Last week, I lay on the floor in Arlo’s room. I was angry. It was a sunny morning, for once. Both children were in good health, for once. It was our one full day off during the week. And there was no way I could think about finding the strength to dress everybody and guide a three-year old, buggy board, bike, and baby, to the park and back again. As the morning grew later, it became obvious that I was waiting in vain for my energy to appear. The night before had been awful, and I knew that day would be a write off.
I can’t own all the days. There will be days, weeks even, where it’s better to accept that nothing is going to happen, nothing is going to get done, and I have to learn to be happy that the pace of life has to slow down, because there’s nothing I can do to change it.
Of course, being self-employed and having work of a seasonal nature makes this concept a bit more tricky to swallow – if I book in a busy month of photoshoots, then it’s not as simple a matter as saying “Oh well, someone’s ill, or we haven’t slept in days, so this week will have to be a slow week”. Of course, that’s not going to cut it.
But for now, I am not working all that much. There are various reasons for this – I don’t work much in January and February because the weather is less than perfect for photoshoots. Plus, Sam has several trips coming up for work over the next few months but we don’t know exactly when yet, so I have purposefully not been touting for much business because at the moment, I’m unsure that I’d be able to fit it in without him here to look after the children whilst I do a shoot, or whilst I need to edit. We have the same situation year on year, it’s always going to be the same until we have some sort of solid childcare in place for both children.
And the other reason I’ve not been working as much is because I wanted to see how I felt after temporarily removing one time-stealing factor from my life. This decision also coincided with Arlo doing two longer days at preschool (from 9.30-2.30). I still have Rory , so it’s not an opportunity to work. But he is a relaxed, easy baby, and a baby is a LOT less mentally taxing than a three-year old. So, I have more breathing space. Part of my day actually feels relaxing. I can wind down. If I manage to get Rory down for a nap in the cot, I even get 30 minutes of time just to myself, without any children – I can count on two hands the number of times that has happened since Arlo stopped napping over a year and a half ago. And I get to spend time with my baby, and we all know how fleeting that stage is.
Some photos of my time with just Rory in recent weeks:
Looking out of the window like a dog – his favourite thing to do at the moment.
It’s made a big difference. January and February have been quite pleasant, really, considering my usual mood at this time of year. Sam says I seem happier. There aren’t any deadlines. Free time is a bonus, not a rush to get important things done. I am playing with my children. I haven’t really played with them consistently for ages. I’m always attempting to fob them off so I can work. Arlo comes home from preschool and we do jigsaws, or board games. I make Rory giggle. His life isn’t just a cycle of trying to get him to sleep so I can get things done.
So, basically, I’ve confirmed my suspicions – which were that I’m happiest being either a stay at home parent, or working (with childcare), but trying to balance the two (with no childcare) is really not very fun. Just as I can’t own all the days, I also can’t win at all the roles, all of the time. I want to enjoy my children, and live in the moment with them. I enjoy my job, and I wish I had more time for it. I wish I got more of a break as a parent, more often, so I could better appreciate my time with my children. I wish for a lot of things, that are impossible to wish for all together at the same time. It’s a parenting paradox.
I don’t know where this leaves things, because ultimately I do need to work, and I’m out-of-pocket if I pay for childcare, but at least I’ve clarified the situation in my head rather than it continuing to be a jumble of guilt, confused responsibilities, and tiredness weighing me down.