I have two children. Pretty much everywhere I go, they come with me. They come to the grocery store, the post office, the bank and the mechanic. They’re like my little shadows, trailing after me whether they want to or not.
Sometimes it’s not them trailing after me, it’s me trailing after them. I take them to school, I take them to soccer, I take them to the dentist and the doctor and the park. I am OK with this – it’s what I signed up for when I became a parent. I have children, I take my children places. Sometimes I take my children out of places. Sometimes they are kicking and screaming when this happens. That is just the deal.
I have this romantic idea that I should be able to fit all of my obligations around my kids. I think that surely, if I prioritize and work efficiently, I can get it all in. I can have a not-totally-filthy house, I can get dinner on the table at a reasonable time, I can get in some hours of paid work and some time writing my book proposal and I can do a craft with my kids and have time to decompress so that I don’t get too worn down. It’s just a matter of being on my game, right?
Look, I took my kids to the park!
I haven’t had a lot of luck. It seems my game doesn’t leave room for impromptu outings or sick kids or sick me. It doesn’t account for the day that I spend at a conference or the fact that I need to drop everything and wipe up some pee yet again or that I have a critical project to finish for a client. My game assumes an ‘average’ day with nothing extra on top. And guess what? There are no ‘average’ days.
For all that I love spending time with my kids, they aren’t super-helpful when I have stuff to do. I try to find whatever free time I can – I work when Hannah’s at kindergarten, I work while they watch a movie, I work on weekends and after they go to bed at night. And still, I don’t get my work finished. There are only so many hours in a week, and when I spend 21 of those hours mediating arguments and 17 of those hours debating clothing choices and 15 of those hours cleaning one room while my kids make a mess in another, I start to run out of hours.
My kids making off with balloons that were supposed to be party decorations
This is just basic physics. And I say this is someone who’s spent a lot of time in physics classes. More time than I would have liked, quite frankly. But I got an engineering degree out of it, so it’s not all bad. But the engineering degree’s not the point. The point is that I know physics and I say that you can’t get blood from a stone, or sufficient working time when you have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old to take care of.
I realize I am no different than any other mom. We all have too much to do and not enough time to do it. And we all have our coping strategies and our game plans. Some of them work well, at least some of the time. Some of them don’t. Sometimes we all long for an outing where no one has a temper tantrum and we don’t have to explain why you shouldn’t point at someone and yell, “Look at that man! Why is he so hairy, Mama?!?!”
More park time
Knowing that I’m not alone is not really helpful. The reality is that I’m not going to magically become super-productive while two kids scale the back of the chair I’m trying to work in. If I want to get something done, I need help. And so I decided to hire some. We put an ad on Craigslist, and found Wonder Nanny. She comes two mornings a week and plays with my children while I work. The kids love her. I love her. I am not feeling as overwhelmed. It is awesome.
In a different time, I would live in a multi-generational community, where I would trade childcare with other adults and have back-up when I needed it. Here and now, I don’t have that. So I have hired my ‘community’. I will admit, I feel sort of awkward. I’m worried that now anything I accomplish will be followed with the caveat, “Well, you know, she has a nanny.” It feels … I don’t know. Like I shouldn’t need the help, or something.
I do need the help, though. I’ll admit it. This is my life, working at home with two kids, and I am doing my best. I am giving myself space so that I can be with my kids when I’m with my kids, and I can work when I need to work. Plus, twice a week Wonder Nanny walks the kids up Nightmare Hill to kindergarten. In the tenuous balance that is my life, things have shifted in my favour. Although, now I have to be productive with my kid-free time. Wish me luck with that, will you?