There’s never enough time.
In my nearly eight years of being a parent, there’s no sentiment that I’ve felt more frequently or more deeply than wishing that I had more time. I need more time for lots of things—time to read, time to sleep. Time to exercise. Time to write The Great American Novel, or maybe two or three mediocre ones.
Time to do all the things I swear I’d do if only I had the time.
I constantly find myself wondering what the heck I was doing with my time before I had kids—before a significant portion of my waking hours were suddenly allocated to car lines and bath times, soccer games and birthday parties, screen-time and bedtime negotiations and seemingly-endless discussions of the relative merits of various Pokémon and Kirby characters.
If only I could go back in time ten years, I think, I could grab my former, younger self by the shoulders and shake him, let him know that he’s not nearly as busy as he thinks and he better appreciate this time while it lasts.
Now don’t get me wrong; I love my children dearly, and I both cherish the time I spend with them and recognize how fleeting these early-childhood years are. And, despite the constraints, we do our best to manage with the time we do have; I get most of my writing done in the few hours after the kids go to bed each night, and my wife and I have learned to plan our date nights around the babysitters’ availabilities rather than the other way around.
Still, I find myself pining for just a few more hours in the day.
I saw this tweet a few months ago, and it’s been sitting intrusively in the back of my mind ever since, haunting me. Mocking me.
For us, it’s over two hundred miles to the nearest grandparent, and I quietly seethe with jealousy when friends talk about dropping off their kids with local family for a night out or a weekend alone. Wouldn’t that be nice, I grouse.
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Well, this weekend, we finally had that chance.
Louisville schools went on spring break this week, and while much of the city seemed to decamp to Destin, Florida, we took the opportunity to head north. We’d drop the kids off in Ohio with my parents, then spend a weekend on our own in Cincinnati. It would mark the first stretch where my wife and I would both be away from the kids for multiple nights since before COVID, and an important test of the kids’ ability to function away from home for a few days.
The weekend without them was lovely. We went to a theatrical production and then a lengthy dinner with friends, and didn’t have to be mindful of a time when we’d promised a babysitter we’d be home. We grabbed drinks at the hotel bar, and slept in late the next morning. We took a long walk with no one complaining that they were tired, made a few leisurely and aimless shopping trips with no one asking for things, and managed to carry on multi-sentence conversations without being interrupted—all the things that seem unfathomable when the kids are around.
And I missed the hell out of them the whole time.
When we got back to our house on Sunday afternoon, it felt like an abandoned movie set. It was quiet, and it was empty. It’d only be a couple more nights, I knew, and we should do our best to get the most out of the time before it was over.
But I couldn’t get over how spacious everything suddenly felt—the house, the day, our lives.
We picked the kids up last night, and quickly resumed our normal household rhythms, right down to them arguing with me about when the video games had to go off and then turning up their noses at a perfectly nice dinner that I made. (I’m told they happily ate the things that Grandma made for them, and tried not to take offense.) Bedtime was a drawn-out process, and I could once again feel the clock ticking, ticking against the things I needed to get done.
But I was so glad they were home again.
As they settled into their beds—after a few false starts, of course—I realized the bargain that we make as parents.
Kids do take away your time. They need that time, and lots of it. They need you to be there for them in both big ways and small, need you to feed them and transport them and teach them and listen to them when they’re confused or scared or afraid or when they just want to tell you something new about a video game character.
They take up time, but in return, they make space, unlocking previously-unseen rooms in your life. It’s as though they’ve suddenly turned a candlestick and slid away a bookcase to reveal a whole new wing in your heart you never knew was there. This doesn’t stop, either—each day, more space appears, full of surprises and wonders and things that fundamentally change who you are.
I’ll never stop wishing that I had more time in the day.
But if I did, I’d happily trade it for more of the space that they make.
—Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)
My only note on this is that from social media, it would be easy to believe that most of your friends with kids love spending time with them, and they probably do. But my goodness, the professional side of my life has taught me far too often that there are a number of people who just hate/resent their children. It's not arch as much as it is that they cannot get past the part where the kids are taking up _their_ time, and it makes me sad.
The strangest thing is when the kids are away on a weekday and you get home from work at 5:30 pm or whenever and it’s like, what do I do now? Watch the local news? That’s the Weird Hour for me when the kids are away.