Finding a balance between work, play and family has become a nightmare – So much to do and so little time in an average day!
By Fareeha Qayoom
hings have been hectic these past few months. The funny thing is; I haven’t been doing much – at least, nothing much to write home about – you know, it’s like the treadmill experience, you might be running but you are going nowhere – know what I mean?
I switched jobs and industries back in November 2010. Once upon a time, I had to read news for work anyway (when I was managing a news website which later got converted to a Gallup and Pew-like research website back in September 2010 – I helped them make this transition before I switched) – I still have to read news for work but it’s no longer news from cover to cover encompassing politics, current affairs, business, entertainment, technology, sports, and what not – now I have to read the cotton and textiles section only. This means, I am behind on my reading on the rest of the topics that interest me which is kind of stressful. Because reading the news became a compulsive, obsessive activity for me, not only because I blog and had a job in publishing but also because it’s addictive stuff – I would literally spend hours reading at work and then I would come home and continue reading…I miss that. Not that I could do anything with that information, it only added to my stress levels but not knowing what is happening in the world is equally stressful too I find! 🙂 It’s also because we live in very interesting times. Something is happening everyday; if you don’t tune in, you might miss something. Ignorance is not bliss I tell you.
I also had to read and write daily (for work). Now, I have to read every day for a couple of hours but I have to write only weekly and only a single report on cotton and textiles for work. What I write for work can’t be published on my blog – you know “conflict of interest” even if it’s my work. My work belongs to my company now – (Did I get mad about this restriction?) No, not really. There is still ton of stuff out there that I can write about on my blog so actually it’s no big deal. In fact, I have about fifty story ideas written down somewhere in my personal things to do log which I have to get to when I can find the time to write. This is stressful too. Not finding time for things that interest me.
I have about 25 books that I have started and need to finish. This has been causing stress as well. I have finished quite a few but they have barely made a dent in the overall number because I visit Readings every other weekend and add more on top of that growing pile! This weekend, my brother Adnan told me to stop – “Fareeha, I suggest you finish the ones you have before buying some more!” As I explained to him, it’s like you are at a sale, “if you don’t buy it now, it might disappear by the time you get around to buying it for you so I have to have it now!” – I ended up buying three tomes this week. I know; this is a classic compulsive, obsessive consumer response. Reading the first chapter might help me decide if the book is worth it or not to buy, but it also means, I have tons of books that I have started that I need to finish. Sigh.
I don’t know where the hours go. We wake up early in our household – around 6:00 am; because the kids have to go to school. As is, a couple of my hours are spent in daily commute. Then, there’s work. When I come home, I have to spend some time with Farrah’s kids as well – they are a high-maintenance demanding bunch and refuse to go to sleep before ten or eleven at night, they also like to hang out with me because unfortunately, I am their favorite aunt. Anything I do, they have to do too. Getting them to go to sleep is highly stressful as well. You can’t do anything until they are asleep!
Take yesterday, I had to take my car to the workshop, there was this funny, creepy noise coming from the left wheel over potholes and speed-breakers – they insisted on coming along. I tried to make them stay at home but no dice. They eventually disrupted the work-shop so much that the owner asked them to leave so my other sister (Shela) who insisted on coming along as well took them home. Not that, I was scot free – I had to take them to Readings with me in the afternoon as well – Abdullah, my nephew insisted on staying with me while Sara, my niece decided to go with Shela to Liberty. They took their sweet time over there – they turned up couple of hours later. Eventually, I was thrown out of Readings as well. (They were nice about it but Abdullah was torturing a couple of Readings’ attendants and they complained to me). Kids nowadays have short attention span and get easily bored. Abdullah had already bought the ten books allowed in his budget – he had turned all the pages in those books, he can’t read yet but like me, he likes books; he already had his juice and a bag of lays. He didn’t know what to do with himself while he waited so he went around spreading ‘fake’ money to all the attendants. He is a classic consumer in the making as well. Finally I decided to take him out of the bookshop and into the parking lot. It was very pleasant outside – cloudy and windy. We had a great time. We bought peanuts and sat eating them while we waited for Shela and Sara to come and collect us and watched all the cars pass us by on the main boulevard. Not that the security guard was happy with this arrangement. He wanted us to go back inside while we waited for Shela.
