Wednesday, April 21

Foiled Free Time

Please bear with me for a moment as I offer you this somewhat cliched analogy. First, let me say, having children quickly relegates free time to new heights as a precious, PRECIOUS commodity. Here is the analogy-- it has become such a precious commodity that I often feel like a woman walking through a very hot desert, parched and tired and searching for water...when I finally arrive at the free time (or the water!) I guzzle, gulp, slug it down and try to relish it for as long as I can because the next drink might be a very long ways away.

Life is really not quite that bad, but free time most certainly does feel that way. Free time typically comes in the following forms; early morning rising on my part, nap time (between 2-4 most days) and after the girls go to bed, which lately has been around 9 (late, I know! but that's a whole other story).  When it doesn't come as expected or it is shorter than expected I become a little cranky and very disappointed.

Like yesterday afternoon and then again this morning. Ella has been on a bit of a sleep strike.

Yesterday she napped for about an hour instead of her usual two (she and Ava usually nap at the same time) and this morning she was up at 6:30 instead of 7:15.

First of all, I do realize how lucky I am that they a) both nap at the same time and b) that Ella usually sleeps past 7. But, despite my being lucky about those things, when you get used to a given schedule you begin to set expectations according to that very schedule.

I know. Big Mistake. Rule #2 for mothers of small children (which comes after Rule #1 Always, ALWAYS, expect a mess) is Never, EVER set expectations.

Not setting expectations is SO much easier said than done. I mean I'm human. I have desires. Sometimes they're selfish, but sometimes they're just me wanting to still be ME and not just mommy all the time. Things like reading, writing, and pursuing the eons of ideas floating around in my mind on a daily basis.

So yesterday Ella woke up just as I started to drink my coffee and type this blog, and this morning she woke up just as I was about to get up, make some coffee and spend some time praying, thinking and planning my day.

It's hard when your head is full of ideas.  You start to feel like you're finally beginning to jive with your role as writer/reader/creative person AND mother and then your 1 year old decides that your new ideas about when you're going to explore your ideas is not really going to jive with HER schedule...and again her needs take precedence.


Perhaps it's the angels of patience and peacefulness testing me. After all, I have been feeling awfully peaceful and grateful and thankful this week. For life, for the girls, for the sun, for the wonderful conference I attended last week, for my husband, our home, all the big things.

"Will you still be grateful and cheery if we throw this little monkey wrench into your afternoon and morning?" they want to know.

It's just a little thing. The quiet time. But it's a big thing to mommies.

Argh. I'm smiling back at those angels with gritted teeth. "I'll smile, but I'm not happy about it," I say to them.

My coping mechanism yesterday was to go for a run as soon as my husband was done with work. Actually, if I'm totally honest, he was finishing some work up from his home office in the basement when I opened the door and yelled down the stairs at 5:45 that I was going out of my mind and that he didn't have to be done but that I just wanted to know when I could expect a helping hand so that I could roughly plan out the rest of my evening...including the run I desperately needed before bible study at 7.

It wasn't my most shining moment. It's what happens when my free time is foiled. I get a little cranky.

He came upstairs shortly thereafter and I left the house running. Literally.

It wasn't my best run. I was tired. It was windy.  I was letting the frustration eek out of my shoes... every time I wanted to stop I pushed harder because for the first time all day I was in control of something I was doing.

When I first started to write this post yesterday I found myself wanting to find some nice clean way to wrap it up. Some epiphanal moment in which the sun started to shine over my little world and the angelic chorus sang as I came into some new understanding of myself or reacted in a completely selfless way towards my family.

But, that's not really what happened.

I recall the therapist I was seeing before we left Massachusetts saying to me, "You may always struggle a bit with motherhood; with your role as a mother and your desires to do and be so many other things."

I think she was right. It may be unrealistic to think I'm going to reach some euphoric acceptance of motherhood in which I'm SO completely enamored with being a mother that I don't care about anything else; writing, reading, learning, pursuing freelance opportunities, running, thinking, journaling, blogging-- all of the other things that make me me.

There are days when the two me's jive and others where they simply fight each siblings...who love each other deeply but who just cannot seem to get along on some days because they are into each other's stuff.  In as much as I'd love the girls to just get along for the next 18 years while they live under the same roof together, it's not such a realistic notion.

In the same way I'm learning to accept that these parts of myself may just need to agree to disagree on some days...sometimes it's not about the day to day, the day to day can get ugly. Sometimes it's about the bigger picture.  When you look at the smaller details of a painting (like the one to the left) some of the strokes are dark, jagged, unclear, messy, but if you step back and look at the whole thing you begin to realize that it is the entirety of all of the colors, all of the strokes, all of the pieces that make it beautiful.

Here's to jagged edges and beautiful pictures.


  1. I think we had a similar conversation like this last week! Know that you are not alone. I need my quiet time too....and now my kids don't really nap at all! It's good that you can get out and run and clear your head - those are good, necessary moments, and yay for a hubby who gets it. Hang in there! This is a crazy season, jot down those ideas, and you'll get to them eventually :)

  2. Lisa,

    I certainly can relate! Love both your rules for motherhood and also your last line. Here's to jagged edges and beautiful pictures, indeed.

    As to your comment on my blog, first of all thanks for stopping by. Second, we're about 10 minutes from Princeton. And I had a great time at the Festival. A refuge in many ways. I hope the same was true for you!

    Amy Julia


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