Another (Strong) Teacher Mulls An Exit

With all the onerous mandates and attacks on teachers, lately, I’ve been hearing or reading about good teachers looking for an exit strategy from the profession. Like I mentioned here before, Ari’s teacher from last year, who I adore, left to be a stay-at-home father and hopefully launch a successful writing career.

I was surprised to read that Teacherken over at Daily Kos is also mulling leaving a 16-year stint in the classroom for a different career path. Read on:

A major reason for applying for the two Ivy League opportunities was the desire to make a difference in education beyond what I can do while in my classroom.  Teaching 170+ adolescents at any given moment is very consuming of time and of energy.  Yes, I can write, I can present at the occasional conference, I can take advantage of my closeness to Washington DC and my connections in DC and Richmond to lobby.  

But I cannot hope to stay current on all that is going on, not when from when I leave my house at 6:30 until sometime in the evening my hours are largely consumed with my responsibilities as a teacher.

Then this:

I do see public education as very much at risk right now.  Were I to get accepted at Harvard and attend, it is a 3 year doctorate.  During the first two I would largely be consumed with studies, during the third I would be in a residency.  I wrestle with how much of a difference i could make during that time.  Similarly with the fellowship, during that year my focus would be on my book, which at best might be published by the Fall of 2013.  I wonder if we have that much time left to save schools.

A part of me feel as if we have already lost the war, even though i have kept fighting.  Recently I exchanged emails about this with a nationally noted figure on education who informed me that s/he intended to go down fighting.  

What I do with my time and my work matters to me.  I wonder if perhaps I can make a bigger difference by not working on education directly, which seems almost futile, but by doing other things.

Wow. As Teacherken pointed out, his district wants to hang on to him as he is talented in teaching AP courses. Reading his description about the the workload and outside pressures on teachers, I hope we aren’t pushing our talent out of the profession. Are you hearing similar comments by teachers?

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Let’s talk commutes. The No. 1 reason I left my reporting job in San Francisco after I had Ari was because I did not want to parent after a full-day’s work and a two-hour roundtrip commute.

Now that I have been working from home, I can’t imagine going back — at least not as long as I have young children at home. My set-up allows me to drop off and pick up the kids from school, do all the food shopping, all the cooking, dishes and laundry while I blog and work as a contractor for a couple non-profit organizations.

Now my husband has presented me with an interesting proposition: do I want to work in the new Daily Kos office? As the San Francisco Chronicle and other local news outlets reported, Daily Kos has grown to the point that it can no longer operate out of our guest bedroom. Daily Kos is at 19 employees, 17 full-time. There are at least seven or eight employees here in the Bay Area.

The space is huge, over 4,000 square feet, and even includes a “kids’ corner” for workers to bring their kids to work. I will definitely post pictures of it, as I do think it is a good model for businesses.

For now, and I know I am very blessed to be in this position, I am deciding whether I want to remain in our home office full-time, or go in some days in the week to the Daily Kos office. I tried it last night and did find that I got a lot done as I stayed late (close to 7 p.m.) while the kids went nuts on afterschool snacks, some boxes they found to build forts, and playing hide-and-seek in the cubicles.

I was able to put in a full day’s work, but I was too exhausted to cook or do the dishes. I am going to try to fit everything today.

Office or no office? Do you prefer a certain work environment or set-up? Pros and cons?

In other and related news: Katrina Alcorn over at the Working Moms Break blog just released the findings to a survey she conducted on working parent burnout.  

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Review: Why Great Teachers Quit

Over the break, I had the pleasure of reading a book by our very own Katy Farber. I always get a thrill reading books by people who I know and admire.

Katy, who not only parents two girls and writes for MotherTalkers and Non-Toxic Kids, but she is also an elementary school science teacher. (Where do you find the time, girl?)

