Thursday, June 27, 2013

All that OTHER stuff

I understand the concept of structuring your time around your priorities. It makes sense---cut out the noise and you're left with a whole lot more space for the things that really matter---career, family, relationships. Sometimes that trivial stuff just has to get done, however. You know that stuff---buying things, returning things, alterations, grooming, organizing activities, home repairs, selling outgrown stuff or taking it to the donation store. Its not possible or practical to outsource many of these things, and even outsourcing requires a great deal of time & energy---find a contractor, call him, call him again when he doesn't show up, repeat.

I've had a huge pile-up of this kind of stuff lately, and am struggling to figure out how to get it all done without taking away from my family/work time.

I wonder sometimes if this is what finally pushes a family over the edge into deciding that someone needs to quit or scale-back their paid work. It adds up, creates mental clutter, and eventually leads you to fantasize about how nice it would be to have some time off to get it all done.

I have a friend who works part-time (50%, alternating 2 and 3 days a week, as a primary care MD) yet sends her two kids to daycare 5 days a week. I asked her what she does on her days off. One day she cooks for the week. The rest, is just this sort of miscellany. For a minute it sounded divine, no worrying and negotiating on who would take that giant box to the post-office  or how to fit in a haircut or a doctor's appointment! On further thought...REALLY? It takes 2-3 days every week just for chores and errands? I would think one day a month would be sufficient. Wait a minute...I could probably swing that!

So instead of worrying about how this crap is going to get done, and wondering each day whether I could fit something in on the way to or from work, I'm just keeping a list and marking off a day on my calendar. Errands, appointments, shopping for anything that isn't emergent...all of that will happen on that day. Without this stuff in my head and on my to-do list, I really think I can be more productive and less stressed on the other 29 days of the month.

Anyone else have any strategies for dealing with the miscellany of life? 

Monday, June 17, 2013

A great weekend

We had, as you may have guessed, a great weekend. What was different about this weekend was not that I enjoyed it---I've enjoyed most of our weekends over the past few months. No, the amazing part was that even grumpy ol' G told me last night that "this weekend was so nice...I'm usually counting down until Monday, but somehow this seemed better".

So of course I am trying to figure out how to recreate this feeling...I'm not going to bore you all with a play-by-play, but I'm thinking through the main elements of the weekend.

1) We both got to workout once (I did Saturday, G did Sunday)
2) Finally took care of some errands that were bothering G much more than me
3) Social activity
4) Sunday cooking was done in the morning so the rest of the day was free-ish
5) Date night Sunday night (early anniversary dinner)
6) I was present the entire time---the past few weekends I've had social events and G was manning the fort alone

I think it was mostly #6 that made the weekend feel better for him. I'd be happy for G to get out of the house and see friends or do whatever, but he won't plan anything. Not my problem, right?

Friday, June 14, 2013

These things are not moral failings...

Just a tiny rant about things I've recently seen people get judge-y about. I consider than simply a matter of personal preference, personality, or biology rather than a reflection on underlying character, values, or moral fiber.

I may or may not relate to any of these...* 
  • Being a picky or non-adventurous eater (or having kids that are that way)
  • Dislike (or inability) to wake up early
  • Not liking to travel or being unadventurous in your travel destinations
  • Watching TV (or letting your kids watch TV)
  • Having 0, 1, 4 or any number of children you can care for financially and emotionally
  • Enjoying clothes, or shoes, or shopping
  • Preferring the non-high-brow version of things like beer, chocolate, cheese
  • Not being interested in or adept at the cutely domestic things like scrapbooking, knitting, sewing, baking, gardening 
  • Cooking "semi homemade" style rather than making your own bread, pasta sauce, etc....
  • Going on a regular date night
  • Not going on a regular date night
  • Dressing in ways that may be considered "flashy" or "inappropriate" 
  • Being overweight, underweight, or normal weight
Seriously most of these have come up in the last few weeks.

*Bet you can't guess which ones apply to me!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wide Margins

There is an interesting post on Laura Vanderkam's blog detailing the "ideal week" of an imaginary woman (Jane) that is balancing a family and a super-important job. Go skim the beginning, and then read in detail Jane's daily schedule. How do you feel after reading it?

I think the point was to make the reader feel inspired, because Look! Jane works 55 hours a week and still has lots of time for her kids, and exercise, and even date night! And I think the underlying message---that higher-level jobs offer the flexibility to allow for as much (if not more) family time than lower-level jobs. And the money to outsource the "non-priorities" that eat up a lot of women's time. So yes, lean in! Get a great job that affords you the ability to build your own schedule that fits your family's needs.

But honestly,  reading Jane's actual schedule exhausted me. So much packed into each day, with no downtime (and unrealistically, sometimes no commute or get-ready time---how does she stop running at 9:30 and get downtown to work by 10?). It would require meticulous scheduling and planning, not to mention endless reserves of physical and mental energy to stick to such a routine.

I can't live like that. I've tried. I know that there are many unused corners in my 168-hour week. If I work 45 hours and sleep 50 hours, that still leaves over SEVENTY hours in the week. I could be working out an hour a day, keeping my house immaculate, and spending loads of quality time with my husband and kids.

