Thursday, March 25, 2010

Acclimatizing to Becoming the Sole Mistress of My Time

"Acclimatizing to becoming the sole mistress of my time" is a repeated theme in my life since retirement. This phrase, discovered in the book I am currently reading, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, rang very true to describing my own on-going struggle. The quote was actually used to describe Fanny Burney following her retirement from the court of King George III and Queen Charlotte where she had served as Second Keeper of the Queen's Robes. She obviously eventually became "accustomed" to her retirement because she went on to write novels, plays, and a biography. Her many diaries and journals were published after her death. It is important to note that her readership included Jane Austin and Dr. Samuel Johnson.

I loved this quote because it so accurately describes some of the frustrations experienced by those of who have always had so many demands on our time. As stay-at-home moms, we have jam-packed days that are dictated by chores, crying babies, curious toddlers and demanding pre-schoolers. We dream of the day when our little ones will begin school only to discover that our time is still not our own.

In my case, I went from being a stay-at-home wife and mother to becoming a single working mom overnight. My time had an entirely new set of demands. I had to continue to raise my children, keep house and provide meals, and I had the sudden and unexpected burden of becoming gainfully employed and educated. Somehow, I lived through those days and was able to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table while working at a very low paying job while I worked on finishing a college degree at night.

Between 1989 and 2002, I worked full-time and earned three degrees: a BS in Business Administration, a BA in English, and a MA in Teaching the Linguistically Diverse. Believe me, I was not "the mistress of my time" during those years. In 1992, I married my husband. In 1996, he became the principal of a large high school. So, I added the duties of being the wife of a high school principal to my long list of "things that keep me very busy."

As they say, "it was all good" during those years. I loved my multiple roles of wife, mother, daughter, teacher, and wife of a principal. I had little time to spare. It seemed that we were always on the go, and I had multiple demands for my time.

I've learned that I am motivated and become more productive when I am surrounded by others or when I participate in discussions or conversations. That is one area of my life that is missing right now. I don't have enough interactions with other people. So, in order to feel more energized and productive, I will need to mix with people more often. I must guard again becoming isolated. I've found that when I don't have a job to go to, it is way to easy to get lazy and isolated.

Productivity still remains a value that I wish to see reflected in my life. I don't want to be on the shelf, but I find that I now struggle knowing exactly what I wish to produce. I know I don't want to create lesson plans, educational design plans or curriculum maps. I am certain that I want that part of my life behind me. However, education still remains a passion in my life. I am concerned about the direction of the current educational system, I am just unsure what, or if, I want to do anything about my concerns.

For now, my blog, does keep me writing. I don't write much, but I do have place where I can write. I also have my writing group (of one other person) which serves as a place where I can exchange writing ideas, get feedback, and give support. This exercise in meeting to write and share ideas and thoughts on writing serves an important role in helping acclimate to this stage in life.

The part about retirement that I don't have down is believing that I have the right to be the "sole mistress of my time." That is what I will continue to work on now that I don't have the needs of children or demands of the school bell to dictate my time and direction.


#1Nana said...

I really related to this post. I also struggle with being okay with just doing whatever I want. Leaving behind the "shoulds" is difficult. Substituting occassionally is fun...and I get the bonus of high school kids teaching me how to operate my technology toys. (They did show me shortcuts to texting on my phone last week.) I'm working with several school districts to write grants, which is something I was very successful with in my working life, and seems to be a good once-in-awhile job in retirement. Since you like to write, think about writing grants for fun and profit. It lets me use my expertise in education and meet with dedicated educators and work on my own time.

sallylwess said...

#1Nana, thanks for your comment. I always enjoy hearing from you. I actually am thinking I might substitute next year because I miss the kids and my teacher friends so much. Your experiences in the classroom as a sub gives me food for thought.

I have never written a grant by myself. I've worked on them with others. It is something I will think about.