I swore this year was going to be different. This was to be the year I got my work-life balance in order. It is, after all, the first time in 17 years that I don’t have a junior or senior infant collection, giving me an extra child-free hour in the day.
A whole extra hour.
Mothers can accomplish all sorts in an hour. We’re used to navigating teenage minefields, refereeing wrestling matches, explaining quadratic equations, scaling laundry mountains, conducting coherent phone calls, preparing meals, answering emails, knowing who needs to be where at any given time and what equipment they need, and finding every single missing item in the house, that is invisible to the naked eye of every other inhabitant of the house — all while balancing a baby or toddler on our hip. An extra child-free hour and one less school pickup was going to change everything I figured — only so far, it hasn’t.
I realised things might not be going to plan when a friend texted to see if I was free for a walk. “A walk, you say”, thought I, to myself. “I wonder if she means this month,” I perused. I checked the diary — I have one of those now, you see. I didn’t used to — I preferred not to have such clarity. It was a leftover habit from college — my way of trying to keep a sense of overwhelm at bay.
I never knew how much was in my bank account, so when I went to the hole in the wall if it gave me a fiver, I was on to a winner. If it didn’t, well sure I had to deal with it, only this way, because I only found out when no fiver was forthcoming, I didn’t stress about it in advance. Some people might call that the ostrich head-in-the-sand approach. Some people would be right.
I am mum and I am worker. I’m Jen somewhere in there too. But the first two can make it difficult to find the time to do the things that float my boat
But now, with the juggle bigger than ever, I need all my commitments written down in black and white. The sight of it makes me google ‘how much sleep do you need to stay alive?’. I’m hoping the marathon sleep-deprivation training over the years with seven non-sleepers will count for something.
I thought I’d have more free time as the children got older. But that presumes your life stays the same except for this one change. Like in every aspect of life, you cut your cloth accordingly, and that goes for the most expensive currency too — time.
Plus as they get older those pesky kids decide they want to do things like play team sports and other activities. One single team sport for one child means two training sessions and a match each week. Factor in travel times too and the opportunities for a walk slip further away.
My friend seemed to anticipate my difficulty. A follow up text suggested that she could come to mine one morning and help me fold laundry while we chatted, if that could help us meet up. Only thing is, mornings are pretty inflexible too. That’s when I work. Housework wasn’t the barrier and that extra hour has yet to pay dividends.
The eldest casually mentioned, recently, that she might move out next year. My heart sank
I am mum and I am worker. I’m Jen somewhere in there too. But the first two can make it difficult to find the time to do the things that float my boat. “Have it all”, they said. “It’ll be great” they said as they sold us this big, huge lie. Have it all — sure I can’t even have a walk.
Sometimes my children find out surprising things about me. Like my name is actually Jennifer and I used to have a different surname. That I grew up in a house they’ve never been in and didn’t go to the same school they go to. Or that I don’t, in fact, make up my own news.
The last one came as a particular surprise to one of the youngest children when I asked him to move out of the way of the television one evening so I could watch the news. “I need to know what’s going on in the world, for work tomorrow”, I said “You mean you don’t make up your own news? Does your boss know?” he asked, horrified.
And they’re surprised by old photos. They’re curious about the time before they were born. Where were they if they weren’t here yet, they ask. And who made their dinner? They can’t comprehend a life before them. Or a time when I wasn’t their mum.
The eldest casually mentioned, recently, that she might move out next year. My heart sank. With such a young family, I’m a long way yet from having an empty nest, but her comment winded me. One day it won’t be so busy. I’m not ready for that. I just need to find a way to take that walk.