In her first book, Why Great Teachers Quit And How We Might Stop the Exodus, Katy examines just that: why are so many young, smart and idealistic people exiting the field in droves within the first five years? While she did examine the obvious reasons of low pay and crazy hours, which left me convinced that teaching is not a family-friendly profession, her answer was much more nuanced.

For example, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the No. 1 reason teachers left high poverty, urban public schools was because of poor administrative support (50 percent) and not poor salary (26.9 percent). A lack of faculty influence (42.5 percent) was the second biggest reason teachers left poor urban public schools. As for teachers in low poverty, suburban public schools, they left due to poor salary (51 percent) followed by poor administrative support (30 percent). Notice that their reasons for leaving had nothing to do with the students.

Which leads me to one of the biggest factors driving out teachers: politics. Legislation like No Child Left Behind and standardized testing is decreasing student morale and forcing out teachers, who must take even more time from their busy schedules to supervise students during the test rather than teach or grade papers. Also, they have not been trained to supervise such tests in a way that would please legislators, often non-educators, mandating such testing.

What surprised me was that, while well-intentioned, these tests have not increased student achievement.

In some cases, when it looks as though test scores are going up, one must read the back story to understand whether all students were assessed, how the dropout rate plays into it, and how much quality teaching is happening. Houston, Texas, was touted nationally as a success story for raising the test scores of all of its students. The district claimed a low 1.5 percent dropout rate, but at Sharpston High School, 463 of 1,700 students left during the school year; none were reported as dropping out. Instead, they were assigned a code that meant they had changed schools, gone back to a native country, or gone for their GED, when many of them never reported these reasons to the school (Meier et al., 2004). The real story is that a new correlation has arisen from frequent standardized testing: falling graduation rates as standardized testing increases (Meier et al., 2004).

Interesting, eh? Another aspect of Katy’s book that I liked was that it wasn’t simply a whiny tome on the state of education today, rather it offered educators solutions to implement best practices. She visited schools all across the country and interviewed dozens of teachers both online and offline. She gave examples of schools that were actually implementing these practices, like, the Sherman Oaks Community Charter School in California, which allows teachers and staff 90 minutes daily of uninterrupted time to collaborate.

Here is a great example of how parents can partner with teachers to give children the best possible education:



In an era of dwindling budgets and jam-packed agendas, this may seem impossible. Not so, says Principal Peggy Bryan (Curtis, 2000). At Sherman Oaks, “Teachers meet while students have lunch, study hall, and a recreation period. Paraprofessionals — usually parents — come in during that time and oversee the children. ‘It’s simple, inexpensive, and it makes all the difference’” (para. 8), she said.

While the format is always under revision, teachers use this time for planning, grade-level meetings, cross-grade meetings, and problem solving. This lends itself to a feeling of professionalism, colleagueship, and support…By providing built-in opportunities like this, Sherman Oaks fosters a collaborative community that works together to support every child, and every teacher as they constantly hone and learn their craft.

Katy’s book is a quick and delightful read, a mere 156 pages. But one area I would have loved to see her dedicate a chapter to is that of “education reform.” So-called education reformers like Teach for America, charter school proponents, and DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, have rankled some in the teaching profession because they are non-union. But I am interested to see what success, if any, they have had.

There are a few ideas that I am especially curious as to whether they would work. One is year-round schooling as practiced by charter schools like KIPP in Texas. It makes sense that three-month summer vacations are not compatible with a working parent’s schedule, especially one who cannot afford day camps. Of course, I would rather parents receive vacation, too, but it doesn’t seem realistic in an era of fewer full-time jobs and people working multiple part-time jobs.  

The other, as proposed by Rhee, is more money in lieu of tenure. I wonder how many teachers would go for it?

Finally, I am wondering how the three-year teaching cycles as dictated by Teach for America is working for them. On the one hand, I am sad that children in high risk areas are experiencing such high staff turnover. But a part of me also wonders if some schools are so tough that it is better for a teacher to remain there only three years to avoid burnout — like the military, another tough job. I don’t know, which is why I’d like more research on this. What do you all think?

