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A Day in the Life of a Teacher-Writer-Parent

[Pictured above: The Teacher-Writer-Parent wearing the huge, blueberry-like “Thinking Cap” her son made to “help her think of really good writing.”]

5:30 a.m.—Woken up by the five-year-old boy sitting on my head while the two-year-old girl screams through the monitor that her head’s stuck in the laundry basket. Remove boy from head. Sprint downstairs to discover that girl has inherited her brother’s sense of humor, is totally fine, says, “joking,” and runs around the room with laundry basket on head, but emphatically not stuck there.

5:35 a.m.—Jump vigorously on tiny trampoline with my girl while singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” for my boy, who clearly spends a lot of time with his grandparents.

6:00 a.m. Attempt to feed, wash, and clothe kids and myself while grading all the papers and doing all the lesson planning I didn’t get to the night before, which is pretty much all of it.

6:29 a.m.—Realize nobody showered this morning, and I have to leave the house by 6:30 to take the subway for two hours to teach my 8:30 a.m. college class in which we all look sleepy but hopefully enlightened. Apply large amounts of perfume to all three of us. Add a spritz of Febreze just in case.

6:35 a.m.—Get on subway. Quickly apply what I believe to be cherry chapstick (although unclear since the label peeled off a year ago) as the single element of my complex beauty routine. Oh, and pull my hair into an unintentionally messy bun.

6:40 a.m.—Finish all grading and lesson planning, write 5 new pages of nonfiction book proposal in notes section of iPhone. Accidentally erase when I fall asleep on train.

8:10 a.m.—Arrive in the Bronx to teach. Buy huge coffee from the ancient coffee cart guy who tells me jokes, and whom I love like my own mother. Remove green “Health Bar” (what even is that?) from my enormous sack that contains everything in the world. Put bar back in sack immediately. Go back to my coffee cart guy, who holds out the huge donut he knew I really wanted all along. Because we are spiritually married.

8:20 a.m.—Do damage control before going to teach: pull out a white hair, remove what looks like silly putty from my black shirt, apply more cherry chapstick and a huge smile. Attempt to tweet or post something “writerly” to Instagram. Decide it looks self-indulgent and delete. Post it again anyway.

8:30 a.m.—Teach college students how to write essays. Ask one student to gently poke another one who is falling asleep at least once (ah, the early morning class). Ask a student to put away a phone at least once. Wonder why I do this job at least once. But then the students get it, and it feels like a spotlight comes on in the classroom, and I can hear The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” song in my head. Remember why I do this job at least once. Feel exhausted. Feel amazed. Feel hungry.

9:45 a.m.—Stand in the incredibly long on-campus Starbucks line to get another huge coffee from a “barista” who never knows to give me the donut I want, and whom I don’t love half as much as my coffee cart guy. Wonder what my coffee cart guy is doing.

9:50 a.m. Answer emailed interview questions about a recent lyric essay book I wrote while guzzling coffee. The first question is “What is a lyric essay?”

9:55 a.m.—Email the interviewer that I think I wrote “fucking” instead of “funky.” Damn you, autocorrect.

10 a.m.—Teach students how to write essays. Feel impressed. Feel inspired. Feel like I need a nap.

11:10 a.m.—Get third huge coffee from coffee cart guy. Tell him I’m writing a blog post in which he features prominently. See him light up. Listen to a new joke of his. Write it down after I walk away. Feel like I can get through the rest of the day.

11:12 a.m. Receive a call from my son’s school about how he did something along the lines of dancing during singing time or singing during dancing time. Chuckle a little under breath. Apologize. Inform them that I’m in the Bronx and can’t pick him up for at least two hours. Am informed they guess he can stay, but only if he sings during singing time and dances during dancing time. Feel frustrated with all education systems ever. Decide to start a revolution. Realize I need to pee first.

11:15 a.m.—Take subway to the other campus of this college to teach afternoon class. Give too much money to Mariachi band that make me cry with joy on the train there. Finish grading and lesson prepping. Work on a few pages of the new book I’m editing by a poet I admire a ton. Wonder if I’ll ever be as good as the writer I’m editing. Feel hungry.

12:00 p.m.—Receive an email from my daughter’s daycare about how she’s still peeing all over the place. Write a simultaneously sunny and breezy reply while not feeling at all sunny or breezy.

12:10 p.m.—Eat some sort of sandwich while trying to write a blog post on writing blog posts. Spill sandwich sauce on school computer. Rectify. Laugh. Attempt to write about this moment. Wonder if it’s really living if you try to convert all the living into writing. Write that down.

1:00 p.m.—Apply to two fellowships and the only five tenure-track creative writing jobs in NYC, even though I know they’ll just hire Jonathan Franzen for the position in the end. Decide to leave academia and become a circus juggler. Decide to return to academia. Search the MLA job board, locate another three jobs, and apply to them. Pray to the gods of academia for a place at the table. Lose an eyelash, blow it and wish to write a “Big, Important Book” one day, and to get a tenure-track teaching job. Lose another eyelash. Wish for a donut.

1:30-2:20 p.m.—Write what seems to be the beginning of some sort of manifesto, feel inspired until my phone rings in the library. Apologize. Feel like I apologize too much. Attempt to make a feminist joke to the librarian about how women apologize too much. It doesn’t land well. I apologize.

2:30 p.m.—Teach students about creative writing. Feel annoyed that my favorite student didn’t do the homework. Get blown away at least twice by something a student has written.

3:45 p.m.—Take subway to pick up daughter, push her in stroller to pick up son.

4:15 p.m.—Push her while he trots along telling me the whole history of his philosophy on everything from the beginning of time, pausing only for a well-delivered poop joke. I laugh the loudest. Stunned man gives me dirty look. I apologize. Then make my joke about women apologizing. My kids laugh, but in that way where they’re hoping I’ll give them a treat. I give them a treat.

4:30 p.m.—Cook dinner while blasting music and allowing my kids to help me (which means they make a huge huge mess that they don’t clean up and nothing gets cooked until 5:00 p.m.).

5:15 p.m.—Attempt to eat a family dinner while the kids attempt to break the house.

5:45 p.m.—Finally baths for all.

6:30-7:30 p.m.—Chase kids around with a sock puppet we call “Moppet.” Hilarity ensues. You had to be there.

7:30 p.m.—Try to put her to bed quickly while hoping he’s not destroying the house. She clings to me like the world’s ending, so I stay until I hear something crash upstairs.

8:00 p.m.—Clean up whatever crashed. Put son to bed. Sing. Cuddle. Have conversation about mammals. Have conversation about farts. Want a donut.

8:45 p.m.—Attempt to read and write something amazing. Fall asleep.

9:00 p.m.—Husband comes home. We start out watching documentary we can feel smart about but end up watching something shitty nobody could ever feel smart about. Feel happy anyway.

9:30 p.m.—Sneak into kitchen. Have donut.

10:30 p.m.—Fall asleep at the table, drooling on my Magnum Opus.

11:00 p.m.—Wake up. Discover all I had written was “Magnum Opus.” See son peering at me from around a corner. Realize he has actually not gone to bed yet. Wonder what he’s been doing all this time. Not let myself go there. Get frustrated. He’s holding something. He says, “You need your thinking cap.” He gives me the huge hat that resembles a blueberry that he made me, my thinking cap, to “help me think of really good writing.” Remember why I do any of this.

11:05 p.m. Go to sleep in actual bed.

5:30 a.m.—Woken up by the five-year-old boy sitting on my head while the two-year-old girl screams through the monitor that her head’s stuck in the laundry basket.

This essay is dedicated to my kids, husband, students, and, above all, my coffee cart guy.