Friday, September 10, 2010

Time and the Pursuit of Happiness

I had to take Petunia to the doctor today. She's had a fever all week, and I wanted to make sure it was nothing serious. It wasn't- just a cold that hit at an inconvenient time. Our usual back up day care (my Mom) is on vacation, so Hubby and I have each spent two days at home this week with a baby who is a bit mad at the world and makes a convincing argument against being put down (i.e., she whines/screams until you crack and pick her back up, at which point she whimpers, and snuggles in- and often, falls asleep). Since I am also sick, I guessed that her general grumpiness was caused by a sore throat. The doctor confirmed that.

Our pediatrician's office is one floor up from my ob/gyn's office. When I was on my way down after the visit, the elevator doors opened on the ob/gyn's floor, and I saw a hugely pregnant woman waiting to check in. I was struck by the realization that one year ago, that was me. I smiled, and went on my way, thinking that having an 11 month old- even a cranky, sick one who makes you take sick days you don't really have at work- is far, far better than being 9 months pregnant.

Since Petunia was reasonably happy, I decided to risk a stop at the big box store on my way home. She was drowsy, so I snapped her car seat in the frame and pushed her around the store- and I realized that this was probably the last time we'll use that frame. She's outgrown her infant seat. Her new carseats are in our garage, waiting to be installed. It is hard to believe that my little baby is already big enough to need a new carseat.

The store already has its  Halloween candy out, and I had another flashback to a year ago. A little over one year ago, I was seriously addicted to candy corn. I think that may be the only good thing about being 9 months pregnant- you can eat all the candy corn you want, and no one in their right mind is going to give you any grief about it. Hubby said something about my rampant sweet tooth once or twice, and I basically told him to shut up and that next time he was nine months pregnant he could show me the right way to do it.

All of these thoughts play in to my thinking about time lately. Petunia's illness has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into my timetracking. This is certainly not a usual week. Of course, no week really is. But I wondered if this week would give me the data I want. At first I thought I'd have to start all over, but then I realized that all of my work days are pretty much the same, at least for my current timetracking purposes.  So I'll just swap next Wednesday in for today.

But what are my current timetracking purposes? As my thoughts earlier today reminded me, I have it pretty good right now. I have two smart, beautiful little girls (Pumpkin can write her own name! Petunia can put the stacking colored rings back on the stick!), a husband whom I love and who loves me, a decent job that pays well, and a nice house in a nice neighborhood (although our living is overrun by toys and I dream of adding on a play room). I have an extended family that brings joy, not stress, into my life. (Did I mention that my sister babysat both kids for 4 hours last Sunday while Hubby and I went to lunch and for a long walk, complete with a rest stop at a tiki bar? Mmmmm. Frozen slushy fruity drinks!) Despite the current illness, we're all pretty healthy. In short, I have nothing to complain about.

But I'm not really happy right now, and I suspect the reason lies in my use of time. And possibly also in my job. Since I truly believe that the purpose of life is to enjoy it, this bothers me. It is not in my nature to just put up with being unhappy- so I'm going to try to fix it.

Consider this fair warning that there will probably be more posts than anyone wants to read about time, how I'm using it, and how to be happy. You know, your basic "life, the universe, and everything" sort of navel-gazing that will probably be very helpful to write but not so interesting to read.

At least I already know the answer is 42.


  1. Anonymous10:42 PM

    I look forward to those posts - I'm in a very different life circumstance (single, no kids, new job) but feeling that same malaise about time use and happiness. It's good to know the answer is 42, but how do we get there?

  2. I completely sympathize with this post. I, too, have a great life in every objective sense, but have been basically unhappy for the last couple of years because of my work situation. It's not because I dislike what I do (I don't, I love it, I'm good at it, and I get lots of credit for it), or the people I work with (I love them too). But, I've wanted to be self-employed for a long time and I've realised that no job, no matter how cushy, and what the pay, is really going to be satisfying for me. So.... I won't be returning to work after DD arrives, and I'll be starting my own firm next spring. I am so, sooooo excited. I know it'll be hard (and a lot more hard work than my current position) but I also know it's the right decision for me.

    Sometimes when I'm feeling really stuck, I find it helps to write down a vision of my perfect life five years from now. Every time I've gone through the exercise when I've been feeling blocked, the results have been startling and very motivating about the kind of changes that I need to make.

