Some day, when I have the time….
We’ve all uttered that phrase plenty in our lives — especially parents, even more so moms and working moms.
We imagine that when the kids get older or move out, we will have more time to _____________________. But what will we REALLY do with all that elusive time? What decadent escapades will fill our lives?
I worked with a single woman who asked me lots of questions about what it was like to raise kids. No matter how much she tried to empathize, she never really understand the vast amounts of time that a parent relinquishes to a child and how much the parent lets go of other areas in their life (either purposely or by default) because there is simply not enough time to do it all.
I realized that she could not relate to my frustration of having a nagging to-do list that would never all get done when we talked one day about what it would be like for me when my kids were old enough to drive themselves places and eventually in college and out of the house.
“I know I’ll miss them, but I will be so happy to have all that time back,” I fantasized, as she cut me off with her assessment of what would fill that time. “I bet when you get that time, you’ll want to do things you can’t fit in now, like relax at a spa to get a facial and massage.”
I almost fell out of my chair laughing. No, I explained to her, that was not on my Kids-Are-On-Their-Own-So-It’s-Time-For-Me list of priorities. “I would just love to organize my closet!” I exclaimed. Yes, that would be glorious, to actually go back to the days when I rotated clothes based on the season and I did not have piles of shoes, boxes, birthday supplies, room party plans, and old resumes piled in all corners of my closet.
This single woman just didn’t understand that my time was so limited that I couldn’t take care of some basic female needs that had fallen by the wayside for so long, they were like sugar plums on a Christmas tree I just couldn’t reach.
I wasn’t aching for that time back to indulge myself in some much-needed personal attention. I simply wanted to accomplish the things an ordinary organized and successful woman would be taking care of in her life — and tasks I had been handling regularly before kids very well, thank you!
It reminds me of the perennial piles of laundry I had stacked up on the washer and dryer for weeks and months because I could never quite finish ALL the laundry. I had to prioritize laundry I was so time-squeezed! I would do the kids necessary stuff first, then my necessary stuff, then the kids special clothes, then my husband’s clothes, and then my special clothes last. I literally had some articles of clothing I wanted to wear occasionally but couldn’t because I just never got to my fancy clothes before new piles of “higher-priority” laundry invaded again.
When my kids weren’t spilling ice cream on every article of clothing nearly every day by the time they were 14 and 11 — and I moved to a house with a glorious laundry room (instead of a closet barely big enough for the washer and dryer in my kitchen) — I was finally able to conquer every latent laundry pile in our life. I still remember staring at all the empty laundry bins with a smug sense of accomplishment and relief.
Now that I know my son will be driving himself places in about a year, and my daughter is turning 13 soon and will be spending even more time with her friends, I am relishing a new stage when I will actually be able to have more time to myself. And I won’t be running to the spa!
As many working, married moms know, there are far too many deferred tasks in our life that we would love to get to. For some OverAchiever Moms, it can even gnaw away at our ability to sleep or focus. Many of us get over that guilt or shame of putting off so much by realizing that we are doing it because we have prioritized time with our family — playing a board game, snuggling on the couch watching a movie, going on a nature hike — over checking off all those tasks that used to seem so important BK (before kids).
But we can still fantasize about the day when the kids are on their own, and we can finally roll up our sleeves and tackle our list.
Here is mine:
1) Organize my closet
2) Clean my desk at home
3) Polish my nails
4) Resume sending out annual holiday letters
5) Balance my checkbook
6) Exercise every day
7) Finish reading a book
8) Finish each kids’ baby books
9) Get to know my girlfriends again through actual uninterrupted conversations
10) Get a tune up for my car regularly
11) Invite other couples over more
12) Go on date night with my husband more than a few times a year
13) Read the newspaper every day
14) Learn how to use music streaming services
15) Sort through the clutter in the garage, so we can park both cars in it
16) Open piles of mail from weeks, months, years ago
17) Make a meal that takes more than 20 minutes to prepare
18) Actually send the Thank You Notes I forced my kids to write
19) Get to know my neighbors better by talking to them rather than just a quick wave as I run in and out
20) Give away old clothes and accessories I don’t wear or use
21) Clean my house regularly, not just when company is coming over
22) Print favorite pictures & add them to photo albums that stopped after I went digital
23) Give away old toys on Freecycle
24) Get those curtains for my daughter’s room that I promised her
Whoops — I guess I’ve got to do that last one soon. Before I know it, she’ll be on her own, and I’ll feel terrible if I finally transform her room into the way she wants it after she’s gone.
It reminds me of the best way to accomplish some of these tasks — with my family! I can actually do the entire second half of my list WITH my kids — if only they weren’t so darn BUSY…