I am a structured person by nature. I like check lists, due dates and schedules. Even when my time is supposedly unstructured, I find myself trying to create some kind of structure. When my daughter was a baby and I was staying at home for the first time, I wasn’t into baby schedules. (This was partly because she didn’t really sleep so it was difficult to plan for that). However, I still had some anchors to my week. Sunday was church and then dinner with the family. The second and fourth Tuesday morning of the month was my MOPS group. Then I started adding in other things. Most Monday nights I led our church dance ministry. Every other Thursday we met with our writer’s group. Weekends were taken up with grocery shopping and other errands but usually afforded us some unstructured time to spent together as a little family.
Now that the kids are older, the schedule has become more complicated. A midweek kids program at church during the school year. Multiple different VBS programs during the summer, swim lessons, maybe a weekend trip or too, a formal vacation if we are very lucky. But I’m finding it difficult to find unstructured, unallocated time to spend with my kids.
We also homeschool, which you would think would lead to tons of extra time together, in fact that was one of the reasons we chose this path for our family. But it isn’t working out that way. The day is taken up with school work, making meals (of which there are many at our house as our kids seem to always be hungry) and some version of cleaning up. (Full disclosure, my house is rarely clean for more than 30 seconds. But since we host a writer’s group every two weeks, we try to make sure the house at least looks picked up and the rest is basically avoiding pest infestations). I do an average of 12-15 loads of laundry a week. All of that takes time. In between I’m trying to manage our finances (which can get downright complicated at times, especially where our needs outstrip our funds; yes, medical bills, I’m looking at you.) keep up with my blog, find ways to earn extra money or dream about when I used to get a paycheck.
The point is not to list all the things I do on a daily basis. But my days are very full. Having my kids with me all day seemed like it should have given me more time with them, but often it means I have more work to do. I’m always working it seems and sometimes I can’t figure out how to stop.
I don’t enjoy them, at least not the way I want to. I have gotten better at this with my toddler. I can wrap him in an extra long hug and then put him down and watch him meander away to play. I can read him one short story until he is bored and then he goes away happy. My big kids are more difficult. I can’t figure out what to build with Lego’s, especially when my kids want to tell me how I’m doing it wrong. If I sit down to color, an argument breaks out or someone begins eating the paper and I never end up getting to focus. My daughter tells me no less than four VERY long, winding stories each day. I try so hard to care. Because I want her to talk to me. I want to light saber battle with my son without worrying about the messy kitchen and the unpaid bills.
I don’t want them to remember their entire childhood as “Mommy was busy.” My husband and I talk about how we want to spend more one on one time with our kids. But the reality is that by the time dinner is over and the dishes are washed, we’re exhausted. Weekends are errands, catch up on household projects and the dreaded lawn mowing. Whole family outings often end badly and feel like a waste of time and money. No matter what we try to do, it doesn’t feel good enough or special enough. So we settle for almost nothing.
I wanted this to be one of those posts where I lay out my problem, describe the process we went through to find a solution and then share how we make it work. But I’m not there yet. Right now I’m still grappling with the problem. Maybe you are too.
Motherhood is much harder than I ever would have thought.