I have no time. And by that I mean, actually, no time whatsoever. So I’ve been trying to make something out of nothing. And it’s good.
Since I went back to work in February, I’ve changed my working hours so I work a four day week over five days. I do three half days, two full days. We head off from home to school, Montessori and crèche after 8 in the morning and then myself and my husband take turns to do the lunchtime pick up. Either one of us is home in the afternoon to tend to shouty little people, homework, mountains of washing and dinner. Technically speaking one of us has the ‘afternoon off’. Technically. Evenings are the usual mix of dinners, jobs, packed lunches and night-time routines. After dark there are the frequent wakings and a small man trying to grab my boob. And then it begins again.
Our working hours are a fab arrangement for the kids who are only out of the house for 6 hours of each day. Everything is local to them so there’s no trekking in and out of the car – and genuinely little stress to their routine. Safe to say they don’t appreciate one jot just how handy they have it. The elder pair greeted me with ‘we want a minder’ when I showed up to collect them the other day. I was really glad I’d busted a gut to dash from work that day let me tell you.
The hours they’re in school / childcare mean I have just about enough time to impersonate a reasonably intelligent (if crappily dressed) professional before resuming my duties debating who the mayor of Lego City is, or whether Apple Blossom is actually Apple Bloom’s older or younger sister. It is not however enough time to go to the loo; eat lunch or do any of the normal lunchtime jobs like buy socks or birthday presents. I can start my day on the hop by making a few calls on the way into the office – but it inevitably ends with me mouthing ‘I’m not in’ while trying to escape phone calls that come just as my day ends. It’s always just-about-enough-time, but never quite enough.
With days that are munched I cherish any precious minutes. Last week I dropped off a work package on the way to pick up Woodie at crèche. I was faster than expected and I ended up with SEVEN MINUTES TO SPARE. There was no point picking up the wee man early as he’s lifted from his nap right before I arrive so he’d not have been ready to go – and I was damned if I was spending my golden minutes checking out laminated fire evacuation procedures in the crèche lobby. If I was at home I’d probably have sorted a wash, emptied the dishwasher and made the place look respectable – as all parents know you can achieve serious household mediocrity in seven minutes. But as I stood in the middle of O’Connell Street with those seven minutes to spare I didn’t have enough child-free time to go to the shops but I wasn’t going to waste what is so rare. I nipped in for a coffee in a new swanky place I’d never even heard of. I fidgeted on my phone while I queued, balked at the price of a latte, and had my toe stood on by a tourist. Still reveling in care-free delight I headed out into the sunshine, coffee in hand, sun glasses on head, only to find the Luas Works has severed my crossing and I had to walk half the length of O’Connell Street to get to where I was going. I arrived at the crèche four minutes late, clutching my half drunk latte, apologising breathlessly and sweating profusely – the perfect vision of the working parent.
To make a little room in our busy life we’ve been taking one evening each a week to skip the bedtime routine and carve out a little space – not for each other but for ourselves. We have no babysitting backup so for now it’s hubby-or-me time – not hubby-and-me, but that’s actually fine. For that one evening we take our turn to loiter around Town, skip the chores and do the bits that never get done – like delete inboxes of emails, reply to a small portion of ignored messages and tax the car. The first week I used my time extremely wisely and headed to the pub at 4 O’Clock (with friends). This was brilliantly clever as I managed to have a laugh, get tipsy, return home, eat a cheese sandwich and get to bed – all by 9 O’Clock. Since then I’ve taken the more sober – but equally indulgent option, of enjoying a cuppa in a café where I can read or blog or just loiter. Generally, no one pulls at me, touches me or asks me to arbitrate in the latest dispute. It’s divine.
The space is lovely. After a few weeks of it I’m sure I’ll happily use my free passes to catch up with friends but for now I’ll selfishly guard it and keep it to myself. I’ll head to the movies, wander and treat myself at a table-for-one. I’ll think about starting a Pilates class and then decide to revel in my curves and have a beer. I’ll write the ten million blog posts that never get written, think about what I want to be when I grow up and create a little space that’s just for me. Then I’ll head home, kiss the sleepers, feed the toddler and catch up with the tired husband. I’ll be happier for having checked in with myself. A little more sane for the time-out.
And then I’ll look forward to next week.