It's time for another birthday post. I'm not sure if I manage to write one
every year, although I always feel I should. It seems as good an opportunity as
any to catch up on everything, sitting here on my back deck on a cool summer
day, enjoying the dappled shade of the silver maple.
I should be hanging a load of laundry that Blake washed.
I should be working. I think. Should I be working? It's Sunday, but then I
don't work full time the rest of the week, so maybe Sunday is a good time to
catch up? I worked a couple of hours today
already, but there's still plenty to do, and if I don't do it today I will only
have to do it tomorrow while facing an onrush of new work as everyone gets to
So, I don't know if I should be working.
Time dismays me. This blog knows that, for one thing because I hardly ever
post — I just don't have time — and for another because when I do
post it's often about time. I have so much that I have to do, and so much
that I'd like to do, and I don't know where to find the time.
This is what I do now:
I work. I have a regular job with an organization now (as opposed to a
freelance publishing gig), although only part time. It's supposed to be two
hours a day, but my boss keeps casually referring to it as half-time, which it
really should be because I have so much to do. This summer, especially, I'm
having a hard time keeping up. At least once a week I get a worried email from
a workshop host or instructor asking if I've had a chance to put up that
website or set up that registration page or process those receipts. Right now I
have eleven emails which I have flagged to remind me that they're Urgent and
should be Attended To With Haste. Then there are the other forty-four emails
which can wait, although if I leave them long enough they may well become the
I parent. This means that I spend time with the girls, of course. It's summer
and they have only been in one two-week day camp, so we've gone on a few
adventures and worked on a big jigsaw puzzle. (Conclusion: "I don't really like
jigsaw puzzles, Mummy.") They're still good fun, although they're having a
fractious summer in each other's company. Neither of them seems to have the
social skills to tolerate the other's foibles, or to de-escalate disagreements. Sibling
rivalry is supposed to teach this kind of thing, but so far it doesn't seem to
be working. Maybe they need to be older. But when they're not fighting they're
good friends, and they love each other even if they wouldn't admit it.
The other side of parenting is management. I never realized how much management
there is to being a modern parent — I don't think it came up in any of
the books or magazine articles I read. Spending hours researching
extra-curricular activities and school programs, filling in registration forms,
buying clothes and equipment, organizing calendars, emailing babysitters,
scheduling playdates — none of that was part of mothering
as I understood it.
You may think: But you've been a mother for over ten years, why is this
bothering you now? The thing is, the paperwork side of mothering only seems to
grow as the children's needs and challenges become more complicated (and
expensive). As the nitty-gritty side of diapers and snacks and bloody knees
diminishes the administrative side inflates.
But I was relieved to come across a
passage in Rumer Godden's Home is the Sailor about the children setting up
the mother doll at a desk with piles of paper, where she would spend most of
her days ordering things and organizing the children's lives. Even in 1964,
apparently, mothers had lots of paperwork to do.
I also look after the house and the finances and the cat.
The house needs the usual upkeep (although I am supported in that by a biweekly
house cleaner) as well as identification and resolution of various old-house
problems. We're still dealing with the leaky bathroom situation; also a chunk
fell off the outside dining room windowsill; also the paint is peeling on the
window frames outside. There are problems with chattels, too: the dryer is
broken, the couch is ready for the landfill, and the cushions for the deck
furniture need new covers. It's true that the more you own, the more it costs,
in time and money.
I also do things for myself, a little bit. I read, not as much as I'd like to.
I go to the gym most mornings, which isn't fun per se, but it's the only time
I let myself read New Scientist, so that part is fun. Also fun is how
flexible and energetic and, I admit, smug I feel after the workout is over.
Lately I've been amusing myself with nail colour. My friend Karen D, who used to be into quilting,
is now into nail polish, and her thoughtful posts and juicy pictures made me
want to paint my nails too. It seems like a fairly harmless pleasure: it's not
expensive, it doesn't take much time (okay, I do manicures while I'm working
— I can type without smudging wet polish) and it gives me inordinate
And I indulge myself with plenty of social time. I don't go on many
organized outings with friends, apart from book club and the odd lunch, but
I don't begrudge myself a nice chat when I bump into a friend on the street or
at the start or end of a playdate. Apart from how good it makes me feel (I'm an
extrovert), I know that having rich social connections is as healthy as working
I don't think I waste a lot of time. I have a somewhat, I think, precocious
sense of my own mortality. It came upon me a couple of years ago when I
realized that my to-be-read list was getting longer at a greater rate than I
was reading books, leading to the obvious conclusion that I would die before I
was done reading. (A slight digression: I don't understand people who
"don't know what to read next". Do they not have hundreds of books waiting for them in lists or
piles? Why don't they?) This awareness leads me to a somewhat
panicked fear of wasting time. I've come to realize that some things which
might seem like a waste of time, like walking places or hanging out with
friends or just sitting thinking, are not a waste of time but rather essential
to happiness and long life. But I'm constantly on guard against time misspent.
I'm somewhat heartened by the fact that life seems to go on for a long time.
I'm often surprised to realize that people who were grown-up and doing things
when I was a kid are still active and doing things now. The books of Judy Blume
were already dated when I read them (Sanitary pads with belts? Wha?) but she's
now active on Twitter and overseeing movie versions of her books. Hal Johnson
and Joanne McLeod made my childhood miserable with their shame-inducing Body
Break segments, and now they're on Amazing Race Canada, still fit and chipper
as ever. (I suppose I can be thankful that Slim Goodbody isn't on
What I'm saying is, even though it may seem that being almost-forty and having
done basically nothing useful with my life is an unrecoverable failure, the
fact is I probably have at least another forty years ahead of me, and I don't
have to waste twenty-two of this batch in growing up and going to school.
And now I'd better go hang that laundry while there's still enough daytime for
it to dry in.