My least favorite part of freelancing is that it feels—more than any office job I ever had—like a moving target. I’m not even referring to the goals of the job; there’s always new gigs to pursue, changes in existing work, progress of the field as a whole, etc. I’m referring to the balance between work and home, the school year and the summer, and my family’s changing needs.
Nearly a decade into this, I’m still dealing with the jarring shift in my days every single summer when the school year ends. I feel ridiculous, saying that. It’s not as though I’m unaware that school will let out and my kids will be around. It’s not as though it’s different every year. It’s just that, somehow, it is different every year, as the kids grow and their needs change. What worked the year before is never quite right for the current year, and so every year we have to rethink, readjust, find what works all over again.
When I started homeschooling my youngest, that was a huge shift (and our most difficult one yet). I was sure I couldn’t do it. Surely I would end up short-changing both him and my career. And yet… somehow, we’re making it work. We made changes after the first year. Now we’re making more changes, after the second year. But I feel/felt good about our progress.
I was unprepared for this year’s wrench in the works.
In writing this out I am actually making myself laugh. It’s ridiculous, given topsy-turvy the last couple of years have been for our family, that I find myself floundering from something completely mundane, and yet… here I am.
The source of my undoing: My daughter is taking an online math class.
I have a schedule that works while my kids are in school. I have a schedule that works while my daughter is in school and I’m actively homeschooling my son. I even have a schedule that works while both kids are out of school for the summer. But I have been completely thrown for a loop by a 6-week long pre-calculus course. And I’m not even the one taking the class!
My kid decided all on her own to take this class, and she’s perfectly capable of handling it on her own. In order to do that, though, she needs to do between four and eight hours of math each day. And she definitely doesn’t structure her schedule the way I wish she would (hello, teenager who wants to be a creature of the night…), which means a lot of catching her on Facebook when she’s supposed to be working. Due to the pace of the class, sometimes she needs some… encouragement, shall we say, or moral support. So here I am, trying to do my own work and squeeze in some of that family fun kind of stuff we typically do in the summer, and it feels like I also need to be available to answer her questions, help her when she gets stuck, etc.
Sometimes she wants me to help her when I’m busy with other stuff, which is frustrating to her. Other times, I finish working for the day and want to relax, and she wants help then, and I get aggravated because why didn’t she ask earlier?
So here we are, halfway through her summer course, and I’m just now trying to figure out some ground rules of when she can and can’t rely on me—some of them based on what’s convenient for me, of course, but also based on the autonomy she’s supposed to have with this class—and I’m pretty sure I’ll have it all figured out by the time she’s finished the course and it no longer matters. (That’s always the way, right?) In the meantime, I have to stop letting it frazzle me, and stop letting my whole schedule be at the mercy of my kid. She can handle herself and I need to let her do it.
Hopefully I can get my own schedule in order, she can do the same with hers, and everyone will get their work done. Fingers crossed.