But it doesn't work like that, does it? All hours are not equal. I may have an hour from 9-10pm, but I can't fit work-outs there, I'm exhausted, its dark & unsafe outside, and it'd keep me from falling asleep. I also can't work out when L needs cuddles at 5:30 AM (we take turns providing the cuddles, so one of us can work out).

And maybe I COULD get out a spreadsheet and carefully add all the puzzle pieces so that my days are penciled with productive activities from 5:30 AM to 10:30 PM on weekdays and the weekends are equally scheduled with "fun". It could work in theory. But in reality, something will come up, and one activity will have to be pushed to another day. And suddenly the whole thing falls apart.

I realized I like my life to have wide margins. Time for down-time, to make up what didn't happen yesterday, to fit in an unexpected emergency without throwing off the entire day, week, month.
At home, it fits with my goal of creating more free time and relaxation for our family.  At work, it just keeps me from being a frazzled, anxious mess. I know people who schedule meetings back to back to back with no regard for a) travel time or b) needing downtime in between to eat/pee/check email. Invariably they just get later & later as the day wears on. I can't live like that.

When I was young and naive, I used to love to be busy. I adored looking at my calendar and seeing all the social activities, and volunteer work, and hobbies I had scheduled. Opportunities for living (because you know, my greatest fear was "not having a life").

But I've grown and I've changed, and now I love nothing more than a blank day. The expanse of white paper, and the possibilities it holds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Not quite right

Has this ever happened to you? You buy some article of clothing...let's say its a dress. The dress looks amazing in the store. The color, the style...its perfect. You quickly try it on and glance in the mirror---its a gorgeous dress, indeed. You pay for it (considerably more than you would normally pay) and bring it home.

And then you put it on the next morning, and you realize that something is a Its a little tight here, a little loose there. But still! Great dress! So you go on to work, confident that you look amazing. As the day wears on, however, you notice you are constantly tugging at it, straightening the hem, yanking up the neckline, adjusting the waist. You look in the mirror again---its weirdly creased, and perhaps a bit low cut. All day long you are self-conscious and distracted from whatever else is going on around you by constantly needing to adjust the (gorgeous! fabulous!) dress.

The next time you try it with a scarf. And then a belt. Different shoes. You take it up an inch. No matter how you tweak it though....something isn't right. But you just can't admit the truth---perhaps this dress, amazing as it is, is not the dress for you.

And that's how I'm feeling about my life these days. I'm tweaking, I'm adjusting, and yet I don't feel comfortable.  And I can't quite pinpoint what the problem is, it just  I'm distracted from the here and now by trying to figure out how to make it better, when, honestly, it shouldn't be so hard, should it?

Maybe its time for a change? Or maybe its the rain, our (AGAIN for the love of god) leaking roof, and my achy sinuses, or the 10 lbs I've gained that make all my clothes too tight. I think I'm going to stop trying so hard and see how it goes.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Not second fiddle

Oh poor neglected L, who barely gets mentioned on this blog! My baby L is pretty close to not being a baby anymore. He is a force to be reckoned with, just so full to overflowing of excitement and dare-devilry. I see pictures of how ridiculously tiny he was, too, and marvel---he's gone from below the 5th percentile in all parameters (and wearing 6 month old clothes until he turned one), to the 25th percentile and is in 24 month clothes already---has he mastered photosynthesis? He doesn't eat.

His words still sound mostly like animal noises, but the family can make out his "uck" (hug), "eye-sher-eeee" (ice cream), and "idonwany" (i don't want it).  Everything is "MINE!" from food to toys to people he wants to hug and strangle and grab and pinch. This leads to some...uncomfortable...experiences at the playground, when he grabbed a lollipop out of a tween's mouth and the next day grabbed a little girl's face, repeatedly, as she looked on terrified.

He is also fast as lightening. I've had to chase him, full-on sprinting, many a time when he head for the street from the middle of the park. We've had several glasses break when he decided to climb ON the dining table and jump around, and yesterday I panicked when I realized he'd climbed from the first to the THIRD floor, and turned the water on full-blast in the tub.

Really I am reveling in just how uncomplicated he is at this age. Sure, he gets clingy (he was in a moMMEEE, moMMEEE phase this weekend where only mommy, apparently, would do), but even that is admittedly a bit heart-warming. He needs (in this order): cuddles, freedom, water, cars to play with, naps, and occasional food. He also loves his brother, to the point of literally smothering him when he wakes each morning and lighting up like the sun when B acknowledges him in any way. 

Mostly he is happy---jumping up & down shrieking and clapping hands, so freaking happy, I wish I could bottle it and save it for the cranky years that are certainly coming.

I remember finding this phase exhausting with B. He's a different kid---was precociously verbal and thus was more complicated at an earlier age, but mostly I think it was because I was heavily pregnant with L when B reached 1 1/2. Honestly that time was a blur of exhaustion and stress.

I'm glad I'm enjoying it this time...the last time.