The period between getting off from work to putting Plumster to bed is what I often think of as The Battle of Time. There are certain activities that need to be checked off the list. Some activities can be done in a parallel, multi-tasking manner (i.e. one parent cleans the kitchen while the other helps with the bath) while others are preferably done in a serial, sequential manner (i.e. the kid has to have dinner, then bath or vice versa, but these two acts preferably are not performed at the same time).
As a female physician practicing in a specialty dominated by her male counterpart who often have stay-at-home wives, I also happen to have a Ph.D. in cell biology and work in an academic hospital. This week I have a talk to give, a treatment outcome study due and a lab meeting to participate and advise. I spent my daytime hours in the hospital taking care of clinical duties such as seeing new patient consultations, working on their treatment plans, and taking care of patients suffering from acute side effects. Scholarly duties such as preparing for talks and writing papers would have to wait until night-time when I am off hospital duty.
The problem is, when I am off duty from the hospital, I am on duty as a Mom and a wife.
When I was immersed in studying for my board examinations, we utilized meal delivery service. It was both a luxury and a necessity, to sidestep the one duty which can take hours of planning, prepping, cooking and cleaning. These meal plans weren’t cheap. After the study period was over, we settled back to making our own foods with occasional take outs. By our calculation, we can just as easily pick up take outs or eat out as we live close to restaurants, and still come out cheaper than the meal delivery plan. Our goal was to cook fresh homemade meals most of the time, and occasionally do take outs when we run out of groceries, ideas, energy, patience, and/or time.
More and more though, I am finding that evenings just go a lot smoother when we don’t have to cook. Take tonight for instance, I picked up sushi for dinner while MK picked up Plum. We dined at a leisure pace and were finished with dinner by 7pm. I left little Plumster to practice piano for her upcoming recital and took our little puppy out for a walk in the park. Of course there was a small kink there, as Plum reportedly protested about practicing while I was out, so by the time I came home, she still needed half an hour to finish up. But all in all, I was able to get back to work at my desk by 9pm, which was excellent.
In a two career family, Monkey King and I more or less divide up our household duties in the times when I was not recovering from a major surgery. These days, MK saintly pick up the slack that I am physically incapable of doing. We have a couple of quick and easy recipe for weeknight meals. Yakisoba, fusilli with homemade sauce, sea bass with ginger, soba noodle soup. But even though the prep time takes about 30 minutes, on the nights when we do cook, instead of finishing dinner by 7pm, we usually don’t get to eat UNTIL 7pm. And since everyone has a long day, dinner is enjoyed at a snail pace, which means that we finish our dinner pass Plum’s bath time of 8pm. Then everything is a mad dash, rushing to get to bed in The Battle of Time.
I have the utmost respect for families who take the time to plan out their meals for the entire week, where the mothers or fathers would shop and clean and prep dinner ingredients on weekends, so that week night meals are a matter of throwing this or that in the oven or on the stove top. The one thing I absolutely envy about Steve Jobs‘s life style is their personal chef, who worked for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. For that matter, I envy anyone with a personal chef. Or anyone with more flexible work hours, where one can steal away to do the much-needed grocery shopping in the middle of the day, or take out the meat from the freezer to thaw in the afternoon. Or people with grandparents living close by, where the said grandparents could help with meals or childcare! Oh grandparents where are thou?
These days I strongly suggest to Plum to always try to live close to me when she grows up. I fantasize for her about the meals I will make for her and her family when she is too busy to cook. Until then, MK and I will be practicing and honing our skills to beat The Battle of Time.
HOW DOES YOUR FAMILY NAVIGATE THE BATTLE OF TIME?