"How have you been?" someone asks me at shul, or at swim practice, or standing on a street corner. Too often, I'm flustered or sighing, pushing a loaded-down stroller.
"Busy!" I say, singing the modern parent's refrain.
And it's the truth. We are busy. Try to make a date to see a friend in New York City, or a playdate for the kids, and we finding ourselves scrolling through our calendars into next month or beyond. I often feel like our family life is a scheduling puzzle--five people, who (sometimes) need to be doing five different things in different places. Each day, when we all return home, I am thankful, and exhausted. If only we weren't all so busy.
One of my favorite surprises is the spontaneous social gathering. The quick call or text--do you want to come over or meet up?--and the unexpected, "YES."
Not to knock schedules. There are real benefits to having a routine--both for kids and adults.
Most parents know that kids sleep better with a regular routine of naps and bedtimes. If Louisa (22 months) misses her nap, she gets cranky, and she's likely to sleep worse in the night (the whole sleep-begets-sleep thing is certainly true for toddlers, in my experience). Similarly, if she goes to bed late, she almost never sleeps in. The lost sleep is just lost.
Louisa's naps have an added benefit of creating a routine for me. Take right now. I'm able to write this piece because Louisa is napping. As soon as she went to sleep, I felt obligated to sit at my computer and write. It was tempting to catch up on other people's blogs, to clean the kitchen, to return phone calls. But I had to stick to the schedule, because time is a-ticking and in two hours or less, Louisa will be awake and my writing time is up.
Yet another prayer analogy: Jews pray at specified times of day. If you miss the time for Shacharit in the morning, you move on to the Mincha service in the afternoon. There are no make-ups when it comes to naps, prayers, or lost opportunities to write.
Self-help tidbit of the day: If there's something that you wish you were doing more of but aren't finding the time--practicing an instrument, going to the gym, reading books, or spending time with your kids--put it into your daily or weekly schedule. If you assign a confined time to getting something done, you will be more likely to do that thing, to the exclusion of other tasks competing for your time.
On the other hand, forget everything I just said. Do something spontaneous right now. And please invite me!