Friday, November 2, 2012

Master of my destiny

About once a month I get a day when I can lie on the couch and watch television while the children do their homework. It usually lasts for about 20 minutes, but I enjoy it. Yesterday was one of those days.

I watched a little of Katie Couric’s new talk show and Sharon Osborne was her guest. Katie asked Sharon if she believed that women can have it all—career, marriage, children, etc. Sharon’s answered shocked me because I figured she would say, “Of course.”

She said, “No, I don’t believe that and I wish I could go back in time and give up all the money and the traveling and spend time with my children because they needed me.”
Not everyone can be that honest—especially on television.

I don’t believe you can have it all either, because in order to do something really well, then something else has to be placed on the back burner. I can see it in my own life. I can see what I have neglected over the years and what I nurtured. I can see what has thrived and what has suffered on the back burner.

I passed my thesis defense today.  So, as long as I can remember to finish my financial aid exit counseling in the next few weeks, I will earn my Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design. I almost didn’t make it this far—there were many times when I thought about quitting.

I don’t like putting things on the back burner. I like to know that I am taking care of everyone and everything—I like to know that I am fulfilling my obligations. I also like to know that I am doing a great job and putting all of my effort into everything I do.

It was hard to find the right balance between school and home life. There were times when I couldn’t be at home for my children when they got off the bus. There were times when babysitters had to take them to their activities and sign my name on homework sheets.

There were times when I had to prepare to go to court the same week I had a major paper due. Just last week I was faced with Veronica’s trip to the emergency room for a fractured arm, my parents’ home in North Carolina burned to the ground, and my ex-husband told me that he plans to file a contempt charge against me and hopefully get me arrested.  This all happens the same time I try to finish my thesis, study for a test in another class, and try to complete my freelance work for my new job.

Luckily there is always room on the back burner for stuff I don’t have time to deal with. But I can’t always be lucky enough to put bad things on the back burner.

Some days I put Robby on the back burner and some days it is the kids. Some days it is school and some days it is work. But most days it is me.

I’m not trying to garner sympathy for the last statement. I think it is just the nature of most mothers. We tend to put ourselves last. Most times we never even realize we do it—it just comes natural. Perhaps this is why I don’t take many opportunities to lie on the couch and watch television.

Going back to school to get my masters degree was a decision that I made mostly for myself. I wanted to be self-sufficient and be able to take care of the children on my own. I couldn’t find a job with my bachelors degree, so it just seemed like the obvious choice to make.

Two years didn’t seem like a long time when I started the program. What’s funny is that I didn’t even enroll as a graduate student in the beginning. My self-esteem was so low that I enrolled as an undergrad. I thought I would spend some time getting my feet wet—I didn’t think there was any way I could get accepted to a graduate program.

But that only lasted a quarter and I put in my packet and started graduate school. Several months after I started school, I went to court to get my divorce and I asked for 2 years of alimony. “All I need is enough financial support to get through the next few years,” I told the mediator. My ex-husband agreed to my demands and the race began.

But I hit some major snags along the way. The children got sick sometimes. They had activities that required my attendance. I had my divorced finalized. Veronica got hurt and broke her legs. My bank account ran on empty and I worried about finding a way to pay the bills and buy groceries.

Two separate times I gave in to the pressure. I got into bed and cried. I convinced myself that I would quit school and find a job and maybe finish my degree later. I was tired of putting the children on the back burner. I was tired of being broke. I was tired of doing homework. I just wanted to be a good mom and have a normal life.

The last time I tried to quit, Robby sat me down and said, “I cannot let you quit. You are too smart to not have your masters degree. If I can finish my masters degree, then you can.”

For some reason, his words really struck a chord with me. Those words echoed through my mind for the next 9 months and carried me through to the end.

I’m not sure what the rest of my life will be like. I know that I still need to find a job and continue putting people and events on the back burner. I know I can’t have it all, but I also know that I don’t want to have it all. I just want to have what I have right now—healthy, thriving children, a happy marriage, and the confidence to hold my head high and know that I did something that makes me proud.

I haven’t been really proud of myself in a very long time—I can’t even remember the last time I felt pride about myself. Sure, I’ve been proud of my children or material objects, but not of myself.

Maybe pride is what has been missing all these years? I’m not sure, but I feel complete now and I’m more than happy to put my insecurities on the back burner. Hopefully they will simmer for a long time.

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