Making Allowances for Life

Recently, my daughter and I had the privilege of getting together with some really great friends for brunch.  These ladies, who I have known for years– long before thoughts of marriage and children, have never ceased to be supportive of my decisions to parent, take a break from my career to stay home with my daughter, and generally center my world around my child.  They are, in short, an extremely positive, intelligent, loving, and interesting force in my life, and a group of people I am truly excited that my daughter will have in hers.

Because, however, none of these ladies is currently parenting a young child, we had an interesting time scheduling our brunch date.  Below, you will find excerpts from our email conversations:

Anyway, I was thinking, since we would be in town, and some of you will be in town, and there’s brunch, that some of you might be available to meet.  How about 9am?

Friend 1:
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that 9 am is BREAKFAST, not brunch!  Brunch would be more like 11:30 . . .  I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’!

Friend 2:
If we move brunch to noon . . .   I vote for that!

Friend 3:
I second that!

Ok My Loves,
This is where working woman schedule and baby schedule collide.  Girlfriend can’t just be waiting around for you to get available all morning with a one year old to look after.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Babies need pretty much instant gratification, and my baby is at the screaming phase.  So yea, not so much with being a lady who lunches (lunch is at 10:30-11 in this house) on Wednesday. . .

Friend 1:
OK, now.  See, Jen, you did not give us all the details about your timeline. . .

This just highlights the drastic difference between my schedule 2 years ago and my schedule today.  Two years ago, I was working two jobs (one full-time, one part-time), finishing grad school, and trying to maintain a healthy relationship with my wonderful and equally busy husband.  Still, when I had the opportunity for something like brunch, it was a roll-out-of-bed-15-minutes-before-leaving-to-throw-on-some-clothes-and-brush-your-teeth kind of thing.

Now, however, NOTHING is that simple.

I’m not complaining, my daughter is generally very well-behaved in social situations, and is largely perceived (at least to my biased eye) as relatively charming by onlookers.  However, this isn’t by some crazy chance of “go with the flow” parenting.  This kind of thing takes hours of brain power every day.  Diaper bags must be stocked for any eventuality, feeding/ sleeping/ activity schedules must be adhered to almost religiously, and there must always, always be something to occupy her and an escape plan in place.  Please understand that everything, EVERYTHING I do in my life is planned in between meeting the basic needs of my daughter.

Low blood sugar turns my sweet, cuddly, smiling little girl into a monster akin to Godzilla.  Something like a skipped nap could lead us to disaster– and not just for the day, but for up to a week as everyone in the family suffers for the lost sleep until equilibrium is maintained.  (If you think I’m exaggerating, you should have been here last night.)

In short, having my daughter has drastically changed the way I think about time.  Even as a SAHM, I am still amazed at how my day is easily packed between 2 naps and 5 meals.  If I can fit in a trip to the gym, a stop at the library, and a load of laundry, I consider my day a success.  Seriously.    If dinner is made, I am superwoman!  If, by pure divine intervention, my house maintains any semblance of order (or, even better, becomes cleaner), I have done something akin to running a marathon!

And that’s ONE child!  That’s one child on a SAHM schedule!

I seriously don’t know how we will manage it all when I go back to work.  Thankfully, my daughter will be 2 when that becomes a possibility for us,  and, with any luck, my husband’s work schedule will also be a bit less demanding, but it still boggles the mind.

I wonder (worry, actually), then, if between all the sundry business of day-to-day living, there will be any time at all for personal interests.  Will I ever be able to meet my friends, socially, for coffee/drinks/dinner?  Will I be able to read anything beyond the scope of Good Night, Moon?  Will my husband and I get the chance to feel like interesting adults again? I mean, she’ll have to go to school eventually, right?  Surely, things get easier then?

All of this is not to lament my choice to parent as some kind of albatross — I absolutely love being a mama, but to highlight the fact that it’s still hard work to create amazing people.  Distance runners, I am told, complain to each other (and others who ask) of blisters, shin splints, and the like.  I like to believe parenting is a lot like that.  There are times when the wind is at your back, the sun is on your face, and you feel like you’ve really found your pace.  Then, there are other (often longer) stretches, when you seem to have hit your wall, and you are climbing (crawling, really) forever uphill.  The little victories– the mile-markers, really– make the whole journey worth it, but you’re glad when people are willing to see and understand your struggle, and to make allowances for the differences in your world.

Anyway, “brunch” was left at the early time of 9 a.m. to accommodate my daughter’s demanding schedule, and everyone who could make (8 in all, including my daughter and I) had a fine time.  And maybe some of my friends had to deal with my daughter sticking her spoon in their plates, and maybe it was shorter than the brunches of two years ago, but I sure am glad it happened.


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