If I had a magic wand, the first thing I would do is add about four more hours onto every day. Here is my stipulation, though: these four hours would be mine and mine alone. I would spend them without anybody else around me, most significantly, my family members.
A few weeks ago I managed to have the “perfect day.” It was a rare occurrence, a blue moon of parenting days, and involved my youngest daughter going to her childcare center on one of her regular days, but I happened to be off work that day. My oldest was finished with summer camp and had not yet started school, so she was home with me. The magic ingredient was the fact that she was busy all day with the neighborhood friends, and I had very limited involvement in their interactions.
What it boiled down to was this: I spent nearly five hours at the computer writing, catching up on blog reading and commenting, pre-scheduling and editing future posts, and even working on some bigger projects. The entire morning was dedicated to that aspect of my work: writing and blogging. Nothing else. My daughter breezed in and out, stopped to have some lunch, but was fairly self-sufficient while I frantically typed away. Around one that afternoon, I decided to call it a day and focus on other things. So I spent several hours doing laundry, cleaning the house top to bottom, and preparing pasta salad for dinner that night.
When I was finished, just before childcare pick-up time, I felt tremendously satisfied. My sense of accomplishment was invigorating, and I lacked that usual nagging feeling of having forgotten or neglected something. Everything was done. This sense of fulfillment and ease left me downright cheerful when I went to pick up my toddler. I spent the rest of the evening completely engaged with my children; I marveled at my lack of distraction, newfound patience that seemed to be a divine gift, and ability to squash any moments of familial stress without breaking a sweat. I couldn’t believe it. I felt calm, happy, and distinctly lighter than usual.
At the end of the day, after the kids were in bed, I didn’t feel that pressing urge to scramble around and wrap things up. I felt proud of the fact that I hadn’t snapped at anyone all day, nor had I even experienced the all too familiar irritation that seems to regularly wash over me. I thought to myself, “I really wish I could be a stay at home mom. I rocked today.” But then it hit me- my day did not epitomize being a stay at home mom in any sense of the word. For one thing, my highest maintenance child (Usually. Talk to me after a frustrating evening of 2nd grade homework and social devastation.) wasn’t even home. For another thing, I spent part of my day working. Sure, it was at the job that pays me next to nothing, but it was still working.
My utopian day combined the best of all worlds. I was away from my children for several hours, I was working at a job that I found immensely fulfilling, and I was home. I had time for household maintenance, I cooked a homemade meal, I tended to our nest, and I interacted harmoniously with my children. That one day had everything I had ever hoped for in life. If 4-5 days of every week looked like that, I honestly believe I would be a happier person, a better wife, a calmer mother, and a more level-headed household engineer.
But that day never happens. As I said, it is a metaphorical blue moon.
There are a handful of obstacles to making that dream world a reality; for one, I need to go to work at the job that pays me. I wish with all my heart that my income was disposable, and that is simply wasn’t necessary for me to go to work in order to contribute to our family’s livelihood. But it is necessary, and we do need that money. Fortunately for me, I actually enjoy my work, and teaching my music classes is a very rewarding experience for me. But it’s one more thing that cuts into my ability to find time for my writing goals, my home maintenance, and my family enjoyment. I would have to actually be earning a living from my writing in order to justify staying home all day while my toddler was at childcare, even for the three days a week in which she goes.
I’m sure we have all read so much about the balance between staying home with children, finding personal fulfillment, and pursuing career ambitions. You can’t throw a rock without reading something about opting out, leaning in, opting back in, WAHM vs SAHM, the “Mommy Wars”… and you have my solemn vow that I will not add one more post to that commentary. As much information as there is available to mothers, every family situation is unique, and every household dynamic is its own delicate ecosystem. There is no magic formula to make sure each of us is fulfilled, has the right balance, and has the perfect situation for child-raising.
For me, though, I found the key to happiness. That elusive “having it all” prize that dangles just out of reach is now well within my grasp. If only I could find the magic wand that would add on those four precious hours to my day, all of my problems would be solved, and balance would finally be restored. There would be enough water for all of my gardens; I would have plenty to offer my children, my husband, my home, my work, and my self. I would have it all.
What does your vision of “having it all look” like? Is it possible?
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You have no idea how badly I want some extra me-hours as well!!! I wish I were one of those people who don’t need more than four hours of sleep.
Me too! I need a solid 8.5. Nine is preferable. :p
Not possible – I’ve still given up on sleeping. But that feeling of ‘Everything Is Done’ is awesome.
Yeah. Sleep. It’s the bottom of the pyramid for me. I guess I’ll savor those rare “everything is done” moments…
Omg, I am so in agreement with you and need to add about 4 hours to my day, especially today, because I swear I still have so much to do and just not enough hours to do it! Seriously preaching to the choir on this for sure!!
