by lugging all the things we carry: purse, backpack, dance bags, piano books. She will empty the dryer. She fills my water bottle. All things considered, she’s becoming resilient and independent.
I need to be mindful of those moments when she’s helpful. My child helps out because she wants to be a contributing member of our household. I hate when I use that voice. I have to get myself out of that mental space. Thank God we pray in the morning; otherwise I’d be a terror at all times.
Lois might have relatable but life is no sitcom
It’s painful when I realize I’m not doing my best as a mom. I remember how I felt when I was disciplined harshly or when I felt I couldn’t confide in my mother. I give my mom all credit for being an example of tough womanhood that was rare in my family and culture. Still, I was a sensitive child and I often felt alone. I work to be a mom who is also a confidant. I need to work on I-statements and giving encouragement. I don’t want to hurt my child’s heart. The world will do enough of that. I continue to pray for patience so I can be a better mom.