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.


About Author

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


  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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