Yeah, I figured you might relate to this, Janine!
I would love those extra 4 to 5 hours, Stephanie. But I’d choose to sleep for at least half of them. I stay up way too late trying to get everything done without those extra hours, and then I pay for it at 6 am. I hope you get a perfect day a little more often – how invigorating they can be!
They are invigorating! And I have a hard time sacrificing sleep- I am generally in bed by 10:00, as I never know when we’ll have an earlier than usual wake-up time. :/
I’m so with you on this! On Wed I had to take the day off b/c Boo’s program is only 1/2 day. Instead of working I went and got my hair done. Cut AND colored. I still feel guilty. But it was incredible to take 2 hours to myself and not worry about anything else!
Good for you! I know- why do we feel guilty about this stuff???
As I was reading this I was realizing that I’m reacting with the same level of enthusiasm previously reserved for hot men. What you’ve just described was my wet dream. Ew. Sorry about that, but it was. In fact, want to hear something really pathetic? I remember you mentioning spending those 7 hours by yourself in another post (or on Twitter?) and I’ve been using it as an “it’s possible” kind of motivation. This was a PERFECT use of your magic wand. Now I do need to get one.
That made me laugh out loud! (Ok, really quietly actually, as my toddler is still fussing in her crib. GTF to sleep!!!) But I digress. I did laugh a lot at that.
Oh, Stephanie, I hear you…. this was one of the ways I was thinking of answering this prompt… last week, when I was the ONLY one who posted for FTSF…. 🙂 Anyway, I wish I could get more of that time to myself. During the summer, we send the kids to daycare one day a week. And sometimes I feel SO guilty about it…. but I love those days where I write, read, nap, go to yoga, and take care of me…. and it’s exactly like you said, by the time the kids are home, I can devote my full attention to them, in a clean house! And they enjoy the time away from us, away from each other in separate classrooms, and going on the daycare field trips. That self-care is so important. If only we could find those magic wands….
I was salivating a little reading that! Those days are SO perfect. I guess I’ll take them whenever I can get them!
Loved this, Steph. I totally, totally get it. When I have 4 hours to write and do my thing — 4 hours that are not in the middle of the freaking night — I’m so much happier. So true about not having that nagging feeling of being behind, needing to catch up. I wish, lady. I wish.
Can you get a sitter for a half a day once a week??
Here’s the thing, Deb- I totally HAVE that! Several days a week, my little one is in childcare. My issue is that part of that time I am teaching, so when I finally get home, I am down to just a few hours to choose between writing, cleaning, running errands, seeing friends. (Oh God. I have to stop. #firstworldproblems, anyone? Shoot me. Please. I am an asshole.)
Oooh – I got all tingly at the idea of four hours to myself! What I could DO with that! Every now and then my husband gives me this wonderful gift. He turns to me on some random weekend afternoon and tells me he’s going to take both girls out somewhere and leave me alone. It’s absolute Nirvana.
And I agree re: the sense of calm you get when you get through the “to do” list. Very much like that too! And it happens oh so rarely.
This summer has kicked my butt. Between a car wreck that was not our fault and trying to recover from that and kids being home my blogging has taken a back seat. I missed it way more than I thought I would. Wreck recovery has taken my ability to keep up with a lot of things because of the pain I have after I over do it. So I have learned to clean in moderation. Pushing myself this past weekend left me a painful lesson that I am NOT recovered yet, which sent me into a depression because I miss OUR normal.. I totally get this momma.. completely understand
all moms need to have that break, that time to get away and recharge, we are moms but we are also “who we are” and need to spend time focusing on us. Kind of why I like driving to work, I can listen to books on tape, eat what I want and not share…
I think having it all is so different for each mom, while some moms equate monetary or physical thignsd for having it all. To me it’s about happiness, mine and my families. If we are happy and blessed, we have it all.
Oh man that mess is so familiar…I try to keep his toys in his room…but with such a small space they are always in the living room.
You are so right, Stephanie…it is so difficult to find that balance between work, family and a satisfying life. If I had a magic wand I would ask for the same.
That makes so much sense! Even though I am home all day, my mind is constantly occupied with all I have to do. My toddler is too young to let me write while he’s awake so I have to put down my ideas bit by bit. If I had my way, I would love to sit down and type all day too! Linking up to FTSF for the first time!
NO. Way. I have been thinking about this sooo much lately! I, too, would add time into the day, but admittedly would waste it sleeping. I would also have someone to do the grocery shopping for me because it just takes so dang much time. Then I would have a job that pays me to write rather than me begging people to read what I write. What a concept 😉 I think I would then use your magic wand to prepare meals, clean up toys, and give myself the eyebrow wax that I so desperately need.
