For almost four years now, I have focused most of my energy toward raising my children. During that time, I have learned a tremendous amount about parenting – discipline techniques that work and those that don’t, what green goop or red bumps are manageable and which ones are worthy of a trip to the pediatrician’s office, which cries mean drop everything and run to a child and which ones are just a ruse. I have learned ways to try and teach a four year old the concept of context – you can pick your nose in your room but not at the restaurant, you can joke about toots with your Daddy but not at the dinner table. I’m in no way a perfect parent, but I do strive to give my children the tools they will need to grow up with the critical skills necessary to make good choices in their lives.
So, during these last four-ish years, I have simultaneously learned some things about myself and lost a few things about myself. I’ve learned that I really do enjoy writing. My high school creative writing teacher always knew I’d never end up as an engineer as I had meticulously planned. If only I could find her so she could waggle her finger at me and say, “I told you so!”
I feel I have also lost some of my identity. With each iterative cleaning of the kitchen, changing of a diaper, breaking up a sibling fight, I have lost a bit of my previous identity and replaced it with one of “parent”. This isn’t a bad thing, but my life has been a bit out of balance lately, leaning a little too heavily on the “parent” side of things and not focusing enough on myself – my creative needs, my interests.
I am working on rebalancing my life. I am trying to do more for myself. This has become much easier now that the kids are a little bit older and no longer need the infinite and always present wisdom of my body language/cry/tantrum translation skills to see that their every basic need is met. What I have learned about this rebalancing act is that it is a very personal process. There are mothers and fathers out there that can be a nurturing being 24 hours a day; it oozes from their perfectly patient and giving pores, and they don’t require “get-away” time for themselves. This is not me. Do I wish it were? No, not really. What I wish for is a balance of the person I was before choosing to stay home with the kids with the person I have become. And to me, my children will benefit greatly from seeing their mother do things for herself. Being away from them for a while will teach them self-confidence. It’s a win-win all around.
These are some of the things I have done to bring balance to my life:
I joined a gym. I don’t go as often as I should though, shhhhh!
I joined a supper club.
I have invited people and families over to our house that I want to spend more time with.
I have a book club. It’s one night a month out where I get to discuss books that don’t always have pictures or a superhero in them.
I blog. Again, I don’t do it as often as I’d like, but pfffft.
And lastly, with the help of my friend, Amy, I now have two half days a month where I can drop the kids off at her house and do whatever the hell I want to do. In return, she gets two half days a month to drop off her daughter and go do whatever the hell she wants to do.
Today was the first day of this pilot program, and there was only one problem. I didn’t know what to do with my free four hours! Last night Greg asked me, “Well, what do you always wish you had time to do but don’t?” I couldn’t answer this question because I hadn’t thought about it since, well, forever. Don’t get me wrong, Greg is awesome at kicking me out in the evenings to go to the gym, encouraging me to go have a drink with a friend once in a while, and for putting up with my weekly early Saturday morning garage saling. This time is different though – it’s during the day! There won’t be anyone waiting for me to get home! There’s no agenda!
Should I go to a movie?
Should I go salivate over house stuff while wandering through The Home Depot?
Should I go to a coffee shop, sprawl out at a table, and brainstorm freelance writing ideas with my new copy of Writer’s Market?
Should I go pick a new paint color for our glaringly white master bedroom?
Should I volunteer somewhere for a few hours?
I opted to get stuff done around the house that I just can’t ever seem to carve out time for. I finished up a burdensome amount of filing, emptying an eye sore of a catch-all bin in our bedroom. I moved my dusty and never used scrapbooking table from our bedroom into our spare bedroom. So, there. I am two big steps closer to turning our bedroom into the retreat I desperately want it to be.
Maybe I’ll get better at figuring out what I would like to do with my free time once I’ve had a little more practice. Now that is a challenge I completely welcome.