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A mother of a day

I can’t think of a better way to say this. I had a truly crappy Mother’s Day this year.

I think Anna Jarvis would understand. Inspired by her own mother’s life, she started a campaign in 1907 to recognize mothers for their contribution to society. She was successful in making Mother’s Day a national holiday, but then spent the rest of her life fighting its commercial exploitation. She died in an asylum when she was 84.

A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment. —Anna Jarvis


My bad Mother’s Day was no one’s fault in particular. The problem was that my husband, Brian, had been working way too much. He’s on a project that is challenging and even sometimes fun, but also complex and intense. After weeks of working late, often until 2 or 3 am, the intensity combined with lack of sleep started taking its toll.

I took the kids out Saturday morning so he could rest. When we met up at a school function in the afternoon, Brian told me he’d been fighting off anxiety attacks all day. He’d tried to go out and get me something for Mother’s Day, he said tearfully, but couldn’t think of leaving the house without making things worse. We hustled home and put him in bed. He slept for 15 hours straight.

Sunday morning he told me he didn’t think he could get out of bed.

“No problem!” I said, trying not to act alarmed. “I’ll take the kids out. We’ll do something fun.”

After all, Anna Jarvis was right. I don’t need flowers or cards or candy. But I need my husband to be okay.

I recently read a report that said fathers now feel more torn over balancing work and family than mothers. (Elisa also wrote a great blog post about this a couple weeks ago.) In our family, that makes sense. I left my job last year and now freelance part time. But my husband, who does the same web consulting work I do, has continued full speed ahead. Someone has to, right?

I wanted to make the best out of Mother’s Day–if nothing else, so Brian wouldn’t feel so bad. Maybe I could take the kids to the Little Farm in Tilden Park. I’d just soak in my delicious children by myself, somewhere peaceful and kid-friendly and outdoors. Then we could go to a toy store to get birthday presents for Jake, who was turning three on Monday. This idea sounded much better when it was scripted as a two-parent act, but now it was improv.

It started raining before we even left the house. Goodbye, peaceful outdoor setting. I decided to take the kids to Kindergym, a giant room at the YMCA with a bouncy castle, a jungle gym, a climbing wall, and lots of rowdy children. Heaven for my two- and seven-year-old. Clamorous, overstimulating hell for me.

When I couldn’t take any more, I pried Jake and Ruby out of their homemade fort, (Aw! C’mon, Mama! You said 5 more minutes! That wasn’t 5!), and signed them into Child Watch so I could go to a dance class that I love. I knew the day would go better if I could do one nice thing for myself. But I tweaked an old knee injury and had to stop after 20 minutes.

Shower. Limp back to Child Watch. Pack up kids. (Aw! Just one more picture, Mama! I’m not done with my picture!) Drive to Fourth Street.

I knew the toy shopping had a better chance of going well if we ate first. I picked the yummy Mexican place at the end of the parking lot because it’s fast and they have a simple rice-and-beans plate that both kids usually eat with minimal complaints.

The restaurant was the most crowded I’d ever seen it. We snagged three chairs at the end of a long table with a very unhappy looking family at the other end. They did not look like they wanted to share their table. So I didn’t ask. I just plunked the kids down and ignored the unfriendly glares. Maybe it wasn’t personal. Maybe they were having a crappy Mother’s Day, too.

Even if it was personal, I couldn’t blame them, really. Jake hadn’t napped and was entering his “mean drunk” stage of the day. When the food arrived, he refused to eat his beans or anything with protein. (No! Jus’ rice, mama! I only want rice!) Which made Ruby laugh for some reason. Which made Jake mad. (You no laugh at me, Ruby!) I didn’t really feel like sharing a table with him, either.

I called Brian to check on him. He hadn’t moved from the couch since we’d left three hours ago. He started to say something else, but I couldn’t hear him over the kids.

“I want more rice! Ruby, you dop pushing me!” Jake screeched.

