One of the best parts of my job and being a parent is that every day is different.
While there is a routine to guide both the work and home fronts, something new or unexpected occurs each day in both of my worlds, and I am grateful for that because it usually means I learn something new every day.
However, with every moment of each day seemingly consumed by either work or family, I have recently been wondering what I used to do with all my free time.
I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the luxury of spare time until I became a parent, and I never held it in such high regard until my second son was born. There is a tremendous value to free time and I understand that more than ever.
Obviously, there’s a major change that comes with becoming a parent for the first time, but there’s also a tremendous difference between having one kid and two. No matter their ages, the fact is each comes with unique demands of time and energy. That’s just the way it is.
When I look back on the one-child period of our life, I never realized at that time how easy it was until our second kid was born.
When Carson came along, our world was turned upside down even more so than when we became parents for the first time.
Beckett was just 16 months old at the time Carson was born and adding a newborn to a young toddler nearly put Pam and I over the edge. However, we survived and I look back now fondly at all those memories that stemmed from the craziness that came with having two kids under 2 years old.
Fast forward a couple years and our kids are now 4 and 2 ½, and life has leveled off for us and sanity is starting to present itself once again. However, one concept that continues to be foreign to me at this point is free time.
While my kids are teaching me new things every day and inspiring me on several fronts, they are also monopolizing just about all aspects of life. That’s the way it should be I think for actively involved parents, particularly those with toddlers, but a casualty of that role is spare time for me, as achieving the proper balance between family life, work and pleasure is always a struggle.
I got to thinking about that on the beach last Saturday when I realized there was really no reason to even haul out a beach chair for me. During the six hours or so we spent on the beach, I think I sat down for 15 minutes with several minute stints here and there.
Most of the time was spent corralling Beckett to stay close to shore, as his typical no-fear mentality was exacerbated by his 5-year-old friend Molly, who appears to basically be the high-energy, independent-minded female version of Beckett in many ways.
Since Molly is now a swimmer and Beckett is not quite there yet, it was challenging to convince him he could not go out as far as his older buddy.
After getting hoarse from demanding he stay near me, I finally got smart and came up with several games that required him stay close. So long as he was crashing, splashing and falling in the water he was fine.
When my friend Chad and I weren’t calling for our kids to come in closer to shore, we were escorting them back up the beach, as the wind and tides were constantly pushing them further away from our area.
Occasionally, we were able to convince the kids to take a break (of course, they weren’t the ones truly in need of a breather). All that meant was they wanted something to eat and drink and then they wanted to get back at it once that was done. Nonetheless, it gave us a few minutes of rest and peace.
If Beckett wasn’t in the surf, he was usually running toward the dunes to go to the bathroom or simply running in one direction or the other for whatever reason. That required some chasing from me.
Carson, on the other hand, was in Pam’s charge, and he typically sticks pretty close to home base on the beach, but he has been known to toss sand and is particularly interested in anything and everything in the cooler. That’s why he spends most of his beach time snacking and drinking, but he does occasionally wander off to the neighbors, requiring some chasing as well.
Today, as was the case that day on the beach, free time by myself comes in short spurts, and I treasure it. The same goes for Pam, of course.
Ten or 15 minutes here and there, or, if I’m lucky, an entire hour to do what I want, which usually includes a workout or, on the opposite extreme, a short visit to a client’s establishment to make sure the liquid products are retaining their quality.
When I do find some leisure time, the last place I usually want to be is home, and I think Pam feels the same way. There’s always plenty to do around the house, but when both kids are taken care of and work is not calling housework is the last thing either of us want to do.
It’s to the point now I can clearly remember the last time I was alone in my house. It was the weekend of Thanksgiving and I used that morning and early afternoon alone to hang Christmas lights and I actually spent 15 minutes reading the entire morning paper in my living room.
Although I had the house to myself, I was hearing the voices of my sons in my head because it was so eerily quiet.
Good or bad, that’s the last time I recall being alone in my house for an extended period of time.