February 7, 2013 by Julia
I am susceptible to two kinds of frantic:
The first is the inner voice yelling at me that if I let one particular household chore slip, the entire day will collapse on us like a Jenga tower. Like, if I don’t get that spilled bowl of Rice Krispies wiped up before we leave the house for Fiona’s preschool, it might just be there all day and I will get so overwhelmed that the whole kitchen will disintegrate and I will be unable to make dinner that night (much less uncurl myself from a fetal position). It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. With two young children running amok, you have to stay on top of things…pretty much all the time, if you want to live in a space that vaguely resembles a home. I am not a neat freak, but I am sensitive to my environment, and I can’t relax if things haven’t at least been straightened up at the end of the day.
Which brings me to the other kind of frantic I feel on a regular basis. It happens in the evenings, after the kids are in bed, and we’re on grownup time. I am frantic to make every second count. There are just so many things that I am usually unable to do during the day, which I am dying to do by the evening. I have the novel I’m reading for book club, the blogs I want to stay caught up on, the writing I want to do, the TV shows or movie from Netflix we’ve had for two months, the new music I want to look into, the emails and texts I have to respond to, the photo albums I need to put together…you know what I mean. (I could go on, but I won’t.) And that doesn’t even include spending time with my husband or friends. Also, it should be noted that I am usually exhausted by 9:00, and have to simultaneously fight off sleep while making every second count. Almost every evening I find myself wishing I could get by on four hours of sleep, so that there would be enough time to fit all this stuff in.
If anyone or anything unexpected infringes on this reading/writing/creative/rest time, I start to panic. God forbid the water heater starts leaking or a long-lost friend calls out of the blue. No! I must finish this chapter or I will die! I guard my free time fiercely.
But I have been loosening my grip lately, just to see what happens, just to reassure myself that things will be okay. I’ve been letting go of the little things, even when they don’t seem so little in the moment. I tell myself: “It will get done.” The laundry will get done, because it’s not like I’m suddenly going to give up on doing laundry forever. The reading and writing will get done, because I love it. So, if the laundry doesn’t get put away immediately, and Jack is pulling on me, and I am stressed, I test out this “it will be okay; it will get done” theory by leaving the laundry for the next day and sitting down on the floor and snuggling with him. Sometimes the next day sucks because the laundry is still sitting there…and maybe even another day will pass, and I’m digging through the basket for clean socks, but it still gets put away eventually, and big picture, everything is fine. Really.
And after a rough day I can fritter away some nights, just catching up on back episodes of crap reality TV that’s taking up too much space on my DVR. If I watch two episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker in a row, it doesn’t mean I will never want to read or write again. I mean, the show probably kills more brain cells than weed, but still. These literary urges are pretty strong; they’re permanently imprinted on my brain cells at this point. Or the synapses are wired that way. (I have no idea if those statements are backed up by actual science.)
Before kids, I loved to compartmentalize my life into “work time” and “play time.” I had a three-day weekend (lucky, I know), so Sundays were reserved for chores and visiting family, on Mondays I would work on my novel all day, and then on Tuesdays I had what I called my “fun day.” I did whatever I felt like all day, not allowing a drop of obligation to muddy the waters of sheer fun. Luxurious amounts of reading, sitting by the pool, pouring myself a margarita and watching a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls or Sex and the City on DVD. I knew I had it good. But it felt okay because I’d written for eight hours the day before.
That kind of black and white scenario does not work with kids (at least, not without childcare) – which I knew, going into this parenting gig. I suspected that I’d have to take my fun and my work all mixed together, in bits and pieces, in whatever scraps I could manage on a minute-by-minute basis. And boy, were my suspicions proven correct. I’ve had to change the way my brain works, somewhat.
Part of that has been learning to step back and keep things in perspective. Some nights it’s really hard to see beyond the fact that the house a wreck and the kids are covered in blue marker and it’s still three hours until bedtime AND Dennis is working late that night. But the more life I live, the more I realize that the stuff that needs to get done will get done. And I will have time for the things that I really, truly want to do, too.
It will get done. Everything will be okay.
(Again, I have no idea if those statements are backed up by actual science. But my testing so far has proven successful.)
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