  3. I just installed Annie's new carseat yesterday. She's not a particularly large baby, she's just looooong for her age and has outgrown the maximum length for her infant seat. She looks so little in her big girl seat! How did this happen???

    I understand the time/happiness dilemma though. I don't have this issue right now, but I did when I was working after Rosie was born but before Annie. I felt like I wasn't able to do as good of a job at anything as I'd like because nothing seemed to ever have my full attention. While at work, the clock loomed on me and I'd have to leave in the middle of things to make the daycare pickup deadline. While at home, I scrambled to keep the household running while trying to still spend meaningful time with family and to make it back to work on time. It was during that period that we decided to get a housecleaner in every 2 weeks and it was the single most effective thing we did to deal with the time issue.

    I hope the time tracking thing gives you some insight so you can make changes if you need to. If you don't have a housecleaner already, and if you can afford it, really do consider it! It frees up hours of your life that you could be spending with your family or (gasp) All By Yourself, if that's what you need.

  4. I think it's interesting how money comes into the equation. I feel pretty good about time and being a working mum right now, but when I think about why, it's all because my husband and I make enough money to afford:
    a. to live really close to work (10 minute walk)
    b. a nanny to watch the boys in our home from 12:30-5pm, who also does some dinner prep and laundry folding while they nap (they're in preschool in the morning).
    c. a house-cleaner every 2 weeks
    d. healthy take-out every Friday

    Of course it's not like I work 'in order to' afford these things. If I didn't work I wouldn't need any of this (though c and d would be nice). I enjoy my work. But, if we didn't make enough to afford these things time would be tight and I'm not sure it would be worth it, in terms of happiness, for me to work. I say 'me' because I know my husband would be deeply unhappy if he didn't WOH.

    I so feel for parents who have to work at low pay in a job they don't enjoy, just to get by.

  5. @zed- I agree, money makes a huge difference in how happy I am as WOHM. I think women should aim high in their careers so that they can afford the things that make it easier to balance working and being a mom.

    I should be clear- I'm not feeling unhappy as a WOHM right now. I know that being a SAHM would NOT make me happier. I'm just a little unhappy in the details of my life, and I want to see what I can do to fix that. I think part of the problem is that my job isn't really making me happy right now, but it would be a stupid move financially to leave it, even for another job that pays well. I still think my options may be worth something someday, and I haven't been in the job long enough to have many of them vest.

  6. OK, I probably shouldn't post comments first thing in the morning. I realized my comment sounds a little... I don't know. Flippant? But I'm only sort of joking about how women should aim high in their careers so that they can afford the things that make the balancing act easier. I get fed up with the assumption that the only way to balance work and home is to downshift someone's work. That's only true if you can't (or won't) spend some of your money to make some more time.

    Anyway, I should write up another post about some of these thoughts. I did write some thoughts about why I'm a happy WOHM here:

    See, just a little over a year ago, I was happy!

  7. My plan for going back to work absolutely involves a house cleaner. Frankly, I could do with one now too. I really hate cleaning.

    I have to admit that I am currently revelling in my new time saving device - a brand new 8kg washing machine! It's an upgrade on the small, tempremental and 15 year old jobby I inherited from my grandmother. Yesterday I put on a full load - equivalent to about 3 loads in the old machine - and it started first go!! Excitement plus. It's making me consider the value of buying a new vacuum cleaner as well.

  8. @zenmoo, @Melba- we do have a cleaning service come once/month. We've thought about having them come every two weeks, but frankly, it was a lot of work to get Hubby to agree to once a month. So instead, I just practice the "ignore the dust" school of housekeeping.

    @zenmoo- sometime before you were reading probably, I wrote an ode to my new dishwasher. I absolutely get why you are so happy with your new washer. I still love that dishwasher.

  9. Ditto all who have said they love your posts!

    I'm glad that you are able to say "I'm not happy" and "I'm going to try to fix it"!

    I also want to offer you an idea: whether or not you personally are happy right now vs a year ago honestly has no bearing on the whole WOHM/SAHM political rhetoric so often played out. I sometimes get the sense that you are afraid to utter "unhappy" and "WOHM" in the same train of thought because you worry that someone might accidentally draw the obviously wrong conclusion and start to think working moms are all unhappy or something. Just a vibe I'm feeling. You may sometimes choose to represent WOHMs but you need not always confine yourself to that representation or self-edit around that boundary - know what I mean?


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