“Jake, leave your sister alone! Ruby, sit up in your seat!..Brian–I couldn’t hear you. What did you say?”

“I need to get off the phone,” he said.

When we hung up, Jake started crying.

“I want to talk to DADDY!”

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry. We can’t talk to Daddy right now. Daddy needs to rest.”

My son lay his blond head on the table and wailed at the top of his lungs.

“I WANT TO TALK TO DADDY!”

Over and over and over again.

I knew exactly how he felt. I wanted Daddy, too.

More dirty looks from restaurant patrons. It was too crowded to walk around to Jake’s side of the table, so I just sat there, staring at him while the whole restaurant considered my incompetence.

This is Mother’s Day! I wanted to yell at them. Can you guys cut me a little slack?

After a long minute, I asked Jake calmly if he would like to play under the table. He sniffled and allowed that he would.

We finished lunch. Once outside, both kids magically became peaceful. It’s weird how that happens sometimes. I considered my options. Take them home and stress out their father, or muscle through the toy store, and mark one very important item off the to-do list.

It was the fastest shopping spree in birthday history. I bribed Ruby with a dollar to “babysit” her brother, then left them near the stuffed animals and frantically hobbled through the aisles, pulling things off the shelves–a robotic claw Jake has been obsessed with for weeks, a spy pen like the ones Ruby and my stepdaughter, Martha, have that he covets, a kid-size rake so he can do something besides defoliating the plants with his baby scissors when he “helps” me in the garden.

Birthday presents. Check.

“OK, guys, it’s time to get in the car.”

“Aw! We’re not ready yet–”

“I’ll give you a candy when we get home,” I said. I had sunk to a new low. Candy Bribes.

I will spare you the rest of the gory details. It suffices to say the second half of the day was as fun as the first half. Short nap for Jake. An art project that I never helped Ruby with because Jake woke up too soon. A whiny trip to the grocery store. Arguments over dinner. Lots of wondering how my mom did this. Lots of wishing, for the millionth time, we had grandparents nearby. Lots of worrying about my husband, flat on his back upstairs.

When the kids were in the bath, I emailed my friend Angel. I needed to complain to somebody but didn’t want to make Brian feel worse. Later that night, she sent this email back:

…both of mine are finally asleep-Amalia after getting all cranked out and crying for 40 minutes and Paloma after having a dramatic fighting/yelling/crying battle in the shower (doesn’t want to wash hair)…this comes of course after telling Paloma it was time to get ready for bed and finding a huge mess in her room (having told her several times to clean it up already today) complete with a glitter spill all over her bed-which she knows she is not supposed to get out on her bed. Oh yeah, and Amalia peed on the floor while she was waiting to get in the shower. And my husband was sleeping this whole time after working the whole day.

mothers day is whack.

but some day, when our kids won’t even remember to call us because they’re in Paris, or NY or wherever, and you and I are at the spa in Calistoga for a “girls’ getaway”, we will reminisce about when our beautiful children were still ours to love, and hold, and feed, and wash, and scream at. We’ll long for these times, or at least remember them with a sentimental warmth in our hearts.

I have to wash the glitter off my feet now before I go to bed.

Monday morning came. I took the kids to school. Brian showered, shaved, dressed, and drove to work, just like nothing had happened.

You know what would be a great way to recognize mothers next year? Stop burning out the dads.

Original post from Working Moms Break.

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Burnout Runs in Families

The New York Times reports on the results of a study by Finnish psychologists that found that if you (parent!) are burned out at work, then it’s probable that your kids are burned out too.

The evidence that burnout runs in families comes from a study of 370 ninth graders from 11 schools in Finland as well as one or both of their parents. Researchers have developed measurement tools to assess the level of burnout in workers and students, with burnout defined as feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by work and school demands, feelings of cynicism about job and school work or feeling inadequate and powerless.

