When I was about 27 or so, without kids, I carved an intricate Northwest Native Art inspired salmon scene in a coffee table of mine. I was in Northwest Native Art phase, and have a couple other wall hangings to show for it. These took weeks to carve. Around that time we had a friend of Sarah’s over, who is farmer on Lopez Island, and recently had her second son. I remember she looked at the carving, and asked if I had done it. After I said ‘yes,’ instead of the customary accolades, she just said, “Wow, you have A LOT of time on your hands!.” I was a little taken aback – as if it was being labelled slothful.
Now of course I understand. I only have one kid, and no cows to milk, rows to hoe, or clams to rake, and I still feel like I have no time. When I started staying home with Josie after Sarah went back to work, she was 3 months old and taking four naps, each 45 minutes long, during my 8 hour shift. Four! I was able to duck into the garage and make some serious progress on some side work. Now, I’m lucky to get one that is an hour and a half. For most professions, a 1.5 hour break during the middle of the day would be very generous. But for a relatively new parent, who still fancies himself a carpenter, this is the only time during the week that I have to do my other job.
This, for me, is one of the biggest mental adjustments of parenthood: the reevaluation of what you can actually get done in a day. When I look back on what I used to be able to get done in one day, I’m flabbergasted. For example, when the weather gets better I’m going to paint the exterior of the house, and yesterday I was able to fill my nail holes on two sides of the garage’s fascia. That’s it. That’s when I heard Josie on the monitor. After Sarah gets home, its too late in the day to paint. Painting the house will take all summer, and in the meantime my neighbors are going to have put up with a haphazardly bicolored house. When will I find the time to replace the fence, build that bookshelf for our neighbor, our dining room table Sarah wants, the dining room table my friend wants, the garden shed our other friends want, replace our front gate and arbor, and build Josie that treehouse on my parent’s property? Your guess is as good as mine.
Sarah and I still have the dream of selling this house, buying five acres in the country, and building our own house. The more time goes by, and the less I’m able to get done on these small household projects, the more this dream is being drowned in a bathtub. Before I had a baby, I used to think about this dream and wonder about the likelihood of being able to build a house with a baby. I honestly thought that I could just strap her into her car seat, snap some ear muffs on her, put her in the corner out of the dust where she could watch me, and blam away with my nail gun.