What is it that nobody tells you about having children?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Your perception of time and your relationship to it changes. For context, I have four children, and am a widower.
Before children, time was a vast resource you had so much of, you had the luxury of finding all kinds of interesting ways to fill it. Work and school are great. Then comes things like play, hobbies, vacations, reading, relaxing... things I vaguely recall from the dim pre-children mists of my life.
After children, time becomes a precious commodity. You come to realize that you must make time. If you are not clever, opportunistic, organized, you will have none. You will get to the end of the day, and the day will end.
- You learn how to steal hours. You see an opportunity coming, and you seize it. Little Johnny is going to play at little Mikey's house? You make plans! You get on the phone and you make something happen!
You learn how to do many things at once. Keep that laundry pumping through the wash while working. Swap loads when you go get a coffee. Fold laundry while watching a movie with the kids. No time to read? Listen to audio-books while washing the dishes.
You learn how to plan the day using your resources as best you can. Even water. You can't wash dishes while someone is in the shower, you don't want to have them run out of hot water in the middle - so, you've got to think about this stuff or else you have an eight year old girl with long hair full of shampoo shrieking that the water has gone cold and you have to boil water quick to rinse it out. This happened yesterday when I didn't know my eldest daughter had just taken a 30 minute shower in the downstairs bathroom just before... You can't handle all eventualities.
You learn that naps are golden. Sleep becomes a resource. If one child keeps you up late, another will get you up early. If you can steal a nap, do it. They seem quite content to sit on top of dad watching Bugs Bunny while I nap. I am quite comfy apparently.
You learn how to make trade-offs. Getting my one hour of gym time per day comes at the cost of television. I don't watch it. No big loss there.
You learn to pick your battles. You can't do everything well given the time you have, something has to give. My garden is a few things I planted once, and a bunch of things that decided they wanted to live there. Some might call them weeds, but they aren't bothering me, so I don't bother them. Cooking fresh meals is important to me, to eat well and teach the children how to cook and what to eat, so I spend time on that. I let other things slide to make room for it.
You learn to get help. I'm lucky enough to afford someone to come in a few hours a week to do the floors and the bathroom, fold some laundry, and dust. I would never get the chance to wash the floors otherwise. Mom takes the girls for me so I can get out on a Saturday night. Swap sleepovers with other parents to make free time to be an adult.
Time with your children becomes more precious. You see how fast they grow, you try to make sure you take the time to enjoy it with them. As a widower, I know better than anyone how little time we may have, so don't waste it. Spend time with them, go to the park, play Candyland or Monopoly. Have dance parties, let them put make-up on you, do your nails. I also have teenagers, and we never do these things any more! It goes fast.
Think about your relationship with time and learn how to make the most of it before you run out of it.
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