Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Song of the (Temporarily) Single Mother

Well it’s been a few months since my last post and, while I don’t have one specific topic to address, I have had a few things on my mind that I thought deserved to be written down. So I hope this post doesn’t seem too scattered; here goes.

This current summer is our last one in law school. This time next year, Peter will have taken the Bar and we will hopefully be settling down somewhere in a new job. I’m really looking forward to being ‘normal people’ again. J But Peter and I knew this summer was going to be important for him professionally. It’s his last chance to make connections and network before he starts looking for a job. He started thinking about his summer externship last FALL. Yeah, I know it seems premature, but really it wasn’t. He couldn’t really find anything listed that caught his attention. He applied for a bunch, and was offered a few, but none really felt right. He ended up fashioning his own summer clerkship with two district court judges down in Utah. He found out that both of these judges were men he had known growing up and they were more than happy to have him come and clerk for them. The justice center where he would be working was less than 3 miles from his parents’ home. He could stay there for free all summer.

We were both really excited when all the details of this summer work opportunity were hammered out. But then the reality of what it was going to mean for the kids and me started to trickle into my awareness. Me. Alone. With five kids. For 9 WEEKS. Yes, the thought of it was daunting, to say the least. I knew I could handle it, but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to. What I knew I didn’t want was for Peter to be preoccupied with home and worry while he was trying to dazzle the judges in Utah. So, while I shared some of my concerns about the summer with Peter, I tried not to focus on the negatives. I didn’t complain or bemoan the situation. I think if I had known what was in store for me, I would have complained a LOT more.

Peter left shortly after he finished finals, the last week of May. The kids didn’t get out of school until the 5th of June, so my routine didn’t really change that much the first few weeks. I continued on with my regular schedule: chores, laundry, cooking, church, kids’ homework etc. I stayed pretty busy with all of their end-of-year events and activities. Honestly, being the wife of a 2nd year law student is pretty good training for being a single mother. J

Since I knew in advance we were doing this, I started scouring Pinterest in December for ideas for summer activities, homeschool material (I’ll blog about that later), and art projects. I had a huge bevy of material ready by the time Peter left and the kids and I hit the ground running.

For the first 4 weeks Peter was gone, I found myself thinking more than once, ‘Wow, this isn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be! I got this.’ I’m normally a total morning person. I get up very early and am super-productive until about 4 pm. By 6 pm, I hit a wall and am fairly useless for the rest of the night. But those first 4 weeks, I had energy to spare! I actually had to take a sleeping pill many nights just to get to sleep, which is unheard of for me. I also discovered who was making all the messes and eating all the food around here. The place was immaculate and we had leftovers running out our ears. J But I was really honestly amazed and how well things were going. I even found a gig watching a couple of extra kids (ages 8 and 12) during the week which put some much-needed cash in my pocket. I was feeling pretty much like Super-Mom.

Then, around mid-June, Peter came home for the weekend so we could baptize Nathan. It was a very special event for Nathan and all of our family. We were all so relieved to see Peter and happy to have him home, even if it was just for a couple of days. He drove all night so he could pop in early and surprise the kids. There were many tears of joy shed that morning by all of us. It was a great weekend!

After Peter’s visit, with 5 more weeks stretching out in front of us before we’d all be together again, things got more difficult. My energy started to wane. And by ‘wane’ I mean, completely disappear. I was exhausted from the minute I opened my eyes in the morning. The kids started to have some unpleasant behaviors which I’m certain were their way of expressing the feelings they didn’t have the words to verbalize. My potty-trained-for-months 3-year-old twins were suddenly peeing all over the place. Which doubled and sometimes tripled my laundry workload. The boys were picking at each other and getting pretty lippy with me. Their homeschooling work, which they’d been excited about and eager to do before, was now something they whined about incessantly.

I couldn’t figure out what to do to get things back on track. I racked my brain for what I was not doing or doing differently now. I continued to push on, not wanting to give up, but my phone calls with Peter became more and more negative as I had a hard time being positive about anything. I could hear concern in Peter’s voice. He felt helpless because he was so far away and I felt guilty that I was burdening him like I was when there was nothing he could really do to help. We kept going, having our good days and bad days, until I threw in the towel and limped down to Utah with the kids a week earlier than planned, exhausted and completely spent.

Now that we’re home and I can look back over the experience objectively, I can see where I went wrong. The first half of this experience I was on my knees a lot, asking for help and guidance… I got a little cocky when things were going so well. I thought I was doing such a great job, I was really keeping things together. As I relied less and less on the Lord and looked more and more to myself, I was like a drowning person who, when thrown a life ring, decides after a few minutes of holding on that they really can swim out on their own and heads out foolishly into the riptide. What was I thinking?! I can’t think of the exact scripture right now, but it goes something like, “Lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” I think they should have added, “Sarah” to the end of that. I seem to get sucked into this every time I am going through challenges. Why do I think that when things are going right, I am the sole cause, but when things are going wrong I get on my knees and beg the Lord for help? It’s made me a lot more aware that the good things in my life are there because they have been bestowed upon me by God. And the challenges are there because they have been bestowed on my by the same God.  To teach me, to smooth off the rough spots on me. To hopefully make me more like Him. Thirty-five years on practice and I still seem to get it wrong nearly every time! It’s a good thing the Lord is patient.

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