I heard this phrase a lot from my mother growing up: “There just aren’t enough hours in a day.” It didn’t resonate until recently, though.
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When I was a teen, it would drive my parents crazy whenever I’d tell them I was bored. I learned quickly to find something on my own to do because if I didn’t, my parents wrote out a list of chores I would have to do instead. Growing up on a farm, those chores were not just things like cleaning my room or making my bed.
I could never really understand, though, what my mother’s statement about hours in a day meant until recently. It seemed like there was always time for something, and if I didn’t accomplish what I wanted one day, I could easily get to it the next. Today, I wish I was half that lucky.
I won’t blame my kids for my lack of sleep. That’s too easy and people get tired of hearing it. I don’t sleep enough hours each night not because they keep me up all night — although some nights that’s definitely the cause — but because I actively choose to use my limited time for other things. By the end of the day, after the kids have been put to bed, I finally get “me” time, and so far, I choose “me” time over sleep nearly every day.
That’s because “me” time is about the length of one movie each night. And one movie, as enjoyable as it may be, even seems like a short amount of time to unwind.
Before kids, I was still busy with work and marriage, and whatever else I threw on my plate, whether it be sports hobbies or writing. Kids basically replaced my hobbies with their own, and the little free time left over can often be found dedicated to my wife.
So now, in my thirties, I finally yearn for more hours in the day. And I understand now that there may never be enough again.
An average work day consists of drowsily hitting an alarm clock’s snooze button a few times, then clumsily stumbling to a shower. I try to shower every day for the sake of my coworkers. Since I grow facial hair quickly, this often includes a shave.
Because my wife and I are working professionals — I like that title way better than “people with jobs” — our morning routine is a joint one that includes waking up two children and getting them ready for school or child care, and for anyone who has tried this, that is a challenge in itself. Once the kids are dropped off, I go to a full day of work, then return home to pick up the kids and make dinner. My wife and I switch off who makes dinner, or make it together if we both get home around the same time, then we wrangle the kids to a dining room table and force them to eat. My youngest daughter usually doesn’t have a problem stuffing her face as soon as food hits the table, but my eldest seems to think eating is a waste of her precious time and often battles us for far too long to fully eat her meal. If it were up to her, she’d never eat and just be unaware as to why she’s cranky all the time.
After dinner it’s “play time” with the kids. We have this philosophy that kids live a much more fruitful life when their parents give them their full attention at least an hour a day, so we spend that time doing some kind of activity with our daughters. I prefer wrestling, my wife prefers watching them in a dance party or drawing and coloring. We switch it around based on how much energy we have left.
After play time it’s bed time, some nights with baths first, which can add 30 minutes (or take away 30 minutes, actually). We read our kids a book or two, kiss them goodnight and salvage whatever is left of the night for ourselves before we’re too tired to stay up anymore.
That’s when we finally get “me” time, and it sure does go fast. Whatever we choose to do, whether it be together or separate, seems like a life-changing decision. A never-ending list of things we have to get accomplished mentally floats about the room and we have to decide whether to be productive in our limited time or call it a day and make another day down the road that much more jam-packed.
Do I hit the gym or watch a few shows? I’ve really been wanting to work on that short story I started three years ago. I’ve got to pay bills at some point. Maybe I should make my lunch for tomorrow. When am I planning on ironing my dress shirts? Those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves. This floor needs to be vacuumed. But there are so many shows we want to watch right now…
And these are just daily tasks. The major stuff — a full day working on the yard, running errands we couldn’t Monday through Friday, etc. — gets pushed to the weekend, thus eliminating relaxing even on our days off from work.
When we finally do decide to sit down on the couch, we look at the clock and think or even say, “Is it that time already?” Then we sigh and realize there just aren’t enough hours in a day.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.