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a little bit more about me

My name is Beth and I accidentally have found myself living in Arizona but I'm originally from Tennessee. My education is in history and anthropology, which means that I know a little about a lot of things and can hold my own at a cocktail party in mixed company. I work in museums, doing all sorts of things ranging from researching and writing exhibits to cataloguing absolute wickety wak. I love comedy, baking, photography, my daughter, dogs, and above all else, napping.*

* 2013 edit: Oh yeah, and my new son too.

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    Entries in parenting (9)

    Wednesday
    May302018

    Trapped free time

    Now that it's summer, meaning the kids are done with school this year, that brings a whole new level of schlepping kids here and there for the next couple of months. Day camp on weekdays, swimming on weeknights, and soccer one weekend morning, repeat. What that means for me, in addition to making my brain melt in terms of logistics, is that I have a bunch of trapped free time.

    I remember a book I read a few years ago - ETA okay, fine, I googled it and this is it - that talked about how little free time American moms have. Part of the book went into time studies, where women were asked to track their every moment and it turned out they actually had way more "free" time than they thought. I can't fairly recall the exact details, so do not take this as an attack on the specifics of that argument, but there's different kinds of free time.

    There's true free time, where you get to decide what out of everything in the world you want to do with that time: read, watch tv, go swimming, get a pedicure, go hiking, whatever. Then there's paired free time, which is only slightly less awesome, where you and your partner determine together what to do with that time, a subset of the first category. You probably would go out to eat, go for a bike ride, go get a beer, or watch a movie, go to a concert, etc. In other words, if given all options, you might prefer to stay home and sew a bag, but because you'd dedicated this block of free time to your partner, you have a slightly smaller subset of options (because you're excluding individual pursuits, since it's not very team-building-y to go off in your own corner and write while your partner works on their yoga or whatever).

    Then there's what I have in spades right now: trapped free time. All of these moments of otherwise free time. This happens when I'm

     

    • usually by myself, 
    • but at a specific location (i.e., soccer), *not at home*, 
    • where I cannot leave, or even when I'm allowed to, there's literally no point because there's nowhere I could get to and back from in time, so errands are out,
    • and have a limited amount of time.

     

    I have tons off these blocks of trapped free time. 25 minutes a weeknight at swim lessons, 50 minutes every weekend, and then, of course, the periodic 2-hour drop off birthday party or playdate. With the 2 hour blocks, that can be a lot easier, although to be honest, it depends on the location of that. I've been to birthday parties where there's nothing within a 10-15 minute drive, and so by the time I got to Target or wherever, I would have so little time to browse that I just don't find it worth it. I personally don't find it relaxing to look around or shop with 30 minutes or less. But at least with those, I can at least get my groceries or something where I have a very routine and rote thing I need to get done. Still I wouldn't call that free time, as if it's some kind of leisure. 

    The weeknight and shorter blocks are what I think of when I think of trapped free time. Sure, I could bring a book, but given my budget and self-imposed library-only policy, means that I have to also have time to plan in advance. To get to the library, browse for something, and get back out without my kids losing their minds or, (GASP!) if I'm on my own, before I'm late for kid pick-up. In other words: oh so rare! That leaves magazines, which, again, I don't subscribe to because money but am wondering if they would be worth it for this very reason. It comes to my door, it comes with a variety of topics to read about, and I just stuff it in the car and have it at all times. But for the moment, I don't have any subscriptions.

    There's always podcasts. That's oh-kay, because I do love podcasts, but I already isten to them at specific times and most of them, I can't keep up with. Plus it would also require me to have the time and forethought to plan in advance, because budget precludes me from walking around streaming cellular data at all times, so I download for offline or at-home-wifi listening only. So, a possibility, but meh.

    So what's left? Cute little mobile games that I download and require no cell / wifi data. Those are always good when I find a great new one, but I don't know where / how to find new ones. I keep asking my tech-savvy friends where do you find new games and they just blink at me. Maybe they don't play them? Or maybe they just scroll endlessly through the app store and pick ones at random? I can't deal with the choice overload there. Having to specify which category of game I like gives me hives. I have no idea what those categories mean. 

