It is back to school in my neck of the woods. For my former colleagues, for my former students, and for my littles, class is in session. For me, though, it is business as usual.
It is hard to believe that three years ago, when I started spending summers working part-time so we could save on childcare and so I could have more time with my children, I was uneasy about the transition.When you have been a full-time working person and you go to a part-time working person, you’re all thumbs trying to figure out where to go and what to do, struggling to find a routine that does not yet exist. But we figured it out and fell into an easy summer schedule. Now when I think about summer, it’s my girls and me, noodling around, Disney tunes blaring, skin moist with sunscreen, breeze rolling over my arms and elbows as they dangled out of the car.
This summer was different. I’ve left my old job as a professor and have started a new position as a policy analyst. I worried that the summer would drag. Or worse, that it would fly by. The first few weeks on the job this summer I tried to figure out how this new working life would work. It has been a decade since I had a brick and mortar job with colleagues depending on me every day of the week. My children and I were apart more than I would have liked, and I did not anticipate how hard it would be. Cobbling together childcare while trying to be present in the office and getting used to a new (and much longer) commute was not easy.
After several months working at a soul-crushing pace, juggling two jobs (working the new job “part-time”), at the start of summer my work life screeched to a slow jog. And by slow jog, I mean, the regular pace of a typical working person. Because I’ve been operating in a state of high alert for so many months, though, I could not simply let go of the anxiety I have felt about working. There HAD to be some place in between out of my face with anxiety and stress and comatose on the couch, right?
Because I am working more hours during the week, our time together is more precious than ever. No time for anxiety or stress. My daughters are tan and bold and happy, and they had an amazing summer. They never missed a chance to hula hoop in the driveway or throw a dance party. They learned to swim (finally) and stayed up late.
The best moments of my summer were spent lost in their worldview, holding hands, exploring the beach (oh the beach), watching them splash endlessly in the pool, picnicking in our yard, snuggling on sleepy mornings, and coloring chalk in the driveway. Ever since May, I have felt like I’m flying through my days blindly. Summer started, slipped through my fingers, and seems to be passing into fall more quickly than I anticipated.
You would think that back to school means back to normal–I’ve been going back to school for thirty of my thirty-seven years on the planet. But this year is anything but normal, I’m left in the woods without a trail to follow home and my only choice is to forge ahead.
But before I forge ahead, I’m going to take Monday off and spend time with my family. It’s one of the perks of the new normal.