I'm not sure where I got the idea that I would have more free time as my children get older. Madison schools start on Tuesday, and like most other parents in the city, I'm more than ready. In part, this is because I have work to do. I've taken on a bit of work for students at the school of music, and I have a big gig in November (more on that in a bit), so I need to practice. As it happens, when you are with your kids day in and day out, there is no time to practice, except for maybe a half hour after dinner when your husband takes them for a walk and you do your best to concentrate at the piano with a messy house, a dirty kitchen, and the day's fatigue wearing on your ability to focus. It's not an ideal mental state, but it's better than nothing.
Once school starts, I'll have more time, but of course, any time is more than nothing, which is what I have now. Daniel is in first grade (!) and Anya will be attending 4-year-old kindergarten at her preschool every afternoon, and that precious time that is supposedly all for me is filling up fast with rehearsals, lessons, and practice time, plus all the stuff I have to do at home and required volunteer hours at the preschool. Still, this is good. This is more than I've been able to do since Anya was born, and I have missed it.
I've got this gig coming up in November. My friend Dr. Julia and I have been trying to come up with a way to perform together again for the last couple of years. She teaches in Florida, so the logistics of such a thing are understandably complicated. This summer we finally got our act together and picked out a program and scheduled some performances this fall and winter. (None are in Madison, oddly enough, even though I live here and her family lives here, though we're hoping to do the program here sometime next spring or summer, when her schedule allows.)
Our first run of performances will take me out of town for the better part of a week in early November. Stuart is unable to take any time off work and I'm not bringing the kids along with me, so this makes things incredibly complicated. Because did I mention the time I spend transporting kids from place to place? They don't go to the same school yet (since Anya's still in preschool), and there are piano lessons and they're both trying out gymnastics this year (we'll see how long that lasts...) and thank goodness neither one of them is interested in playing soccer because I think that would just break me. It's exciting to see them learn new things and all, but I'm not crazy about playing chauffeur.
(My readers with older or grown children, you have my permission to laugh at me now and shake your heads and tell me how it's only going to get worse. Go ahead. Get it out of your system.)
What to do while I'm out of town, then? Stuart can't help out. I have plenty of friends and neighbors I could call upon to host my kids after school for playdates in the afternoons while he's still at work, but this whole business of driving them around to various activities is asking too much when they've got their own families to worry about. Plus, it's not just one day, it's a bunch of days. I could hire a nanny for the week, but that would put me out a couple hundred bucks at least, and I'm not getting paid for these performances (the fun gigs never pay, alas!).
This morning I called my parents and asked them to come up here and help out. They are willing, and didn't hesitate to say yes, but I still feel bad that I had to do it. They will spend an entire day driving up here from Kentucky in order to spend a whole week transporting their grandchildren to and from school/piano/what-have-you because I will be gone and can't do it myself and can't figure out a way to make it work otherwise.
I feel both guilty and annoyed that I'm going out of town for four days without my children. Guilty that I have to ask so much of other people in order to make it possible. And yet annoyed that my youngest is nearly five and this is the first opportunity I've had - EVER - to travel alone for a professional gig. I've never spent a night away from Anya, and the only times Daniel has been away for a whole night were when Anya was born and then once last year when he was invited to a birthday sleepover (I couldn't sleep because I was waiting for The Call in the middle of the night that he'd woken up and freaked out and wanted to come home. That Call never came. He had a fantastic time.)
It's all just so freaking complicated. I suppose if I weren't schlepping them everywhere, I'd be paying big bucks for somebody else to do it. Last week I exchanged several calls and texts from a friend who was frantically trying to figure out after school care for her daughter; she and her husband are professors whose schedules change every semester, and she was having a hard time figuring out what to do those hours of the late afternoon when G would be out of school but they would still be teaching classes or in meetings. I don't envy that. Well, actually, I have to confess that I do, just a weensy little bit, but only the part about teaching classes and going to meetings. The childcare stuff is a pain in the butt.