    I can use trapped free time purely as down time, meaning time to just *be*. To sit, relax, listen to the kids play and eavesdrop on the parents over there and hear myself think. That's totally an option for at least a night or two, but I can't help but be irritated at me having "free" time that I could be putting towards my own sanity, self-care, and/or personal goals, but that I'm not using for myself because it's usally the only time I get to myself. To me, there's a major distinction between down time, in which you are intending to do nothing at all, and free time, which you choose to fill with something.

    By the way, I totally recognize that this is a privilege in the first place: to have free time OF ANY SORT, EVER. Parents who work a very demanding schedule, multiple jobs, or have so many responsibilities they can't even breathe, I get that my problem is really a non-issue. But still: trapped free time. Driving me. CRAY CRAY. 

    Thursday
    Nov062014

    Let's Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We? (Part 2)

    When last I wrote about figuring out how to get Dawdler Preschooler into a preschool, as in a "real" preschool, not the "preschool" room at her daycare, which is where she currently is, we were practically driven to drink by demystifying all the horribly disorganized information provided by the district. We have finally made a *little* progress, so an update. Spoiler: it's still nearly impossible to get through the red tape of getting information.

    Whenever we call to ask a question about something that's unclear from the crazy disorganized and inconsistent information that is scattered across the district website, individual school websites, and the state department of education website, we get asked "Have you checked the website?"UGH.

    We have narrowed it down to 3 preschools that have certified early childhood education teachers AND an after-school program. Y'know, for those of us who don't consider 7:40-11:40 a HALF DAY and have to keep working past 11:40. But when we try to schedule tours of each, we were told "Since the curriculum is the same at every district preschool, you have to choose one to tour." Uh, so entirely dismissing the critical point that the individual teachers and their levels of experience and commitment making all the difference in the world? Eh, any teacher will do as long as they follow the provided curriculum and lesson plans, I guess. (Sarcasm, in case that's not crystal clear).

    Even better though: one of those 3 options gives families a choice between a "traditional" preschool and a Montessori environment. So, maybe we should schedule our one and only tour at that one? "Okay, that's fine. You'll schedule your preschool tour with us, and then let me give you the number of this ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT to schedule a SEPARATE TOUR of the Montessori class environment." Oh, lovely. Two different people to call. And they can't coordinate tours on the same day because WHY WOULD YOU?

    But wait. So once we schedule our SEPARATE tours of the preschool and Montessori at the same school and want to talk with and observe the after- or before-school care (depending on if she goes to morning or afternoon preschool), that is scheduled, can you guess? By a third, entirely distinct department, here let me give you the number to schedule a tour with OMG, just STOP.

    We'll just save ourselves a crap load of time and headache and logistical nightmares and decide here and now to unschool? Let's just roll with that. I might as well put all this time & energy of tracking district contacts down and returning messages and waiting on people to schedule tours into planning out her K-12 curriculum.

    Kidding!

    Sort of.

     

    Saturday
    Jul122014

    How to avoid bath time antics

    Recipe for ensuring your kids smell straight-from-the-bath fresh and clean with a minimum of difficulty and effort:

    Have older child scrub your face with their bath soap during imaginary bath time. Do not rinse.

    The rest of the day any time you cuddle or hold your child, you will think "Awww. You smell SO good."

    Thursday
    Jul102014

    Let's Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We?

    A conversation in our house this morning:

    Me: “…so the bottom line is, yes, Dawdler Toddler can start preschool next month, & there’s still availability, we just have to decide which of the 10 preschools in the district we want her to go to.”

    My Better Half™: “why not just the one in walking distance to which we are zoned?”

    Me: “No preschool there.”

    My Better Half™: “So just send her to the closest one in our district that has a preschool.”

    Me: “oh, sure. You’d think it would be that easy. But here’s the tricky part: preschool in our district is 4 days a week…no school on Wednesdays…and you choose the morning half day, which ends at 11:20 OR the afternoon half day that ends at 3:20…”

    My Better Half™: “…can’t you just do both to get a full day that’s 8:20-3:20? Even though that's NOT A FULL DAY at anybody's work?!”

    Me: “…no, because it’s exactly the same school day, just repeated twice.”

    My Better Half™: “…so what are we supposed to do with her after the morning or before the afternoon? And ALL DAY EVERY Wednesday?”

