Thursday, May 26, 2016

Postcards from the Land of Porous Boundaries

Mr. Snarky got up early this morning to go for a run, and I woke up, too. I thought I'd get up and write a blog post, or work on the recommendations I'm writing up for my current coaching client. I like the quiet time early in the morning, if I am actually awake for it without setting an alarm. If I have to set an alarm, I will just turn it off and sleep as long as I can. Except on Mondays. On Mondays I generally have enough willpower to get up with the early alarm and go for a run.

But this morning  I came out to the living room to find both of my kids already awake and ready for breakfast. So I had a normal morning routine instead, just shifted early. I thought maybe I'd get to come into my office a little early and write this post, but that didn't really happen, either. Somehow, the kids filled the time.

That's just how it goes these days. I try to set boundaries around the time I need or want, and they leak. I suspect this is the sort of thing I'll miss when my kids are grown, but right now, I find the porous boundaries hard to handle. I try to carve out time for things I want or need to do, but it only works if the kids are asleep or out of the house. I keep forgetting that this is the case. My kids seem old enough to entertain themselves! And sometimes, they are. I can't depend on it, though. Pumpkin is old enough to know she shouldn't interrupt me when I've tried to go do my own things, but she is not old enough to always act on that knowledge. Petunia isn't old enough to even recognize the boundary yet.

For instance, yesterday was open house at the kids' school, which meant I had to stop working about an hour early. The open house was fun. We have great food vendors: delicious tacos from a local taco shop and wonderful ice cream from a local ice cream shop. Petunia was beyond excited to show us her classroom and her work. Pumpkin was excited to check out the fourth grade classroom and see what projects she'll be doing next year.

(As an aside: our kids do a lot of projects, and make a lot of dioramas. Michaels does well from us buying clay and other supplies... but the kids have fun doing it, and I guess it helps consolidate the things they learn. This year's big project with a diorama was about a Native American tribe. Pumpkin picked the Maya, and ended up building a replica temple as part of her diorama. Her classmates did wonderful jobs with various types of dwellings. The girl who did her project on the Hopi made very realistic houses out of sandpaper. I recognized her tribe from the diorama before I even saw her poster with the name.  Next year, it looks like Pumpkin will be building a "site in California." The fourth grade class we visited had a Legoland (made out of Lego!), the Hollywood sign, and Randy's Donuts, among other things.)

We got home an hour before our usual "get ready for bed" time. I thought that maybe I could make up some of that hour I lost while the kids played, and told the kids I was going into the office to work. No such luck. They kept interrupting me. I managed to get a little bit done, but not enough to replace the lost hour, and I still had to work after the kids were in bed. I think the lesson there is that I should have just gone and played soccer with the kids and not even tried to work until after bedtime. But that cuts into my time to do things like yoga, or read a book, so I'm always tempted to try to avoid the after bedtime work if I can.

We're working on helping the kids recognize the boundaries, but I think I need to be realistic about what I expect. The boundaries are at least there now, but they are still porous and I think they will be for another couple of years at least.

It doesn't help matters that our school district decided to make the friday before Memorial Day a day off this year. It is the first year they've done it, and the YMCA, which usually organizes a day camp for school district holidays that aren't actually holidays, has no camp. So the kids will be home with me. I am debating how much to try to work and how much to just take off and go do something fun with the kids. The problem is, I have some work that I really need to get done. I suspect I could get the kids to leave me mostly alone in the morning if I promise some fun in the afternoon,  so I could take half of Friday off and trade it for half of one of the other weekend days, when Mr. Snarky will be home and able to take the kids to the park or out for a bike ride. But... Saturday is my birthday, so I don't really want to work then. And I was looking forward to a proper three day weekend.

However, I think that the half day Friday and some dedicated work time on one of the other days is going to be the least annoying option, so that's probably what I'll do.

I guess the general lesson of this time of porous boundaries is that it doesn't really matter what I wish could happen. I need to look at what is actually going to happen, and assess what the realistic alternatives actually are, and choose from those. Wishing for an unattainable ideal just leads to unhappiness.


  1. I'm sure you've already considered a sitter or playdate for part of Friday...

    for me, it's not just my own unrealistic expectations that create distress; it's also my daughter's expectation that if we're home, we're available. She's 16 and certainly old enough to understand the kind of boundaries you're talking about and I still find it distressing to have to say " now" over and over again. It's hard.

    The much vaunted flexibility of working for home has a dark side.

  2. I'm so familiar with this! Now that my daughter is 9, I can get a lot done while she's around, but when she was younger it was a struggle. The only thing that ever worked was setting a timer and telling her that I needed to work until it went off - she could look at it to see how much time was left, and she knew that there were definite plans once it went off, so she was able to relax and go play on her own. I'm curious if that would work for other kids, or if it is fairly specific to my kid.

  3. Oh, and I just finished reading "The Marriage Bureau for Rich People" and it was definitely fun. Cute story, interesting perspective on some very different cultures, and fun characters.

  4. Yes, all of this. My office is on the third floor of our house, which slows down the kids a little from interrupting but not entirely.

    If we have no plans, I can generally get about two hours to work, either because they are watching a movie or playing outside. But many times, that seems like the limit.

    My bigger annoyance currently is the time that their stuff takes. I was solo parenting on Wednesday. The boy had a baseball game and the girl had drama club rehearsal. I left work at 4 and we got home at 8:30. If I hadn't had my knitting with me, that would have been 4 1/2 hours of driving and sitting entirely devoted to my kids. Not to mention the fact that I had to pack a picnic dinner while I was packing lunches.

    It's like the time that used to be devoted to nursing and rocking has now been converted to making sandwiches and driving. ;-)

  5. Yes, I have issues with this as well. Right now I'm taking a course and can only do work on M/W/F because I have my youngest at home on T/Th. It's not so bad, because the course load isn't too bad. But, I'll be doing another course in July that's the same amount of work but squished into 1/2 the time. I'll also have my oldest home ALL day every day. I have registered him in a couple of camps, but can't afford to do that every week.

    There will be some (re)teaching of boundaries. My oldest is getting okay with it (he's 5.5), youngest doesn't care at all (he's 2.5).

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