One benefit of traveling a few times a year is that it keeps your home life fresh. Every time we return home it feels so good to have consistency again, and an added benefit is that we have a chance to reset and refocus our intentions for life in general. It’s so easy to go on autopilot and end up not living the life you intended and I tend to get really frustrated when I feel that gap widening. I don’t know how all the families make it work with both parents working full time – you’re amazing! I know we have it easy but a lot of the time it still feels like we are just squeezing our intentions in and barely scraping the surface of what we’d like to accomplish. So this is not a complaint but a challenge – we boiled each week down to our basic needs:
work (one part time job each during which we have childcare)
personal health (exercise, spiritual and mental health routines)
outings (dates and intentional time with our girl)
food (acquiring food, cooking and eating together)
extracurriculars (alone time, time with friends, hobbies)
taking care of business (paying bills, managing mandatory life logistics)
We tried to block adequate time for all of these things into our week, keeping in mind that it’s just a framework, by no means complete and that we can be flexible and make things up here or there or shift things around as needed. Also we’ll inevitably end up doing things not on this list like going to the bank or hanging out with neighbours. One of my initial observations was that there is actually a surprising amount of wiggle room in our lives!
Day one: Monday. The schedule went great and time actually felt abundant. I finished an hour and a half of work while Jujube was sleeping so the afternoon felt very flexible and I used the extra time to travel to and from a cafe to work there since I find that much more inspired.
Day two was rough for me because she’s been so good at napping in the morning lately that we scheduled some work time for me to take place during her nap. Turns out this is a sure way to make me feel frantic. She didn’t nap at all so I spent the morning trying to put her down for a nap and waiting it out but then getting her up and changing her second poopy diaper. So because I expected to work during her nap, I was more frustrated with her and I didn’t really get any personal time that was supposed to happen in the afternoon because I worked instead. Good lesson – naps are bonus time, not guaranteed time and thinking otherwise will just set me up to be more frustrated with her – not at all the kind of parent I am working to be.
Day three went as expected. I had a few meetings at the office, and my commute is 45 mins each way because we moved out to the countryside. So in town after work I zipped around gathering groceries and gardening supplies from our favourite sources and secondhand shopping. I was so loaded up on the scooter with my goodies and it was threatening dark storm clouds, but I made it home just as the first raindrops were falling.
Day four was hard because Jujube woke up and cried a lot in the night (she’s been doing this all week but was particularly fussy… separation anxiety?) so we started off very tired. Mr. Gumdrop slept in the other room from 3am on so I let him sleep until 9am. But Jujube was tired too and went back down for a nap at 8:30 so I still got to do yoga and started my schedule on time, just sleepy. By the end of the day though, I was feeling pretty anxious and just generally feeling like there’s never enough time to get everything done and live into our values. We have a more flexible and easy schedule than most everyone I know and we still can’t quite find our rhythm. Hence this scheduling experiment. But, the flexibility and childcare we do have allowed Mr. Gumdrop to take me out to dinner last minute. I explained how I felt frustrated (and possibly guilty) with the perceived lack of time I have actually PLAYING with Jujube. I spend lots of time taking care of her needs but much less playful time. So we set an intention to go home from dinner and both spend time just having fun with her. Her attention span at this age is pretty short so it seemed a bit jumbled to me, but I am learning what it means to play with my almost-toddler and it was very sweet.
Day five, Friday, I felt better. I took Jujube to a playgroup at the local international school in the morning where she gets a chance to socialize, read books and play in the gym or on the playground. Since Mr. Gumdrop didn’t fit all his hours into four days and also had some extra work he needed to accomplish, he worked at home instead of taking Jujube out and we paid for some extra childcare so I could get some projects finished in the afternoon as well. In the evening our neighbours offered to watch Jujube and put her to bed so that we could go out on a date. We saw a pretty bad movie and ate food that was so spicy we couldn’t get through it, but it was a date!
Saturday was a great family day. We took our neighbours with Jujube to the zoo as a gift from her grandparents for her first birthday. The zoo is quite large so we rented a golf cart and kept Jujube entertained as long as possible looking at the animals and playing in the kids’ section and the little water park. It also served as a great place for her to take a nap once she was worn out since we brought her car seat along. After she fell asleep we still really enjoyed taking shifts to go see other exhibits and animals and felt like kids ourselves.
Overall, I feel really positive about the experiment and we have been adjusting it but continuing the habit into this week. The schedule exposes the reasons we’re not getting everything done in a week that I expect to and helps me find more reasonable expectations. Having Mr. Gumdrop take Jujube in the mornings so that I can have a half hour to start the day right makes me think about that time as a gift rather than stealing from my personal or work time – it creates abundance, which is a much better place to pray, meditate, and do yoga from. It’s also a very sweet time for them in the morning.
Another interesting note was that having something scheduled also makes you more creative and consistent. For example, Mr. Gumdrop had a swim scheduled for one of his big workouts for the week. And because it’s scheduled, he knows that if he doesn’t take that time when it’s booked for himself, it probably won’t happen. So even though it was overcast and just raining lightly, he went swimming anyway and really enjoyed it. That’s the kind of thing where if there wasn’t the schedule, you’d just opt out because the conditions weren’t just right.
This week we are trying to add in projects time for Mr. Gumdrop and Skype time with family and friends. I’m sure it will continue to be hit or miss but so far I really appreciate the structure planning the week out ahead of time brings to my life and it helps me be more grateful for all the time we do have.