Here's the thing about having children. It's really hard to find a balance. You have to spend enough time with your children. You have to spend enough time without your children. You have to spend enough time with each child separately. You have to spend enough time with your spouse without your children. You have to spend enough time by yourself, all alone, without children, without spouse, without work. Something is always shortchanged, because there is never enough time. It's entirely impossible.
Sometimes, I miss things about my former life Before Children. The sheer amount of time and freedom are two of those things. I always kept busy, but my current self wants to just shake my head at my former self, and yell at me for WASTING ALL THAT PRECIOUS TIME. Eh, not really. I enjoyed the heck out of it all. God, remember happy hour on Fridays? Slipping out of the office at 4:30, going to a bar, getting home hours later, tipsy and full of mediocre bar food, high and happy from a good time with friends. It's just a faint memory right now. It was fun, but you know, it's OK. I went to a gazillion happy hours. I got to live the single life in DC for many fun years. I went to all the bars, drank all the drinks, went to all the things, stayed out until all the hours. I'm not sure that I want to do that again all the time. I do miss the frequency with which we used to eat out at rather nice restaurants. But it will all be there. The old bars and the new bars and the old restaurants and the new ones, and the food, and friends, and the sunsets and the night. They will still be there when I have a little more time and freedom for them.
It's easier with this baby, this second one. He's so easy. Bottle, no problem. Putting him to bed, no problem. He just eats the food off of the spoon the first time we give it to him, no problem. Helene was just so hard, it turns out. We had a babysitter a couple of weeks ago for Seth's birthday. It was so easy, and so fun, and I want to do it AGAIN. God, this is what other people whose babies took bottles were doing, while I was watching the clock for my 2-hour limit away, and for Helene's bedtime, because I was the only one who could feed her or put her to bed for so long.
***I never understood, for years and years, why anyone would go back and live near their parents when they had children. Why did it matter? Who cares? I'd lived a couple thousand miles away from my parents roughly forever. There are airplanes, right? And then I had children. And then I understood. In your parents (or your spouse's parents), if your're lucky, you have these people who love your children even more unconditionally than you do, and who are willing to do things with your children than you won't do, and spend loads of time with them. And they WANT to! And you don't have to PAY them to. My husband and I are both lucky to have these sorts of amazing parents. But they don't live exactly nearby. My mom lives on the other side of the country. Seth's parents live a 4-hour drive away for part of the year. In the summers, they live a long drive, but a short plane flight away. His parents are close enough that we see them about once a month. If they were closer, though, we'd see them more often. They sometimes talk about moving here. I rather wish they would.
Going on vacation with children isn't a vacation at all unless you have help. As my friend Andrew put it, "it's still the same old parenting, just in an exotic location." And it can be harder, because you don't have all of the conveniences and comforts of home that everyone is used to. That time that you wanted to spend relaxing on vacation? Ha ha ha HAAA. No. You still have to chase and chide and play with and settle disputes and dole out punishments. And sometimes it's fun, but sometimes, you're just so tired that it's not a vacation at all.
I have, however, high hopes for our August trip to Seth's parents' vacation house on Martha's Vineyard. We will be almost their only guests (they normally have a revolving door and full house all summer). We will have much attention to the two children from two grandparents. We are also importing from Long Island a young teenage cousin who is eager to build her babysitting resume, and who is herself sweet and lovely. Oh holy shit, we are going to have THREE people helping us. I am sitting on the deck and reading. I am drinking wine at lunch. I am going out to dinner with my husband. I am going to go shopping/wandering utterly alone. I am going to take NAPS. NAPS, people.
It's crazy hard to stay at home with children full time. It's crazy hard to work full time, in or out of the house. I'm convinced that the perfect compromise is to work part time and have a full-time nanny or sitter. Yeah, I know. In what alternate reality does that happen? In my world, it's the one where I win the lottery. I had that for a few weeks, when our nanny first started. It was glorious. I had time to run errands and work and make dinner and spend time individually with each child and not feel wrung out most of the time.
I'd better start buying more lottery tickets.