Weekend evenings in July a professional team of actors perform a Shakespeare play on a stage plunked in the middle of a beautiful field on San Juan Island. Sunday night my husband and I planned to go with a couple we know from graduate school, but our friends were a little wary – this was only the second night ever that they had left their two-year-old daughter with a sitter. The plan was for us to go ahead and stake out a good spot with a blanket; they would get their daughter to sleep (early) and a graduate student settled in to watch her, and meet us there. We enjoyed a wonderful show; unfortunately, our friends never made it…
Not long ago we were in that boat. When our kids were under five, bedtime was a consuming trick with unpredictable timing, almost always more exhausting for the parent than the child. The good news is: 10 years after having kids, bedtime has becomes a lot easier. Our younger daughter is no longer so worried about the shadows on the ceiling she sees from her bed, can get her own glass of water from the bathroom if she’s thirsty. Instead of a bedtime story, we can put her in bed a little early and tell her a time to turn her light out once she’s read to herself for a little while. A sitter can get them into bed with the same routine that we have set up, so we can easily go out before kid bedtime if we want to. It’s time to live!!
Do we do it? Well, a little bit, but not enough. I’m not sure why. We always love it when we do go out together, but it’s the hurdle of organizing and preparing for a babysitter (we race around straightening the living room, sweeping up crumbs under the table, wiping the goo off the bathroom sinks beforehand – why?) and maybe partly that babysitters are an expense(!), and another culprit, I think – the routine that we’ve set up in succumbing those last couple hours of the day to the computer (usually each on our own computer). There is much out there on line, and many conversations and viewpoints (including item of special interest: family and work-family balance) need to be a part of my life. After a day of work/kids/homework/activities, evenings often are the only time for this. I’m pretty good at defining the areas I like to read, but there are ever more venues and my “must reads” are ever expanding. Hard to complain about this! But more and more I feel the pressures of the social networks and information and opinion on line impinge on my family/work balance (husband time) at the same time as they become part of the solution.
So, I challenge my husband, once we start back to our regular routine after the summer, we will broaden our juggling act. We’re going to take our neighbor up on his suggestion to regularly exchange babysitting, and juggle dedicated one-on-one time together back in where our computers have taken over. Together, I hope we can find a more equitable work/family/computer network balance.