Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Missing the Time to Do

I have a pretty good life. If I try to tell you differently, don't believe me.

Sunday, we took the girls to our favorite beach on Mission Bay. It is over on the side of the bay nearest to the ocean so the water is fresh, if a little cold. Sometimes there are gentle waves- big ripples, really- but it is mostly a calm and protected beach. Pumpkin can splash in the ankle deep water while I play with Petunia in the wet sand.

We had a great time at the beach. Petunia wasn't too interested in the water this time, but she had fun running between me and my sister, giving us hugs. Hubby got a wonderful movie of that. There is one frame in particular that I like. Pumpkin is digging happily in the sand near us, and Petunia is coming towards me. I have a big smile on my face and my arms open wide, ready to accept her hug. My sister is off to the side, smiling. Really, we look like an advertisement for San Diego.

And Sunday's weather was perfect. In one of the brief moments during which I was sitting on our beach blanket without a child demanding my full attention, I had a flashback to our time on the beach in Thailand. I think it was a combination of the warm air, sun, gentle breeze, and sounds of the water. But then Pumpkin wanted me to come see the "cake" she was making out of wet sand (chocolate) and dry sand (vanilla), and the flashback was over.

So, yes, I have a great life.

But there is one thing that is driving me nuts right now: the imbalance between the time I have to think and the time I have to do. By nature, I'm a doer. I make lists, I get things done. Right now, though, I am stalled out on my to do lists (at least at home- at work I'm making excellent progress). The reason? I can't put together solid chunks of time to get things done.

After my last post, someone I know if real life asked me how I find the time to think about such complex issues. I told her that I have lots of time to think these days- I have the 10-15 minutes that I spend rocking Petunia before she goes to sleep every other night (Hubby and I take turns). I have the duration of the four songs that I listen to with Pumpkin every night before she goes to sleep. I have my afternoon commute- Pumpkin wants to listen to her music and inching along in traffic doesn't take too many brain cells. I have the time I spend doing dishes when it is my night to do them- that's something else that doesn't take too many brain cells.

So I have time to think about complex issues, and dream big dreams about my career aspirations. I have time to write umpteen blog posts in my head and mentally review the items on my "at home" to do list. But I am struggling right now to grab a solid 30 minutes to make any progress on that list, or write those blog posts, or take any steps towards making my career dreams a reality.

The problem is two-fold: work and kids. I have a big deadline coming up at work in a couple of weeks, so I am spending a lot of the time during which I am "typing in the guest room for a lot of minutes" (per Pumpkin's parting instructions to me at bedtime) on work. This has been exacerbated by the fact that Petunia has had a lot of doctor's appointments recently, as we continue to work to figure out what is causing her recurring fevers and persistent congestion. Hubby and I trade off on those, but the time away from work has only added to the time working after the kids' bedtime.

And then there are the kids. Petunia is in an extremely mommy-centric phase right now. It is at its worst in the middle of the night, which unfortunately, we're seeing a lot more of due to her persistent congestion. Hubby is happy to take his turn holding her, but she objects. Strongly. And loudly enough to wake up her big sister. I don't see the point in having four tired and grumpy people the next day, so I've been sucking it up and doing most of the middle of the night work. This means that most nights, I want to go to bed as soon as I can, not work on my to do list.

Even during the day, Petunia wants me if I'm in her sight. I've been sneaking off to the back room to do some work or just get some space- but she's figured this out, and now comes toddling down the hall to stand outside the closed office door, crying. This interferes a bit with my concentration, so mostly I've just given in and spend my time playing ring around the rosie or building block towers, instead.

I know from past experience that this clingy phase will end, and I'll get a little more space. I am hopeful that we'll figure out what's going on with Petunia's health soon, and maybe then her sleep will improve- she is actually a pretty good sleeper when she's healthy. I'm still new on my job, and I know that it will settle down, or I will find a way to prioritize things so that I don't have to work nights and weekends.

So I know that I'll get time to do things again soon. And then I'll complain about how I never get anytime to think.


  1. I'm delurking to comment today...this is a huge issue for me right now. I have tons of time to think, and almost no time to do and it's driving me nuts. I can relate. Sometimes I think that it's almost worse when you can think and not do, as opposed to when you don't even have time to think. Most of the time I just feel like I am spinning my wheels. I love your blog. I used to work in biopharm before I had kids, so I can relate to what you have to say. Thank you!

  2. I totally get where you're coming from. I seem to be in exactly the opposite phase, lots of time to do, but not enough time to think. E wants almost constant interaction when I'm in the room, which totally interrupts my train of thought, but it is no problem if I want to do things - when she can see what I'm working on (baking, cleaning, typing) and talk to me while I'm doing it, she's totally fine with that. Have a conversation with my husband while she's in the room? Much bigger problem. (We've actually just got her working on raising her hand instead of interrupting us while we're talking, which is at least letting us finish our sentences.)

