Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Time Panic

Many of us are thick into the holiday spirit now - either merrily trimming the tree and wrapping gifts, or panicking that there will never be enough time for what we think we need to do to make those family memories bright. Without a doubt, too many of us are haunted by sadness and loss at this time of year, or even by impending sadness and loss. Many are squeezed by deep financial worries. Others simply celebrate different holidays instead. I can't begin to cover all bases in this post...but let me focus a bit on the time panic piece that many of us feel (myself included).

For me, it's the mad whirl of preparing for my family's visit - the cooking, the cleaning, the scheduling, the food restrictions to work around, the exercise routines to help preserve (others' routines that is - my own are long gone out the window for holiday week), the rehearsals for Christmas service music played by a tiny violin (T), a medium sized violin (M), big violins (me and my nephew), a cello (my niece) and a viola (M's friend), the present procuring, buying and wrapping, the gifting of friends and teachers, the school class party coordinating, the charity requests, and of course the inconvenient ramp-up of work at my job that always happens at the end of the year.  It's enough to make me exhausted and really lose perspective - fast.

Some days, I don't cope well - I forget all that I have to be thankful for (so very much!) and I bark orders at the kids and Marc (so much for ESP), dash around from task to task, and get angry when I see the kids hauling out all the craft supplies to embark on yet another project instead of pitching in to help tick down my to-do list. So this email is really a plea to myself to return to the foundation of my life, my relationship with Marc and the children, and to all that really matters...which isn't how many kinds of cookies I can bake.

Here is what I think would work better, dear Amy (and all of you, if you find it helpful):
  • Remember you've got a full partner in all of this.  He isn't your double, so he won't do things exactly as you might expect or even wish. But as an equal, he is fully capable and might have a whole bunch of ideas that trump your own if you'd just stop to listen. When you feel that old familiar fear creep in that handing a task over to Marc to do will only mean that it won't get done, or he will do a pathetic job of it, remember your trump card: Communication.  Talk about it - he gets that you worry about this, and he isn't out to sabotage Christmas. If you can talk together as a team, you can decide what matters (yes, we need to pick up that present for cousin Lucie by tomorrow) and what doesn't (no, we don't necessarily need to buy all the groceries today) and then he can go about getting things done his way. Remember also that Marc-time is so very different fromAmy-time; if I think the Christmas cards need to be mailed by the first week in December, and Marc still hasn't dropped his stack in the mailbox...well...is either one of us really wrong?                 
  • Keep the balance. Christmas won't be fun and joyful (or spiritual) if it goes by in a flash of tinsel. Sometimes taking time to lovingly do a small task can help slow you down. Not as a perky quick fix to the chaos, but as a return to the basics that ground you. Many people advocate outsourcing as much as you can in order to get things done quickly, but sometimes exactly the opposite reminds you that getting things done quickly is not at all the point. Think, Amy, about that brilliant, learned 84-year-old man you sat next to today at the church carol sing-along; he doesn't move very quickly anymore, but he moves with purpose and joy. It would probably take him all day to do what you can do in an hour. Is he really wrong?
To that last point, Marc shared with me recently that he once went through a Boston winter (before we met) without a windshield scraper - on purpose. In order to get his car ready to drive on a snowy morning, he had to plan ahead. He would wipe off the big piles of snow with his arm, and then slowly let the car's engine warm it up enough to melt the ice layer. Apart from the argument that he wasted gasoline with this method, he did what I often skip - he got the car all warmed up before sliding it into Drive, and he had a nice, quiet start to his morning that involved a meditative bonding with winter itself. I like this because it flies in the face of so much time management advice. Cleaning off the car takes no special skill; Marc could have paid the neighbor kid to do this or spent his money on an automatic car starter that would have given him a head-start on that warming up phase. He could have at least made sure he had a great scraper to make light of the chore. But getting it done quickly, or turfing the job to someone down the food chain, missed the point for Marc. A life without time to warm his car and contemplatively clean it off in the winter was a red flag for him, and forcing the issue by living without the safety net of even a scraper was just the thing to keep him on track. 

I feel that way too - a lot. A life without time to bake cookies or fold my own laundry or cook our own meals (at least enough of them) is a red flag for me that balance is threatened. So tonight, I'm thankful for the bustle and the impending family members and the things to do and the partner to share them. What I can do with enjoyment rather than panic, gratitude and quiet love rather than 'check-off-the-list' frenzy, and letting-go rather than must-have-it-my-way will make the time ever sweeter.

Wishing you the warmth of the season!


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