Too inflexible for adventure?

When a good friend said in a conversation the other day, “That would be something, with a canoe through the wilderness. Preferably in Alaska”, my first reaction was “You could do that here too, then you wouldn’t have to go to all that trouble”. She then looked at me with complete incomprehension and said that it wasn’t about the troule, but about the adventure. The trouble was not important. This conversation has been bothering me for a while now. Have I become boring? Inflexible? It was different in the past…. 3 days to Oslo and Lillehammer for the Stihl World Championships? No problem. Backpacking through Sumatra and not knowing one day where I’ll sleep the next day? I’m in. Spontaneously having a drink with colleagues in the evening? Of course. And now? Now it already stresses me out to think that I’m scheduled for 2 evenings a week.

(Un)Flexibility Paradox

I notice more and more that I am somehow becoming less flexible, but at the same time I need more flexibility. Sounds like a paradox. I’ll try to describe it. In the morning I’m woken up by two pattering feet or a loud “Mum, let’s make cereal”. If that happens at 6.30 a.m., I’m already happy. If the night before was quiet…indescribable. Then it’s off to make cereal, get the child to brush their teeth and coax them to get dressed. Reading books, building castles, driving cars and urging that it’s time to go to day care and work. If everything goes well or if there are two of us, it all works out in 1 hour. If not, I’m faced with a screaming, strong-willed child who definitely doesn’t want to go to day care today and mum and dad don’t have to work either. Somehow we manage to get out of the house – with rubber boots, even though the sun is shining and no rain is expected. Where there is a will, a way is found to enforce it, if staying at home doesn’t work out. After dropping off, we go to work. The day is usually planned through. Using every minute efficiently and effectively in a part-time job. Lunch at my desk, ticking off to-do lists, planning the next day, maybe going to another office for an appointment and then picking up the child again at 4 pm at the latest. The sun is still shining, there’s ice cream and a walk through the park, maybe a playground or a visit to the cathedral. On the way back, we buy something for dinner. With the promise that there will be a slice of sausage at the counter, the child comes along relaxed. Then home. Get them to undress and persuade them to wash their hands. Sometimes there is alone playtime, but at the moment it’s more like “Mummy play with me! Hide me! Build a cave with me! Build a castle with me!” Dinner, reading books, getting them to brush their teeth and coaxing them to go to bed, listening to radio plays and falling asleep sometime between 7.30pm and 9pm. And now I have time for me or for us as a couple or to prepare breakfast or organise other things. A typical day for us. It’s also directly transferable to my husband.¬†

150% reduced time

So when things are going well, I have 2h for myself on a normal day. Compared to my time without a child, this was reduced by 150%. Time in which I could get everything done, reflect and spontaneous leisure activities took place on a grand scale on evenings and weekends. When I now think that my precious unscheduled 2h for me are suddenly also being planned out, my stress level rises. Especially since I never know if it’s 2 hours or only 30 minutes. Whether I have to cancel appointments because I have to pick up the child from the day care due to illness and then work late in the evening. Whether the child joins in or stands screaming in front of the ice cream shelf in the supermarket and I need 30 minutes to resolve the situation. So I need more flexibility for such situations, and at the same time I’m less flexible because my time is simply no longer at my free disposal.

Insights in my confusing thoughts

And now? No more adventures in Alaska or Sumatra? No more spontaneity? Surrendering to fate? Somehow I don’t want to settle for that. And I do what always helps me: I talk about it. I analyse, ask myself questions from friends and my husband, try to put the jumble of thoughts into words and come to a solution. It’s not there yet, but there are already a few insights.

  1. Talking always helps. Exposing yourself and your thoughts to questions and other perspectives creates clarity and opens your eyes.
  2. Pay yourself first. It feels good to put myself in the foreground. To let my thoughts just circle around me and collect ideas for my well-being.
  3. I have a great husband. Important insight in a process like this, dealing with self-doubt and fears. He stands behind me, takes me seriously, gives me space, listens, asks questions, is not lecturing, always asks what has happened, is happy with me about small steps and insights, contributes ideas.

I will continue this process for a while and I am very curious to see what insights I will gain. I am also curious if there are or were similar thought processes among the readers? Feel free to write here or send me an email.

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