A Good Use of Time

I haven’t written much so far this year. Obviously there’s a good reason for that, and I’ve said as much in my weekly writing updates, but I haven’t exactly been forthcoming about what that reason might be. There’s a good reason for that, too. If you follow the blog very closely, you may have figured out the reason for yourself. Or maybe not. If you know me in real life, you almost certainly already know the reason.

Regardless, enough time has passed to leave sufficient ambiguity regarding exact dates, thereby protecting the privacy of all involved, that I feel comfortable revealing the truth at last, here on a public forum.

I’ve made only two prior mentions of V.R. here before. I explained what I meant by “V.R.” one of those times, but it was a small, passing remark.  Here’s where the very close reading comes into play. Longtime readers of this blog will know I refer to my dear son by the identity-concealing epithet “B.T.” So it will not be shocking when I point out again that “V.R.” is the code-name I’ll be using here to refer to his little brother.

That’s right. I’m a daddy. Again. I’m the father of two little boys, now.

So maybe you can start to see why I haven’t had much time for writing. (Incidentally, this is why I gave myself fourteen whole weeks off from writing, when I set my goals for the year, which was the second time I mentioned V.R. In retrospect, I may have been overly optimistic in how much free time I’d have for writing with a new baby in the house.)

It’s not just the baby, mind you. It’s the rest of real-life, too. Like many – probably most – authors and aspiring authors, I have a day-job. A day-job I happen to like. I work on a rather small team in a much larger company. At the beginning of the year, however, that team shrank one person smaller, as a coworker left for a new position at another company.

This has turned out to be quite good for me in professional terms, on balance. I’ve had to step up to the plate, and take on increased responsibilities. I’ve now been involved in more high-profile projects, and I’m playing a bigger role on the team. In time, I believe this increased exposure will lead to professional development opportunities.

But in the short term, it means a significant investment of time at work. Where I used to have relatively free lunch hours, I now regularly work. It has become not uncommon at all for me to work late – one, two, even three or more hours late. All of this eats into time that used to be somewhat available for writing, reading, blogging, and following the blogs of other authors and writers.  Inasmuch as I’m working more, I’m doing those things less.  For all we mortals (and especially the sort into heavy-duty self-help) like to talk of time management, ultimately time management is a zero-sum game.

So this is how my days go: I wake up early… Earlier than I used to because there’s more to be done each morning before I get out the door.  At this point in the day I’m already groggy and tired, because I didn’t get a great night’s sleep the night before.  (Nor the night before that, nor the night before that…)  Because there are now two children, getting ready is somewhat more complicated.  I get out the door a little earlier than I used to.  For now, I’ve taken over primary responsibility for B.T.’s daycare drop-off.  That means I have to build in a little extra commute time each morning.  (Dropping B.T. off at daycare frequently involves reading  a book.)  I still arrive at work about ten to twenty minutes later, on average, than I used to, when I did only a couple drop offs per week.

Most days I get to work already knowing at least one or two things I have to start work on – usually things I didn’t quite wrap up from the day before, sometimes a chance to work on longer term but lower priority projects that get pushed to the side in the hustle and bustle of a normal day. It isn’t long before the rest of my coworkers and my supervisor are in, and then it’s really off to the races. I try to catch breakfast before everyone gets there. But once things really get moving on the day’s work, it’s pretty close to non-stop. I usually work through lunch, eating at my desk. By the time I leave work, on a regular day, it’s a little north of nine hours later. But it’s increasingly common these days that it’s a lot further north of nine hours.

Excepting the extra morning commute time taken to drop B.T. off at daycare, the evening commute is invariably worse than the morning. By the time I get home, my family is sitting down to dinner.  Or sometimes they’ve wrapped dinner up already.  Either way, my evenings often begin by going straight from my car to my kitchen table to eat, and from there to play time.  At this point, I haven’t seen Dear Wife all day save for a hug-and-kiss goodbye in the morning.  The time I’ve spent with B.T. consisted largely of trying to herd him out the door followed by car-driving time (which is not typically the most interactive of times with a few exceptions).  And I pretty much haven’t seen V.R. at all.  So I want to spend time with my whole family, being a good husband and father to them all.  Most days, there isn’t much time for that before it’s time for B.T. to head to bed. 

Bedtime is it’s own lengthy ordeal.  Dear Wife and I mostly take turns, though not evenly, and if I’m not putting B.T. to bed, I’ve got V.R. to care for.  Like his brother before him, V.R. likes being held.  A lot.  If I can manage to put V.R. down, there are dishes to be done and lunches to be made for the next day.  Most of the time, none of that gets done until after B.T. is firmly ensconced in his bed.

By the time all of that is done – and we’ve largely abandonned any pretense of getting any additional house-work done – Dear Wife and I both are thoroughly exhausted.  We’ve both had busy days, and for my part if there was time I missed there that I could’ve been writing, I’m too sleep-deprived to see it.  We take maybe ten or fifteen minutes of downtime to decompress (frequently with chocolate-based assistance)… and then it’s off to bed.

Yet, despite our mutual exhaustion, a truly restful sleep remains elusive, as V.R. makes it known frequently throughout the night that we are terrible parents for starving him.  I mean, it’s been like two hours since he last ate.  We should’ve been on top of that like twenty minutes ago!  The delay is simply unconscionable.  Or at least, that’s what it sounds like he’s saying when you translate his hunger screams into something more polite. 

The morning comes too quickly, and the cycle begins anew.