WHITNEY: Time holds more weight when raising kids
Time begins to warp when you become a parent, or at least, your personal concept of time.
In the carefree, unencumbered days of my early 20s, time was infinite. I believed I had even more time tomorrow than I did today, and I'd certainly be guaranteed many more years in which to accomplish whatever I wanted. I'd linger in the office, moseying my way through an assignment as day turned to night. I kept people waiting, showing up to the bar 45 minutes later than when I said I'd arrive. Time was disposable.
And yet, the concept of, say, a five-year plan was foreign to me. A this-semester plan, sure. A one-year plan? That was ambitious, but doable. Three years? At the age of 23, that was longer than any job I'd ever held. Let's firm up this weekend before we get crazy with too much future talk. I had a vague idea of what life would look like in five years — still married, still working somewhere, maybe in nicer clothes? — but there were no concrete goals or benchmarks.
When you begin to conceptualize a five-year plan as a parent, you suddenly get the sense that you're standing on top of a mountain looking out over what's to come and saying, "Hey, I can see my house from here." You know you have a ways to go, but what's ahead becomes what's next in a realer, more urgent way than before.
Three years out, there's preschool. Five years away is kindergarten, and then you're talking about where you want to live, work and settle all for the sake of your kid's future. The framework become less about what you can vaguely imagine for yourself and more about what must happen. Then you build the rest of your life around it.
Now, having reached old age (i.e. my late 20s), having mothered a child and in turn become infinitely wiser, my concept of time also has changed. It seems today there isn't enough time. Tomorrow will be even shorter with just as much or more to do.
I keep closer track of time. I'm less likely to be late. I'm more likely to cook a quick dinner than an elaborate one. I know exactly how to mainstream every second in order to avoid cutting into time for other things I'd rather be doing, like coloring on the living room floor.
I'm getting older, my daughter is getting older and the sun is setting earlier each night.
Yes, I actually know what time the sun sets these days! That's because I'm timing our nightly neighborhood walks to end before the day truly ends, traveling a strategically chosen route that will ensure we make it home before "no more sun, nye nye."
(It's also worth noting that in the nearly two years since my daughter was born, I've seen more sunrises than in my entire life. They're OK, I guess.)
It's not that time becomes more precious when you have kids. I certainly prized my time before having my daughter — even if I was wasting it on tasks that could be completed quicker, it was still mine to waste and that kind of independence and unaccountability was wonderful in its own right.
Having a little shadow at your side certainly makes you aware that time is no longer yours to waste. You have to keep planning, keep doing, keep moving forward to ensure they're able to do the same.
But it also makes you realize when all the hustling can be put on hold. Coloring on the living room floor won't last forever.