In my old life in Berkeley, I was practically a hermit.
No, really. I would get up in the morning, take my dogs to daycare, hop on the train to work, work for lots of hours, take the train back to the East Bay, get my dogs, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. On the weekends, I would stay in my PJs until the last possible minute, force myself to take the dogs to the park or play with them in the yard, and then go on either cleaning sprees or shopping sprees. My friend time almost always happened on the weekends because of the dogs, and I always rallied for unfashionably early dinners or brunch, because I am an old person and like to be in bed by 10PM.
After 10PM, I am totally hit or miss. After a couple of drinks, I could be chatty. But mostly I’m just tired.
You can ask my friend Jann, who lived with me for about a month while her new apartment was being renovated. We came home every night and put on stretchy pants and watched the X-Files or put together puzzles. She knit while I caught up on Pretty Little Liars or yelled at So You Think You Can Dance. And I was still in bed by 10PM.
Since Joel and I were dating long-distance, when we got together it was usually like vacation. We’d put off chores as much as possible and eat out, sleep in, go for walks, see movies, whatever. The goal was just to spend time together, and even when we had Claire we’d make a big day of it. We’d get pancakes at our favorite restaurant, find a kid-friendly activity, have family movie night.
In the last six months before my move, we tried to live more like real life, even when we were just visiting. We knew the vacation vibe couldn’t last, and that we needed to figure out how to be together when things were normal. It’s all fun and games until…
This weekend reality hit me really hard. As I’ve already written, I had Claire by myself on Friday night. I went straight from four meetings packed into two hours to picking her up, worrying about her tummy ache, and going through all the nighttime motions. On Saturday, I needed to go for a short run, do laundry, make a grocery list/shop, return some pet stairs to PetCo, return a couple of things to Target, and clean the house. (Luckily, Cooper’s Saturday behavioral class was canceled.) But Claire had swimming in the morning, and then acrobatics class at the circus school at 2. The classes are so close together that there’s no time to come home in between, and I didn’t want to miss circus class, so I went along. Five hours of the day went up in smoke.
I didn’t get my run. We didn’t go to PetCo. We went to Target, but didn’t have the stuff with us to return.
On Sunday, we organized the movie date with Claire’s friends. I had work to do at home in the morning, and refused to give up my run. It was a great run! But I got home with only 90 minutes before we needed to leave for the movie. The lasagna I had planned for dinner needed more prep time – I was going to make the sauce from scratch – so it was either stay home and cook or go to the movie and make another dinner plan. Joel didn’t want to be alone with three little girls, and I wanted to see Despicable Me 2 again, so I scrapped dinner. We returned the pet stairs. We saw a movie. And then I owed Claire a tea party before dinner.
It really hit me hard that I am no longer the master of my own time. I mean, I am. I guess? But there are new demands on my time, and it’s very hard for me to deal with. In the old days, I would run when I wanted to run. If I wanted to spend six hours making lasagna, I would. If I needed to sit at the kitchen table and put in a few hours of work on the weekend, I did.
I can still do those things, but when we have Claire, it means actively making the choice not to spend time with her. Since I already have a bit of a chip on my shoulder for being late to the mom game, this makes me feel like a jerk. I don’t want to be selfish and choose Me Time over Claire Time. I want her to know that I’m in it to win it, so to speak, that I want to be part of her life. And it’s not like we have her every day, all day. We get her just a couple of nights at a time, usually, so I have plenty of days when I can be selfish with my time.
My friend Audrey says that all new moms go through it, and that any sort of change is hard. She’s a very wise lady, and is balancing a toddler and a newborn and her own public relations business. When I think about moms like Audrey who manage so much, I also feel like a jerk. I mean. I’m a part-time future stepmom of a seven year old! I don’t have to change diapers, she rarely cries, she can feed herself, and etc.
I’m a little bit of an emotional mess, eh? I have confidence that it will come together. I’m a smart lady, I’ll figure it out. But man. It would be cool to have a day when I don’t have to figure anything out.