Life as I Know It:
0730: Wake Up (how is this is sleeping in now?) and make French toast for breakfast. Happy Sunday!
0745: Wake the kiddo
0815: Clean up from breakfast, run the dishwasher and get ready to exercise
0845: Take the kiddo jogging in the stroller
0930: Shower (for both of us) and get ready. Get kiddo dressed, hair brushed, teeth brushed.
1015: Put in a load of laundry, and finish breakfast clean up
1045: Play with the kiddo
1110: Unload dishwasher
1115: Start food prep (scrubbing and chopping veggies, etc.) for the week (Dinners and Lunches)
1315: Clean up from all the food prep/dishes
1320: Sit down with a cup of tea to contemplate my life and write this timeline before heading out to run errands at multiple stores with the kiddo. Wait… who’s making lunch?
This is Sunday. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that weekends are meant to be fun am I? Things like adventuring, checking out some live music or having a water balloon fight come to mind. You know, generally have a good time at whatever pace you choose to set.
I had a hint of “weekend like” experiences on Saturday but that was almost entirely contributed to the fact that my husband was actually around and helped me clean the house, (more like pick up than clean, this place would not pass a white glove test people) which saved me at least 2 hours.
After cleaning we squeezed grocery shopping into the day and then did that thing (already nearly 4pm) where we relaxed. We went out for dinner because I just didn’t have the energy to go through the dinner-making process after putting away all the groceries. Oh, the irony.
When did things change? When did weekends turn into a bigger workload than the workweek?
My circumstance is by no means unique, but this is what it looks like:
Our situation more or less leaves me as a single parent for the majority of the time. My husband and I both work for the US Forest Service in the realm of Wildland Fire. Fortunately, my position allows for schedule flexibility (which is some sort of miracle), whereas my husband has none. Not only that, but he commutes an hour to work and his schedule consists of 10-hour days 6-days a week. If his hours get extended due to high fire danger or if he responds to a fire he just doesn’t come home because, why would you? There’s no point in driving home late at night only to get up early to drive right back. When he’s here he’s a great partner albeit, an exhausted one.
Weekday Schedule as a Solo Parent:
0540: Wake Up and make breakfast
0610: Wake the kiddo for breakfast
0645: Clean up from breakfast
0700-0820: Exercise, shower, and get ready for work, get kiddo dressed, hair and teeth brushed.
0820: Grab lunches, water bottles, backpack, workbag, sunglasses, and lather kiddo in sunscreen as we head out the door.
0830: Drop kiddo at preschool
0840: Stop for coffee so that life can continue sanely
0900: Arrive at work
0900-1630 Do work that I actually get paid for
1630: Leave work
1700: Pick kiddo up from school
1710: Unload the car, start cleaning all the lunch containers, and “relax”
1800: Start making dinner
1845: Dinnertime (this is where my husband would come home IF he comes home)
1920: Start cleaning up from dinner (Husband’s duty if he’s home)
1945: Get kiddo ready for bed. Pajamas, bathroom, books…
2015: Kiddo is in bed
2030: Start making lunches for the next day
2100: How is it already 9pm?!?
2130: Finish getting things ready for the morning
2200: Read a book in bed
If you paid any attention to this schedule you would have recognized that there isn’t much in the way of downtime. Maybe you saw on both timelines that exercise is included and you thought to yourself, “there’s your extra time to relax. Go sit on the couch instead!” To that I would say this, Exercise is a non-negotiable item for several reasons:
- I become grumpy and lethargic without exercise
- My profession requires me to have a relatively high level of fitness
- It’s the most beneficial thing any person can do for their overall health
- My kiddo is learning life habits from watching what I do or do-not do
Back to Crazy Schedules:
Is this why there’s such a large number of “under-producers” in the working world? Because work actually turns into the place where people try to catch a break?
I think back on my life previous to being a parent and I find it astonishing how easy life was. For clarification, I don’t mean that life was easy. I mean to say that when comparing parenting life with non-parenting life the scales do not balance out equally. It’s more like there is an elephant on one side and a honeybee on the other while trying to navigate all the same life challenges.
Recently I went on a couple of weeklong work trips and even though the hours of work were basically all my waking hours it felt so easy. I only had myself to take care of. I didn’t have to cook, clean, or run errands. I didn’t have to get someone in the bath, I wasn’t interrupted every other sentence by a toddler while trying to speak, I didn’t have to hurt my brain trying to answer a random but worthwhile toddler question. It was like going back in time to a life that once was.
However, this isn’t meant to be a rant about parenting because that kiddo has all the best qualities that the human spirit can contain and she has helped me fully evolve into the best version of myself by being her parent. I do not regret this chosen path.
That being said, let’s circle back to the point.
While I was catching up with a friend on the phone the other day I began rambling about this life schedule to which she said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that! I thought it was just me!! There is no time for anything except what you have to get done.” She also brought up a really good point about what the “middle class” actually is. It’s exactly that, the middle.
It’s the place where you can afford to buy a house and have decent cars because both people are working full-time jobs in order to pay for the house and car payments. Of course, both people need to make a good wage because you’ve got to actually make more than what you pay out in childcare, (or school tuitions, etc.) school loan debt, and all the other bills. What happens if a member of your family requires consistent medical care? Who’s paying those bills your Fairy Godmother?
Essentially, you make enough money to stay out of the red but not enough money to have a full staff of people, which is what you actually need in order to keep from burning the candle at both ends. Where’s the personal assistant, chef, and housekeeper? No really… where are they?
We have one kiddo. I have no idea how people pull it off when they have 3+ kids. I grew up with 3 siblings and looking back I wonder how we had food every-single-day for that many people. No wonder we ate goulash so often, it was cheap and easy.
I can see why people throw lunchables and go-gurt at their kids on their way to school and grab a pizza on the way home from work, it’s about 1,000 times easier.
If I weren’t such a masochist I would probably go down that road myself but I keep trying to hone my efficiency skills because I remember being a kid and feeling amazed when I saw some of the homemade lunches that other kids were eating. I was mostly a hot lunch kid, which could be cool on those days when you got the rectangular pizza slice and chocolate milk but it also left something to be desired. I want my kiddo to know and understand nutrition by eating well from the get-go but that takes a lot of effort on my part and focusing on food can be exhausting if you have, say, anything else to do in life.
I didn’t grow up middle class; middle class was something to aspire to from our vantage point. I’ve spent all this time describing the struggles of life in the “middle class” but for a great many it would be a dream come true! Owning dependable vehicles that don’t break down, always having money to pay the bills, both people working steady jobs? That is the stuff of legends! But is it really?
It’s a case of the grass is greener because when you are low income the grass is definitely greener, but the middle class is the “have-it-all if you do-it-all” class. It doesn’t feel sustainable, probably because it isn’t. Collective fatigue will eventually rear its ugly head in some capacity and that will end up being one more thing that you don’t have time to deal with.
In the time that I took to write this, I was periodically prodded every few minutes by a four-year-old wanting me to come and play with her. My time feels fleeting but her time is precious because every time I turn around she has grown again and another stage has gone by.
So what am I trying to say? Basically, I’m tired; and yes, I accept your offer to send me a personal assistant, chef, and housekeeper. How kind of you. Until they get here I will just focus on the present moment because the past is gone and the future isn’t here yet so where else have I got to be?
The present moment is where I sit down to write even though I’ve got 10 other things to do because sometimes you’ve got to forcibly claim your time. It’s also where I stop writing so that I can hop around on cushions strewn across the living room floor with a four-year-old because it’s the only way to get around the hot lava.
Wish me luck people.