Thursday, December 29, 2005

What Did We Do With Our Time?

My son and I are currently on semi-vacation at my parents' house for three weeks. My husband is not with us. He is back at home working and enjoying the quiet time. Or so I thought. He sent an email last night saying that he complained that our infant son took up much of his time but that he is not sure what to do with himself now that we are not there.

I often wonder that. What did I do with my time before I had a baby in my life? If you are one of those people who believes that having a baby will not change your lifestyle, think again. While do not believe, as do many childrearing experts, that you have to give up your own life to be a parent, it does put a drain on your time.

For example, before my son was born, I read vociferously. He has had an effect on my reading in two ways. First, neither my husband nor I have the time to read for pleasure the way we used to. Even my husband's industry magazines are piled up in our magazine rack, and he reads them during naps or when our baby is playing by himself.

Besides the time, we do not have the money to finance our medium-sized book collection. If I had to guess, I would say that we have about 600 books. Our little library was one of our biggest sources of pride back in graduate school. Now we are filling our son's shelves with books and adding very slowly to our own.

Another way that times have changed is that I used to be the one who wanted - even begged for - the 7 a.m. appointment. I wanted to find out what needed to be done, get it done, and go on with my day. Given the choice, I went in to work at 6 a.m. Although I rarely left the office before 7 or 8 p.m. no matter what time I went in, I enjoyed the ability to get there early and get a good two hours of work done before everyone else.

The day I brought my son home from the hospital, I made an appointment for my new baby to get his pictures made. I had to take a 10:00 appointment; it was all they had. I was distressed, then, to determine that my husband and I could barely make it out of the door in time to get there for the 10 a.m. photos. I was shocked. Ten o'clock was practically afternoon! In that way, my baby has changed my time schedule. Getting a baby ready means bathing him, feeding him, changing him, and then clothing him. It takes much longer to get a little one ready, which means that you will have less down time in the mornings.

The third big drain on time once baby arrives is that your time is not your own. Just when you are ready to head to the grocery store, your baby poops. As frustrating as it is, you have to deal with it. So you haul baby back out of the car seat, take her in, change the diaper, and then 15 minutes later you are ready to start again. A trip out for a half hour walk becomes an hour-long ordeal by the time you bundle baby, get the stroller, and then pack it all up when you are done. Babies often seem to be in charge. Because they are so needy, it makes it necessary to spend more time preparing and organizing before you head out into the world.

While I may complain about these impositions on my time, I am slowly learning that they are okay. Getting everything done is worthless if you do not enjoy life in the process. Spending time with my baby is more important than completing Saturday's errands by 11 o'clock so that I can relax the rest of the day. Like many other parts of my life, I have discovered that having a baby has taught me that time is precious and should not be rushed. If I do not make the 8 a.m. doctor's appointment, who cares? I have something far more important on my agenda.

By Julia Mercer

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