Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spending the currency of time and energy

I am very sensitive to clutter.  Not so much that I believe I have OCD, but I have to admit I understand the anxiety those who have it feel.  Dishes on a countertop or clothes on the floor are just irritations when there are empty dishwashers and laundry hampers in the world.  I've carried this philosophy into my classroom and have rarely left for home in the past with ungraded papers on my desk or let students leave strips of notebook paper fringe on their work or on the floor.

But, like so many things, this side of my personality has changed a bit since the twins arrived.  My love for systems, routines, and order certainly has helped to keep our home functional and organized even with the large amount of  baby gear that cycles through its 1200 square feet.  Still, there is an aesthetically unappealing baby bottle drying rack on my once bare--beautifully bare--kitchen counter.  Clothes pile up on my side of the bed since my own laundry hamper still lives in the babies' closet (it used to be my "extra" closet), and I choose not to open that sqeaky door while Sophie and Michael sleep.  I'm relieved that necessity seems to prevent my old clutter-induced tension from developing in instances such as these.

While I still feel compelled to immediately remedy any jumbled junk drawer that crosses my path, I now see my time and energy as a sort of limited currency to dole out each day.  Ideally, I want the majority of it to go toward my interactions with my babies, but it's not always that simple.

I've committed to give myself to my work to enhance the lifestyle I can share with my family, and if I'm going to be gone from Michael and Sophie for so many hours a day, I'm certainly not going to spend that time being intentionally mediocre. So for every task I face at work I ask myself if it's worth it. Can those papers wait to be graded until tomorrow? Will straightening the textbooks on my shelf make me a better teacher? If a task has no bearing on my effectiveness at work, then I'm going to save that energy for my babies.

Work is also inherently different this year.  In addition to tenth grade English, I'm teaching art for three periods. This is after teaching English exclusively for nine years, never intending to put that other certification to use (I just liked being an art student myself).  Despite my reluctance, a recent retirement and a state graduation requirement of a half credit of fine arts has put that certification of mine more in demand.

One of my art courses is currently engaged in an Op Art paper weaving project that I was assigned in my 2-D design class in college.  It's an exploration of line, how varying the widths of the paper makes parts of the final piece visually advance or recede, and it requires a lot of paper cutting. This results in piles of cut paper and many, many strips landing on the floor. Remarkably, I don't care much. Like the stickler I've always been, I make each class clean up around their work spaces and warn that I'll keep them after the bell if they don't do so thoroughly. The difference is I probably won't, especially seventh period.  Pushing my students to take pride in their environment is important to me, but I also have pumping to do and babies to get to.  I just have to hope the students never test me on what I know in my heart is now an empty threat.

I also have to determine the worth of tasks outside of work.  The most taxing part of my day is when I get home with the babies on their daycare days.  I enter the door with a work bag, a diaper bag, my lunch bag, my pump bag, and two babies in carseats.  I debate everyday whether or not to just leave the loaded bags on the kitchen table until I've played with Sophie and Michael and put them down for their last nap.  But everyday upon entering the door I immediately unload the bags of pumped milk, dirty dishes, bottles, soiled clothes, daily sheets, and pump parts.  I put the dishes in the washer, pump parts in soapy water, the daily care sheets in a binder, the diaper bag on the back of the nursery door, clothes in the hamper.  I change into sweats, use the bathroom, get the mail, grab a snack, refill my water, and get the babies on the floor finally for some truly in-the-moment mommy time.  Remarkably, Sophie and Michael have hung out contentedly in those car seats for the ten minutes or so that this routine takes.  Like going back to work, part of me feels guilty for taking this time away from the babies, but without a to-do list hanging over me, I feel freed to give all of my stored up and remaining time and energy to Sophie and Michael.

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