What is a “Week-End”?

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I’m sure you’ve seen these e-cards popping up on your Facebook newsfeed periodically.  This one is particularly fitting for me.  I’m a stay-at-home parent to my eighteen-month-old, and weekends don’t really exist anymore.  The problem is that I still (after a year and a half) haven’t managed to absorb this new reality.

All week, I look forward to Friday.  I think, “Friday’s almost here!  Woooo!”  And then Friday arrives and Pete and I are both exhausted.  We put C to bed, have a beer, watch Marketplace (and The Fifth Estate if we’re staying up really late) and go to bed.

Before you feel too sorry for me, we sometimes have date nights.  We will often visit with friends during the day and we occasionally go away for the weekend.

But typically, weekends are very similar to weekdays around here.  They involve making meals, cleaning up after meals, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, and more laundry.  I’m starting to forget what a real (read: childless) weekend is like.  I’m a modern-day, non-fictional Dowager Countess of Grantham.

maggie smith weekend

Of course, the Dowager Countess doesn’t know what a weekend is because she doesn’t associate with anyone with a profession, but that’s neither here nor there.  I have something in common with the inimitable Maggie Smith.  Glass half-full!

I think the solution is going to be letting go of the concept of a weekend.  Weekends no longer exist.  They have been abolished by a small, semi-benevolent dictator.

The problem hasn’t been that I have bad weekends.  They just don’t live up to my old expectations of relaxation and rest.  In order to avoid the disappointment I feel every Sunday (when I’m more exhausted than when I started this weekend business on Friday) I have to make myself forget about the existence of the forty-hour work week.  If I just conceive of Saturday and Sunday as days when Pete happens to be around more, I think I’ll be able to enjoy those days for what they are now, rather than what I think they should be.

And besides, weekends are terribly middle-class, dear.

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From Strain Theory to Strained Peas

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I’m a stay-at-home parent.  That’s a bit odd for me to write, because I don’t think of myself as a stay-at-home parent.  I think of myself as a college teacher.  But I had a baby sixteen months ago and I haven’t taught a college course since before that baby was born.  Hmm.  Is that cognitive dissonance?

I’ve been struggling a bit with my role as a full-time mother.  It’s not that I don’t love being home with C.  I do.  And I appreciate that I’m fortunate enough to have the means to stay home with her.  She’ll only be little once, and I have the rest of my life to work.

But sometimes, when I think about my former life, I feel wistful.  Because even though teaching was often difficult, stressful, and frustrating, it was never dull.

I’ve taught a variety of courses (Sociology, Political Science, English, Research Methods) to a wide range of students, but my favourite experience was always teaching Criminology to Policing students.

Photo via Simon Fraser University

As a Criminology instructor, I was fortunate enough to meet a Forensic Anthropologist, who investigates suspicious fires and skeletal remains.  He has some grisly stories to tell.  I’ve worked with a detective who has served in every policing branch you can imagine, from Homicide to Guns and Gangs to White Collar Crime.  He has even gone undercover.  Some of my colleagues worked on very high profile cases, like the Bernardo case.  I’ve spoken with the investigator who elicited the murder confession from former Colonel Russell Williams.

I now spend a large portion of my day building block towers and reading Barnyard Dance*.

I realized recently that I still needed to work and to give back, despite my decision to stay home with my daughter.  I’m not going back to teaching right away, but I have found a way to contribute that, I think, would work for a lot of parents in my position.  I joined the Board of Directors for a local non-profit organization.

This is why I think volunteering on a Board of Directors is a great idea for parents in a similar situation:

1) The hours are parent-friendly.  Meetings are usually in the evening and are typically held once (maybe twice) a month.  This is quite manageable, even if you have young children at home.

2) Giving back to the community is important.  It also sets a good example for kids.  I want C to be a responsible, involved citizen one day.

3) It’s a way to keep some work-related skills up to date.  It can combat the dreaded baby-brain that sometimes goes along with stay-at-home parenthood.

4) It’s a small step toward making the community a better place for the next generation.  This was always important to me but it has become even more so since having C.

I realize that not every stay-at-home parent is able to make this sort of commitment, but if you are, please consider it.  It’s a great way to give back.

*Barnyard Dance is an excellent book, the first 250 times you read it.