Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cold November Rain

“Oh no!” Bub wailed yesterday morning when we stepped outside. It was raining steadily, relentlessly – not a mere shower but a driving November downpour. “Stop the rain, Mama!” he demanded. I know exactly how he feels.

Since the 24th of October I’ve graded 97 essays and 25 tests, a perfect storm of marking that has kept me occupied for nearly a month. This, of course, is entirely my fault. After seven years of scrambling each summer to apply for as much teaching as possible, I was suddenly offered more courses than I could possibly handle. I settled on the four I thought I could do with the least effort and inconvenience, and arranged day-care around my teaching schedule: I have the children in care all day Monday to Wednesday and Thursdays from 9-12. During that time I’m expected to complete a workload which, on paper at least, totals 48 hours/week.

In September and October, this schedule worked well. With little or no marking to be done, I found that I could balance all the important things in life: eating, sleeping, class preparation, teaching, playing with my children, talking to my husband, blogging, reading, and watching TV (Heroes on Mondays, House on Tuesdays, and Survivor on Thursdays – I even tried watching Bionic Woman on Wednesdays, but soon gave that up). Since October 24th, however, I have abandoned the following activities:

  • reading the newspaper
  • reading non-school-related books (except for 20 minutes of Harry Potter before bed each night)
  • going to church (except for the mornings when I’m slated for nursery duty)
  • going to small group Bible study
  • talking with my husband
  • watching TV

(I would add cooking, but I never did much of that to begin with.)

I have not, of course, given up blogging, a decision that has created – in my mind at least – the illusion that my “I don’t have time for anything” whining is all pure self-indulgence. Obviously I DO make time for things when I really want to. Not only have I continued blogging, but I have also gone out socially, not once but four times in the last month. Granted, two of those four occasions were get-togethers with friends I have not seen since August – not wholly obligatory outings, but necessary if I would like to actually have friends once all the marking is done.

All this gallivanting has made it difficult for me to say no to additional requests, despite the fact that I am working every evening until 11 pm just to keep up and sending my husband out with the kids every Saturday morning (making me wonder what, exactly, was the point of keeping them out of day-care on Fridays). Nevertheless, over the last week or so it’s become increasingly obvious that all my time is allocated. Even giving up blogging would not necessarily free up time to do the things people seem to expect me to do (unless those things can be accomplished: (a) while eating breakfast, (b) during my office hours at school, or (c) after 11 pm).

“I can do everything I have to do,” I complained to hubby this week. “I can drop Bub off at nursery school and pick him up; I can take the kids to the Little Gym; I can teach my classes and mark my essays. But I can’t do anything extra – and people keep wanting me to do things that are extra!”

For example:
  • volunteer at the silent auction fundraiser this Saturday for the nursery school
  • canvas local merchants for donations to the silent auction
  • complete a phone interview for a study on toddlers’ sleep and behaviour problems
  • meet with students outside of my normal office hours
  • bring a healthy snack to the nursery school Tuesday and Thursday of this week
  • attend a baby shower for the three women in my parenting-skills class whose babies are due in the next month
  • cook and freeze three meals for the baby shower (each meal being suitable to feed four; dairy-free since one of the moms is lactose intolerant)

The other night, hubby answered the phone. It was someone from the church, wondering if I could bake something for the Stress-Free Holiday event this Saturday. “What exactly IS the Stress-Free Holiday?” I asked when he relayed this information to me.

“I don’t know,” he answered, “but I told her you’re not entertaining any further requests until after classes end in December.”

Good man.


Julie Pippert said...

Oh I SO hear you.

And those last two paragraphs: the irony is priceless in the first, and your husband's comment is priceless in the second!

The Art of Saying No.


I find that not only do I dislike large, complicated shopping places with too many choices, but I also appear to dislike a large, complicated life with too many choices...or obligations.

I have committed to a boutique life. (And if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack...not that I'm childish or lack adult vocabulary or anything LOL) ;)

Using My Words

Veronica Mitchell said...