Interestingly, the link between parents and kids is strongest between mothers and daughters:

…a particularly strong association between work burnout in mothers and school burnout in their teen daughters.

Any MT-ers out there with teen daughters care to confirm or deny this association? What about tweens?

Of course, this is another one to blame on the recession…according to the study results, “family finances predicted a higher level of shared burnout among parents and teens.”

Gotta go. I’m exhausted and feeling overwhelmed. Time to pick up the kids.

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Working Mothers Especially Strapped for Time, Money

FYI: Work-out-of-home mothers, especially, should be careful not to burn out. CareerBuilder.com had an article about how working mothers are really feeling the pinch from the economic downturn because they are working more hours — for no additional pay — and are afraid of losing their jobs.

Then they come home and have to take care of children and a houseful of chores.

• Thirty percent of working moms whose companies have experienced layoffs in the previous 12 months are working longer hours than they used to.

• Fourteen percent of surveyed moms have taken second jobs during the last year to make ends meet.

• Combining family needs, financial woes and busy schedules, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 34 percent of moms admit to feeling burned out these days.

Here were some tips doled out by CareerBuilder:



1. Take care of yourself
Although your plate is already full, you need to secure some “me” time each week to indulge in your favorite activities. To prevent your personal time from being bumped off the list of priorities, block off the time as an appointment on your calendar.

2. Talk to your manager
Communicate your needs to your manager and illustrate how your improved work/life balance will benefit the company. For example, compressed work-weeks, flexible hours (so you can arrive earlier and leave earlier) and telecommuting can help productivity and save the company money.

3. Keep a routine
Divide household responsibilities (such as dinner preparation, chores and bill paying) between you and your family so that everyone is involved. If you have a partner, share responsibilities so that no one is bogged down in chores and you can enjoy quality time together.

4. Make the most of family time
Transitioning from professional to mother can be hard to do when you walk through the door, but don’t forget to enjoy time with your children when you’re home. You might want to cross off another laundry list of to-dos when you get home, but don’t let the minor tasks distract you from enjoying activities with your children.

5. Lighten the load
Being a working mom might make you feel like a superhero, but you’re only one woman. Learn to delegate responsibilities so that you’re not on every call and in every meeting. Your staff will grow in their positions and you’ll have less stress.

Sounds like good advice. What other suggestions do you have?

Also, I was floored by the number of responses this single mother received in the Berkeley-based Mamasource newsletter. In her original letter, she was wondering if it was legal to leave her 10-year-old son home alone now that she had to take a second job to make ends meet.

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Simplifying Life

I nodded in complete agreement with this Good Housekeeping article on how to avoid volunteer burnout.

Check out these statistics:

Volunteers’ selfless efforts power America’s schools, churches, and civic organizations, but many women eventually come to feel that, far from being meaningful and rewarding, their efforts to give back are exhausting and unappreciated — and maybe not even worth it. Women, especially working moms, are more likely than men to sign up (in 2007, 29.3 percent of women gave time to a cause, compared with 22.9 percent of men), but turnover is high for both sexes: 21.7 million Americans (nearly a third) who volunteered in 2006 didn’t continue in 2007, reports the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS).

What goes wrong? “Many groups are like leaky buckets,” says Robert Grimm, director of research for CNCS. “They can’t keep volunteers, mainly because they don’t use them very well. People show up to help with an event that’s poorly organized, or they’re given some trivial assignment. And they think, Why am I wasting my time?

But part of the problem may lie with us. Sure, we want to make a difference, but many of us let ourselves become overcommitted. We may feel that we don’t have the right to refuse a worthy organization, or it may just be hard to relinquish the belief that we’re absolutely essential, speculates Anne Wilson Schaef, Ph.D., a former psychotherapist and the author of Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. “Women really worry that without them, the rummage sale won’t happen,” she says.

