If someone were to tell you the number of hours left in your life, would you spend any of it binging the latest season of your favorite ‒ or mediocre ‒ tv show? I wouldn’t. When I think I have plenty of time to spare, I tend to waste it. When I don’t have much time, I savor it. I plan for it. I make a list of all the things I can’t wait to do. Then, I put the big winners at the top followed by all the runners-up I hope I can maybe squeeze in, and I dream about the time when I get to luxuriate in each of them. I recently learned psychologists use the term “pleasure stacking” for this strategy of stockpiling all of your favorite activities for one day or moment. I am frequently surprised by how often there is a term for nearly everything.
When we were young, Branton and I had lotsa time. Each weekend, some weeknights, and every short and extended vacation, we spent together. Blowing sixty dollars plus on a dinner, which included drinks, appetizers, and dessert, happened monthly or bi-monthly because you can do stuff like that when you have two incomes and no dependents. We spent date nights away from home, trying the menu at some new spot, and occasionally circling back to our five-star favorites, so we could try a different entree or savor the eye-roll-inducing one we tried before.
During the time we were apart, we had our own lives and our own jobs. Living in separate worlds, we came together pleasantly at the end of the day and week. When we reconvened, we shared our highs and lows and either commiserated or cheered with each other. Periodically, we exited our individual spheres for a long weekend or a week’s vacation, leaving them behind for long naps and even longer books. Sometimes, we shared consecutive hours of silence.
After having babies, we got more greedy. Time is a commodity we jealously seek, like Gollum with his ring. A thirty-minute car ride is just enough time for a meaningful date filled with connecting conversation. Two hours on the couch after the boys are in bed can be a one-night getaway. A full-blown, multi-course dinner when the kids are at grandpa’s house is a weekend vacation. Multiple days on a vacation with just us, which we’ve done once in our five years of parenting, is a month-long sabbatical. When we had unlimited time, we spent it loosely, like we had too much money and not enough stuff to buy. Now our budgeting skills are becoming well-honed. After an appointment and before the babysitter’s time runs out, we squeeze in thirty-minute lunch or coffee dates. Nearly every free night in the winter we get, we drink hot tea on the couch. In the summer, we enjoy the patio until the mosquitoes chase us inside as the sky goes dark. Passing each other in the hall, we sneak in a butt squeeze.
Our worlds are fully intertwined, now. There are no parallel universes or separate spheres. We are all up in each other’s junk in every pleasant and unpleasant way. Planning dinners, managing schedules, monitoring and replenishing our stockpiles of provisions in the fridge and the snack cupboard, making grocery or medicine runs, cleaning up vomit and diarrhea ‒ hopefully at separate times on separate occasions, and tag teaming the early bird wake-up calls with the middle-of-the-night emergencies, we work as a cohesive unit. Whether by necessity or purposeful intention, and most often equal measures of both, text messages, phone calls, and hollers up the stairs or to the other end of the house serve as our interoffice memos.
In this new world we have created together, there are a couple of downers. I seem to have more mental breakdowns. The ratio of spontaneous-to-scheduled “romantic encounters” can tend to be a little heavy in the “scheduled” column. On the days we are tired or discouraged, we can be tempted to look at our past, FULL of time to be wasted. Especially when we would really enjoy a nap or an uninterrupted hour, wishing for time travel is tempting. I like these older, wiser versions of us, though. We work more as a team and live with more intention. The minor moments matter: Falling into those hugs at the end of the day that are part love, part exhaustion, and all necessity. Snuggling up in bed at 9:00 only to fall asleep mid-episode, quoting the catchy phrases to each other later. Skipping the TV entirely to squeeze both of our heads around one phone screen, checking out the latest sleeping poses, shenanigans, or ornery-faced photos of our kids. These “insignificant” moments are full of contentment. The kind felt when you contentedly lean back in your chair with the sun on your face, full of gratitude. Some days there is more bourbon in the glass, and the liquid hits our throats more smoothly than others. Sometimes a moment slips by us, causing us to lament our missed, or poorly managed, opportunity. For the most part, however, we are redeemers of time, scavenging our minutes, our half hours, and our hours. Added all together, we find — and we make — time for each other. We don’t have much time to spare, so we do our best not to waste the time we have.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Love After Babies.”
4 thoughts on “Scavengers of Time”
The insignificant moments are full of contentment. Love that. And isn’t it often in hindsight and with age that we learn to be content in those insignificant moments.
This post balances so well the investment vs return of individualism vs two are better than one. It stirs deep into my memory bank and causes me to reconsider my investment portfolio for the golden years to come.
“Passing each other in the hall, we sneak in a butt squeeze” is as valuable in the long haul of life together as that coveted week-end away.
Very thought provoking and encouraging to savor the gift of time and spend it as a treasure to be shared.
This was such a lovely comparison of time and how it feels after kids vs. before. Loved this so much!
“Scavengers of time”—what a great description of what life is like after babies. “Added all together, we find — and we make — time for each other. We don’t have much time to spare, so we do our best not to waste the time we have.” I feel this way for art, for my husband, and most recently for myself! I enjoyed reading!