I am good at saying no. When I was young, I was very bad at it, and had to learn for my own survival.

Is your semester or quarter or whatever almost over? I hope it finishes soon and you can look back at it with a sense of accomplishment as a crazy period that tested what you could do and is now mercifully over.

97 papers. Ugh ugh ugh.

Jennifer said...

I was expecting something with more whining. This wasn't bad at all!

Your husband sounds wonderful. Maybe he'd like to be my secretary?

slouching mom said...

I reached a point recently when I just HAD to say no.

Say it once? The second time is easier.

And now it's easy-peasy.


See? ;)

Kimberly said...

Very good man.

Me? That's what "unreliable" answering machines are for.

Beck said...

You're busy! So many people I know are crazy right now with the amount of things they have to do.

We woke up to snow this morning - maybe that's coming your way, too. Nothing is more cheering than that first soft white blanket of snow.

Mouse said...

I decided to push back the first exam of my comps precisely because I realized that I had planned every bit of my last 6 weeks in Toronto with academics and maybe, just maybe, I wanted to be able to see friends, etc, before heading off.

I've learned to say no to some things--no academic events after 4pm (with very few exceptions--have to pick Scooter up from daycare)--but find it almost impossible to hold firm with teaching things (I make myself way too available outside of office hours) and Scooter-related events.

On the plus side, how cool that you were offered so much teaching that you had your pick!

Patois said...

See, you do get to talk to your husband! I am a sucker for not saying no. I have my muscle -- that would be my husband -- respond for me.

Eva said...

I hear you. I sometimes feel guilty that I have time to blog and then say no to other things. But I feel like I'm doing it not for me, but for a record of our lives during these first years.

I have a new prep in the Spring and I'm chairing admissions committee, and have no idea how I'll have time to add these things to my to do list.

Kyla said...

Good for him, and you. I'd much prefer you to keep blogging rather than start baking. LOL. When I am swamped, yet still blogging, I feel the same way. But blogging is the only me time I can sneak in sometimes and I think I would give up a rather large chunk of sleep to keep it up. You have to have something for yourself!

Aliki2006 said...

I so admire you, though, for keeping up with so much. I have a stack of 60 probably horrible papers to grade between now and Monday and I just keep putting it off, knowing I will regret this.

Terri said...

Oooo, I like Julie Pippert's idea of a boutique life. That's what I need.

Good man you've got, yes indeed!

I've gotten much better at saying no. When we lived in Savannah we attended a church and worked at a school that seemed to always suck up our free time doing those extra things like fundraisers, etc. It got very tiring so when we moved from Savannah we made a decision to not let that happen again. So far, so good.

Jenifer said...

Yup that sounds about right. Learning how to say no - and not fret about it, is a real gift to yourself.

Maddy said...

Good for you [and him] I'll stop moaning about how busy I am now.
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving

bubandpie said...

Veronica - December 7, baby - my only mid-term, followed by two weeks of day-care in which to mark the next batch of 97 essays and 25 tests. (At least I won't be doing that AND teaching classes.)

Jennifer, Kimberly, Terri - Yup. In addition to his secretarial skills, he also let me offload the silent auction donations onto him - spent one night canvassing (unsuccessfully) for donations, and another buying stuff at Winners. "Good man" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Slouchy, Patois, Jenifer - It's a tricky one, this saying no business - because some of things really are genuine obligations. And I never want to be that WOHM who decides, "Oh I'm too busy to do my share of the fundraising - I'll let those bored SAHMs with nothing to do take care of all that."

Janet said...

Your post reminded me of how much I resent having to juggle 17 balls in the air whenever a freelance project comes my way. It's infuriating.

Now I'm feeling very crotchety. I dare someone to ask me to do something extra right now...

Mad Hatter said...

Oh shit. Head down. Hubby on phone detail. You will not become one of those WOHM moms simply b/c you ARE NOT one of those WOHM moms. This is a one off and everyone is allowed to drop off the face of the earth for a month.

