Mother Load: Surviving the Holidays and the End of the Semester Crunch
Multi-task with ease.
By Lisa Hardman
December 23, 2007
Late one night, as I bent bleary-eyed over my sewing machine, I was feeling the pressure that comes from taking on more than one can handle. With the foot pedal pressed to the floor, I sewed seam after seam, intent on finishing my family’s seven costumes for the church Nativity pageant. As I stitched, the thought of my unfinished book proposal and final English essay weighed heavily on my mind. The costumes and school projects were all due in just a few short days. How would I ever get everything done in time?
In my eagerness to go back to school, I failed to take into account the unique challenges inherent in the fall semester schedule. When I was a traditional student, Thanksgiving break meant returning home to have Mom and Dad feed and wait upon me. It meant sleeping in, relaxation, and freedom from school work and worry. But for this student mom, this Thanksgiving holiday meant a lot of stress and very little rest. With elementary kids out of school for the entire month of November and hosting Thanksgiving for twenty-four people, the prospect of catching up on my book proposal and getting a handle on my argumentative essay over the break looked bleak indeed.
Nevertheless, I plodded along with optimism, envisioning a positive outcome. With Thanksgiving and Christmas added onto my student and parenting load, my capacity for multitasking and creative scheduling increased out of necessity. I was determined to find a way to handle the intense internal pressure I was under to perform scholastically along with the equally intense external pressure to perform socially during the holidays. Every day, I endeavored to make progress on my assignments by taking advantage of every available moment. Mother guilt began to mount as my kids spent more time in front of the television and I spent more time in front of the computer screen. Finals week was the hardest as I had to keep explaining, “Mommy has to finish her school work. We can bake cookies next week.” I struggled against my circadian rhythms, staying up late or arising early in the morning in an attempt to complete my school assignments while my kids slept. Even though I knew I wasn’t very productive after 8:00 p.m., I kept attempting the heavy headwork of writing, nearly always falling asleep with my fingers resting on the keyboard.
Although I was bordering on exhaustion, I couldn’t bear the thought of failing in my classes after all the hard work I had invested in my courses. Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “When you get in a tight place and everything goes against you till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the time and the place the tide will turn.” Relying on prayer, adrenaline, and sheer willpower, I am pleased to say I survived the final weeks of the semester intact and with A’s in both classes. Looking back, I find it astonishing that I accomplished as much as I did.
As busy as I was, somehow I completed every essential task by remaining focused on the immediate moment and trying not to be unduly concerned about all that I had yet to finish. The stretching was uncomfortable, but the rewards of getting good grades and discovering an inner fortitude I didn’t know I had was worth every effort in the end.