Life's been busy.
I imagine I could start any post that way, but lately it's been a different sort of busy. Busy for just us, D. and O. and me. We've had a lull in travel planning and at last, we've begun finding time for other projects as a family. Outings. Home improvements. Social time with kid-friendly friends. Some tasks are more mundane -- like tweaking our household budget tracking system so that it's not so labor intensive -- but even that feels like a welcome change, a shifting of our attention back to our own home life rather than managing being away from it.
Of course, just as we were starting to get some hours back for all these neglected things, O. began sleeping less and exploring more. Walking and running have given way to climbing, banging blocks together has become building with them, and suddenly, he's in need of an adult playmate much more than before. Which is fun -- as D. was commenting to me the other day, you can now play with him as opposed to watching him play on his own. But all the random weekday tasks I used to do while he self-entertained are harder to juggle. You can't balance the budget while being asked to balance multiple stacks of blocks on your knees. (Believe me, I've tried.)
I'd started to feel a sense of panic whenever O. would nap, which was abruptly down to once a day. My mind was pulling itself in multiple directions during that window. I was supposed to be writing -- I'd told myself months before that I had to treat my work seriously if I wanted to stop second-guessing its value -- but I was also supposed to be researching bids for a new air conditioner and doing basic home care tasks that would take more time than was reasonable to put O. in the playpen for and, oh, how about showering too? Never mind attempting something for true leisure so that writing didn't have to be the sole activity to serve that purpose as well.
I'd sit down before the page and freeze. There was so much pressure to get something done during O.'s nap that I ended up expending more energy being frustrated by my sense of compressed time than using it toward building any sense of accomplishment.
After a few weeks of this, D. gently suggested that we try rearranging my routine a little.
The idea of asking for help hadn't crossed my mind. At least, I didn't feel I could justify asking D. to give up some of his own limited hours outside of work or our family time on the weekend to let me use it to scrub down our bathrooms and wash my hair. I'd looked at those tasks as things I ought to do while he was working or O. was asleep so we could make the most of our down time together. But he was right. Something had to come out of the nap window to return that time to what it was best intended for: putting one word in front of another, without worrying about whether I should be doing something else. I wasn't happy when I wasn't writing, and I needed to give myself a lower-pressure environment to let it happen in.
So we trialed a new schedule over the weekend. For the two hours after breakfast usually preceding naptime, D. hung out with O. while I did some chores and got properly clean, instead of speed-showering. Once O. was asleep, we both had a chance to work on our independent projects. And in the afternoon, we all got to be together for a little World Cup viewing, reading aloud, and stacking blocks on every surface imaginable.
The difference in my state of mind was almost palpable. At the end of the weekend, I didn't feel like an over-wound spinner's bobbin, just a properly tired person who'd done a fair amount of work in addition to taking care of O.'s needs. A reduced set of his needs, but certainly plenty to keep me feeling just as connected to him. And also D. Giving up the time we would have spent together in the morning didn't feel like a loss when it meant being less conflicted about using the time we did have later in the day.
We're now considering having a baby-sitter twice a week to cover the same two-hour morning window. If that works out, I suspect the dividends such help will pay in giving me semi-dependable work hours will be enormous. I know there will still be difficult days when I emerge from my time at the page with no more than a paragraph I'm truly happy with. But the panic that was setting in during the last weeks of ever-shrinking writing time is at bay now with the small but significant protections we're building in.
This just might work. Until O. shifts his routine again, of course, but now I know what I need -- and how making it possible is so very worth it.
13 hours ago