After three years helping establish Ari’s independent Spanish immersion school, my term on the board expires next month. I have never served on a board before so I was grateful for the valuable work experience in fundraising, media outreach and setting education policy — particularly in bilingual education. But man, am I relieved to be done! I will not miss board meetings that run until 11 at night. I will not miss the number of committee assignments that required more meetings on my part. I will not miss the actual fundraising and writing press releases. At times it felt like a full-time unpaid job, but I felt that I could not walk away because the school was new and I really wanted the experience for my children.

As you all know, I had a career crisis about a month ago and inquired about becoming a nutritionist. After soul-searching on a trip and reading through your supportive comments — which meant more to me than you will ever know! — I decided to do…nothing.

I took inventory of my time and realized I have none. I am not willing to abandon MotherTalkers or cut into my time with my children. I did cut back on childcare for Eli, which means I am actually busier.

I spoke to several people about nutritional sciences and it sounds like I would have to go back to school for at least a Bachelor’s to pass the exam, which is heavy on science. The only science I took as a journalism major at BU was geology. Ugh.

I haven’t ruled it out in the future — I am still intrigued — but, realistically, I do not have the brain, time nor energy to study for biology and chemistry tests right now. Also, I am waiting for Eli to start school in another couple years, which will free me up a bit. I just don’t have time.

So I am simplifying as much as I can. Starting over, you know?

Have you ever suffered from volunteer and/or mothering burnout? How did you deal?

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Mommy Burnout

I seem to have hit a wall being mommy. Not with being a mother, mind you, but being a “mommy”.

If I never set foot in a park again, fine by me.
Mommy and Me programs – shoot me now.
I don’t want to draw, paint, play cars, or kick a ball. (Well, maybe draw and paint, a little).
PB&J and apple slices on my person at all times, not to mention all the other obvious stuff – done.
A 6 message email exchange to set up one piddly playdate – times x – I. am. over. it.

You get the picture.


The big picture stuff – I’m there. We just started at our new co-op preschool, and I’m excited. But the day to day finagling of a very active and very social toddler is truly wearing me down. In the past, these feelings would pass in a day, sometimes a few hours. Not this time. I hear my son announcing each morning, “I want to go on an AVENTURE, mama, an AVENTURE!” and all I can think is, “have fun, my sweetyheart, and don’t forget to write.”

I think I know why. Over the past couple of months, I’ve given myself more personal time, in the form of slightly longer and more frequent babysitting. I’ve started a weekly hike (where I am joined by a friend) and a weekly tennis lesson (first tennis since 1988, and I am loving it). I tossed all of my ratty, saggy clothes that I’ve worn to the park for at least a year, and got new stuff that fits. I even took a pair of jeans to get taken in at the waist so that they truly fit, just like times of old. I went back blonde. I should have known something was up.

More importantly, I have sorted out my career dilemma, kind of. I have worked out an interim step. Rather than return to clinical work (I’m in training as a marriage and family therapist), I plan to start a blog on a specific aspect of grief and loss, and write an article (magazine length) on the same topic, and shop it around. I have signed up for my second writing class – because the ultimate goal is a book, and I’d like to keep plugging along on that goal as well.

All of which is to say – I am looking and feeling more like myself again, and I have a realistic and exciting goal up my sleeve. I am energized by possibilities. The unexpected result of this new energy is that I want MORE. More exercise, more time with friends, and more psychic space to work on my own projects. More, more, more, more, more.

More.

And yet. My son is still only two years old. Kindy is a long way off. We’re in preschool only one day per week (it’s a toddler group actually). Next year, it will be three days, and I will feel like my sons needs are well met with wonderful people, with less pressure on me to create and maintain social experiences for him. (We’ve never been overscheduled, so it’s not that).

Ladies, how do I hang on for this year, in a way I can be proud of?  What have you done to get back on track when you have experienced Mommy Burnout?

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Beware of High School Burnout

Here is a story for those of you with children undergoing the college admissions process: College applications are expected to peak next year so an increasing number of students are experiencing depression and other health problems related to stress, according to the Washington Post.

