Thursday, 24 April 2008

Two jobs, both badly

I am going through one of those life phases where I am doing everything Wrong or Badly. I am overwhelmed, out of control, and powerless.

Detecting these failures, the crockery is conspiring against me. Ikea plates are throwing themselves on the floor and wine glasses are hurtling to the crock sink, driven, I am sure, by a mean desire to smash themselves to smithereens simply to tell me how hopeless a household manager I am and to make my domestic life as miserable as possible. Give it a day and the knives and forks will be whispering to each other and turning on me. Worse, someone has stolen the door handle to the garden door so I cannot escape to the Wendy house. Add to that the roof in the office kitchen which has sprung a leak, the toaster, the gate, and the kitchen floor, and you have an all round view of personal failure and domestic misery. I am now, in fact, so overwhelmed by household disrepair that I try not to be mindful of the poor bloke who took himself off to the local woods to hang forlornly from an oak tree because the oven wouldn't work.

I know why this is, of course - this feeling of being out of control while everything about me disintegrates. This is because I am working. I am six metres away from the kitchen table, sitting in the office, typesetting Twenty Not Very Interesting Chapters About A Sentence. (OK, it isn't called that, but it may as well be.) Print run 400, in your university library soon. Some desperate graduate sweating over a thesis might request a copy in 2012. We can always hope.

Because while I am focused on this, I'm doing nothing else. I'm not being a mummy, nor a home educator. I'm not hovering about the kitchen for example, picking unicorns up from the floor and complaining. I'm not monitoring usage of toilet rolls, or watching for fingers in the sugar bowl, and I'm not screening access to a range of household objects nor selecting fun books for a reading session. And the inevitable happens. Left alone, without a minder, Shark, Tiger and Squirrel are destroying what's left of my home.

When I re-enter the kitchen from my working life in the office (two hours negotiated time at a cost of £60*), I can barely open the door. On the table are spirits, apparently. They are composed of toilet rolls, plastic tape, pipe cleaners and various 'found' objects. These found objects - I'll list them now should I wonder where, in future, they have gone - include the centre of the tape dispenser (without which the tape cannot be dispensed), half a pack of sanitary towels, a toothbrush, one rubber glove and the only key to the bicycle padlock, bought last summer by Dig for my mental health when dealing with the au pair who had already lost the keys to the entire house.

Selecting and combining this assortment with the contents of the craft bucket has kept Tiger, Shark and Squirrel busy since breakfast. They have produced a river spirit, a wood spirit, a water spirit and a rock spirit. The floor is covered in a layer of clippings, offcuts, and reject spirit-making material.

I look at their happy little spirits, indistinguishable from junk that I would sweep into the bin at a moment's notice - at least before the centre of the tape dispenser caught my eye - and know that it is not only the mess and the unhappy knowledge that I cannot be in two places at once, it is knowing that I have the educational responsibility of three small children. I should have been here, a home educator, helping, not there, in the office, staring at Chapter Three. While I have sat there, the children have been alone, amusing themselves with everything but the bleach. And only because we haven't got any. I should have been reading poems about tree spirits while their little fingers were busy with glue and silver foil; I should have been telling stories about Old Man Willow who follows us mumbling, or planning our walk to the willow fields. And now I am in pain and guilt and misery all over again, knowing that while I am clearing up in the kitchen, I am sure I am doing this home education thing all wrong again, and while I am working in the office, I am giving it my half attention at best, partly because it is worthless, unsatisfying work, and partly because I am itching to be away from it.

In truth, catching sight of the spirit land leads me straight to one of those regular soul searching moments I probably share with many other home educators. Why am I doing this, and leading myself to failures? Why don't I shovel them off to the school down the road, get some free childcare everyday, put the house of chaos to order, mend the oven, the toaster and the gate, redecorate, work in ease, wear smart clothes, get the kids to bed early, reclaim my marriage and life, do a day's work properly, rebuild a career, and earn enough money to buy new shoes?

I can't answer all those questions right now. Because now I need to sweep the floor, wrap the shattered glass in newspaper, pick up the unicorns, consider things could be a lot worse, load the dishwasher, photograph the rock spirit, avoid looking at the front room, flush the toilets, not think about the oak tree, and go and kiss Shark, Squirrel and Tiger night night, say it is OK about the 30 metres of kitchen foil, then go back to work and listen to the plop plop plop of the rain in a bucket while I juggle jobs badly and typeset Chapter Four.

* See entry 22nd April


Brad said...

I wish I had some words that would help. Having never been a parent I can only offer my old standard.

Go have a drink. It will make type setting if not fun, more interesting.

Merry said...

Grit, we really must meet.
I completely, utterly, totally sympathise. I've spent most of the last 2-3 years feelnig a total failure.

But you know... spirits. That's creativity, religious studies, art, um... recycling (science if you stretch a point) etc etc.

bet they wouldn't have had so much fun with a Sonlight chapter ;)

Mean Mom said...

Home educating sounds like a full-time job, to me. I don't see how you can fit everything in, unless you carry on working through the night. I've just checked. You did read my 'A Woman's Dilemma' post.

You might be OK fitting in all of your tasks, for a while, but it's sustaining the effort that becomes impossible!

dragon boy said...

i had just the same feelings yesterday, imagine the sheer bliss of all day every day to yourself...., the thought that i have a choice is the only thing that keeps me going!

Lynn said...

((big hugs))It is at time like this that I wish I was so much better with words.I want to make everything right for you but obviously can’t ,hell I have enough trouble keeping things going over here !!!

For what it is worth I think you are amazing .On this occasion you couldn’t give your girls what you wanted to in order to add to their experience because you had to work.