    Me: “…that’s an even bigger question. So there’s a before/after school program for those of us who, I dunno, work and stuff? But it’s only offered at some of the 10 preschools. There is one full-day option – it’s a Montessori multi-age classroom, but that’s only at 1 of the 10 preschools… and we’d be committing to the Montessori track…which I’m not sure I’m on board with…and anyway we would have had to registered forever ago because there’s a waitlist for that.”

    My Better Half™: “…okay, so I guess we do the preschool that’s closest to us AND has one of these before/after school programs.”

    Me: “…agreed. So now we get to the next question. Of the preschools that also have the before/after school programs, which of those do we want her to go to Kindergarten at?”

    My Better Half™: “…okay, now you’re just talking crazy. She’s only 3!”

    Me: “…yeah, I know. But here’s the thing: Since our elementary school, the one in walking distance, doesn’t have a preschool, she can either go to preschool wherever we choose and then switch at kindergarten to where we’re zoned OR continue on to kindergarten wherever we send her to preschool. There’s this thing where if your elementary school doesn’t have a preschool, and as a result you send your kid to a district preschool somewhere else, you can choose to continue on at that school where she started for kindergarten & elementary – y’know, so your kid doesn’t have to make all new friends at a new school all over again. So it’s really a question of where do we want her to ultimately go to kindergarten & elementary school.”

    Both of us: <banging head on counter>

    Me: “…and there’s actually kinda significant differences in curriculum & in quality in the different district elementary schools that also have preschools so…”

    ----

    Is it absolutely bonkers that we’re talking about WHERE TO SEND OUR JUST-TURNED-3-YEAR-OLD to kindergarten?! Is this INSANE or normal these days? Hard to tell…

    Friday
    Apr252014

    Bringing children & work together every day

    Yesterday, at least at my workplace, was Bring Your Child to Work Day. It was also, at least in my job, Bring Work to Your Children Day. Aka Thursday. Aka my telecommuting day.

    I think when you say 'telecommute' a lot of people picture some kind of tech startup employee who works from cooler-than-thou hipster coffee joints all day. In my case you should envision me surrounded by the detritus of toddler & baby toys trying to respond to emails with one hand while nursing and shushing Baby with the other, sipping room temperature coffee all day (so as not to burn Baby when he inevitably flings his hand into the mug sending its contents all over my applesauce and GoGurt-encrusted jeans). I've telecommuted one day a week ever since the nearly 3 year old Dawdler was born - and it was fine when it was just her. Now my telecommuting day just feels so overwhelming. It's impossible to compartmentalize anything. I'm trying to work while also pick up the ever-growing clutter around the house, I'm trying to put away laundry amidst work and a crying Baby, and I'm trying to convince the toddler Dawdler to shuffle off to daycare so I can focus on only two things at once, with the ability to give neither my full attention.

    It's nearly impossible to give my full attention to anything at all anymore, least of all myself. I get it, it's a mom thing to never have any time to myself, but for crying out loud, I've got to find some time for myself. At my cubicle, I'm occupied with work. At home, I'm occupied with the kids. And during the rushed commute in between? I'm trying to slough off the day's work and get into parenting mode with no space for my own occupations in between.

    I have turned to working out before to solve this problem and decompress. Before I had kids, I went to the gym every night right after work before I got home. Now that just seems unfair to My Better Half. Right now, he has the responsibility of getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to daycare (and in the case of Baby, full-time parenting some days of the week), on top of adjuncting and trying to write and make dinner and. And, and, and. So it feels awfully selfish of me to tack on an extra couple of hours to his days to stop off at the gym for myself. When I explained this to someone, they said "oh! So that's just mommy guilt! You gotta shut that sh*t down."

    Please don't 'just' that. That 'just' you threw in there implies that it's all in my mind, that it's 'just' a small problem, that it's insignificant. Baby is now 7 months old and I've never managed to get in a single workout or find any regular routine of time for myself since he was born. That doesn't feel insignificant. Sure, it's true that this is just a phase, as my mom says. But it doesn't feel temporary living in the midst of this phase.

    So until I can sort this out and/or afford a gym membership, you'll excuse me while I carve out time for myself at the bottom of this bag of Pepperidge Farm Molasses Crisp cookies. It's 'just' one bag. A week.