We don’t need a mortgage; we have a coffee habit. And so, fully caffeinated, we cram ourselves, our son, our dog, and our stuff into the two-bedroom apartment we rent and go about our lives. And what I want to talk about is how we fit everything in. Not into the physical space. That’s easy. This is about how we spend our time.
Everyone seems to think life gets more complicated when you add a child. And certainly, the space between midnight and 11:59 fills up faster… the “down time” once spent watching movies, reading, going out to dinner, etc. is now spent standing up–rocking, swaying, shushing, trying to get him to sleep…or if he’s down for a nap or the night, trying to check a few items off the adult to-do list like, say, eating. Or giving the kitchen counter a scrub.
Not that we’re always doing something. Early parenthood, I think, is a lot of sitting around, waiting for them to do something. Whether cry or sleep or smile. And that’s where I’ve found the secret to fitting in my passions and hobbies.
Hour-long workout? Not really an every day occurrence any more. Maybe someday. For now, I drop and do 20 (or 30) in the middle of the night when I’ve put Declan in his crib and I’m waiting to see if he’ll stay down or wake up. It’s a good night when I’m only up once and can get him down on the first try. Maybe one set of push-ups on those nights. It’s a bad night when he’s being stubborn and fussing and I’m standing up rocking him one minute, then cranking out 75 or 100 push-ups while he decides if he’s ever going to sleep again. Up, down. Up, down. Story of my life on so many levels.
Reading? Both Colleen and I have been pulling out the iPads while she feeds in the middle of the night. Right now, she’s reading a book about getting babies on a more regular sleep schedule and I’m reading a book about wine. The way I see it: if her book doesn’t work, mine will.
You may also be wondering how I find the time to write this fine rag every week. And the first part of the answer would be: how could I not? My brain is full and I need to let the air out somehow. The second part is: I do it when everyone else in the house is sleeping. Usually that’s around 5 a.m., but sometimes it’s 3 or 4 or 7 or midnight. There’s no guarantee the time will last. I’ll get 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there typically. So I guess it’s a good thing I’ve spent the past ten years writing on deadline.
We bring Declan along for other activities, knowing full well we may have to leave at any moment. We have a coffee shop we enjoy, and most days, we’ll strap Deck into the car seat (which he so hates) and haul him along for our caffeine run. Sometimes we all sit on the patio in relative peace and sip from our straws and talk about life. Sometimes he’s crying and we take our drinks, accept our fate, and go home. Same with meals out. We don’t do it much, but we have managed to squeeze in a lunch or two without (any of us) descending into full-on meltdown mode. As long as our expectations aren’t too high, we take it in stride. So there’s my advice: aim low, expect less. Yeah, right.
I haven’t figured out how to cram everything in. I can’t really play my guitar in the middle of the night. I’ve yet to see a full Duke basketball game this year. The dog doesn’t get nearly the attention he wants or deserves. But it’s all a work in progress.
In the end, we fit our lives into the space we have. Sometimes it’s Texas. Sometimes it’s Rhode Island. If we’re paying attention, the important stuff wriggles its way in and the rest falls away. It’s actually a blessing when the space is smaller, the money tighter, the time more taxed. No better way to learn what’s important and what’s not. Priorities change or crystallize. We adapt. That’s why I don’t really buy the argument that life gets more complicated with a child. It’s pretty simple really. We love and care for him. We love and care for each other. We handle our other responsibilities. Most stuff, outside of that, is extraneous and unnecessary. A house, for example. But not coffee. Oh no. That is vital.