Life is hectic when you have kids, and spare time
is a rare commodity. Days and years pass quickly, and we
comfortably fall into our family routines. For the most part, I'd
say that's a good thing-it's those routines that bring order to
your busy life and keep everyone on track. Or at least that's what
My routine starts abruptly, as it does for most parents,
around 6:30 a.m. That's when my 14-month-old son begins singing and
jumping in his crib. He shares a room with his big sister, who's
almost 3, so I'm usually pretty quick to grab him because I'd like
my daughter-a night owl like her mommy!-to sleep a little
My husband, who has been a stay-at-home dad for more than
a year now, makes breakfast for the kids while I shower and get
ready for work. Before I can get out the door, I've usually
partially dressed the kids, styled my daughter's hair, danced to an
episode of "Yo Gabba Gabba!" and hopefully assembled a clean and
presentable outfit for myself (I usually try to confirm this in the
bathroom after I get to work).
When my workday ends, I battle the traffic to greet my
anxiously awaiting children, and then it's a night filled with
dinner, baths and playing until they're both asleep, usually
accomplished by around 8:30 p.m.
Several nights a week, my husband departs for grad school
shortly after I get home from work, or he's working on
school-related projects. When he returns, I'm often under the
And that's how it goes for my family, week after week. As
I said before, routines are good, right?
Well, I'm not so sure anymore.
I recently broke from routine when I went on a work trip
to New Orleans for five days. It had been a long time since I'd
traveled alone, mainly because I'd sought to avoid leaving my
family and messing up our nice routine. The dates of this trip had
been etched in my planner all year, usually inspiring a feeling of
dread. How would my family survive without me, and me without
Let's just say, we all survived.
While I was away, I had some time to think about what's
going on in my life … and more importantly, what's not. I realized
the critical elements of fun and exploration had been washed away
in my daily routine.
For starters, what's going on with my husband? We get a
sitter and go out to dinner once in a while, but where's that fun
and excitement we felt when we first met and the world was ahead of
us? Why don't we talk more often about future plans and our new
I started thinking about my own ambitions, too. For
instance, why do I always dream about taking up photography as a
more serious hobby, yet never do anything about it? Why is it I
never signed up for that dance class? What about that book I'm
really going to write one day? I'm 33; isn't it time to get
started? And what happened to all of my friends in the years since
I became a mom-those friends I used to see in real life, not just
on a computer screen?
I came home from my trip with determination. It's time to
start having more fun! It's time to start feeling more alive! I'm
investing in a new digital SLR camera, and I've already signed up
for a photography class that meets on the weekend while the kids
are napping (I think my husband will appreciate the study
I'm also convincing my hubby to take a couples dance class
with me, and I'm making my friendships a priority. Sorry, Facebook,
you're just not cutting it anymore.
For parents like me, time is the most valuable thing of
all. We want to cherish every moment with our children, and we tend
to put our own goals and relationships on the back burner because
we simply don't have the time. At least we don't think we
I've just turned over a new leaf, and I'm trying to make
changes in my life that will make me a happier and more fulfilled
person. And that, I hope, will make me a better mother, wife and
friend. I have a feeling it's not always going to be easy, and that
it may often require the help of a Red Bull.
But I'm up for the challenge. My new mantra: Routines are
meant to be broken.
Now who wants to go dancing?
Kelly Quigley is an editor at a Chicago real estate magazine and lives in the city with her husband and two children.
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