So I went back to work.
Today I wrote my new financial budget, based on my new salary, earned from my new job. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. It was very, very sobering. In a nutshell, all of my personal money, which used to go on cocktails and hair cuts and weekends in Dublin, is now ring fenced for childcare. The money that used to be put to one side for a rainy day is now my survival money. I call is survival money rather than personal money because it is only enough to cover the bare essentials. Like take away coffee. And books. And moustache wax.
This wasn’t the worst realisation of the day. No. The worse realisation was that I now have to apply that same budgeting process to my time. It used to be that my time was my own. It could be spent any way I liked: drunkenly; luxuriating in the bathtub; attending local activist meetings to improve our neighbourhood (I’m trying not to sound wholly selfish here). What distant memories those things are now. Ah, I almost remember the taste of a Friday night margarita, on the rocks, surrounded by a sharp rim of salt and smelling deeply of lime. Annnnnd I’m salivating.
From Monday to Friday (except Wednesday – which is Whoopsy and Mama’s day) my time is now carefully rationed and it looks something like this:
- 6:30 – 7.15: Get ready for work
- 7.45 – 17.30: Work
- 18:00 – 20:00: Look after baby
- 22:00 – 22:30: Last feed and get ready for bed
- 22:30: Sleep
That leaves me four hours for ‘me’ time. One of those hours is spent cooking and / or eating (some might say necessary for survival. I say necessary for my happiness). One hour is spent commuting to and from work and is essentially dead time. If I used it to do life admin such as online banking and complaining to numerous customer service call centres though, this becomes highly valuable. That leaves me with two hours. Let’s say that the half hour is reserved for household chores, leaving me with one and a half hours left over.
Ninety minutes. 6.25% of the day. That is what belongs to me. That is the amount of time I have to invest in myself. It sounds, on the face of it, fairly generous. But bear in mind that, because Whoopsy is fast asleep in the nursery, I am essentially tied to the house during this time. And bare in mind that my time is strictly limited to between 8.30pm and 10pm, after . And bare in mind that at this time of day, having been spinning around since getting up, I am also mentally defunct.
I suppose I am writing about this because I am trying to understand how someone who used to go jogging a couple of times a week, and do a Masters in their spare time, and kept in constant touch with a large group of friends, and spent Sunday mornings at a secular church worshipping the world around us (yes, really), can suddenly feel so unproductive. Even something as simple as writing my blog has been on the back burner for the last couple of weeks as I struggle to adjust to this new world. The scariest thought of all is that this is probably as easy as it will be for many years. In three or four years time, my precious ninety minutes will be spent making donkey costumes or baking for the PTA bake sale.
I used to judge people that went to work, came home, sat in front of the television, ate a packet of biscuits, went to bed and repeated that same pattern day after day after day. They are so lazy, so unmotivated, I used to think. They don’t care about themselves, or about how they look, I silently raged. They are wasting their lives away, I thought, shuddering at the thought. I stand corrected. I was wrong. They are not these things. They are parents.
So given that I am not only time poor, but time restricted, the question is, what can be achieved in my hour and a half? One movie. A jog and a bath. A home massage (by my partner – long gone are the days that I could afford Urban Massage) and a few chapters of a novel. Bitching at American Republicans on Twitter. A gossip on the phone with two beloved friends. A sewing machine session to make one pair of dungarees (I am not factoring in the many hours it will take me to become this competent at sewing). An online course in a professional qualification. Trying to learn the dances to retro Britney Spears videos on YouTube. A lengthy cat cuddling session. Throwing an entire box of grapes into the air and trying to catch them in my mouth.
Or… let’s be realistic for a moment… three episodes of Brooklyn 99 on the sofa with a packet of biscuits.