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Always Running, Ottawa, October 2013

Always Run­ning, Ottawa, Octo­ber 2013

The last time I finally got around to get­ting a much-needed hair­cut, the recep­tion­ist tried to bully me into pre-booking my next appointment.

Alright… how about four weeks from now, Mon­day at 11:30 a.m.?”

I wanted to laugh. Seri­ously, how am I sup­posed to make such a commitment?

I’m sorry,” I apol­o­gized (like a good Cana­dian). “I will be back, the styl­ist did a great job. But my sched­ule is a bit hec­tic these days and I’m not sure when I will be avail­able again.”

Well, just book the appoint­ment and plan to make room in your sched­ule! It’s a great way to remind your­self you need a cut once in a while,” she insisted.

Yeah, I know, my hair looked like shit. Thanks for the reminder.

No, sorry, I really can’t.”

She rolled her eyes. I can’t blame her. But I don’t even know if I’m going to have time to eat tonight so hon­estly, hair­cuts aren’t on top of my list of priorities.

Time is a pre­cious com­mod­ity these days, both because of my work and because of Mark.

Mark is a full-time job. From the moment he wakes up to the moment he finally sleeps, there are the feed­ings, the chang­ings, the bath and count­less hours where I have to keep him busy and enter­tained. I refer to these hours as my “semi-free time”. I can spend (ahem, waste, really) hours at the mall in the mid­dle of the after­noon or be stuck at some play­ground all morn­ing because really, what else can you do with a tod­dler? Any out­sider would think I am lucky to be able to shop or sit in the sand­box in the mid­dle of the day. It looks like I have it easy.

The prob­lem is, I also have a full-time job. While I don’t have to sit at the office from 9 to 5, I do have assign­ments to com­plete, follow-up to do, invoices to send. And I can only do it when Mark sleeps or when I out­source his care to Feng (who is also busy work­ing) or to my in-laws.

Add all the usual chores on top of that—grocery shop­ping, clean­ing, etc.—and I’m left with exactly zero free time.

It’s kind of sad actu­ally. I don’t have time to meet friends, to relax or to take care of myself.

The first few months after Mark’s birth, every­one was very under­stand­ing. Most folks know babies are tough at first and that it takes time to adjust. But Mark is one now and I should have it all fig­ured out by now.

I don’t.

I hate to turn down offers of din­ner at my friends’ place because I can’t take Mark (who would most likely NOT behave). I hate to can­cel plans to have cof­fee because an assign­ment was sent out of the blue and that all my free time will be spent trans­lat­ing a doc­u­ment or proof­ing a book.

I am seri­ously wor­ried my friends are get­ting frus­trated with me and that I will lose touch with the net­work I spent years build­ing in Ottawa.

Let’s face it: I am not the most social per­son. I have never been the one organ­is­ing par­ties, get-togethers and so on. I think I’m fairly friendly but I don’t have a large cir­cle of friends (eh, I’m not even on Face­book!). But I value these friend­ships and I don’t want them to fade away. I lost touch with enough peo­ple when I left France and moved to Canada.

Some­time, I wish I had a magic remote like in the movie “Click”. Clean­ing up poop, doing house­hold chores or stuck in rush hour traf­fic? Fast for­ward. Mak­ing Mark laugh, relax­ing, hug­ging, get­ting a mas­sage? Pause—and maybe even rewind.

Unfor­tu­nately it doesn’t work like that. So every­thing is a trade-off and I’m always stressed out. My days are divided into blocks of hours I try to arrange the best I can, like in a real-life Tetris game. “Okay, so if I take Mark out now I prob­a­bly have time to do the gro­cery shop­ping while my client finds the right doc­u­ment I’m sup­posed to trans­late. I will be back home fif­teen min­utes before Mark’s bot­tle, so I can put the gro­ceries away, clean the kitchen, change him, make the bot­tle. He should be quiet enough after he eats so I should be able to check my emails and answer the most urgent ques­tions before we go out again with Feng, who has to go to the post office, so while he does that I can go to the bank deposit my cheque with Mark…” etc.

You get the idea.

At least I hope you do.

It’s not that I don’t want to see peo­ple and have fun. It’s just that… it’s not that easy.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

11 Comments

  1. I think any­one with kids would be under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion, and peo­ple with­out kids should be under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion. If they’re not, I’d start to won­der about their tol­er­ance lev­els… every­one knows tod­dlers are super needy!

    Hope­fully Mark will exit his phase of not let­ting any­one hold him and maybe your friends with tod­dlers can swap some babysit­ting time to give you some breath­ing room with your errands (in addi­tion to your in-laws). It’s tough to raise chil­dren with­out a big sup­port net­work, i.e., imme­di­ate fam­i­lies both around, extended fam­ily close by, play­mate cousins, every­one chip­ping in.

    Mark’s just turned one, he’s mobile and ener­getic. I think that’s harder than when they are infants and sleep­ing a lot more.

    When my twin nieces were babies I thought my sister-in-law would lose her mind — she had three other pre-school kids at home. Just feed­ing them all was like a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion. Incred­u­lously, peo­ple I knew would ask me if she was work­ing (had a tra­di­tional job), and I would look at them like “You think she has time to leave the house???”

    • It’s funny, because I’m not really a baby per­son (and Mark was a very needy vel­cro baby), I thought it would get eas­ier as he grows up. Turned out that it’s actu­ally even more dif­fi­cult. Some days, I feel like I’m los­ing my mind!

      Few of my friends have kids… only two, actually.

  2. I don’t have kids yet but i totally under­stands. I used to be mad at my sis­ter at first because she had no time for me when i used to call her on the phone. Then i moved in with her, i felt bad because deal­ing with a 2 yrs old (and now she has a new­born), it is not easy. My niece started behav­ing now a little(she can finally make up some sen­tences but still has big tantrums), but still my sis­ter and brother in law has not been out at get-togethers with the kids yet. Actu­ally, they have been to only 2 this year, one was a kid birth­day party and the other was parent-teacher school night. I tried to take them out bowl­ing, but my niece got freaked out because of the Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions. I think tak­ing kids out is all about trial and error. I truly get it and it is tough.

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