Missing the Hours in the Day
By: Wendy Rhein
There are never enough hours in the day. We all feel that way at different times, I know. Not enough hours to finish the laundry and actually put it away instead of dressing for the week out of the plastic basket in which you tossed the hastily folded clothes. Not enough time to cook seven healthy, seasonal, variety-and nutrient-rich dinners for your family while maintaining a full time job. Never enough time to work out, date, or bathing suit shop, or do whatever it is that you are truthfully just putting off because your heart isn’t in it.
I’m just saying.
As a single mom of two my “there aren’t enough hours” is literally about time. I don’t have enough time to make the time that I need. In other words, I am skimping on alone time with my kids.
In an average 24-hour period, they spend about five waking hours with me a day on a week day. That doesn’t sound horrible but bear in mind that it includes the 2 ½ hours before they go to daycare/school in the morning when I am less than fully awake because they get up at an ungodly hour. I need at least the first hour to inhale my coffee and grasp the reality that we’re starting a new day. Again. Our real quality time of that day is found in the 45 minutes that I drive Sam to daycare and then Nate to school. I cherish that time. We talk, Nathan reads out loud to us, Sam points out everything he can see from his perched car seat and practices new words with an excited shout. BUS! BIRD! MAN! BACKPACK! CRASH!
On the flip side of the day everyone is exhausted (Nate), irritably hungry (Sam) or running around to get dinner on the table before a major meltdown occurs (me.) Bedtimes can be good, yes, with stories and snuggling and clean smelling kids. Or they can be a living hell. It’s a toss up.
But what about real quality time? Time one on one, doing an activity the child will not only enjoy but find mentally, physically, and spiritually fulfilling? What about those long chats that they will remember when I’m long gone, the kind memorialized in life insurance commercials?
There are times when I find myself thinking about life before Child Two. When one-on-one time was more manageable because we were one-on -one for 48 hours straight on weekends. I don’t believe that life was rosier or easier Before Sam (appropriately abbreviated B.S.) but that kind of solitary bonding was a given. Now it takes work, and planning, and usually a sitter to make it happen. I think I am setting the bar too high, honestly. I need to be better about giving myself some credit for the small things like our morning commute time. Or our Saturday mornings in the farmers market where they get atrociously expensive organic bison jerky simply because they both do a bison jerky happy dance that melts my heart. If you ever need a lift, watch a two-year-old scarfing down jerky and dancing like the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow.
Like most of us, I have this mental ideal of who I need to be as a parent that is basically unattainable. She’s not real. She isn’t me and she’s not the mother that they clearly adore. So what that our one-on-one time may happen at 4AM when Sam wanders into my room and wants to play peek a boo beneath his blankie; or at 7PM when Nathan needs a high five for completing a fractions worksheet that he cried over. The mom I am with them is real. She’s busy, she’s committed, she is fiercely focused on them when we are together and examines her parenting decisions every day. Regardless of the lack of sunrise fishing trips at the end of long piers or mommy and me yoga classes, my kids seem to be doing fine with the time they have with me. Time will tell.