You might not know from the above tale of woe that I am a stickler for time management. I make a point of trying to finish my work between work hours – no late hours if I can help it. Sometimes, you can’t help it and have to work late. The other day, I emailed my work home thinking I could finish it at home but apparently that was a bad idea. The kids latched on to me the minute I came home and wouldn’t let go. The kids went to sleep around 11:30 pm. I was mentally exhausted and had a headache by that time – so I decided to watch a couple of shows to unwind – Glee and Hellcats. When I finished the shows, it was already 1:30 am. I had an early start in the morning – so there was no point completing the work I had brought home. I completed it next morning by working late (at work). I find bringing work home is not a solution with the kids around. If you stay late at work, you are in the doghouse as well. My mom was upset with me. Sara, my niece stayed awake to welcome me home. She went to sleep only after I read her a story, talked to her and cuddled her to sleep.
My obsession with time management means, at work I make a point of completing my do-list daily without distractions and interruptions if I can possibly help it – translation: I work without talking to my co-workers for hours. Sometimes, my colleagues still engage me in a conversation. When that happens, I try not to talk but just listen. Still, sometimes, I end up initiating a topic as well on those occasions, I mean, you don’t live in a vacuum and you are not a robot, it’s quite human to interact with your fellow human beings on topics of mutual interest – for example, I did an informal poll at work the other day – “Do you think Al-Qaida is real?” One of my colleagues replied, “No, Al-Qaida is like Tarzan – a legend, a myth, a story book character but not real.” I found that a quotable quote. Take yesterday, my colleagues were talking about current affairs and the current hot topic – terrorism, USA, Afghanistan and Pakistan, when one of them, she is a senior colleague suddenly remarked, “We’re a country with no self-respect” – (she said it in the context of Raymond Davis incident). This was another quotable quote.
I have not been watching cable TV for the past few months. I used to do that over the net (watching TV without commercial breaks is more productive). Unfortunately, my eldest nephew (who is staying over) likes to play video games on my computer. He hogs the computer at all hours. (The rest of the time, he is watching TV loudly or beating up the younger kids when he is not at school or with his friends) – keeping him in line is hard work too. Most of the time, when I come home, I no longer have time to spend on my favorite toy – yes, the computer so not only am I not watching news shows on my computer – I can no longer run the giant marathon sessions like I used to on my PC – watching the whole season of a particular show back to back over the weekend because where would you find the time? – I watch the shows like Grey’s anatomy, House, Criminal Minds, The Vampire Diaries etc., like regular people too now, when Adnan downloads them from the net every week…hence, I am busy following my favorite shows most evenings and don’t have time for other stuff like blogging or reading the news. There are three movies sitting on my desktop that I still have to watch and have not got around to doing so. I also don’t have time to listen to music or read my eBooks on the computer because when the computer is finally free from the kid, I am so tired I am no longer in the mood.
The real problem is that there are not enough hours in a day. Every day is a full action thriller and there is so much to do and so little time! The other day, a colleague at the factory invited me over for a meeting. I declined – I told him I have loads to do at work and I have to leave by 5:30 pm because I have a life! (I did and I do) – I had a report to write, my emails to finish and had to make some more calls – going over to his factory for a meeting would have meant losing a couple of productive hours at work. He sounded impressed with my time management habits and made loads of admiring comments on my ruthlessness. It’s beside the point, its sheer hard work trying to cram work, life, family and hobbies in your average day – (I leave meeting friends for occasional weekends!) – Thank God, I am not married and have to take care of a household, servants, cooking, kids, and a husband on top of everything else. I mean, married women have more hectic lives – I should know, because whenever, I visit my best friend, I realize I have a much easier life! Her’s is beyond crazy. I know I am not succeeding at completing all my things-to-do on daily basis (mostly hobbies because I have so many!) and it’s a high stress situation but still my rant is a mere storm in a tea-cup – I know its a temporary situation. Compared to most, I have nothing to complain about. I know things will go back to normal eventually. However, it’s a fact. Life is pretty fast. Finding a balance between work, play and family has become a nightmare of modern life – So much to do and so little time in an average day!
It reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep