How Do You Have Time for It All?

This is a question I often get asked when I mention all my reading and writing ambitions, my children, my job, my commute.

Well, the first truth is, I don’t have time for it all. I am probably not getting my priorities right and not spending enough time on my creative writing. Hence the name of my blog. Ironically, this name was picked back in 2012 when I did have more time. The moral of the story is: never complain about not having enough time for something, because there is always room for less time.

 

The second truth is that I have changed my lifelong habits of pernickety tidiness and cleanliness and become a sloppy housekeeper. I couldn’t do this when the children were smaller, for fear of germs, but nowadays I am more relaxed about unironed clothes and untidy rooms. And if things get a little too desperate, they can always chip in.

The third truth is that a cuddly cat is a lot less demanding, affectionate and non-judgmental than a husband, so I making the most of my new-found freedom to enjoy my own hobbies.

These secrets aside, what does a typical day look like for me?

Wake up at 6:50, shower, dress, make up, breakfast, prepare lunch and snacks for kids, wake them, take out laundry or prepare PE kit. Leave house before 8, otherwise I get stuck in traffic and miss my train or cannot find a parking place. Come back just after 19:00, often stopping to get some milk etc on the way. Read and check email or Twitter on train on the way into work and back, despite having to change from train to Tube. Once home, I cook supper after washing a pot or two or three that have been sitting on the counter looking at me reproachfully for the past few days, dancing and singing along to my current favourite music (Janelle Monae and Hamilton musical still). I chat to the boys about their day, perhaps check their homework or ask them about tests, friends, film reviews, what they are reading, holiday plans or hot items of news. After supper, it’s Family TV time, we all sit down (including the cat) to watch 1-2 episodes of anime  – that’s our unwinding and bonding time. Some anime leads to good discussions about general topics: for instance, the latest, Stein’s Gate, has lots of overlap with the current fears about ‘incel’ (involuntary celibates) and online loser communities and hikikomori type people.

 

I used to be the person who had to clean up everything in the kitchen, living room, do the laundry and ironing before sitting down to relax. But no more. Minimal clearing and wiping, laundry but ironing only about once a month.

 

Second shift starts when the boys have their shower: book reviews, blog posts, copywriting for Asymptote campaigns, any admin or more in-depth responses to email or booking cultural events. Another big change is that I seldom watch TV now – unless it’s Engrenages or The Bridge or other promising (usually foreign) crime series on BBC4 or Blue Planet or something like that. So I often go to bed soon after the boys, certainly no later than 22:00 – I don’t watch the news anymore, but read books instead, write a few lines of poetry, cuddle up with Zoe. I still occasionally wake up at 4 a.m. but am no longer plagued by chronic insomnia, so I just read for a bit and then sleep once more until the alarm rings.

 

Every fortnight, the children are with their father from Thursday night to Sunday evening, so I try to organise any going out on those three nights. I’m lucky to be working in central London, so it’s easy to find plenty of events to attend, some of them free. And I tend to meet friends for lunch during the week, thanks to my central location once again.

 

Of course some things fall by the wayside. I don’t watch whole box sets, because I never have the time beyond the first 1-2 episodes. I don’t get to play as much with the children as I used to, but they are probably at the age when they don’t want to spend too much time with me anyway. We do try to meet with friends once a month for Games Night or go at weekends to play table tennis etc. I have to learn to live with the constant sensation of being inadequate: as a mother, reviewer, writer, marketer, worker. I’ve completely neglected exercise and it’s only a matter of time before my body starts creaking.

 

The truth is, I have more energy and hope than I’ve had over the past 5 years at least. I no longer experience daily frustrations at home and I enjoy the people at work and the type of work I do professionally and in my spare time. I love Crime Fiction Lover and Asymptote and Shiny New Books and Necessary Fiction. At some point, I will have to focus more on my own writing. And I will. But it’s taken me a long time to surface from the bog. Let me enjoy it a little longer.

52 thoughts on “How Do You Have Time for It All?”

    1. Ha! Not sure my kids would agree – but I studied Japanese, so they can ask me things about the Japanese culture. I think they do secretly like that, but would never admit it.

  1. Great post. Same here, my blog has taken from my writing but I’m so addicted to it so I need to figure out a timetable to sort it all out. I have four kids but am a sahm so I get to read an ickle little bit during the day but there are still not enough hours. There’s times lately I’ve wished I could just sit and binge watch tv or go to bed and get copious amounts of sleep (I’m very very lucky as I have kids that sleep during the night) and I do worry that I don’t have the house I’d have if I didn’t write, I’m not a great cleaner, it takes me a long time to get things averagely clean, but my mind is constantly whirring about books and writing and I suppose you don’t choose writing, it chooses you!

