I had all the time in the world before I had kids. I had no IDEA how much free time I had, how much time I wasted doing literally nothing. Now, free time is counted in the gaps between moments, where things still have to get done, but there is a little less...panic? Cacaphony? These are the moments when chores become luxuries and my to-do list becomes an opportunity to have time for myself. Below are some moments I never categorized as "free time" pre-kids, but now look forward to:
1. Going to the grocery store
When I was pregnant with my second, everyone would wake up super-early on Saturday mornings. My husband would take my oldest to soccer class (it should be noted that no actual soccer was played, but there was a lot of running, followed by chasing and herding) and I would go to Loblaws and buy groceries. It was pure delight. The glass doors would breeze open and I’d saunter in with my cart empty and my head full of tranquility. I took my time, wandering up and down the aisles, reading labels, picking things up, putting them back, or not. I’d meander around that store with a big stupid grin on my face. The cashiers must have thought I was nuts. For 45 minutes there would be no gauntlet, no mad dash to grab a few necessities à la Hunger Games. No screaming, no crying, no begging for chocolate at the checkout line (FYI, Loblaws? Putting candy at the checkout line? Genius, keeping the crack at the crackhead's eye level. Bravo, well played.) For 45 minutes, I had all the time in the world.
2. Cleaning - anything
My husband took a week off to clean our basement to prepare for a small reno (read: we’re finishing the basement so that the Suicide Squad of cars, Lego blocks and tiny plastic toys that threaten my life on the daily will have a final resting place, other than under my feet or in my jugular.) He spent every day lugging, grunting and shuffling boxes and bins, deciding what stays and what goes, hauling everything up the stairs, and then back down again. All I could think to myself was “lucky”.
3. Going to work
I've always liked my job, but never really saw it as a place to "escape" to. However, there are mornings where the kids are full of crazy and I can't get them to my parents' place fast enough. I get to work early, and not only is the silence golden, but the perks are endless: completing a task, finishing an email, drinking hot coffee, going out for lunch, having discussions with grown-ups about topics other than projectile vomiting and daycare. If you don’t work out of an office, I highly recommend that you construct a mini lean-to in your living room and just sit there with your laptop for an hour or so each day.
And now for the things I didn't even know qualified as "free time" until they were taken away from me:
1. Being sick
It sure doesn’t sound luxurious, but pre-kids, I remember taking a sick day. A.Whole.Day. To just be sick. I could stay home, sleep, eat soup and take cough medicine. Today, there is no such luxury. For my oldest, daytime is awake time and those frozen waffles aren't gonna toast themselves. I get a sick “15 minutes” if I’m lucky. There are no more “days off” when I’m not feeling well. It’s get up, suck it up, and get out the door. Oh, and try not to black out while driving.
2. Going to the bathroom - alone
I used to have an air of mystery about me. There were certain private indignities that I kept private because they were, well...undignified. Now that there are three men in the house, my secret garden is not so secret, and my toilet activities are not only available for public viewing, but are subject to a rating system. I tried locking the door...once. Based on the screaming and banging, I suspect they thought I had disappeared into a black hole and wasn't ever coming back. And then who would have made toaster waffles?
3. Phone calls
Imagine you're taking a very important phone call. Let's say you're trying to schedule a mover, book a doctor's appointment and get your car seen by the mechanic because it's making that Bloods vs Crips gangland noise under the hood again. Now cradle the phone in your neck, because someone has just handed you a wet, sticky washcloth in one hand, and a sticky toddler in your other arm (note: toddler will be reaching a pitch that only dogs and bats can hear because Newton's fourth unpublished law states that a matter of urgency is equal to the volume your children will hit so that you can't accomplish it.) Still with me? Good. Now wipe the toddler's face and hands while perching on one leg like a stork, because your oldest child is pretending to be the "bad guy" while ramming your leg with his Fisher Price fire truck. Oh, you need to give a credit card number over the phone? Good. Now take an air horn and blast it against your other ear. That's your oldest who, in perfecting his comedy of pain, is now screaming because you've diverted your attention for all of 15 seconds. Feel free to cry at this point.
I'm in a brave new world, one where getting a root canal is considered a "spa day" and business calls are taken semi-dressed and covered in food residue. Though I've traded "free time" for phases of indentured servitude, I try to be present in the little moments before they're gone, even the less-cherishable ones. I'd hate to look back and think that I didn't enjoy the spaces in between the madness. To quote Into The Woods:
Let the moment go... Don't forget it for a moment, though.