Breathing Room

by Abby on September 5, 2014

I was emailing a friend recently about how much I’m loving my new schedule now that both kids are in school. Real all-day school, I mean, not that 2.5-hour preschool nonsense that barely gives you enough time to shower and shave both legs.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve taken on more writing assignments and work commitments recently, but in true freelancer fashion, those arrangements didn’t conveniently start the same time that school did. No, they started months ago, just about the time the kids got OUT of school, which meant “let the juggling begin.”

My frugal little self has always believed that I cannot afford to pay for more childcare than I actually need, which means that every single second of every single day that I was working on a billable project and my kids were at the sitter’s, I was WORKING. No errands, no exercising, no lunch breaks, no showers, certainly no shaving—nothing at all besides doing the paying work. I would work right up until seconds before I had to pick up the kids, then text the sitter “on my way!” and dash out the door, praying for green lights.

I know people who go out for coffee with friends while their kids are with a babysitter, get a pedicure, read a book, even go shopping without small people tugging on their hems and begging to stop at Build-a-Bear. But I was not one of them this summer. I just couldn’t justify it. Like most freelancers, I have to pay for childcare in advance so I can do the work, even though I don’t get PAID for the work until up to 30 days after I send my invoice. (Fingers crossed.)

In my email to my friend, I said I finally feel like I have some breathing room. Until then I hadn’t thought about it that way, but yes—all summer I was holding my breath. Sucking it up, pushing through, doing what I had to do to get everything done and keep everybody happy.

The only hints that something was possibly out of whack were a) my constant feeling that summer and fun were passing me by, and b) when my youngest (yes, THAT son) needed yet another round of stitches due to yet another facial injury and my first thought was, “Crap! Now I’ll miss a day of work and camp’s already paid for!” Not my proudest mom moment.

But now that school has started, I’m up at 6:45 a.m. After the kids are fed, dressed, and out the door, I now have time to finish a cup of coffee while it’s still hot warm, take the dog for a walk, and check my email—BEFORE starting my work day. Breathing room.

Woman taking a deep breath outside

I have time to stare out the window for a few minutes while I’m working. Time to stand up, stretch, do a downward dog, get another cup of coffee AND go to the bathroom before I crank out another set of copyedits. Breathing room.

I have time to return phone calls, buy stamps, and schedule my long-overdue doctor appointments. (Happy, Mom?) Sometimes I even have time to go for a run, prepare and eat a meal while seated, and complete a load of laundry. (Rather than attempt the same mildewed load 3 times before actually making it to the dryer stage.) Breathing room.

I no longer resent the extra time I have to leave myself for school pick-up. I get there early, get a good parking spot, and catch up on emails or phone calls while I wait. When I greet the kids, I’m no longer tuning them out while I mentally run through the remaining items on my to-do list. That doesn’t mean I’m getting every single thing done, but I’m not stretched nearly so thin any more. Breathing room.

Another thing I said in my email to my friend was that I just haven’t had the desire to blog lately. I talked about a post I read recently about defining your blog’s purpose, and how I’d always felt my purpose was to entertain people and find the funny in not-so-funny parenting situations, but that lately I hadn’t been feeling funny at all. I felt sad. And burnt-out. And in transition. I turned 40 this summer! My youngest kid just started kindergarten! I need some time to figure out how I feel about everything, where I’m going, what I’m doing.

Then write about that, she suggested. So I am. But I’m giving myself some breathing room here on my blog, too. I don’t know what that means, exactly, or where I’m going or what I’m doing. But I’m still here. Taking slow, deep breaths and enjoying my warm coffee while I stare out the window.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Basi September 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Oh, I do know what you mean! Although for me having one at home is almost harder than having them all, because little Toddler is so accustomed to being constantly entertained, even if half of it makes him crazy. He’s been hanging on me a lot.

I know the feeling about taking advantage of every minute–I don’t even shower some days!


Lou Mello September 6, 2014 at 7:52 am

I am glad you’re still here and telling stories about everyday life. Breathing room is definitely not overrated, we all need it regardless of our situation. It might just be the time for an extra cup of coffee or being able to walk outside and visit with a neighbor. Breathing moments are little gems to be cherished, indeed.


Angie Mizzell September 6, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I agree with Lou, about everyone needing it. We need breathing room our whole life, but we don’t always get it. And then later in life, maybe we’ll get too much. But for now, when so many people and things need and deserve our time and attention, it’s important that we show up for those people and things… loving and sane. We do our best to show up with no breathing room, but when we get some, we’re like, “Oh, wow… I feel amazing!”

And, I also like what Anne Lamott has said about needing time to stare at the wall. We need that whitespace, but we often forget to place a value on it.

So glad you wrote about all of this. We don’t have to know where we’re going (although I WANT TO KNOW WHERE I AM GOING) but it’s nice to give ourselves some time and space to find out.


Deanne Haines September 16, 2014 at 1:56 pm

This sounds like my exact situation! I turned 40 in May and my youngest just started kindergarten this year. It was my plan to increase my writing clients as soon as she went to school all day. Well… just like you, I got real busy before then. It was awful trying to juggle work and play – it was summer vacation after all. Total mommy guilt! Now that school’s in session, though, I’m really loving this breathing room!! Maybe a little too much….. Gotta get writing…..


Abby September 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm

It’s amazing how all that extra time can get eaten up in a hurry if you’re not paying attention, isn’t it? Enjoy!


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