    1. Four kids! Goodness, that is like four full-time jobs! I am far too addicted to my blog too, so I hear you. Perhaps we should team up and pick a couple of blog-free days dedicated exclusively to writing and support each other (remind each other?). Besides, I always tell myself I don’t want or need: ‘most houseproud woman or mother’ written on my gravestone.

  2. Wow this is such an interesting read! As someone who really has no external responsibilities, this has really made me consider my time more!
    Did you ever have to sit down and work out a schedule? Or did everything fall in place due to necessity?

  3. What a lovely post, Marina Sofia. The truth of the matter is, no-one has time for everything. There just isn’t time for it all. So we all have to work out what our priorities will be. I’m glad that you’ve chosen to focus on enjoying your life, and making the most of it. If the rooms aren’t always tidy, everyone will survive!

    1. Thank you – so true, we have to learn what our real priorities are. And when we are young, we think we will have time for everything, but as we get older we stop frittering our precious time away.

  4. Fab fab fab post – lovely to see how far you’ve come and er, WOW you are so busy makes me dizzy but you sound very happy & I do admire your courage to change your circumstances and tenacity in creating this new life for you and your boys … AND so love ‘a cuddly cat is a lot less demanding, affectionate and non-judgmental than a husband’ 😂😂😂 You’ll find the time for your own writing when it’s right for you… after years of trying to juggle, dropping writerly balls left right & centre I’m finally finding space now my youngest is due to leave school in a few weeks and with that #jobdone feeling my muse is properly awakening, not just yawning and turning over! Xx

    1. Ermmm, I think I might have meant a cat is less demanding, MORE affection and less judgmental, but I was in a rush and didn’t double check! I didn’t realise you have such grown-up children – yes, I do hope you channel all that energy release into lots of good writing. Let’s spur each other on!

  5. I think a cat is definitely going to be less trouble than a husband – any day…. And a clean house is not necessarily a happy one, so it seems to me that you have your priorities right and that your children are very lucky! 🙂

    1. Oh, I hope they’ll think so too! And as for husbands, I’m sure there are very supportive and wonderful ones out there. I just haven’t had the luck to stumble across them.

  6. I’m exhausted after reading this! Seriously, though, I do remember the days of children at home and it can be quite unforgiving on a parent at times, yet other times are sheer bliss. I totally agree with you about having a cat. Alfie is a firm member of our family and behaves like a dog-cat, seeking out our company and not roaming night and day, just exploring our garden and that of our neighbours. They are a joy for so many reasons.

    I have always admired your zest for life, books and writing, and this post has made me think you’re more amazing than before! Find that time for writing – I do enjoy your poetry, and I hope you have a peaceful family time this evening 🙂

    1. You are too kind! Yes, I want to enjoy my children for the few remaining years that I have them. But I know that I also need to focus on writing, as they’ll be gone and I’ll regret leaving it all so late.

    1. Hmmm… To quote my then five-year-old on Mothers’ Day assembly at school, while all the other children were praising their mothers and saying they were the best Mums in the world: ‘Well, statistically speaking, there must be better Mums out there than you…’

  7. Fantastic post, MarinaSofia. Thank you for sharing your routine with us. I think that one of the cons of blogging is seeing everyone doing more reading and more writing than you do. Oh, comparisons! It’s good to see you happier, more relaxed and doing what you love: A total inspiration.

    1. Actually, I don’t compare myself to anyone at all. I just regret not having enough time to read everybody’s posts, as I find them really interesting! But believe me, there are plenty of exhausted evenings, when I just want to do something really lazy and silly.

  8. I’m absolutely delighted for you Marina! I completely understand as I had a similar experience after separating from my ex over nine years ago – an unhappy home life saps your strength. Although ideally I’d like to work less I do prioritise my own interests now rather than doing endless chores nowadays.

    1. I had no idea that you had gone through something similar. Yes, it was so exhausting keeping up the facade, especially for the children. I suppose that’s why I miss France so much: because I never felt like I was getting full value from it, with travelling and going out and enjoying it.

  9. I wish I had learned to change a few habits when my son was younger. Ah well — hindsight and 20/20 — yadda yadda. I did live the lifestyle of there always being “room for less time” for so many years. I just didn’t fill the time with what fed me — my bad, lesson learned. Good on you for filling your time and feeding you with what matters.

    1. Oh believe me, it’s taken a long, long time to get here. And far too many years of trying to please other people who quite frankly told me: ‘Don’t expect us to be grateful! Nobody’s asking for your sacrifices!’ But it’s never too late, Shannon. What are you going to do with your own precious wild life, to paraphrase Mary Oliver?

  10. I am glad to hear that you have more time for you now; that is very important. And wonderful that you have more energy and hope! I have friends and family who get so much more done than I do, and I never can figure out how they have the time (and energy). Of course I am nearing 70 and still working a full time job but then I was never one to get a lot done, so I don’t think that is it. But I just enjoy what I can do and don’t worry about the rest.

