Yesterday I published a book review. That shouldn’t be a big deal. This is a book blog. But it feels like a big deal to me because that review means I have finally caught up. For the first time since OCTOBER, I don’t have a list of books I’ve read but have yet to review.
When I was pregnant and worried about having to sacrifice all the things I do that are important to me, someone told me that, “You’ll make time for the things that are important, and the things that you do give up will be the things that weren’t that important anyway.” At the time I found this idea comforting.
Now I feel like it was a lie.
Since having my baby, and perhaps to a greater extent, since returning to work, I have given up several things that I would definitely say are important to me. The thing I don’t like about this statement is the way it can be flipped to blame me for my own poor priorities. It seems to tell me, “Well, since you’ve given those things up, that must show that they weren’t that important to you, or you’d have found a way to make them happen.”
Really? I’ve stopped exercising and I never get to sleep. Is that because I don’t care about my own health and sanity? If you don’t count my audiobooks, I’m reading at the rate of about a single book a month. Does that mean I’ve suddenly lost interest in novels? This blog got pretty far behind schedule. Was that because it’s not important to me? I rarely see my friends, so obviously I don’t care about them. I still nourish writerly ambitions bigger than this blog that I’ve done nothing toward achieving. Evidently that doesn’t matter to me at all anymore, since my priorities have shifted.
These things that I gave up have in common not less importance, but the fact that they require large chunks of uninterrupted time, planning, time from home, sustained focus and/or mental energy. I never consciously chose to sacrifice these things, but they gradually fell away because I couldn’t find a way to make them fit.
And on the other hand, I am finding time to do a lot of things that I don’t find important in the grand scheme of things. I am able to do these things because they’re easy, convenient, and undemanding. For example, I read a lot of articles online and keep up diligently with my facebook feed and all the things my friends share. These things aren’t really important to me, but I spend my time on them because they’re easy to fit into the small moments I can steal away from my work and family life. They’re relaxing and don’t tax me mentally.
I wondered whether this is a mom problem or a parent problem, whether it’s a gendered thing. Because if it is, then I can call bullshit on all of it, make my husband help me more, and find sweet relief in coming closer to egalitarianism. But when I compare myself to my husband, I find he’s going through pretty much the same thing. He also only makes it to the gym about once a week, even though he currently feels more discontented with his level of fitness than I do with mine. His friends are probably even less understanding than mine are. His buddies are not interested in cute babies the way mine are, and the things they used to do together are pretty baby-unfriendly. He doesn’t read or write; his hobby is video games. And he’s told me that he also finds it hard to immerse himself in a game because he has only a few minutes to play, or he has to listen for the baby. Of course, sleep is the one area in which I’m definitely suffering more than he is. He somehow finds the energy to stay up almost two hours later than I do every night, and he has yet to weep from sheer exhaustion. All I can do about that is shake my fist at biology for giving me two lactating breasts and him none. So the good news is that my husband and I are already doing a pretty good job splitting things as equally as possible. The bad news is that there’s no room to improve, no task I can push off on him without tipping our scale too far in the other direction.
I know this is a first world problem, and I’m mostly just railing against the 24 hour day and the 40+ hour work week and the brevity of the human lifespan. It’s also a sign that I’m still adjusting to working parenthood, and need to work on my time management. Of course “having it all” doesn’t exist because life necessitates trade-offs, as much as we all wish it didn’t. Saying yes to one things means saying no to another, and if you try to say yes to everything then you only end up half-assing it all.
So I’ve recognized that there are several things in my life that I want to prioritize better, even though I haven’t been giving them enough time lately. Maybe now that I’ve finally caught up on one of these things, the blog, I can start to consciously set aside time for the others as well. It may mean reconceptualizing time so that I can accomplish things that I currently believe require hours free from interruptions in a few stolen minutes here and there. Julianna Baggott, who I greatly admire, talks about how her writing process is like this; she has 4 kids and has published books that amaze me in their quality and sheer number. She’s an amazing role model for a writer with kids, and I need to start taking advice from people like her. Of course, that means I need to change my routines to make these things I do value a part of my life again. To make this possible, I might have to do things like babyproof the room with my computer in it–or get a laptop. And it probably means I have to wean myself from the facebook drug. But I could miss baby pictures from people I haven’t seen in ages! What if I’m not up to speed with the latest rage-bait news about homophobia, creationism, and rape culture? How will I survive without reading Buzzfeed articles about 90’s nostalgia?