It's 3:30 in the afternoon, and I've hit "the wall". It occurs to me that by the time 5:30 rolls around, I will have worked 3 different jobs in 24 hours. All I really want to do is curl up into a ball and nap away the afternoon in the warm sunshine streaming through my window. Fat chance. Being a parent is tough. Being a single parent is like living in a circus (minus the cages, although they could come in handy once in a while...just kidding). As part of the circus, I'm trying to learn how to juggle.
If you looked at my resume, you might find it rather comical. I have a college degree in accounting, with an art studio minor. I've worked at a barbecue restaurant for the last 4 years, and I teach aerobic kickboxing at the YMCA. Yesterday, at 1:00, I had to attend a class for a certification in safe alcohol service. Afterwards, I went straight to the restaurant, poured beer for 7 1/2 hours and got people extra ranch, more butter, another diet Pepsi, a bigger chicken breast, a few extra muffins, one of those big huge Kahlua brownies with whipped cream, directions to Kalispell, the phone number to the hotel, and a side of fries - with a smile on my face the whole time (most of the time anyway). I got off work, slept for what felt like 5 minutes, got up, and went to the CPA's office I work in. He helped me prepare an 1120 for a corporation whose books I keep. Highlight of my day. Then, I picked my kids up, ran home, changed and drove to the Y to teach girls how to pulverize a punching bag. By the time I make it to my laptop, I realize that I will probably still smell like a combination of hickory and sweat, have bloody knuckles, and a growling stomach. I muster my best Martha Stewart effort... and pick up some Little Ceasar's.
"Eat your vegetables" I tell the boys.
"Mom, it's just pizza", Tyler says.
"Well, there's tomato sauce" I reply.
"Mom, tomatoes are fruit because they have seeds" Tyler answers.
Shoot. I guess I'm fired. Cursed is the day you can no longer outsmart your children.
Being a single parent sort of eliminates the choice to stay home or work. You have to work. It has to be enough to feed and clothe your children, which means sometimes dreams can get put on hold, maybe indefinitely. Life is also busy, and there is no way around that. Today I was reminded that not every day holds something that seems "blog-worthy". Life can be mundane, and we all have responsibilities. In light of the Christmas season, however, I was challenged by one thing in the middle of all the chaos.
First of all, I love buying gifts, especially at Christmas. This year, it seems like the slumping economy has finally caught up to me. I've tried to be very smart with my money over the last few years and have almost no debt except for a very small amount of student loans. Oddly enough, graduating from college and having a degree actually caused me to take a pay cut. I've felt the monetary shortage even more since sending my son to Christian school, which was very important to me, and draining my savings account to buy a house. It ocurred to me today while I was running around between jobs that the whole reason I work hard is supposedly because I want to take care of my kids. It would be easy to think that I needed to work even more to have enough money to buy them all the presents they want for Christmas. It wasn't until after dinner when I was getting the boys ready for bed that I was reminded that, more than anything, they just want my attention.
I was reading a newsletter for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) this morning ,written by my friend Melissa, who challenged all of us to focus on the relational rather than the material this Christmas season. It reminded me of a tradition my family used to do every year during December. My mom would find a shoebox, cut a little hole in the top, and then wrap it in the prettiest wrapping paper we had. It was our gift box to Jesus. Every time one of us observed a family member say something nice, do something thoughtful or help around the house without complaining, we'd write it down, and put it in the box. On Christmas morning, we'd read our gifts to Jesus - gifts offered out of love, not something purchased.
I don't have enough energy, or time, to make my house look like something in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine. I don't have enough money to buy my kids everything they want, and I don't want to miss out on their lives trying to get more. I'm going to wrap a shoebox and start giving gifts to Jesus. One of the ways will be by trying to spend more quality time with my kids. It's hard but it's worth it. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard "Mommy!" while writing this, I could buy all the presents they want!) I'm really tired tonight, I don't feel very creative, and I don't want my words to sound fake. I really do want to be a better mom - that's why I'm here.
"Lord, being a parent can be very tiring. Thank you that I don't have to do it on my own strength. Help me make good decisions regarding what I commit myself to. Give me the courage to put my children first, and trust your promise to provide for me. Help me to teach my children the real meaning of Christmas - that we are celebrating the birth of your Son, who was the best gift ever. May I never chase after things, but seek you first, knowing that everything else will be added. And, please, help me get some good rest tonight. :-)"