Gosh it's been a while since I blogged because I had the time, rather than blogged because something really important needed to be said. The loss of digital TV and the gaining of day light saving has essentially freed up my evenings and now that we are getting back to some semblance of normality I find myself with evenings again.
It's not been a conscious decision but I'm really struggling to find anything on TV I want to watch, which is absolutely brilliant. The knitting is suffering a bit, but a small price to pay for the continued progress on getting things sorted, reading her fearful symmetry, and not waking up to the kitchen from hell every morning. I've even started to plan out a few creative ventures.
The difference isn't just time, it's a deliberately slower pace. When I made the decision last year not to increase my weekly allotment of time in at the spanner works, despite Wil's greater allotment of time at child care, I did have some residual guilt. On a rational level I don't think I should have that guilt, what I am doing makes sense in many ways (including financially when you factor in the other work I can do when I am not set in an office routine all the time). But I did feel that guilt and it is at least in part a product of choosing a different way. Even to myself I feel a continual need to justify it.
But let's be honest about what fills so many of those child free, work free hours - today it included being present at child care while Wil had his birthday cake and celebrations. I chatted to his carers and a few other mums and had a little time watching from the sidelines while he played and interacted in that way I so rarely see - when I'm not his point of reference. I then had a chance to shop at the really good green grocer (the one that's not quite so close to home), the super cheap middle eastern food wholesaler and the excellent (and super cheap) butcher next door. I got inspired about a few special meals, bought some exciting ingredients and planned some delicious and fairly healthy family meals. I came home and prepared the makings of the evening meal and bagged up and froze the makings of a few more. I cleaned out and restocked the fridge, did a bit of pantry clean up and organising, washed dishes, paid a few bills, picked up a few toys and made it down to school in time to say hello to a few people before I collected Amy. With dinner well under control I was able to talk to Amy when she got home, which was lucky because she's having a pre-teenager phase at the moment where she lurches from aggressive and surly one minute to teary and tragic the next, throwing herself at couches and beds with exaggerated melodrama and grief and dealing with that is really best done when one is not in a hurry. In the end we played some cards while she ate approximately half her body weight in stewed nectarines (home made of course) and shook in fear from the frequent very loud thunder overhead. And since both dinner and Amy were under control I was able to ring D to say not to worry about getting Wil on the bike in the rain (I even offered to pick him up from work, but he turned me down) and Amy and I drove off in the down pour to get him, stopping for a while so Amy could play with all the little kids, before we came home. A bit of play time, some last minute foods assemblage and there was even space for D and I to walk around the garden in the rain and contemplate water tanks and the like before we ate our salad nicoise and the kids stripped off to go and run around the wet garden. After that there was left over birthday cake (home made of course) and I tossed a big boned shoulder of lamb in to marinate overnight for slow cooking tomorrow. There was time for stories and clearing the table and peaceful goodnights, all in a reasonable timeframe.
It's easy to think that this is normal, ordinary and unremarkable, but the truth is that for working mums this is not the way things usually are. Juggling, multi tasking, cutting corners, making compromises, paying a premium, choosing for convenience and feeling constantly under pressure and in a rush is what constitutes normal. Split second timing, shattered nerves, bad days, fractious relationships and exhaustion creeping in at every turn.
And as we were eating dinner I started to say to D that I achieved nothing today, and it wasn't like I wasted time or read magazines or had a long lunch or chatted on the phone. But of course, of course!, today I achieved exactly what I wanted to achieve. A day in which what needed to get done got done, in which I didn't feel the need to yell or feel uneasy about at least half a dozen of the 'choices' I exercised. A day in which there was time to laugh with the kids, talk through problems, do something to make someone else's day easier, make and eat good food, clean up the mess without feeling resentful and get on top of the domestic burden for the coming days. And that's plenty for one day.