by DaniGirl on October 19, 2009 · 13 comments

in It IS all about me, Mothering without a licence

When I was a wee lass of nineteen or twenty, and I’d just quit university to work full time in retail, we were living a pauper’s life in a tiny apartment in the west end of Ottawa. We barely had enough money to pay our rent, let alone buy groceries, and I remember putting $2 into the ATM so I could withdraw $5 to get us through the weekend. (I loved Royal Bank back in those days, because it was the only bank whose ATMs dispensed in $5 increments.)

I was working as a cashier in the smoke shop of Zellers, and I can remember with almost painful clarity the hungry covetousness I’d feel when people would open their wallets to pay for a purchase and reach into a deep stack of $20 bills to pay. Imagine having more than one, let alone a stack of five or six, $20 bills in your wallet at one time. It was almost unimaginable to me.

By the time my first baby was born a dozen years later, I was far from rich but certainly comfortable enough financially that having a couple of twenties in my wallet at any given time was the rule rather than the exception. With a steady job, a roof over our heads and a reasonable disposable income, what I coveted most in those early days of motherhood was sleep.

Tristan at least was a good sleeper from an early age, but my middlest son Simon nearly killed me with his nighttime wakings well into his second year. I was so tired, so catastrophically exhausted in fact, that I remember an overwhelming covetousness of six or seven or — I was almost giddy with desire at the idea — as much as eight blissful hours of uninterrupted sleep. I couldn’t even look at images of someone in bed or sleeping on television without feeling an overpowering jealousy, an almost physical covetousness of their sleep.

While Lucas still wakes rather predictably twice each night, once around midnight and once closer to dawn, he’s easily placated and I’m back in bed and asleep after just a moment or two of nighttime comforting, so these days I’m about as well rested as I’ve been through most of my mothering career. Something about the move from two boys to three in the household, though, has tipped the scales of balance wickedly out of order and I find that my life has become an epic battle between me and the never-ending to-do list.

What I covet now is time.

Sometimes, I catch myself thinking back to the five or six years between when Beloved and I moved in together and when the first baby arrived with a kind of wonder. What on earth did we do with those mountains of free time? Okay, so I was finishing my university degree through night courses for a couple of those years, but there were still three solid years where it was just him and me and the dog… and we thought our lives were so busy! Oh, the things I would do if only I had half, even a quarter, of all that free time back in my life right now.

There is so much to be done, so many things clamouring for my attention, every single minute of every day now. I’m actually having to put in a conscious effort to notice the things that I’ve managed to get done in a given day instead of the things left undone, because the latter was really starting to freak me out. And maybe it’s just my personality, but I’m easily inspired and quickly distracted, so I keep coming across new stuff that I’d like to try, new project in which I’d like to become involved… and there’s just not any room in my life for what I’m already doing, let alone any new stuff.

Like when I was on CBC the other day with Lynn, and third person in our little interview was a fellow who had done a lot of organizing in his school to make it more friendly for kids to walk to school. I was quite intrigued by what he had done, and I could hear my internal engines revving up. What a cool idea, I would love to get something like what he has done going at our school, and my brain was off and running with the possibilities, the people I’d speak to and the approach we’d take and… and then, cold as a bucket of water in my face, the realization that I can’t do that right now. Simply can’t. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get the floors washed regularly and the grass cut more than once a month and closet doors hung that have been sitting in the garage since we picked them up in Home Depot half a month ago. Seriously? No time!

Each moment of my life right now feels like it’s stolen from one account to satisfy another, the temporal version of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I’m coming to peace with it, and I’m getting the important things done, and even finding time to do the things that I do simply for me — the pictures, the blog, the Saturday morning visit to the gym. I’m getting used to the fact that our house is hopelessly cluttered and not as spotlessly clean as I might have liked, and that just about everything we choose to do is a tradeoff for something we must consciously choose not to do.

When I’m feeling the most overwhelmed, the most thinly stretched, and when I’m most keenly aching for that extra time — oh, the things I would do with just an increment of all that wasted time of days gone by! — I try to think of the future. Surely having a relentlessly curious toddler in the house is one of the largest contributors to the everyday chaos of our lives. Right? I truly can’t imagine that it will always be like this, and I simply can’t conceive of the fact that it might be worse, that I might some day look back with nostalgic regret and wonder why I thought I had it so bad when in retrospect these were the glory days of leisure.