    The other day was totally awesome, we were working on rearranging some furniture, and E decided to play Cinderella - by sweeping the kitchen. And would occasionally wander in to see what we were doing and have me play "mean step-mom" and tell her she had to go sweep the kitchen again. So yeah, soon you'll have two very eager helpers and tons of time for doing - except that it is going to take 6 times longer to actually finish things because of all the help :)

  3. the milliner8:23 AM

    Couldn't have said it better myself. I think when it's loaded heavily to one side or another (i.e. thinking vs doing) that it starts to create stress or anxiety or just annoyance. I've definitely savoured driving back with DS from my parents (2 hours away) alone, just for all that continuous thinking time while DS slept in the car.

    But overall, my issue is with the doing time, not the thinking time. Now that I'm off work for a while, it's great to re-gain these big chunks of time to do stuff. Amazingly it doesn't always feel as luxurious as it sounds since a) I'm on stress leave, so, you know, there has to be some kind of rest in there and b) it's amazing how the day fills up with daycare drop-offs & pick-up, making dinner, doing things we should be doing at night, but that we let slide into the day because I'm home.

    So yes, having a great life (and the luxury to take a paid break) doesn't stop me from complaining either!!

  4. paola9:33 AM

    I am exactly in your position right now and as a result haven't been a very nice mummy recently. When I'm run off my feet with things and the kids want all of my attention I can not cope and I find myslef over-reacting to small things that they do like Zoe's accidents ( she's almost 4.5 and we haven't had a day this week that she has made it in time to the toilet. I'm talking no.2s! BTW) and Noah's constant holes in his pants due to skiding around on his knees. Add the constant running around in the small space that is our house and the bickering and I am ready to throttle someone by the end of the day.

    My MIL is in hospital for a month having had a knee replacement and doing physio and so I can't call in my much appreciated baby-sitter if I need a breather and have to drag the kids with me all over town when I have to run errands.

    It does get better, but not because the kids get less demanding. We just get better organised, I think.

  5. Ug, I feel your pain! I dont even have kids, but I'm finding I'm spreading myself way too thin. I'm trying to ban the word 'busy' from my vocabulary because I chose to be this way, but its hard sometimes.

  6. I think all people feel this way to some extent whether they have kids or not. I know that I suddenly have more time to THINK rather than DO. A couple weeks ago I felt the opposite. Right now for me it's about prioritizing what things are important. Think about the things you are doing or not doing today. I'm not sure what your personal to do list looks like but I try to think this way when I think about my own..."In 5 years which of those things will still matter?" I constantly have to remind myself that though I would love to be getting more things done around the house (cleaning, organizing, cooking, etc), my children will only be this age once. In 5 years I'll still be able to organize that closet, but I won't be able to snuggle with my baby.

  7. Sigh. I know. This year, for the first time in like 10 years, my three sisters all got store-bought birthday cards instead of the home-made ones I normally would have done. I just could not carve out the time to make that a priority. It dropped off the bottom rung of the "important to me to do" ladder.

    But good for you Cloud for pointing out to us all that you have a good life. So do I. So so good. Good work life, good kids, good marriage, good home, good everything except maybe time to fit in all those good things.

    @paola: iron-on knee patches. I just did that for a couple pairs of Rosie's jeans that she blew holes into the knees of within a couple months of getting them. She's a knee-scooter when she plays and quite frankly I can't keep up with the clothing destruction around here. The knee patches come in denim or cotton and you just iron them right over top of the torn area. They don't look the greatest but WHATEV.

  8. I pretty much feel exactly the same way, both at work and at home. I feel utterly under water on the time to do piece, especially given how much my brain is on overdrive lately.

    I'm trying to prioritize things to get me at least organized. But until they figure out how to make more hours in the day or the time turner from Harry Potter, that's going to have to do for me for now.

  9. paola8:46 AM


    YOur DD's jeans lasted a whole couple of months? I'm lucky if they get a wash before he puts holes in them. We're talking a week in some cases ( yes, probably the quality is crap). He has worn through the patches too. Thing is, the boys in his class all skid around on the floor at kinder. Thye compete to see how far they can get. Teacher was mega pissed off and timed out the lot of them. We are resorting to no more tv till he gets it that he has to treat his property ( including his clothes) with more respect. Currently at day 2.

  10. You nailed it! I have all the time I need to think (read: overanalyze and worry) these days as I play legos with le Petit or nurse Mademoiselle to sleep, but things like go suspend the Metro pass I've been paying for and not using for months? Not so much. Our new iPad guarantees I have plenty of time to surf the web in the dark waiting for Mademoiselle to fall asleep, but I rarely have time in front of a real keyboard to blog. Sigh.

    I hope Petunia feels better soon... Having a sick kid is a huge added stressor. Poor thng!

  11. @paola: OMG a week? I'd be sending him to school in his underpants. Or at least threatening! :) OK kidding but holy crap, that sucks. I shall not complain about the 2 month life span of pants around here ever again.


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