Being a parent is the most important, most rewarding thing I have ever done. It isn't even close. But like all parents, I'm sure, I wish I had a little more time to myself sometimes. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to take care of B, clean the house, read the paper, play guitar, work out, try out new recipes, read books, watch movies, etc. etc. etc. So something's gotta give. But what?
Here are a few things I've tried to buy me some extra time. You may think I've gone too far, or not far enough, feel free to discuss.
1) TV is for suckers. Really. Stop watching TV. Now, this is pretty much impossible, but bear with me. B has two shows that he likes to watch, and he is allowed to watch them whenever they're on. That's about 40 minutes of tv a day for him, every other day. An average of 20 minutes of tv a day, I can live with. I don't watch any new tv shows, and I don't watch anything that requires me to know a backstory or will be continued the following episode. That limits me to Family Guy, American Dad, Mythbusters and not much else. I'll also watch 2-3 basketball games a week during basketball season. That works out to about 6-8 hours of tv a week, or on average, an hour a day. Considering that the average Canadian watches a tick over 3 hours a day, and the average American watches over 8 hours of tv a day, I've got between 2 to 7 more hours in my day than the average North American.
As an added benefit, not watching tv makes me not want to watch tv. I'm now looking at cutting cable channels for cost savings of about $75 a month. I'll use $60 of that for the NBA League Pass and then pocket an additional $840 a year.
2) Organize your downtime. When B goes to bed, I have a set schedule of things that I have to and like to do. Laundry, dishes, blog post, and about 45 minutes of net surfing to catch up on the day's news. Remember to organize yourself a bit of time where you don't have to do anything at all.
3) You can't do it all. I'd love to work out more often. I'd love to have more time for guitar practice. I have a list of books that I'd like to read, and movies I'd like to see. It's ok to long to have more freedom, but I've found it beneficial to dwell on the here and now, on having a healthy toddler, a happy family and a good job, and not to wish for the time or the possessions that I don't have.
4) Attack chores a little at a time. Ever sent your child on a play date and looked forward to a relaxing afternoon, only to realize that the house is a mess and either spent the day cleaning, or feeling guilty about not cleaning, and ended up feeling worse off by the time junior gets home? I spend, depending on B's level of cooperation, between 20-40 minutes a night on chores. B can help doing dishes and laundry, and the more he gets used to seeing mommy and daddy cleaning up, the more eager he is to do his part. In all honesty, he keeps his room far tidier than we keep ours. By doing a little at a time, your home never falls into a state of complete and utter chaos, and if you take a day off of chores once in a while, it isn't the end of the world.
5) Do your groceries and shopping...once. Make lists to keep from forgetting things, as additional trips to the store are wasted time. I am admittedly horrible at this.
6) Got a family of three? Cook for six. Warming up leftovers takes a lot less time than cooking a full meal. Thinking of relying on frozen boxed dinners to save you time? Well, they don't. A well-planned, healthy dinner shouldn't take more than 20-30 mins to prepare. Sure, I love frozen pizzas once in a while, but preparing your own meals is cheaper, healthier, takes less time, and sets a better example for your child.
Do I do all of these things well? No. I'm pretty good at a few of them, but the others are still works in progress. As an added bonus, cutting a bunch of stuff out of my life has really simplified things for me and I'm starting to find that I no longer want what I haven't got. I don't miss tv. I squeeze into 15 minutes of guitar practice what I used to do in 90. I'm getting better at making use of the stuff in my pantry. I'm never bored. And I feel like I'm devoting the most energy I can into being a good parent, which I feel is the right thing to do.