Where does the time go?

26 Sep

Whoa nelly – I just realized that I haven’t written for two months.

Two months! I knew I was a little behind, but that’s way longer than I ever want to go without writing. It didn’t feel that long…there was the vacation in early August, the summer camps, enrolling my daughter in preschool, transitioning the kids for the new school year, keeping up with household duties, bla bla bla.  I had plenty of ideas for this blog simmering on the back burner, but somehow could not dedicate the time and mental focus to sit down to write.

Which leads me to the question: Where does all our time go as mothers who stay home to care for our children? A great piece was written on this a few years ago, which my friend forwarded to me. It’s called “Why Don’t Friends with Kids Have Time?” by Carolyn Hax, a writer for the Washington Post (see the end of this post for the full text). It shatters the myth (that any Stay At Home Mom already knows) that staying home with kids is easier than working, and involves lying in the couch relaxing with a book, punctuated by Oprah episodes and trips to the grocery store and nail salon.

It’s a myth we were all once deluded by, unless we somehow had experienced really taking care of a baby before we had our own. Pretty rare in our day and age, right?.  But even forty years ago, my mom spent her first pregnancy deliberating over what she would do with all her free time once she quit her job and to stay home with the baby. Learn a new language perhaps?  Ha!  She was rid of that notion quickly, and even now, years after going back to work, still has not learned that new language. (Though in the meantime, she has raised two children and worked to pay her mortgage and put those kids through college. Nothing to shake a stick at.)

It’s worth pondering, what does it take to get a child through the day thoughtfully and lovingly? What does it demand of us as mothers? What of ourselves have we left behind in our transition from working adults to mothers? What hobbies, what passions, what interests? We women spend our childhood and young adulthood gearing up to become independent, career-driven women. We expect that motherhood, like every other challenging situation, can be accomplished successfully with hard work and perseverance. Then we fall down the rabbit hole, finding ourselves responsible for a human life, and everything that used to be important now takes a back seat to whatever that our offspring require – and what we require of ourselves as mothers.

Is it selfish to make time for our own interests instead of tending to the house, or the health and happiness of our children?  Where does “take time for me”  rank on our daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists? What does that even mean, and can we do it in the 15 minutes of precious downtime we may allow ourselves in the course of the day?  Can we justify doing something that has absolutely no contribution to our family’s well-being, only because it makes us happy?

Some people would say absolutely yes, because a happy mother makes a happy family. Ok, but how much? As long as the other obligations on our plate don’t slip?

Many of us knew quite well who we were before motherhood: Ambitious, balanced, self fulfilled, connected and curious women on a career path of some kind. After Kids, goals and ambitions are redefined; balance is abandoned in the vortex of caring for a needy infant; many of our connections fall away, and new ones are paved; and our drive for personal discovery is really limited by the time we have left over at the end of the day after caring for our families and households. What does it take to rekindle our interests and personal passions, during or after the feverish first few years of caring for babies and young toddlers, who need so much from us?  Can we pick up where we left off, or is the woman Before Kids no longer there? Is this the reason why some moms choose to wear clothes more appropriate for a college girl – because they refuse to let go of the person they were Before Kids? Is it pathetic to continue to wear your old concert t-shirts even though you haven’t been to see a show in years?

A lot of questions are appearing for me, and What to Wear is a part of it.  Though I am realizing that for me, the question at this stage in my life is not just “What to Wear”, but also “Who to Be,” After Kids.

Where is woman I was before kids? Which part of her lives on After Kids, and which part of her has fallen away or evolved into something else? Which part of her is hibernating, only to be rediscovered when energy and daylight are more abundant?

My co-author and I are very excited to ponder these topics with you, while pass along (and receiving) a good fashion tip here and there. After all, women are talented multi-taskers. We can easily go shopping while pondering the deeper questions of life.

Here’s the article I mentioned above:
‘Why don’t friends with kids have time?’

CAROLYN HAX: TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT
WASHINGTON POST
Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Dear Carolyn: Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc.
Me (no kids): What’d you do today?
Her: Park, play group …

OK. I’ve talked to parents. I don’t get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners … I do all those things, too. I guess what I’m asking is: What is a typical day and why don’t moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events); I manage to get it all done. I’m feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy, but if so, why won’t my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest (“my life is so much harder than yours”)? What’s the deal? I’ve got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks have the same questions.
— Tacoma, Wash.

Dear Tacoma: Relax and enjoy. You’re funny. Or, you’re lying about having friends with kids. Or you’re taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven’t personally been in the same room with them. I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed. So, because it’s validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces checkout-line screaming. It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15. It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier. It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense. It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything. It’s also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn’t judge you, complain about you or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself. “

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