I'll look forward to seeing you back in my patch of blogoshpere in mid-December. Until then, head down and hubby on phone detail.

b*babbler said...

Taking time for blogging (or whatever activity you need) does not mean that you are not entitled to say no (or to feel bad about it). Regardless of how much work there is and home life to be led, you still need time - 10 minutes here, a half hour there - for yourself. It's the only way that there will still be a part of you functional for the work, the home life and the other obligations.

Good luck getting through all the papers! (And what an awesome husband!)

Laural Dawn said...

I relate. So much.
I've been so blah since being pregnant and I just can't take on anything. And, it's been amazing to me to say no.
Sometimes I hate it, but it's so necessary. And, I appreciate the break (from my bed!)

kittenpie said...

that's good. It's hard to say no sometimes, but good to know when you have to. And extra good to have a gatekeeper to do it for you so you don't give in to the guilt!

painted maypole said...

you will have to have your husband take all your messages for you. maybe he could do your blogging,too? ;) kidding, we would miss you too much!

Sue said...

I feel your pain. I have been juggling, juggling, juggling for the last few weeks and can see that I will have to continue juggling as my DH will be traveling a lot for the next bit. Trying to decide what needs to stay and what can go has been difficult, but blogging is something I enjoy, that I can fit in after the kids are asleep or during a spare moment in the day. And I love it. And we all should be able to take a few minutes in the day to do something we love.

Lawyer Mama said...

Can your husband come answer my phone? Because, seriously, he rocks.

dawn224 said...

Good for you, and great for him... if you only had the time to say 'thanks' in some special way.

In my house it would have been after finals and all the IEPs were written. Which sadly was always the tenth of never.

flutter said...

oh, a most excellent man.

nomotherearth said...

Your husband rocks.

Alpha DogMa said...

These stress-free solutions are so bogus. I've been asked to join a cookie exchange. Make 12 dozen of the same cookie and get 11 different kinds to serve. Serve to whom? Am I suppose to be some kind of uber hostess in manner of 50s era housewife? Screw that. I damn well know I'm gonna eat 144 cookies single handidly and then have to find the extra time to get to the gym. So I'll just skip this 'stress free' fiasco to begin with.

And good work Mr. B&P. Now go fold some laundry.

Marie said...

I have a hard time knowing when enough is enough...until I'm strapped and stressed. It's really hard when you feel like it's things you SHOULD be doing, but I think all you need to explain to people is that you're a mother of young kids who also teaches four college classes. Enough said. No extra time. You're already a hero.

Emily R said...

Oh, I know this feeling. And this is just when people will tell you how LUCKY you are to be a teacher because it means you have so much time to spend with your kids...

radical mama said...

How overwhelming! Awesome of your husband to refuse requests on your behalf. It's hard to say "no" to people and it's so nice when someone else can just do it for you. Well, semester is almost over. Hang in there!

mek said...

Totally feeling your pain, though my semester (including finals) ends the 20th, so I'm going to whine a little louder. :)

I have three classes this fall instead of my usual two, and only one in the spring (yikes) instead of the usual two. Most days and nights I can be found bemoaning the lack of balance in my life and hiding from essays by reading blogs. There are about 60 of them in my bag right now...waiting...

KAL said...

I'm glad to see you have kept your week night TV lineup in place! We seem to share some TV viewing habits... anyways, just letting you know I tagged you for a completely optional meme.

cinnamon gurl said...

He is a good man. And good for you for setting boundaries...

Hey, totally unrelated (well not really because you DID mention it), but I've now finished all of the Harry Potter series, and I'm dying to know the main characters fit into myers-briggs, and I think you might just be the person to do it. What do you think? I mean, when you have time to, of course.

Julie said...

Ditto. All of it. And next week I collect final portfolios and it gets worse.

So I made them write cover letters for their portfolios assigning themselves a grade and justifying that grade. The ones that convince me get the grade they chose. : )