I'm writing this on Sunday night, at the end of a really fun weekend. Saturday we spent the morning browsing our neighborhood tag sales, and in the afternoon we explored the natural foods store and bought Minnow a bigger car seat at Target. For the evening, we hired a babysitter, so that Fish and I could go out and celebrate Fish's birthday by playing trivia at a local bar. Today was a great family outing; we explored backroads until we found a u-pick pumpkin farm with a hayride and corn maze. Afterwards, Minnow and I played with Fish
watched football napped.
Why I am telling you what we did this weekend? Because our narrative is missing much of the usual detritus that strangles the fun out of weekends. We didn't do the three loads of laundry or the grocery shopping or the yard work. I didn't grade the 50 student papers or start writing the next grant proposal.
And for this weekend, that's OK. I am staying home with Minnow for the next two days, so I'll be able to wrangle the laundry and groceries. The papers will get graded during naps and after bedtime, because I don't have to write any lecture this week. The grant proposal will get written, or not, but my chair is already pleased with my work this semester.
But on a normal two-day weekend we really struggle to find time for fun amidst the accumulated chaos of the previous week and the looming duties of the next week. It's easy to go weeks without doing more than chores and errands. We want to have more fun. We want to explore Mystery State. We want to take advantage of the cultural opportunities in Mystery City. But we tend to get bogged down with drudgery, and if we ignore the drudgery, we have no clean clothes or clean dishes or food to eat.
It seems like we ought to be able to have weekend fun and keep a well-stocked house at once. Obviously, if we had three day weekends more often things would be easier. One day for work or relaxation, one day for chores, and one day for fun, and we'd all be happier. But there's not much point in wishing for the impossible - four day work weeks aren't part of our reality. Maybe we could get more of the chores and errands done during the weekend, but our weekdays seem so full and stressful already. More time spent cleaning and shopping on weekdays means less time playing with Minnow or writing lectures or sleeping, and those are unacceptable tradeoffs for us. Maybe we could jam all the chores and errands into one day and make sure that the next day we do something special. But that makes for two full days and doesn't give us any chance to relax and recharge. Maybe we could lower our standards for housekeeping, but they're pretty bad to start with. Maybe we could hire a cleaning service to come periodically to do some of the deeper cleaning so that we only have to the "light" maintenance cleaning. Maybe we need to recognize that we aren't going to get to do as many explorations and fun activities as we wish we could. Probably we'll do some combination of the above.
Next weekend, we'd like to find a petting zoo. Likely, we'll pay bills, Fish will mow the lawn, and I'll finish the grant proposal. But at least we got to pick a pumpkin.
I once went to a panel discussion on Women in Science and they were discussing how to balance family and work. Every woman on the panel said "I don't clean my own house". So when I went back to work after my son was born, I knew the best thing I could do for myself was to hire a cleaning service to come every two weeks. It has taken so much pressure off of me. We look at it as a household expense, like the electric bill. Obviously I still need to cook and do basic light housework like de-cluttering, but its great to know I haven't cleaned a bathroom since last Christmas!
It is hard to find time to do fun things when you really have a lot of errands to do or just want to relax. But some of the most fun weekend days with our son are ones where we stay at home relax, take some walks around the neighborhood, and just spend time with each other. We designate Saturday mornings as our errand time. All three of us go to the farmers market and grocery store to get those chores done and overwith.
My entire weekend was spent in reading for classes and writing a paper. I even stayed home while hubby went to Oktoberfest with friends. I got caught up in my work, but missed out on the entire weekend. I don't think next weekend is going to be much better... seems like I spend every Saturday and Sunday catching up on work I didn't have time to do during the week. :(
Man, I hear ya'. Most of our weekends are a blur of grocery shopping, errands, stopping by lab, cleaning the bathroom and our relaxing time is taking Pup for a walk. We rarely get to go out and do something fun and exciting. If we had the cash, we'd definitely hire a cleaning service, but on two postdoc salaries it's just not feasible (at least not where we live). On the rare occasion that we do throw caution to the wind and forget about our weekend chores, we end up paying for it for the entire next week...
I hear you, too. I would pay hard-earned American cash for one of those grocery delivery services!
Not entirely on topic, but the banner with Minnow is lovely.
What scares me a bit is that our weekends often are already full of errands and chores (plus, admittedly, some fun time and some which passes without anyone knowing how) -- and there's only the two of us. How we would fit in time for a child I have no idea... but I assume it would work, somehow.
If you can afford it, I would definitely outsource the parts of your days that someone else could do. This is not only household cleaning, but it can be laundry and even grocery shopping.
And if FreshDirect is in your area, it's so lovely! There is a big selection of wholesome and fresh fruits, veggies, and meats, and they deliver it stored well, and I've never ever been unhappy with the quality of food they brought for me. They don't service the part of NYC I'm in right now, so I don't use them anymore, but I miss it. It was so convenient! If freshdirect isn't in your area, hire a local campus student to do some errands for you. I did this for $10 an hour like 3 hours a week in one of my years of undergrad, and the woman sent me to the grocery store, had me help with dishes, and run other various errands (pick up prescriptions, replace the shopping cart, etc).
For laundry, you can also look into laundry delivery service. Especially in a big city, this will surely be available. I'm in a lower class part of NYC, and where I am we don't have delivery but we do drop off the clothes and pick them up the next day, and it costs us about $40-50 a month for two adults.
Babysitting and daycare are usually what people expect to pay someone to do, but you really want to outsource as much of the other stuff so you get more fun time with Minnow and Fish. If you can afford it, there's no shame in having someone else do all the mundane day to day things for you.
My husband and I are totally poor, and I have no kids, but I designate the weekends as relaxing time, and we rarely do much work on them, although often enough I babysit for cash. We don't do laundry ourselves, we have a low standard for washing floors and things, and the rest of the chores I just do a little here and there. Maybe I'm lucky that this works out to give me relaxing weekends, but it's also something I'm not that willing to change for duties I might take on.
Try to get out of the 'all or nothing' mindset. At least that's the trap I fall into. But if we manage to fit in trip to a local stream :-) or a 2 hour stop at the beach or a bike ride at the park amoungst the grocery shopping and laundry, we are ALL much happier. There's always too much to do -- but those two hours are time well spent!
I agree with other commenters that you should try to hire out some of the chores and not feel bad about it. Look at everything else you're doing! You are not going to be the foregone conclusion, but you have to come to terms with some things you can let go, like cleaning the toilet! At least while you're pumping, i.e. when Minnow is weaned you could leave work that much earlier without spending less time working. Surely that would add up to the time needed to clean a bathroom or go grocery shopping.
Not all cleaning services are super expensive. Peapod is another food delivery service you could check out. I bet free time with your family is worth the cost.
You're doing great ScienceWoman! Keep on rockin. And wow, is that Minnow a cutie.
Thanks for all your suggestions. I did end up hiring a service to come clean the kitchen and bathrooms, but I'd rather not outsource the grocery shopping, which is one of the activities that Fish and I enjoy doing together.