Dave Pleads His Case About Being Overwhelmed
I finished Brigid Schulte's book Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No one Has the Time in the perfect setting: at jury duty, just after I had to plead with the judge to excuse me from a ten day straight asbestos trial-- she didn't care that I was a teacher who taught three different preps (who would teach Henry IV part I?) but I finally convinced her when I explained that I was the primary child-care person after school . . . but she didn't buy this right away, and grilled me about it-- I'm wondering if I were a woman, if she would have let me go easier; I told her the trial schedule was giving me an anxiety attack and that I was responsible for not only watching my kids after school, but getting them organized and to their various activities . . . and while I constantly fight against over scheduling, my kids have somehow become very involved in a lot of stuff-- orchestra, jazz band, basketball, soccer, piano lessons, art class, alternate art school auditions, etc. etc.-- and Ian and I have been trying to play tennis every day in the balmy weather (not that the judge would care about this) and there's a very active dog in the mix (would the judge care about this?) and while I told her I was happy to do a trial in the summer-- although it's hard to catch me then-- or a short trial, like a day or two, that there was no way I could manage ten days in a row, and she kept asking me if there was someone who could watch my kids for that time and I told her I would have to hire a sitter, and that was a red flag-- they can't make you do that, and once I told her I'd have to leave my ten year old alone quite a bit, she turned snotty and said, "Well, you shouldn't have to leave a ten year old alone" and I was like: that's what I've been talking about here! but I also didn't want to tell her that my ten year old was often alone, navigating the mean streets of our town, on his way from orchestra to art class, dragging his giant trombone-- or walking home from school and getting there before his brother . . . but now I know that child-care duty trumps jury duty and I'll write that to them when I get the next notice . . . my brother works in the courthouse and he later talked to the judge, who apparently knew who I was and told my brother I was "nervous" when i said my piece and I was like no shit I was nervous! how the hell do you schedule a ten day break from your life? and when do you need to do this in front of a judge, four lawyers, and the other fifty random people who are waiting to do the same-- staring daggers at you, especially if you get to leave the room and go back downstairs, while a white noise generator creates a sound barrier so they can't hear exactly what you said to get you excused; Schulte's book addresses this, she covers the wild and variegated history of parenting . . . from less sentimentality to more, from hired help to permissiveness to "Donna Reed" style self-sacrificing and indulgent 1950's moms to the "benign neglect of the 1960s to the denigration of marriage in the 1970s because it was an "institution of oppressive patriarchy" to the intensive mothering of today . . . and then there's the inevitable comparison to the Danes, who work less hour than us, consume less, own less material possessions, spend more family time, have better child care and family leave, have more liberated women and working moms, more dads that cook and take care of the kids, better educational systems, less of an income gap, a low unemployment rate, six weeks of paid vacation, great public transportation, and a host of other wonderful things . . . but they are a much smaller, much more homogenous country than the United States (which doesn't excuse our lack of quality childcare and downright pathetic family leave programs) and the final lesson of the book is to embrace the now and make the most of your time, to try not to allow it to become corrupted and fragmented, and I'm a big fan of this-- which is probably how I get this blog done each day and still manage to edit the podcast and make some time for recording music and playing sports . . . there was also one piece of research that made me very happy-- not only do we sleep in 90 minute cycles, but we work that way too, so it's much better to work in short bursts, which is how I do it-- not more hours, but less hours in more frenetic bursts-- and not only that, but top workers "rested more . . . they slept longer at night and they napped more in the day" and if there's one thing I'm all about, it's more sleep and more naps.