Oftentimes, the stress of the children are compounded by the expectations of their competitive parents, the Post reported.

Despite warnings by experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, which in 2006 issued a report about the perils of “pressure-filled intense preparation for a high-achieving adulthood,” and a recent spate of popular books including “The Overachievers” (which focused on Bethesda, Maryland’s Walt Whitman High School), there are few indications that high school students will face an altered landscape anytime soon.

Adolescent medicine specialists say that a primary cause of the apparent pervasiveness of this relentless activity is demographic: The number of applications to the nation’s colleges is expected to peak with the class of 2009 and won’t begin to decline for several more years. Although there is no precise definition of over-scheduling and little empirical research documenting its impact, pediatricians, psychologists and child psychiatrists say the problem is real.

They contend that some BlackBerry-tethered parents, who equate being constantly busy with being successful in their own lives, compete to see whose kids can cram in the most activities: pre-dawn swim practice, weekend travel soccer tournaments, elite ballet classes, Mandarin lessons, SAT tutoring sessions. Unstructured time, which experts say is essential to figuring out who one is and what one wants, tends to be regarded as laziness or being unproductive.

“Our definition of what makes a kid successful has become unbearably narrow,” said California psychologist Madeline Levine, author of “The Price of Privilege,” a 2006 book that documented the psychological fallout of unrealistic expectations and packed schedules on affluent teenagers.

The toxic combination of perfectionism and over-scheduling can lead to excesses such as those seen by University of Pennsylvania adolescent medicine specialist Kenneth Ginsburg, author of the AAP recommendations. Ginsburg said his patients have included a teenager who had started studying for the SATs at age 11 and high school students whose parents told them they “didn’t need to bother to go to college” if they didn’t get into either Harvard or Yale, schools that last year reported record-low acceptance rates hovering around 8 percent.

Wow, is this world just foreign to me. This is so much more intense than anything I saw at my high school — and I went to a pretty good school. How are you moms with college-bound kids dealing with the pressure? Have your children heard back from colleges?

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Birthday Party Burnout

For Maya’s first two birthdays, I threw not one, but two birthday parties each year– one for our family in Southern California, and one for our friends living in Sacramento. Everyone told me I was insane, but I’m kind of a social animal, which runs in my family. I didn’t mind doubling the fun.

This year, we’re finally living in Southern California, so I teamed up with my mom (Maya’s doting Abuelita) and we threw ourselves into planning a third birthday bonanza.  I took care of invites, decorations, party favors, and the cake. Mom cooked her booty off, making pozole and tacos to die for– for 80 or so of our closest family and friends.

The skies were clear and sunny, everyone stuffed their faces and Maya pranced around the party in her poufy pink dress. She ate cake, whaled on her Pablo pinata and opened a mountain of presents.

The party was a resounding success and yet…I don’t see another big party in our future for a while.

By the time we got to opening presents, we were all wiped out, including Maya. She opened present after present, hardly reacting. What she wanted most was to take one present and go play quietly with it, but she had to keep unwrapping. As for me, the day went by in a big confusing blur. At the end of it all, I took stock: I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked. I hardly ate any of my mom’s delicious cooking. I didn’t spend much time mingling with our many guests, and barely spoke two words to many of my friends. Heck, I didn’t even enjoy a single alcoholic beverage!

So what the hell was I doing the whole time? Running, fetching, greeting, seating and soothing. As for my mom, she spent days on end chopping, simmering, mashing and frying, and her work continued all through the party. She was, naturally, exhausted.

It was a good run while it lasted, but next year, I am already envisioning an intimate affair with just grandparents and a few other couples with kids Maya’s age. There will be cake and presents and Maya will still feel special. But there will be less chaos, less work, less STUFF.

And less will be good.

Have any of you suffered from Birthday Party Burnout? For you moms of older children, what have been the best birthday celebrations, and which have been the worst? Any tips or lessons learned? Please share!

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