One day, I’m quite sure, I’ll have that time again. Sometimes, I find myself coveting my own future… which is, really, not such a bad place to be.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chantal October 19, 2009 at 8:39 am

oh i feel the same way. And with baby 3 on the way I find myself freaking out a little. Last night I was doing a mental list in my head of all the things that would have to wait till I am on mat leave (I am stopping work 3 weeks prior to my due date) and then I had a mini panic attack. What if this baby decides to buck the trend (both other boys were 7 days overdue) and come early. What if I don’t have time… AHHHHHHH

2 DeuxHirondelles October 19, 2009 at 9:12 am

That is the one thing I always tell parents I meet expecting their first child: You will wonder what you did with all the free time that you had before that is now filled with child-related tasks.

My spouse and I are now empty-nesters of two years…and while there is time for leisurely Sunday morning breakfasts and walks with the dogs through the woods, usually, there still aren’t enough hours in the day…so we covet our own (retired) future.

I do recognize that living in the now is much healthier, but I’m struggling with that…

3 Beryl October 19, 2009 at 10:23 am

Very well written Dani. We are much alike in that I am constantly inspired by new projects and want to try it all and be successful. I too am easily distracted and don’t always finish what I start. I am trying to learn to focus more and say “no” when it really becomes too much. I am not a mom yet but I can only imagine it getting harder and harder once we are with child. But I am also inspired by how much you ARE still able to do an contribute online even with your 3 kiddos.

4 Jen October 19, 2009 at 10:33 am

I got into the bath for a leisurely half hour on Saturday while my 10 year old daughter and 5 year old son played together on the Wii downstairs. And I thought what a long way I have come from having to lay down a towel and a muslin square in the bathroom then lie my screaming few week old daughter on it just so I could take a pee.

5 Tracey October 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

Have you met my sister?! She is really struggling with this right now. Well, I think we all are, but your words say it perfectly. I’m going to re-read this everytime I feel like I’m the only one doing a miserable job of balancing my life!

6 Christy October 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I ALWAYS wonder what the heck we did with all our time before kids came along!

7 Mary @ Parenthood October 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I’m just focussing on the small victories of the day. And no longer may I set myself more than one goal to accomplish for the day.

8 Amber October 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm

This? Is the big reason that I’m not sure I want another child. I have 2 little ones and I already feel pretty busy. How much more can I really take on?

I keep telling myself it’s all worth it. Believing that I’ll look back on this time fondly is what’s seeing me through most days.

9 Christine LaRocque October 19, 2009 at 6:06 pm

I know you recently read my post on something very similar, I coin this very feeling my life in the fast lane. Trying to make use of every moment in a purposeful way and yet feeling always like my wheels are turning and I’m accomplishing nothing. It sucks, it really sucks. I like you have mountains of things that I like to do outside raising my children and simply no time to do them. I’m trying to learn what really matters and focus on that for now, but it’s easier said than done. Great post!

10 Sharon October 19, 2009 at 6:15 pm

I covet time too. Of COurse you know we bring it on ourselves. I went back to school and then I lacked time. BUT It doesn’t take up that much time I try to keep my classes when Nathan and Hubby are away during the day. BUT What I do covet is time with my Hubby. We hardly spend anytime together. He’s off doing on thing or another and I’m here with the kids or kid. He says it is the busiest time of our lives. I say it is the buiest time in our lives but there is a choice…a choice to slow it down and do what you want.

11 Haley-O (Cheaty) October 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

You know I relate…. OH, how I relate! Apparently, we WILL have more time when they’re in school…. And we’ll miss all this. For me, it’s now 8:45pm, typical night — time for myself now that the kids are in bed, but MOUNTAINS of work to do that I didn’t have TIME for during the day because of said kids. It’s CRAZINESS, I tell you. Sigh. You know what helps? Yoga. One class a week where you are totally in there for yourself. I just did that today and it opened my eyes…. It was an amazing pocket in time and space.

12 Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Oh yes….time. And yet I seem to take on more and more all the time. Sigh.

13 Shannon October 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I can totally, one hundred per cent relate. It is a lot harder than I thought it would be and I struggle to cope with so much on my plate every single day. I hate the feeling that a little piece of me is “lost” or “gone” now that I have kids, but I so rarely get time for myself these days, it’s a reality.

My husband and I were just joking the other day about the things we did in our 20s when we had no kids and long, restless weekends to ourselves. We used to watch TLC marathons of Trading Spaces (remember back when the show was brand new and so exciting??) all day long and sip coffee and then get dressed at 5:00 and go out for dinner so we didn’t have to cook. Ahhhh, that was the life.

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