Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Adventures in Parenting: Competing Priorities

Overcommitted.  I think this can describe just about anyone, but in particular seems to be applicable for most parents, and definitely for working parents.  My kid is a year and a half old, he doesn't even have any extracurricular activities, and I already feel pulled in a dozen directions.
The closest thing my kid has to after-school activities: playing outside with the other neighbor kids.

Before I had a kid, my list of priorities was pretty simple: (and not in this order)
1 - time with my husband
2 - time with my friends (mostly via weekly trivia nights)
3 - work
4 - time with family (about once a month, visiting my folks and/or in laws)
5 - church (weekly)
6 - caving grotto (once a month for meetings, and then going caving about every other month)

And then...I had a kid.  A kid whose schedule overlaps with mine for only about 2 hours a day.  He wakes up at 7:30a, eats breakfast with me for 15 minutes before we head off to day care.  Then we pick him up 9 hours later, we have dinner together, play for a bit, then he's off to bed by 8pm.  Sure, there's weekends, but in general, Monday through Friday, we get 2 hours together.
Biscuits & gravy for dinner, because he's special.

I think this is a hard concept to explain to anyone who doesn't have a kid.  But I'll make an attempt.
If you're married/in a committed relationship: imagine if you only got to spend 2 hours a day with your significant other. You can't talk/text/Facetime/Skype ANY outside of that 2 hours.  Oh, and you're going to be cooking dinner/eating for about 30 minutes to an hour of that 2 hours.  So really, only 1 hour of quality, one-on-one time together, 5 days a week.  How much of that time would you be willing to sacrifice for other things? your friends?
...going to the gym?
...or self-care, like getting a hair cut, a massage, or pedicure?
...or essential errands, like grocery shopping or paying bills?
...or work?
...or personal time, like reading or blogging?
...or extra-curriculars, like volunteering or social/networking organizations?

Based on your personal life goals and priorities, probably some of those things are easier to give up than others. For me, that last one goes out the window.  I'm only willing to do networking during regular business hours. Thankfully, I have a job that allows that.  I'm also allowed to use up to 4 hours of paid time annually to do volunteer activities during business hours.  My volunteering choice?  Donating blood.  It takes about an hour and I can only do it every 2 months, which is very manageable for me.  I can leave work an hour early, go donate, and then still get home about the same time.

But that also means I haven't been to a caving meeting in over a year, and I've only been in a cave twice since my son was born.  I also choose not to go to the after hours socials that my local business networking group hosts.  I've been asked to join the Junior League--but while I admire the work they do, I know it requires a lot of time commitments, and I just don't have that right now.

Where I used to see my friends weekly at trivia, our group is evolving, and many of us have kids now.  So we've only played trivia at our old haunt TWICE since we had our kid.  I live less than 5 minutes from one of our trivia buddies, but she's just as busy wrangling kids and quality time in the evenings as I am, so we really don't see each other much. I think we all probably manage to get together about once a quarter.  Really.  From weekly, to 4 times a year.  
Benefit of young kids: Using our kids' birthdays as an excuse to see our adult friends.

I do also have another group of fellow mom friends--we manage to get together for lunch about once every other month.  Again, easier to fit into my schedule when it's during the day and something I was going to be doing anyway. There are some friends who have kids of their own that we just haven't seen in FOREVER.  We try to make plans, but then somebody get sick or has a soccer game or any of the other million things that can come up.  Making plans when you have kids is HARD. And finding time to just be an adult around other adults is hard too, because we don't have built in babysitters (aka grandparents) nearby.  So it means a) only one of us can go, or b) we have to shell out $30-40 for a babysitter. I long for the days when you could just leave your kid with a teenager for $5/hour...assuming I knew any teenagers that lived close enough to take on that responsibility. The oldest kid in our neighborhood is it'll be a while.

As far as the gym goes, I dropped my membership.  I took a close look at my schedule, and realized there was no good way to make it least with the gym I was going to.  My gym was 5 minutes from my work, but 20 minutes from my home.  Realistically, the best times for me to go to the gym would be a) before Lil' Man gets up, or b) after he goes to sleep.  I'm not going to drive 20 minutes to another town to make that happen. I may eventually look into getting a membership at a gym closer to my house...or I may just start running up and down the basement stairs 10 times a night after I put the kid to bed. We'll see.

I do try to schedule self-care once a quarter, whether it be a pedicure or massage or just some alone time to shop for myself.  I've had two haircuts in the last 18 months. I haven't been clothes shopping for myself in...well...I mean, I bought some shoes on Amazon about 3 months ago.  Does that count?  No?!  Black Friday. I bought some new shirts on Black Friday. I mean...I didn't try them on or anything, because it's freakin' Black Friday and I gotta hurry up and get in line and they were just long sleeve tees, but still.  So like, 6 months ago.  If you mean the last time I leisurely strolled through a store and actually tried things on...probably a year.* (To be fair, I don't really like clothes shopping that much.  And the only reason I don't use Stitch Fix or MM LaFleur is because I'm also a cheapskate who doesn't like to pay more than $20 for ANYTHING.  Comparatively, I go shopping for a mixed six pack of new beers to try at least once a month.)

*Note: this paragraph was written a few weeks ago...and I did in fact do a little clothes shopping over Memorial weekend.  My favorite resale shop had a 50% off sale and I found a few shirts & dresses for work.
Bought some stuff for the kiddo and Hubs as well.

Blogs, as I've mentioned before, generally come together in 10-15 minute chunks over the course of a month during work breaks (which should account for any discontinuity in writing style, should any of my high school or college writing instructors be reading this right now). Reading happens for about 15 minutes in the evenings before bed, but I also like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts in the car.

And work is, well, work. I can't exactly give that up (technically, you can, some parents do, and that's awesome for them, but that's not me.)  I'm a salaried employee so my hours can fluctuate from week to week, and it really just depends on what's going on with my projects or if I have field work. But it's now a lot more important to me to be as efficient as possible so that I can leave work before 5pm to beat rush hour traffic and get to my kid's daycare around 5:30p, so he can get home before all the other kids go inside for dinner, so that he gets some outside play time with his friends.

And time with the Hubs...well, that's mostly us plopped on the couch watching DVR'd shows after the kiddo goes to bed. Or maybe we bust out a board game or deck of cards.  But we did recently take a kid-free vacation to the Dominican Republic while Lil' Man stayed with his grandparents.  It was an amazing trip, but 7 days was a little long to be away from our kiddo without being able to see or talk to him.

So, ultimately...we are making it work.  We are doing the best we can.  Life is different from before we had our kid.  Not better or worse...just different.  And we love our kid.  But it's an adjustment, with what feels like a constantly changing target.  We're doing a good job, and we're getting really good at this.