Do you know who you are?

In the past year or so, I have been gradually gaining more and more free time. I don’t know what to do with myself because this amount of free time might be temporary.

My youngest turns 12 this weekend, and my other child is 14. We are entering the parental home stretch, and aside from helping with school projects, making food, and driving them places, they don’t need me very much (not physically, anyway). I strive to cultivate our common interests, just to keep a connection with them. But even these activities don’t take much work, especially when compared to 3 years ago.

I’m not the same person I used to be. Most of my free time was gobbled up with mundane tasks and I got used to that. As a result, my personal interests withered quite a bit or were modified to keep me at home minding children outside of school hours. I hardly ever leave the house anymore, except to walk the dogs, go to work, run a few errands, or have a meal in a restaurant. Very rarely do I head out just for the heck of it. I’m simply unused to having that option and I’ve been domesticated. I am also aging, and therefore have a lot less energy than I used to. (For example, I am hiring a gardener to dig up our tiny front lawn and replacing it with gravel.)

Some weekends whiz by with very little interaction with our offspring. Girl midget cleans her room, collects her allowance, and vanishes. Boy midget often has a group project to work on, or he is off playing games at friends’ houses. I spend a significant amount of time cleaning the inside and outside of our house, but its appearance doesn’t reflect that. One can rearrange only so much furniture and purge only so many belongings; I feel like I need most of the items that now reside in my home. But maybe I could do more, right after I have a glass of wine.

Maybe I need another project? I’m working on finding us a good house swap for Hanukkah this year. Nearly anywhere in Europe is cool with us, basically. We are looking for a cultural getaway, somewhere there are museums or sites to see and we don’t need to depend on a car. I also have to work on organizing our house because we have renters coming in August. That one’s boring, but very necessary.

Maybe this abundance of free time isn’t temporary? Dare I hope? Can I get back to being ‘myself’? Someone with varied interests and a busy calendar of activities for myself? Can I take on a big project without needing buy-in from the other people who live in my house?

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I used to be

I used to be an activist for environmental protection and the rights of animals. I used to be quite interested in world news especially the war in Iraq. That was during my time at university.

I continued these interests after graduation but with less involvement. Eventually the everyday, stress is the wrong word, activities? took up most of my time. Plus, I was tired. Tired of people, namely the men in my life, demanding conformity. I was encouraged to stop trying to ‘stir the pot’ in conversation, stop trying to be ‘different’ and most of all to take on their interests. Stupidly, I mostly complied. Then I got married, which diminished that fire inside of me a little more. Then I had a child, and that fire was extinguished.

I became conventional. I was obsessed with raising the perfect offspring. I gave up all of my own interests in favour of supporting my husband and being consumed by childrearing. I took on the lion’s share of the childrearing, in my opinion, leaving no time for my own continued development. Curling? I was a curling nut before I had a child. I learned the sport when I was 11 years old and played all through high school and university and beyond. I went to tournaments and played regular games twice a week or more. I would take my equipment to the ice some evenings just to get some practise time in. A couple of years ago, after carting my shoes and broom from move to move, I finally donated them to a high school. I had to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to commit 2 weeknights every week to a sport I had once loved.

Last night I worked late and so Husband took over kid duties. He picked up girl midget from gymnastics, made dinner, and then took boy midget to Scouts. I usually do all of this because Husband gets home from work after 7:30 pm each night.  I can rely on him to do all of this just as well as I would.

In the last 2 years or so, I have picked up some new interests. I started a serious crochet hobby and opened an Etsy store (AlliNeedisYarn). I have 2 dogs that need to be walked each day. I move our living room and bedroom furniture around a LOT. I’m a budget decorator, always looking for cheap ways to improve our home. I often come up with projects to do and currently I’m planning an extensive vegetable garden for summer. Our living room shelving/furniture needs improvement so I’m going to focus on that this year too.

In the last 9 months or so I have experienced a real rebirth. I no longer self-medicate with wine, carbs, and fat. I no longer worry about keeping out of the fray of public opinion. I have become more myself in the past year than I have been since university when I was in my early twenties. I suppose this comes with the territory when you have children who no longer need you 24×7, or even 10×7. I think we’re down to 3×7 now, leaving me with time to fill. And fill it I shall.

I never thought I could be married and a mother without compromising myself. To me, being married meant stifling my interests, strong opinions, and even talent. It’s interesting to note that my serious boyfriends and first husband didn’t think this way, and they likely didn’t fully understand how much I was bending for them. Children don’t give a crap how much you are bending; they want what they want. Immediately. That doesn’t matter though, you don’t have to give over your entire self. Building them up doesn’t mean you can’t frolick in the sun. Ugh, the guilt we mothers (and probably fathers too but I really don’t know) endure for pursuing our own interests. Seriously? Why do we women do this shit to ourselves? That’s rhetorical because I know the answer is long, complicated, and steeped in gender roles imposed from day one onward.

One thing I have done with my own children is to teach them, from a young age, that I have feelings, likes and dislikes, dreams, desires, and I need just as much love as they do. So there’s that. Now I just need to remind myself.

I don’t know what happens

What happens to me on evenings and weekends? I am a creative person who is interested in lots of different projects and ventures. In theory, anyway.

I crochet, I do some DIY, I love to redecorate. But I also get distracted easily, leaving many half-finished projects around my house. Even worse is when I don’t even start anything because the thought of starting is enough to make me crawl onto the couch and watch reruns of The Office.

For example: I know our yard needs to be cleaned up, since the snow is actually(!) starting to melt. I would like to plant a vegetable garden, start a compost corner, and maybe create a more welcoming oasis of a yard behind our house. But I haven’t done any of that. To get started on that garden, I would first have to replace all of the dirt in the currently appointed garden areas. Why? Because they have dog poop in them. Lots of it. Why? Because I have 2 dogs and it’s winter. Plus, the big dog likes to poop in the garden year round, I kid you not.

So, let’s say I manage to replace and replenish fertile soil suitable for vegetable planting. I then need to come up with a system for keeping the large dog out. I guess that wouldn’t be difficult, I just need some electrified chicken wire.

We have many bicycles in our shed and a few behind it too. None of them are in working order. It has been my dream to have bikes at the ready so that we can actually(!) ride them when the weather is pleasant. Husband has pledged that he will ensure all of the bicycles are in working order, and those that aren’t or can’t be repaired will vanish. I figure we will get rid of about 3 bikes in total, leaving us with around 8. No I am not kidding.

I am not much of a gardener. I probably should have put that in first. I figure, if I learn how to raise a baby and keep my sanity by reading up on it, I can figure out how to garden.

Is there a Gardening for Dummies? Yup.
http://www.dummies.com/how-to/home-garden/gardening.html

Is there a Composting for Dummies? Yup.
http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/composting-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html

Now I just need to do it. When the weather finally cooperates, consider this a Go.