".. starts kindergarten next year and I am terrified about how I am going to manage homework with her. I work until 5pm, pick up her brother from daycare and get home around 6pm. They both eat dinner, have baths and then go to bed. I see that you work full time too. How do you manage?"
My answer to the base of her question about homework specifically is easy - Routine & Creativity. Homework for Cate requires both disciple and flexibility. We have a dedicated desk in the kitchen and we try to start homework very soon after arriving home for the day. Cate knows when I sit her down at that desk she isn't getting up until her homework is done. Of course that doesn't mean she always cooperates but at least it is her routine so I can bring her around most of the time. The creativity comes in when homework starts to drag. In kindergarten I tried to do every assignment the teacher sent home in the way it was intended. This year I've learned the important thing is to learn the material and if I need to modify that homework to get there then I need to get with the teacher and do it. Like yesterday's example - Cate isn't going to learn spelling words by writing sentences, that is a fact - the process is just to hard. Most kids probably get a lot out of that activity but it isn't a great one for Cate so we modified one night to play with letters. If homework takes too long then it is not going to be valuable. I don't envy the commenter's situation. I work 6:30 - 3:00 pm because I was barely surviving in my previous job which was 9-5. I am much better at using those two hours in the afternoon then I was figuring out how to get it done in the morning or to share responsiblities like when I was barely getting home in time to make dinner.
Before I actually wrote that reply, I started one that was very different and then decided it might need a little more thought. My initial answer to "how do you manage" was going to be "not very well". But as I started to write I realized that it really depends on who's definition of "manage" you use. A couple of my favorite bloggers have touched on "mommy guilt" lately so I've had this concept on my mind a lot which is probably the only reason I caught myself from submitting my negative answer. Many days I don't feel like I manage thing well. Our house is usually a mess - last night there was a pile on the kitchen counter containing Lucy's valentine art work so it is at least a week old, the playroom was a complete disaster (as in can't see the floor), there is laundry overflowing the hampers in both ours & the kids bathrooms, and there are two still packed suitcases in my closet. Not only is my house not up to "standards", I have been failing on cooking lately too. I was super proud of myself last night because I actually made the girls mashed potatoes and feed them rotisserie chicken - that was as close to actual cooking during the week as I've come in a while. We have had way too much fast food or pre-prepped food lately. That just hits the physical stuff, Lucy hasn't been sleeping well so I in turn am not sleeping well which makes me tired and grouchy by 7 pm when I've been up since 5:45. I feel like I've been yelling at the girls too much and not teaching them how to be patient and to control their anger. Lucy has started stomping her foot at me when I tell her "no" to something she really wants and I know its my fault. Put all these things together and it adds up to pure mommy guilt.
All of this is the reason that I love reading posts by blogging moms. Just as I pile all this responsibility on myself to do things perfectly like a 60's TV mom, I read a post like Deanna's Failure on her "Everything and Nothing from Essex" blog or one of my other daily visits. Somehow learning it is not just me, gives me the perspective to reminds myself of the good things I did this recently. I might have given them too much fast food & salt filled pre-prepped food but they have both had a healthy packed lunch pretty much every day this year. We have a good homework routine and I'm learning how to make the best of our time more each year. Cate has done her homework every night and is showing great improvement in her reading. Cate is on track to promote to second grade and I believe she will continue with her typical peers next year with maybe one more pullout unit (IEP end of this month so we'll see for sure then). Lucy has a birthday party coming up for which I've already reserved the spot and have the goodie bag & decor in hand. Lucy even made a birthday card for her teacher today on her actual b-day. Both girls have made it to every therapy appointment, swim class, and cheerleading practice/event so far this year. And along those lines both of their swimming has improved and Cate is doing great in cheerleading. They are both perfect in weight and are overall very healthy. All of those things on their own seem little next to the messes that linger and the perceived failures along the way but as all you moms know nothing happens without a lot of planning and strategy. I know I have give myself a break but the problem is finding my way out from under the stress to put it all in perspective.
As I commented on Deanna's - "Half the time I don't even see the guilt starting to push me into stupid things like cleaning the laundry room at 10 pm or working out at 9:45 when there are still lunches to make & school bags to pack. I feel this huge urge to "catch up" and stop thinking of my own sanity until my husband make me stop. That normal causes me to snap at him when he is only trying to help, which makes me feel a different kind of guilt that eventually brings me back to the real world. The one where the laundry can wait as long as there is one clean outfit for each of us tomorrow and the kitchen counter won't collapse under the mess until I have to clean in over the weekend."
Don't you just wish that we could forget the guilt in the first place and not have to remind ourselves that sometimes doing the best you can is success in itself?
And if I need to convince myself that I'm doing alright as a mom, I should just look at this picture -