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Balance and boundaries

August 25, 2013

I’ve noticed lately that there is a direct correlation between Jonathan being gone and me writing. Earlier this month when he worked 11 out of 13 days, I wrote 3 times. Since then, he has been home 9 out of 13 days, and I haven’t written at all. I’m not surprised, after all, I’d rather spend my evenings with my husband than looking at a computer, but I don’t like it.

This feast or famine type schedule is not unusual in the airlines. Yes, the “typical” schedule is four on three off, but that rarely actually happens for us. Because of this, I intentionally avoid planning things the first day he’s home so we can spend time together. Regardless of what day it is, his first day off is our Saturday and I like to treat it that way.

The problem we are running into is that amid all this craziness, there are things we want and need to do on a regular basis – as a family and as individuals – that aren’t getting done.

I think making time for our individual activities is complicated by the airline life, but I know it’s an issue for a lot of people. I’m also sure that being parents adds yet another layer of complication to this. I can’t think how many women I know who have taken over a decade-long hiatus from their work/writing/music/art while their children are young. I know independence within a relationship varies greatly according to the relationship, but I admire couples who are able to maintain their distinct interests and activities. We’ve taken baby steps in that direction (Jonathan played softball this summer and I’m in a book club), but honestly, separate social activities is the least of my concerns right now.

The hardest part for me is when we are both (finally) at home. Neither of us are inclined to say “I’m going to work on X project for an hour and I need to not be disturbed.” We happen to enjoy doing things together and would still do most errands together if it didn’t mean dragging Alida along. So intentionally not hanging out together feels wrong and a little mean – especially if Alida is awake.

But we are both realizing how much we need it. It isn’t just about me writing more or him running again – though those are both important. It’s about us gaining structure and a little personal independence within our home. I want to be able to take on projects that aren’t family related and know exactly where they will fit and how I will get them done. And as much as I love having him take over with Alida when he’s home, I know he needs to be able to be on his own at times (though sitting in a hotel for 19 hours does count a little toward that.)

I’m not sure exactly how we are going to make this happen, but I have some ideas. I believe that getting our office set up will be a step in the right direction. It’s easier to say “I’m working” and get into that mindset when we can close ourselves behind a door. Otherwise, I sit at the kitchen table and Jonathan can’t tell if I’m just surfing or if he needs to keep Alida away for a little bit. Not having a designated work space also allows the lines between work and family to get blurred and I end up getting frustrated with Alida because I’m trying to do something when I should actually be playing with her. I’m also hoping that knowing I have, for example, only one hour alone will encourage me to be more productive with that time.

Exercise is also something that we both need to reincorporate into our lives and I have a feeling it’s going to mean getting up earlier in the morning. I don’t like this. I want to sleep as much as my babies and my body will let me, and I like feeling like every day that Jonathan is home is Saturday. But, it isn’t mentally or physically healthy. I don’t like when the “weekend” is over and neither of us have anything to show for our time, and I feel better when I’m physically active.

I know that in addition to busy summer flying schedules, we have had a crazy summer in general. I keep reminding Jonathan (and myself) that this has been a season of upheaval and we have to give ourselves grace when we don’t do the things we want to do. We have to be realistic with what we are dealing with – crazy work hours, buying a house, moving, pregnancy, caring for another baby – and not get frustrated when we can’t do what feel like normal, basic things. Lately, even when he is gone and I have some time to myself, I’ve just been too tired to write (hello third trimester.)

But as the end of summer nears and empty packing boxes outnumber full, I am feeling the need to get a healthy rhythm going.

Regardless of Jonathan’s schedule, Alida and I will have a few things to provide consistency. We’ll be attending BSF every Wednesday morning, community group on Wednesday nights, and she’ll be attending a parents morning out every Friday morning. We signed up for the PMO when it was about 10 minutes away, but even with the drive now, I think it’ll be good for us. She’ll have structured learning time with other kids and I’ll have a few hours to myself.

Hopefully this week we can get our work space organized and maybe come up with a schedule for separate activities. Beyond that, I’m curious to know how the rest of you maintain your own interests and meet the needs of your relationships and families. Also, I know some things have to be put on hold during the little kid stage, but how do you know what is realistic and what needs to wait?

PS. Sorry there aren’t any cute or interesting photos on this post. I’ve given this all the time I can afford and I need to use what energy I have left to do a little tidying before I sleep.

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