"Gaining Time"

In this personal essay, one mother describes how the transition from being childless to becoming a parent has given her time she didn't have before. By Paula Hajar

One mother describes her journey, becoming aparent

Before I adopted my son, I imagined the changes that were about to invade my life, fearful that I would soon wrap myself in chains. No more nights at the opera, for sure. No more committee meetings in the Village, no more gab fests into the wee hours, no more hopping a Greyhound on a whim, no more spontaneous trans-Atlantic travel. No more nada.

It has all come to pass: I now have a rigid routine that has me ricocheting between my son and my work, day in and day out. I have not attended an opera or a ballet or a concert (and have seen only two movies in theatres) or been out of the country in the five years (to the day) that my son has been in my life. I am away from him much of the day, so, when the weekend comes, I am reluctant to hand him off to a babysitter. It doesn’t seem fair or worth it. Consequently, we are together for virtually all of my non-working hours. Though I squeeze in my projects and errands around the edges of the day, these things are done with as much speed as possible. Everything is contingent on his willingness to go along with the game plan. My time is not my own.

There have been welcome—and unexpected—developments to this cloistering. When I was childless, my life flowed seamlessly between work and home. Guilt followed me around, and my plate was overloaded, my energies stretched in a million different directions. Now, as a single mother, I have The Perfect Excuse for saying no to anything I don’t fancy. Since I have a small child, I can’t stay late at work, I can’t meet in Soho to plan a project, I can’t be in New Jersey on a Saturday morning.

In many ways, my life has become much simpler. Now no one expects me to attend conferences in distant cities or chair committees any more, or even join them, unless Emilio can attend too. Thus, I do not find myself on the R train roaring out of Brooklyn at odd hours of a Tuesday or Saturday night. It’s rare that I will be found on Broadway after 9 p.m. What’s more, I do not spend endless amounts of time finishing work from my job, or finding the perfect gift or greeting card for a friend, as was my habit in the pre-Emilio days. I have more time.

For what? Having a child means I have to slow down as well as speed up, so I am taking time to play with my son-to go bike riding or sledding, to take the subway for sheer fun and adventure, to make up crazy captions for his baby pictures, to cook something just to be together. Playing with Emilio comes as close to stopping the clock for me as any therapy or psychedelic drug.

Becoming a parent has given me time I didn’t have before.


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