in the trenches

'How is it possible to be so grateful for a job, yet so stressed out about it at the same time?' I thought over and over again. 'What am I doing wrong? What am I missing?'

It was 2011, and I had just completed a year of working 4 part time jobs. The most stressful of these jobs was substitute teaching in an urban public school system where I went home crying more often than not. Disrespectful students, vague lesson plans or no lesson plans at all, parking tickets, rude staff and administration, and a general feeling of incompetence made for a stressful year.

When I was hired to teach Spanish and German full time at a local Lutheran high school, I was certain my troubles were over. This was my dream job! I could truly develop rapport with my students and pass on my love of language, travel, and culture. I had high hopes, and high expectations. Needless to say, I was bewildered by the learning curve of being a first year teacher. When I imagined my perfect job, I forgot to take into account the daily grind of lesson plans, endless correcting, disruptive students, obligatory emails, helicopter parents, seemingly nonexistent parents, and everything in between. My idealistic mind only saw me delivering outstanding lessons on the pluperfect subjunctive that ended in students saluting me from atop their desks a la Dead Poet's Society, not emailing a parent again to let them know that their child would fail if they didn't hand in their 7 missing assignments, attaching all 7 assignments to the email.

I couldn't help but think of that time in my life this morning as I dealt with stress of a different kind. Let me set the stage for you:

The floor is covered in dog hair, even though I just vacuumed, the baby is screaming in his exer-saucer because he is teething and just wants to be held, the toddler is screaming because she doesn't want me to change her thanks to some serious diaper rash, the dog is barking to go out, my back is shot from holding a baby for 2 months straight, my throat feels like knives from a nasty cold, and I'm feeling guilty about the following things: not having my 2.5 year old potty trained yet, letting my 2.5 year old crawl into bed with us at night, letting my dog on the furniture causing every surface to be covered in dog hair, setting the baby down, having to supplement with formula, running late again, starting and not finishing yet another book that is due back at the library, forgetting to drink water this morning but definitely remembering to drink coffee, the stack of papers that still needs to be corrected, that email I keep forgetting to respond to, not meeting my goals in my business for the 23rd month in a row, and my attitude.

How is it possible to be so grateful for this life - for my husband, my babies, my dog, my home, my jobs, but still feel so stressed, so thinly-stretched, and so incompetent?

I keep looking for a magic bullet to make it easier. Maybe there's an article or blog post I could read to simplify my life? Maybe I just haven't found the right organizational system? Maybe I'm not 'living simply' enough? But no such magic bullet exists. All the little things still have to get done, and when there are little human beings residing in your house, there are a lot of little things that need to get done. With babies and toddlers, life is so imperfect and chaotic it's almost laughable. These are the trenches, this is the hard part, this is the hustle and grind.

I know there will be a day when I will get my kids out the door and off to school for the day, and then I'll have a quiet house, time to clean, time to read and write, time to work out, walk the dog, and fold the laundry. I know there will be a time in my life when it's my turn to pursue my dreams of becoming a published writer. When I can devote more time to my home based business. When I can do the things I enjoy, like taking a language course, traveling the world, and finishing books. There will be time for all of that.

But for now, I'll continue to smell my baby's head while my toddler serenades me with a made-up song and a pen for a microphone. I'll laugh-cry as the house implodes around me because one person can't meet the needs of a toddler, baby, and dog all at the same time. I'll keep taking a million pictures and videos of every moment and milestone, because this hurricane of blessings and babies will be over before I know it.

Now excuse me while I go warm up my coffee for the 5th time today and stare this stack of papers to be corrected in the face.

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