    1. They are probably wondering how you can work a full-time job at nearly 70, you know… But yes, very wise advice – be happy with what you are doing and forget about the rest!

  11. This was a great post, and I think we are all plagued by guilt of ‘not doing enough’, so how about we all just accept we are doing the best we can? Sounds like you’re nailing it!

  12. Either you are the original Wonder Woman or you are on crack cocaine!!! I was panting just reading about your schedule. You are truely amazing and I am in awe of your acheivements. I, too, get up very early in the morning, naturally and without regret, but there is no way I could even dream of juggling all that you do in a day. I find, in these past few years, that I have become slack in the house-frau department. There are times I look around and am shocked by the clutter a single man (slob) can create in a very short space of time. But I remain unfazed. I put it down to priorities, my dear. Art and entertainnment before dancing around the floor with the Hoover.
    Hope you find the time to come back to the Luberon soon.

    1. Wally, every time I need a boost, I will come to you – thank you, my friend. You are wonderful. And who cares about hausfrau duties when there’s art to be made! (Although I wouldn’t mind seeing you dance with a Hoover!!!) I hope once my finances are finally settled I’ll be able to come to Luberon again. In the meantime, do let me know if you are ever in London.

      1. If I ever come to London I will surely have to see you again. You wowed from the the very first minute I met you, and continue to do so.
        The only Hoover who would have been able to dance with me, and probably liked it, is J. Edgar, but he’s dead, don’t you know!!!!

  13. Im impressed by how much you can fit into those few hours between getting home and going to bed. You always seem to be active on Twitter as well as reading a lot.

  14. It’s your duty as a mother to ensure your boys are fully trained to look after their future partners properly, so you should make them get up at 6.50 and prepare breakfast in bed for you and Zoe every morning… 😉

  15. Despite all the work, your life sounds like a lot of fun and well-spent time. And to quote my mother, “housework is the lowest form of life on earth.” (But our house was neat!) So I learned early not to sweat over housework. Neatness, not germ-free is my motto.
    Your life sounds good, like you enjoy the people you’re with and make excellent use of your time. Your schedule after work sounds packed full of tasks and time with your sons and Zoe. Very busy. It made me tired just reading it.
    One thing though: My mother was happier when she went to college when my sister and I were teenagers. And we had to pick up some of the household tasks. We had to keep our rooms neat and help with some kitchen tasks. We were fine, no complaints. And I have no complaints about having been expected to pitch in so she could improve her life.

    1. It is fun and so much calmer now, although I am much poorer and my house looks more neglected. But you can’t put a price on peace of mind – which will be even greater once the guy finally accepts a financial settlement.

  16. In 20 years, you won’t think about the condition of the house. You will remember and take with you your relationship with your children, friends and your writing. (and Zoe, too.)
    I’m in a phone group with people with some health problems. One woman says her husband is a “single parent” because he does the tasks. But I keep saying that in 20 years, your children will remember the relationship, the talking, the exchanges, the reading and cuddling together, “quality” time. They will not remember who washed the dishes, mopped the floor, did the laundry. They will remember the relationship.
    Women should give themselves a break. The expectations are enormous. But giving to yourself, too, is more important than the laundry, dishes, clean floors, as long as the children have food and clean clothes. And they can help with that, too. Enjoy your life!

  17. Great post, Marina, and so good to hear that you have found a place of contentment in your life. Of course, it’s not perfect but you sound fulfilled and happy – and wise enough to enjoy the now alongside the promise and possibilities of the future. Inspiring 🙂

    1. I just met a friend at the weekend who had last seen me when things were going badly and she said I looked so relaxed now! So yes, I’m regaining my signature optimism… about myself, although pessimism about the state of the world. Hence my passion for noir! Strange, eh?

  18. What a great post! I’m glad you have found your energy back! As an aside, would you consider blogging about the anime you’re watching with your boys? My elder boy and I love them, but it’s a whole exercise of trial and error to find good ones (and age-appropriate ones). If you don’t want to post about it, please drop me an email, I’m so looking for suggestions!

  19. Great post and I’m happy for you that things finally settled down and that you “profite de la vie” (IMO those words are missing in the English language: se faire plaisir, avoir envie de, profiter de…)

    I thought “What a schedule” and immediatly after “well, welcome to the club” Same choice here : no time wasted on useless housework.

    My son told me the other “It’s incredible the number of things I can do on my own” Subtitle I heard:” because my friends have their parents with them to go to the dentist, the train station, and you’re not there…” But it was only on me: he was just very proud of his autonomy. Really, we put too much pressure on ourselves.

    I’m still amazed at the amount of books you read, articles you write and so on. I should cut off my office time. I spend too much time there.

    PS : Had a good laugh about the husband vs cat battle.

    1. Just seen last night: the very expressive Agnès Jaoui in the film Aurore, which made me laugh and also brought tears to my eyes – the life of middle-aged women was perfectly captured!

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