Your girls used their wonderfully creative skills to make spirits and from what I read of them they sound such lovely free spirits themselves.They spent their time creatively and had great fun, maybe they could have gained from being read to and having the subject expanded on but it seems to me that for the three of them to spend that time working together and creating something without war breaking out ,that they may just have been learning an important skill in working together as a team.

I hope you can find a way to balance things out .xx

Elibee said...

Grit, I am so with you on this.

In the time it took me to sort out why a customers order had not been delivered to Brooklyn, Star had dragged out and assembled 4 layers of scaffolding reaching up to the bedroom window and hoisted up three scaffolding planks so that he could lay on top watching the robins feed their babies.

This was a disaster because I spent the rest of the day next to him trying to get a photo. I now have 300 photos of ivy (I hate the delay on digital camera's!) and dog hair tumble weeds blowing down the hall.

Trevor said...

Chin up, Grit! Teach the girls how to make the other kind of spirits and you'll be able to blot it all out. As for the typesetting, don't forget to leave a couple of mistakes in to catch out the plagiarising (sorry, I mean 'enterprising', obviously) students who just cut-and-paste...

Elibee - Scaffolding? Really? Please, don't tell me they're going to start building scaffolding soon.

OvaGirl said...

Grit I'm sorry. Frankly I'm in awe of you and what you do achieve, even if you feel like you're currently not doing very well. I agree that the whole making spirits thing is extremely positive. I wish I had more positive or helpful advice. I work at home and I find it very hard sometimes to juggle everything. So I think you're extraordinary. Just keep writing.

Suburbia said...

You are doing the right thing (repeat as a mantra!) I wish I had the nerve to home ed. My children are fairly stressed by school and I feel guilty that I'm not doing what you do! I think the guilt is a mum thing. Whatever we do with our children, we will always wish we had done more. Keep up the good work. When they're playing without you they are learning independance. It would be unatural for them to have you looking over their shoulder the whole time (have I ranted too much? sorry)

Potty Mummy said...

'Should'? Forget 'should'. 'Should' is rubbish. You do what you can Grit, you do the right thing, and you do it brilliantly.

Minnie said...

" shovel them off to the school down the road, get some free childcare everyday, put the house of chaos to order, mend the oven, the toaster and the gate, redecorate, work in ease, wear smart clothes, get the kids to bed early, reclaim my marriage and life, do a day's work properly, rebuild a career, and earn enough money to buy new shoes?"

Ay, mate:o) You do the home ed thing because you love your girlies just as I love mine:O))) At least they can keep their individuality, instead of being square pegged into round holes. Have faith. Having everything organised a la Bree of Desperate Housewives would be WAY TOO boring, don't you think? Tomorrow will be better:O))) xxx

Kelly Jene said...

Aw sweetie. I'm sorry.

Being a home educator is not an easy task. Nor is there a right or wrong. Your girls will be just fine doing something by themselves for two hours every day. It's part of the growing up thing. As for tape spools and such, maybe put together an acceptable bin of stuff to play with during that two hours and only that time so it will be something looked forward to. Maybe?

Don't feel bad, mum. We all feel that way... for me it's daily.

As for the 20 chapters about a sentence, I like Brad's idea...

Grit said...

hi brad, fortunately, one glass of beer lasts a very long time with me, otherwise the drinking solution will see me under the table by 9pm.

merry, are you going to the festival of history?

hi mean mon, you are right, and i tend to work in bursts, when it has all built up so much i can't get out of it. and this usually adds to the pressure...

yes dragon boy, this is true, there is a choice, and i am not sure i am brave enough to try and get my 3 down the road every morning for the school option.

lynn, that makes me feel a lot better! it is about co-operative working and team negotiation! except when i say 'who's going to help me do the clearing up?' then the team vanishes.

hi elibee! can you get some sort of abseiling kit rigged up for the side of your house? we could all come round; we'd save a fortune down the adventure centre.

That's a great idea Trevor! In fact I could gain job satisfaction by inserting 'This sentence is crap' in 6pt on page 32 under the caption. But that plan is only slightly marred by the fact that the client would withdraw all the work, we'd be unemployed, repossessed, starving, and my children would turn to prostitution and alcoholism.

Hi OvaGirl, working at home sounds great with the no daily commute thing - but then the two hours saved get eaten up by barricading and policing the office door...

I agree, suburbia! motherhood = guilt.

You are very kind potty mummy, and i feel better for the endorsement.

It is true, Minnie, and by now I feel it is actually a positive thing to creatively build craft spirits with the contents of the house!

hi kelly jene, you've given me an idea to refresh the craft bucket and make it like a new resource rather than something they're used to. Thanks!

Jonny's Mommy said...

You are an amazing writer.

Hang in there. We can't all do everything great at the same time, I've learned.

And sounds like you have more on your plate than most.

Blog it and jot it out and I hope you can work through it all.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

grit, you believe your girls should be educated at home. You provide tons of educational activities for them, you are with them as much as you can be...where are you going wrong?
I'm often struck by your girls' imagination (the loo roll city in the lounge for example...was it loo roll? it was something really impressive), and tree spirits? really cool.

I think this was a 'black paint in the bath day' (you see, i remember your photo of that), best to just pull the plug on it, see if it could be avoided another time, and crack on. If you are sure you want to home educate them, then just keep going! It sounds like the hardest job in the world. Ever.

Grit said...

hi jonny's mommy, blogging is truly a relief! and it is much cheaper than therapy.

you are very encouraging, pig, and help me to see things in perspective. thank you!