And now for something completely different 🙂
I’ve noticed lately that I spend much less time than I used to on “random nuisances.”
- Cleaning up after spilling coffee down my shirt
- Going back to the grocery store for something I forgot
- Dealing with the bank because I paid the amount for the electric bill to the phone company
I realized that more and more of my time is my own, and fewer unexpected things happen. As an “empty nester,” I am no longer managing kids’ schedules or coordinating family activities. My spouse and I cooperate to get things done, but we’re on the same wavelength most of the time.
At the simplest level, there is less chaos around me. I live in a world of adults now. How many times in the past was I dressed to leave the house, and had to start over, due to baby spit-up? Or my best laid plans for the day were derailed by a child who woke up with pinkeye! No one lays blame for these things; you just have to take them in stride.
Kids can introduce unwanted spontaneity into your day sometimes! For example, I drop my child off at school and I’m suddenly told there’s an extra band practice today. I decide to run home and get my kid’s gear. Or I’m called in the middle of the day because my child is in the principal’s office for some misdemeanor. I think there’s a limit to how many of these interruptions we’ll tolerate before putting our proverbial foot down and demanding that the other person “improves.” No matter how young they are!
Then there is time used to “control” other people’s actions. I can’t even imagine the time my parents spent intervening in spats involving my brother, sister and me. We were constantly taunting each other, claiming injustice, demanding priority or seeking favour. And that’s among kids who actually got along fairly well and liked each other! Half of the time, we were just trying to liven things up. Not very rational from an adult point of view! Similarly, think of all the time spent on “making” kids do their homework, do chores, or practice something (or better yet, trying to make them do things without reminders – ha!)
All of the above are just part of child rearing and they come with the territory. It’s shocking how much time is freed up when you are not doing those things!
There are other things not claiming my time either. I am not troubled much by favours, either things asked for, or things offered. Within my family, I am always happy to drive someone to the airport or look after their cats while they’re away. A few things I might resent, such as when someone borrows a power tool and I have to call 2 or 3 times get it back. But we’re quite a low-maintenance crew. Not much time or stress in that category.
One problem I do have, time-wise, is <ahem> needy people. Perhaps because I am quiet and a good listener, I tend to attract people with very limited resources who need a lot of personal assistance. Any time I attend a public or work event, I seem to be cornered by someone who wants their life managed. It might start with someone who begs an invitation to lunch, or wants a drive to an appointment, and it can easily escalate to outright dependence. I want to be charitable, but not to have all of my time hemmed in by obligations. I have had to set firm boundaries on my time. As someone who works in public service, I really need a lot of my off-work time to be truly my own.
Because I have fewer claims on my time now, my life is going smoother. I can mentally track my calendar and to-do lists, keep my appointments, run my errands, and plan for the future without worrying about potential conflicts. I can take my time getting ready for work, provisioning, making meals, paying bills and making travel arrangements. I am rarely interrupted or distracted by anything except my own thoughts (which, admittedly, can be pretty random!)
Do I like it? Yes and no. Having children at home is rewarding and it keeps you on your toes! And it certainly gives you a ready-made sense of purpose. It’s hard to replace that – the answer, I think, is not to. Adult kids need their parents in a different way and I have to let that happen. Do something else. Give myself some space. Don’t take on the role of momma everywhere I go for the rest of my life. Step back and let someone else do it. Find another role. Who will I be?
I am fortunate that I have so much time I can defend. I know people who work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, and couples who work opposite shifts so they barely see each other. I am happy that I don’t have obligations like business entertaining or working “on call.” I also don’t have much family drama to deal with: I don’t get messages saying, “Just wait until you hear what your father did this time!” or desperate requests for loans. I know so many people who are drowning in family drama every day!
I also think about how incredibly kind and caring people can be with their time, doing whatever is needed for others, whether it’s shoveling snow from a neighbour’s driveway, taking someone to pick up their car from the shop, going out to look for someone’s mom who has wandered off again, dividing up the hostas and day lilies that a friend admired, or making an extra casserole for their freezer. I aspire to use some of my new-found time just seeing what needs to be done and not begrudging my time to do it.
I am fine with the time I put into my job, which is in the field of my choice, and has ample rewards. And I was happy to put decades into child-rearing, nagging and all – how else do you raise a child?:)
Now I have a rather zen-like existence in comparison, and it takes some getting used to!
I like thinking about how much time is my own, how much I give up willingly and how much seems to be taken from me. Luckily the proportions are working in my favour right now. How about yours?