My lovely friend Antoinette (aka The Healthy Professor) posted something on her blog this morning that got me thinking. She wrote about her busy life, how she’s spread too thin, and how she wants to find balance between productivity and enjoyment–enjoyment of where she is right now.
Antoinette and I are kind of like parallel lines. Well, not exactly. We’ve zigged and zagged a few times to bump into each other, but ultimately, we’re never going to really meet. I first met her in the second grade, when we were in the same class, but while I remember a lot about elementary school, second grade was not a good year for me and I’ve mostly blocked it out. I do remember that Antoinette was the only kid who ever got her worksheets turned in before I did. I both admired and hated her for that. (I’ve always been a grade-grubber. Just one of my many charming attributes.) After that, I moved away for a while and then moved back into the same school district, where we attended the same middle school but on different tracks (the school was year-round). In high school, we were both honors students and had a couple of classes together, most memorably tenth grade English, where we sat close to each other and on at least one occasion, she made me reexamine the way I thought about life.
Right now, Antoinette and I are about as far away from each other as you can get in the contiguous United States–Florida and Washington–but I still see us running parallel, and darn it, she’s still making me reexamine things. We are both writers and bloggers, both lovers of the English language. Her daughter and my son were born in the same year. We both play guitar (though I’m sure she’s much better at it, as I only play a handful of chords), we both like to cook, we both like adult coloring books. We’re also different in oh-so-many ways–most ways, really–but she’s one of my favorite Facebook friends, and I admire her.
But whenever I read Antoinette’s blog, I never think, that is so me. I often think, why isn’t that me?
Antoinette loves to exercise. I would love to love to exercise. She gets stuff done. I have a to-do list and a pile of dirty laundry that just keeps growing. Today, she posted about being spread too thin; lately, I’ve been feeling like a glob of jelly on toast.
Okay, so her life and mine aren’t exactly running parallel. I’ve really curved away lately because I now have a second child. Said child is currently sleeping in my left arm while I hunt-and-peck with my right. She’s a big factor in my lump-of-jelly existence: it’s hard to do much of anything with a toddler on your leg and a clingy babe in your arms. You get diapers changed, bellies fed, you take your kids on play dates, clean just enough so as not to be living in squalor. That’s what I do, anyway. I’ve read about women who can’t stop accomplishing, who can’t even sit still and enjoy their kids during bath time because they end up scrubbing the toilet. This kind of thinking is foreign to me. When I spend time with my kids, that’s usually all I’m doing.
I’ve given up a lot for my kids, but sometimes I wonder how much they demanded I drop and how much I was just too lazy to hang onto. Writing, for example. Generally I get to write about once or twice a week. Drawing and cartooning? I’ve just about given them up completely. I doubt I’ll audition for another play for many, many years, and it’s been way too long since I’ve done karaoke. My Etsy page is now an empty shell. I had to quit the gym because the daycare center kept pulling me out of my workouts to pick up screaming children. I don’t even get to bake that much–between my son’s insistence on helping and my daughter’s need to be held, things just don’t turn out right.
It’s not that I can’t accomplish any of these things. It’s that I hate feeling defeated by my children, so I defeat myself before they get the chance. And that means that when I have a chunk of time, I usually end up doing something frivolous, something that, if it’s interrupted or ruined by a child, doesn’t get me riled up.
So–if this post is about me changing my attitude, losing my defeatist point of view and using my time more wisely–spreading myself out a little, if you will–then why am I focusing so much on Antoinette? You might think, Sure, give her a nod but then center back on yourself. But it wasn’t just the post she wrote today that has me thinking about her. This past week, I attended an online event she hosted called The Busy Mom’s Academy. And to be quite honest, I was a deadbeat student. I was the kid at the back of the room who mumbles something during introductions and then never speaks again. But despite my lack of participation (the kids and I were at my parents’ house while the hubby attended a conference and I checked the Academy once and a while via my smart phone) I was listening and, most of the time, I was doing what I almost always do when people give me advice on how to improve my life: shaking my head and saying, That’s great for someone else, but it’s not going to work for me.
Defeatist, defeatist, defeatist.
So, like Antoinette, I’ve decided to reset. Instead of assuming that I can’t accomplish anything with a baby napping on me or while supervising the kids in the sandbox, I’m going to start seeing these chunks of time as opportunities. I’m going to use my evenings more wisely and as soon as the girl starts sleeping better, I’ll reclaim the mornings, too.
After all, I managed to write this post today, disjointed and full of faulty analogies though it might be–through two baby naps and despite the fact that my son had to come home early from preschool because of some tummy troubles. But now the girl is getting a little antsy in tummy time, so I’ll have to wrap it up. Because I can’t always do things for myself, you know. Sometimes, I have to focus on the kidlets.