Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Normal Margins?

I am finding out quite clearly that I need a lot of "margin" to my life and that I'd like for my family to have that as well - time to just "be" without something on the schedule.

Last night contained so extremely little of that that it was almost a comedy of errors, and it put me in a position to feel a need to really think this through. I can't help but wonder if this is "normal" family life today.

On Monday night my husband and I were talking about what to have for dinner Tuesday, and he pointed out to me that we would be home as a family for 10 minutes, from 5:10 to 5:20. That's CRAZY! But he was right.

Here is the run down.

After a day of work and school for us all
Dad and boys arrive home at 4:20
Mom is behind on getting dinner ready
Dad offers to take kids out
Dad takes middle son to piano at 4:23
and takes other two to Burger King
Dad and boys arrive home again at 5:10
Dad and youngest head to soccer5:20
Mom eats dinner alone
Mom takes oldest to piano at 6:20
Mom takes middle son to Taco Bell
Dad goes from soccer to piano at 6:30
Dad leaves for band boosters meeting at 6:50
Mom picks up the two at piano at 7:00
Mom leaves for book club meeting at 7:08
Dad returns at 8:30 to put kids in bed
Dad makes cookies for lunches at 9:30
Mom arrives at 10:00 (should begin homework)

This evening WAS busier than most, because we had two meetings that are not regular weekly events - band boosters and book club - and they happened to fall on the same night.

I feel overwhelmed just thinking about our schedule even though David takes on a great deal of it (for instance, on Wednesday night I am in class and David has to get one child to a church activity at one location and two others to another location - about 10 miles apart - at the same time and then also do the pick up; yes, we're looking into car pooling).

I keep thinking it through and wondering if we have taken on too much, and in doing so I think about what other families are doing as a comparison. (I know comparing isn't a good idea in general, but I'm just trying to discern if we are over-doing it.) It seems we are, in comparison, minimally involved. Each of our children plays only one instrument. Two of our children are involved in one sport each, and we have church activities. Compared to his classmates, our oldest is also minimally involved in high school extracurricular activities, something I've had slight concern about when looking ahead to applying for college.

Granted, I am taking night classes too, which doesn't help. David and I do have some commitments but there too not as many as most families we know. I am in a book club that meets monthly, but I'm not in any Bible studies or on any committees in the community or at church. I could drop book club, but that just wouldn't change much.

If we were to cut something, I'm not sure what we could cut. We feel it is important for our children to be able to play an instrument, and if they want to be involved in a sport, we certainly want to support that; it's a part of remaining physically fit and being involved socially. Church youth activities are also important to us and don't feel like optional extras.

Do I just have an overly large need for "margin," and that is why this is getting to me?

Was it this busy when I was a kid but I just don't remember because I was the kid and not the parent trying to arrange all this (while also having my own work and education)? Feel free to weigh in on this one, Mom and Dad! I'm sure we were busy, but I seem to remember evenings sitting down together and hanging out and watching TV - a thing that just doesn't happen over here. Sure, TV has a bad reputation for rotting brain cells, but I think there is something to be said for having some shared "down time." Is my memory failing me or is it that society has changed and these extracurricular events have expanded to fill more time?

As the title of this post suggests, I'm just trying to figure out if this is normal, and I'm trying to figure out a way to get more "margin" around the edges of life for me and my family, while yet engaging in important activities.

(I've made a bit of a start in vowing not to take anymore night classes!)


Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head. I too feel the margin getting smaller, however what keeps it "in balance" is that I now work part-time. Allowing time to do the family chores without the shopping, cooking, paying bills, banking, cleaning, etc. So when I do have time with my family it can truly be "family time".
It's funny you mentioned your parents and wondering how they did it. Sacrifice and mommy's that either didn't work outside the home or worked only part-time. I'm certainly not bashing mom's that work full-time outside the home, I upmostly respect them, for they actually have TWO full-time jobs, counting rearing a family as one.
You, my cousin, must realize that right now you have not one, not two, but THREE full-time jobs counting your studies. So with that in perspective you're doing terrific!!! As my son's K teacher would say, "Kiss your brain and give yourself a yahoo buck o roo!"

Above all remember someday soon our families will be reared and we will wonder why the house is so quiet and we'll look at our spouse and say, "so what do you want to watch on TV tonight"?

Heidi said...

I love it!

And I'm sure when David and I CAN watch TV I'll be posting a blog longing for THESE days!

Balance is a good word. I think the other thing that may help with perspective for me is learning to EMBRACE the "why" of each activity - why we chose it, why it is important, and to remember that we DID choose it. I think in some way that would make the activities genuinely part of life rather than add-ons.

I actually am working only very part time this semester, but my studies end up taking the time I have when family is gone.

Somehow we just hit CRITICAL MASS this fall, and I do know how some of it happened - having changed churches and having kids attending youth activities in both (10 miles apart) because we are still in transition mode - and there are other "details" like that that have thrown a bigger monkey wrench in.

Another detail is that my classes are at night rather than during the day, so that now overlaps with everybody else's busyness. (Last semester I had to be on campus more often, but it was during the day and because of that SEEMED to take less time.)

I know families that are busier than we are, but somehow they seem to have it in balance, and I don't yet - to the point that Tuesday night I just had to say "TIME OUT! I need to think this through!"

Balance and perspective are certainly key!

Thanks for your comment!