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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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