I took the last two weeks off from blogging because I was extremely busy with work projects during one week, and on vacation the following week. I must admit to feeling more than a little burned out a couple of weeks ago, but it is amazing the difference a week away from work can make, as well as a few days with a change of scenery. I wouldn’t have minded the luxury of having more time off, but I feel much more rested and less stressed after this short break.
Today was significant for two reasons. First, my kids went back to in-person school. And, second, I finally completed and submitted a big and complex grant proposal today.
I am very happy and grateful that my kids were able to return to school today. They were excited to go back, and I feel that they are as safe as they can be with all the precautions the school has taken with respect to cleanliness, social distancing, and mask wearing. I am particularly thankful that they were not at home today, a very stressful and tense workday that would not have been compatible with constant interruptions from the kids.
I have to admit, though, to feeling a tinge of sadness at seeing photos the school sent out during the day, which showed students sitting far apart and wearing masks. This is absolutely what we need to do now to keep everyone safe, and I am deeply appreciative that the school is taking things so seriously, but I’m still a bit sad that the kids have to suspend a lot of the social aspects of school that come from being in close proximity to each other. I know they will adjust and that this is not forever, but it still makes me a bit sad.
I alluded a few weeks ago to the grant proposal that was due today. It is one our organization has applied to every two years for the last several years. It’s an extremely technical grant with a lot of complex guidelines and requirements for multiple, detailed attachments. While preparing it is far less stressful now than it was a few years ago, the final steps of putting everything together remain very stressful and mentally draining. I had a few moments of panic today related to technology issues and getting some details right on the proposal. Working remotely made it more challenging to collaborate with my coworkers, but we figured out some workarounds and everything got done with time to spare. It feels a bit too good to be true, but we have the official confirmation that everything was received, so now it’s just a matter of waiting to hear what happens.
I feel so relieved right now. In a few minutes I will walk to school to meet the kids, and I am sure I will be swept away in their thoughts about today, and their needs this evening, but for a few minutes, I am breathing deeply, grateful that I was able to focus and accomplish today what needed to be done, and that my kids were safely supervised back in school, where they belong.
The difference between working at home with the kids in the house, and working from home while they are at school is like the difference between reading a book in a crowded waiting room versus reading in a quiet corner of a library. It’s feasible to read in the waiting room, and you might even be surprised by how much ground you cover (especially if you are really good at blocking out background noise), but there are frequent interruptions, and the quality of the reading isn’t as good, or as enjoyable. Most important, it’s hard to retain information without the ability to focus intently for significant blocks of time. So, no matter how much ground you feel you are covering, you are unlikely to retain as much information as you would in a less distracting environment.
What I have appreciated these past few days is the opportunity to have quiet time to collect my thoughts and let my mind wander. I find myself actually able to remember what I was planning to do from one moment to the next, or at least remember where I wrote my to-do list instead of all of my responsibilities for my kids/house/finances/work being lumped together in an overwhelming, unrecognizable mess. In short, I feel like I got my life back. At this point, I am happy to continue working from home because it’s much more relaxing now.
I know that my kids’ school is the exception to the rule. Across the U.S., many schools are open in unsafe circumstances, and millions of kids are still trying to learn virtually. It is deeply painful to know that the least privileged children in our society are the ones who will suffer most right now and that the deficits in their education will place them at increasing disadvantages as time goes on. I am thinking of them while simultaneously being grateful that my kids are able to safely attend school.