On Mother’s Day, learning to sit still in my own house

My husband and my split of childcare has evolved since we first became parents a little less than three Mother’s Days ago. We have eventually come to a set-up where I tend to be the “on” parent during the week. Our childcare schedule matches my work hours; if I need to travel or go to an event, I make arrangements to cover the additional time. This is actually the way it has always been, but I’m a lot less frustrated about it now, because over the past year Michael has started taking first our toddler, and now both boys, out of the house for half a day or more on the weekends. This means that I get at least 4-5 focused hours to work without the childcare clock running.

Anyway, I usually plan out about 4 hours of work to do during these weekend daddy treks. But sometimes they’re gone for 5 or even 6 hours. So I have an uncertain but precious amount of leisure time to fill. What should I do with it?

Yes, yes, I cover this topic in 168 Hours. I know what I’m supposed to do: pull an item from my “bits of joy” list. I should read for pleasure, write in my journal, have some wine and cheese or a latte at Starbucks (depending on the time of day), go shopping, go do strength training at the gym, work on the photo books I like to make, listen to Bach.

But you know what I kept doing yesterday? Picking up the house. This is a rather pointless thing to spend much time on if you have small children. It will just get dirty again. I know this. Yet I am still learning to sit still and read or relax when there are piles of junk and dirty dishes everywhere. Doing housework feels like you’ve done something in your personal life, just as achieving “Inbox Zero” feels like you’ve done something on the work front. There are measurable, quick results – results you can point to as a way to say “Look! I wasn’t frittering away my time!”

Indeed, this is exactly what I did when my husband walked in the door with the kids. I proudly informed him that I had conquered the pile of junk lying next to our bed. “Um, I didn’t think the point of my taking the kids on weekends was so you could do housework,” he said. “Didn’t you write something about that.” Ah, point taken.

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