I've successfully completed one quarter of the school year, and things have gone fairly well. I am teaching two different social studies classes in middle school. My students are good, my colleagues are great, and I even survived parent-teacher conferences. My girls seem to have adjusted to me working fairly well. They have everyone at my school trained to give them candy, and this week spent some time destroying the superintendent's office (and somehow he didn't mind). I've never worked since Cora was in school, but since my hours are basically the hours they are in school, maybe it doesn't seem that different to them.
Here are a few of my struggles...
Starting over is hard. I am starting over in about 5 ways and they all wear me down. I find myself so exhausted and drained that I can barely think straight. Lots of my responsibilities are suffering and I will probably never get a chance to catch up. I know this is probably all normal for a working single mom. What scares me is that I can't imagine it getting easier any time soon. This whole school year will be a grueling, uphill struggle. If I stay, next year I'll at least have some lesson plans, but teaching is never an easy job.
Parent-teacher conferences served as a reminder of all the ways teachers need to support their students... the student who isn't capable of getting their homework actually home; the student who struggles socially and has trouble with bullies; the student who has a horrible situation at home, and is doing well just to make it to school. And it's not that I'm not compassionate toward them... I do care and want to help. But I barely have enough compassion and energy for myself. When I think about how much support my students need, I know I don't have enough to give them.
I also spent a few minutes with a wonderful woman, mom of two, whose husband has ALS. This is the first year when things will really change for them, and the strain she is under was apparent. That was me four or five years ago. Just being in that room with her was hard. I wanted to run away, but at the same time wanted to give her a big hug. My palms were sweating, but I also wanted to go to her house and take over her duties while she went to the spa for several hours.
I have a least learned to recognize the signs when I become completely overwhelmed, and when I feel that way, I just need to go to bed. I'm always glad to have survived another week, but then I remember I still have to get ready for the next week.
My last years have been years of struggle. I was starting to feel better, more normal (whatever that means). I suppose going back to work has just thrown me back into the quagmire. I'm thankful for all that I have, of course. I'll be here, sleeping or struggling until I fight my way back out again.