Time — by Gina
This week my father-in-law was in the emergency room for severe stomach pain. He is better, thankfully, but it has been a crazy week for me since my husband has been working long shifts, and I was the only one available to deal with “Grampa”: visiting, picking up stuff from his apartment, picking him up upon being discharged, then driving him around town for his various errands. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny weekend and not what I really wanted to be doing, but of course I had no choice.
Then there were all of the other “things to do” for the week: creating and mailing out my daughter’s birthday party invitations, shuttling her around to school and activities, celebrating my husband’s birthday, two work events, late meetings, working full-time, and all of the other usual stuff (laundry, dishes, etc.) Not to mention two separate emergency deliveries to my niece (backpack forgotten in my car) and nephew (change of clothing after a classmate spilled chocolate milk all over him.)
Yet, when a good friend who is going through some tough times asked me why I hadn’t called her in a while, I couldn’t come up with a good excuse. “I’ve been so busy” sounds like such a cop-out…I mean, everyone is busy, right? But when I actually sat down and thought about why I hadn’t called, I realized it wasn’t just that I didn’t have time, I never seemed to have the RIGHT time. By that I mean, I never seem to have “phone time”, that precious luxury that I am only now realizing existed only in my pre-mommy world. I have always had very busy jobs, so I always (and still do) had to rush my friends off the phone with a “Can I call ya later, work is crazy? Thanks!” I’d wait until after dinner when I could sprawl out on my couch and really catch up…laughing and having lots of good girl talk. Now, as the mother of a 3 ½ year old, those opportunities never seem to come anymore. I still entertain the thought that I will be able to find time for a good chat after Gianna’s asleep, but since she has trouble falling asleep and staying in her own bed, that phone time never seems to come for me. I spend the night going up and down the stairs to her room, as she calls me to come stay with her because she is afraid, or because she “has too much energy.” Then when I think she is finally asleep, I am exhausted from working all day and parenting all evening. Also, once the house is quiet, I feel obligated to speak low so as not to wake my daughter. This is also the time I do a load of laundry, straighten up the house and get ready for the next day.
The only phone calls I seem to get a chance to make on weeknights is to return calls, mostly to my family and my in-laws, arranging visits, exchanging babysitting duties, and checking in on how everyone is feeling.
I made amends with my friend – I devoted a very long phone call to her which thank goodness Gianna cooperated with by going to bed on time. I assured her that although I don’t have the kind of time I used to have, I am still here for her no matter what and will find a way to make time to talk more often (haven’t figured that part out yet…) She doesn’t have children yet but I think she understands – I hope so. When we moms say we don’t have time for something, it isn’t an excuse… it is our reality – that our time is just not our own anymore no matter how many more hours we could use in the day. We can carve out time here and there once our kids are old enough for babysitters but in the meantime, it is a big adjustment and a real balancing act to find time to do the things WE want to do. I have heard it gets easier as our kids get older, but for now, I can only hope that friends understand, just as I am understanding when plans get canceled or my calls go unanswered. I think that is part of being a good friend – being flexible and forgiving – none of us are perfect and we are all doing our best to get as much as we can done in one day. These are the times I wish I could work only part-time, but for now I have to find a way to make it all work.
I have another good friend who had her three children in her early twenties. When I don’t have time for the long gab fests, she understands and lets me slide. I was able to see her for a brief visit recently and it was like no time had passed. Those are the moments you realize that true friendship endures through all the highs and lows of raising children, trying to have a career, and not having enough time for either. We sat in her mom’s kitchen, talking and laughing like we did when we were 17. In those moments, time – be it how much has passed, or how much more of it we wish we had – just doesn’t matter so much…well, at least for a moment, anyway.