Ever since Ellis arrived, it’s been non-stop craziness. Not in a bad way. Just really, really busy. Andrew and I always wonder what we did with all our free time before we had kids. We were productive, for sure. But, I can’t even fathom that much free time anymore. My perception of free time has forever been altered. If I can offer any advice to any person who doesn’t have kids yet (and plans on having them in the future), it would be: Don’t waste time. We did a lot before we had kids. We traveled, we played music, we built things, we renovated a house. Many of these things we still do now, but with much less frequency and a lot less spontaneity, and I STILL feel like we didn’t take advantage of our kid-free days!
Becoming a parent has been one of the most fulfilling and joyful experiences I’ve had thus far in life. And I wouldn’t want to be this busy for anything other than my two babies and Andrew. It’s just a fact that our lives are busier now that we are a family of four.
How does a family balance work, keep the house under control, spend time with the kiddos, not to mention the spouse, and still do things that make one feel whole (for me, that means gardening, crafts, making stuff and having eternal side projects)? It’s a challenge, to say the least. But somehow with the million things that have to be done everyday, we manage.
I admit that we have a unique situation; a situation that in recent years probably became less unique due to the recession. I’m a working Mama and Andrew is a stay-at-home Papa. It was an arrangement that we would have never imagined, but has turned out to be a true blessing. Andrew is an, honest-to-goodness, domestic genius. He somehow manages to take care of the kids, take care of our home, cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, check the mail, take out the garbage and compost, mail our packages, pay our bills, bake bread on a regular basis, and still do freelance work on the side. I don’t know how he does it! I work 40+ hours a week as Creative Director at a start-up, and can barely manage regular bathing. Also, a one-income household is no joke in this day and age. So, there are a lot of things that we go without because of this choice we made. But having one of us home to help keep our lives intact is well worth the monetary sacrifices we make.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about specific things we have found that help balance work and life. This is what I came up with:
1. Sharing the load
Neither of us is above doing anything that helps keep our family sane and happy. Andrew may not work a traditional 9-5, but he does so much at home that I don’t have to worry about working at the office AND at home. But I also realize that Andrew has a tough job too, so I try to keep my mess to a minimum and give him a break from the kids as often as I can.
2. Not owning a television
We haven’t owned a TV in years. Not because we don’t like television or think it’s evil or something. There are lots of television shows that we enjoy. We just prefer to watch TV shows when a series is over and we can get every season on DVD (Six Feet Under box set, yes please!) There are just a lot of other things we would rather be doing than watching TV.
*One note for the sake of transparency, we do have multiple computers AND a movie projector for watching Netflix or DVDs. Andrew watches documentaries and movies at night before bed on an iPad and Q loves watching movies and Yo Gabba Gabba. Also, Andrew loves sports. So, we aren’t completely screen-free. I watch hardly anything at all, but I also sit in front of a computer all day at work and the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit in front of another one.
3. The hours between 6am to 8am and 9pm to Midnight
These are the only hours we have to ourselves to do the things we need/want to do, without relying on each other to watch the kids. AKA the time to get stuff done (AKA showering.)
4. Accepting that our free time is limited for the next few years
This was a hard one for me. After Andrew telling me this over and over, and me being in denial, it finally sunk in after Ellis was born. Time has sped up double time these past 7 months and this made me see that Quil and Ellis will only be babies for such a short period of time! It makes me and Andrew both a little misty eyed to think that they are growing up so fast, and this makes it a much easier to devote every waking minute to them. Because we know we only have so much time with them before they grow up and don’t need us like they do now. Also, whenever I complain about not having time to do “stuff I want to do,” Andrew reminds me “that’s what retirement’s for.” Thanks, honey :P
5. Waking up early
This is just par for the parenting course. We don’t even set an alarm anymore. It’s amazing how much you can get done before 9am.
6. Talk to one another
We struggle with this one still, and it’s probably the most important. We lean heavily on one another and the last thing we want is for any resentment to build up between us. Sometimes our lives can get so chaotic that it’s like we are in the same room but we can’t see each other. And that’s never good. It can lead to feeling unappreciated and overwhelmed, with each person feeling like they are going it alone. Sometimes, we just have to step back and breath and remind each other that we’re a team.
7. Give up control
If we’re going to expect each other to make decisions for the family, we have to trust each others judgement and not try to control everything. This was another thing that was hard for me because I’m a slight control freak and I like to do things my way (who doesn’t?!) But just like Andrew wouldn’t come to my work and tell me how to do my job, I’m not going to come home and complain about how he does things, even if he doesn’t do things the way I would do them. He has our family’s best interest in mind, and that’s good enough for me.
How do you guys keep balance in your family life? We always welcome new ideas and suggestions because we don’t have it all figured out! Does anyone really?
P.S. Here is a great series that ran on A Cup of Jo on work/family life balance.