These are all very selfish, but I like to pretend they would make me a better mother/wife, so I’m goin’ with them 🙂
This sounds heavenly! I’m a SAHM with a husband who leaves the house at 7 am every morning and rarely gets home before 8 pm (and travels for work). And we have no family support system. So that feeling of being pulled in a thousand different directions, and never really getting anything done properly, and feeling less than patient is how I feel a lot of the time. Of course, I wouldn’t change it for the world, but the idea of having four hours to myself, without feeling like I’m short-changing someone, sounds amazing!
YES! More time was one of the options I considered for this post as well. At the risk of sounding boastful, I will say that I have had several of those perfect days during the past couple weeks. My three are a little older, so they are all back at school for the whole day now. I have vowed to cut back on the time I spend volunteering this year and most of that hasn’t really begun anyway. AND, my hubs (who works from his home office) has been out of town for 3-4 days each of the past two weeks. I have gotten so much done. My house is mostly clean. I’ve written and scheduled posts. I’ve even found a little time to exercise. It has made me so much more relaxed and less stressed. I know it won’t be every day forever, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts! 🙂
That is the perfect day! It always feels good to tick a lot of things off the to do list. Everybody needs a day like that and I’m glad you had one Stephanie!
I love your phrase “I could water all of my gardens.” It is so true at every phase of life. I hereby give you four extra hours a day. At least I could ive it to you if I were your fairey godmother.
I love the imagery of having water for all of your gardens. And friend, if you figure out a way to do this a few days a week – or even once a week, can you please share with me? Because this sounds like absolute bliss. Time to write? Time to clean and make pasta salad? A win of a day. A big win.
I am LOVING this topic so much. Have read so many amazing posts about it today. I definitely feel like having hours to myself would be hugely helpful to my overall life satisfaction levels. It happens every now and then, and I am definitely better for it.-Ashley
So, I was totally going to write about the same! exact! thing! but then I saw your post, so I changed my mind. Don’t worry, I’m not bitter. 🙂
I myself was not happy as a stay at home mom because I felt unfulfilled, which led to me being impatient with my son. I am an attorney and recently decided to open my own practice so that I could have more flexibility, but it’s definitely difficult to find time for my hobbies, which make me feel really fulfilled. I’ve decided a few nights a week after my son is in bed, I’m just going to spend time on them. Hubs doesn’t mind and actually enjoys his own alone time too. 🙂
I would so use those extra to be productive and write and plant gardens to water and by that I mean I would actually probably use them to beat level 309 of Candy Crush… ::sigh::
I want those four hours too!!! Heaven!! Every day. I’m laughing out loud at Tracy’s comment bc that’s probably what I would do too, but with Twitter. If I don’t have a to do list handy when I have some down time (like 10 minutes before the kid’s tv show is done and they commence fighting) then I exhale and open Twitter. Going to B&N to write 1x/week or every two weeks has helped with my writing…but I have to turn my phone over so I can’t see any notifications popping up, otherwise, I would just tweet – I can only leave it upside-down for about 20 minutes without checking. Pathetic.
Four more hours in the day? HOT DAMN! I would love that! And I would probably totally waste it…
I absolutely respect that you pointed out the mommy wars (WAHM vs SAHM) because each choice brings with it different types of balance.
I think that we all need extra time to ourselves…no obligations…just doing things that fulfills us. It’s so vital that moms and dads do this. I am so happy that you had a day like this. You deserve it.
I think more of us need to stop feeling guilty for taking time for ourselves.
I love this post- everything about it. Those last two paragraphs especially got me. I would love to add hours on, but then I wonder if then I wouldn’t feel like I just have to accomplish more? Ah, vicious circle of self-expectations and demands. Definitely applauding your statement, though, that self-fulfillment and balance looks different to everyone. Amen.
It’s funny, it’s so important to me to be a stay at home mom for my son, but I was so stressed and harried all the time before I started sending him to daycare 1 or more days a week. I relish the down-time and yet, I still don’t feel like I get much accomplished from my to-do list on days he’s in daycare. If I’m lucky, I might fold some laundry, get a workout in, prepare a meal. But I’ve never yet had a lengthy productive day where I feel like I got caught up on my to-do list.
But honestly, after nearly two years of being home with my son, I am starting to see the benefits of being able to be around for him much of the time, teaching him and directing him. And I also see the benefits of having him in daycare a few days a week — not just for me and my sanity, but also for him to learn to interact with other kids, many of them older.
So, I’m grateful that I can be a SAHM but also have the resources to send my son to daycare sometimes, too. I may not feel like I “have it all”, but I guess I have a lot to be grateful for.
One day a week when both my husband and I work, my son goes to nursery. Every so often i take that day as a holiday so I can sit around all day and do me stuff. Its heavenly. If only I could have more of them.
Thanks for linking to the Sunday Parenting Party, I’m pinning your post to the pinterest board.