When kids are very small there is really no option but to give into the inevitable wholesale takeover of one’s time. I mean, they just dominate don’t they. As an academic that means no flexibility of time, with every waking hour taken up by caring or working. Obviously parents of young children are not the one’s working regularly at the weekends (see https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/work-life-balance-survey-2018-long-hours-take-their-toll-academics and Julia’s blog post about this).
I’m just emerging from the fug of the early years, in the sense that occasionally my 3 and 6 year olds will play for an hour or so at the weekend, with only the odd bit of mediation required by me. As I type I can hear the 6 year old saying ‘I’ll tell mum if you break that again’ to the 3 year old… but after I’ve mediated I can get back out of their way. I like to practice hands-off parenting in this regard: after all I had them both to keep each other company!
This has begun to raise another issue for me. What can I do with these snatched bits of down time that come my way? Given that this kind of time is increasing as they become more independent, I tend think it is important to use it for good. Then I’m sure lots of people will recognise the pressure that comes with: as you say to yourself ‘quick do something fun and relaxing…’ before long you are back to parenting again having done nothing but wonder what might be an option.
Part of the problem is that their early childhood has sucked most of my interests out of me. I can’t really be bothered to spend hours cooking as I used to, even spending time in the garden has limited appeal when it is cold and wet and you only have 30 minutes. When the rest of your life is work (work for children, work for house, academic work) these things start to look also like work and become less attractive. In fact the thing I’m drawn to doing in this downtime is academic work; while previously I would have religiously turned off email for the weekend, I find myself feeling motivated to do academic work as it is more fun than all the other kinds!
I’d be interested to hear what other people do for fun these days, when they have half an hour here or there. Perhaps you can steer me away from being another one of those workaholic academics!