What I do miss is the automatic structure that working outside the home provides - these hours are at work, those hours are at home with kids awake, these hours are mine all mine after the kids have gone to bed. When working part-time, each of those "buckets" was precious and precariously balanced. I did a decent job at making those hours count, with a lot of hand-wringing in the process, of course.
Now my days are very different. Time has definitely slowed down, which I love. While T is at school or with my parents, I can spend an entire hour in the bed lounging around with BabyM, making her giggle, watching her practice her newfound mad rolling skills, and squeezing her delicious baby fat rolls. I don't feel guilty about lingering chores, checking work email, or doing something more productive like bathing her or clipping her tiny fingernails. Or T and I can spend over an hour with her new Spirograph toy, and do it again the next day because school's out and we don't need to be anywhere at a certain time.
I have an extremely low tolerance for "busy". I need a lot of space in my schedule, rather than a packed day of dashing from one activity to the next.
But without *some* structure, things fall apart for me. I kept some time logs when I was on maternity leave and TJ was also off. Laura Vanderkam, the author of 168 Hours, one of my favorite EVER time management books (and I have read many - it's a sickness), was kind enough to analyze them and give me some great advice. On a side note, I met her in person (squee!) a few weeks ago on a fun trip to the zoo. I have taken her advice of making an extremely short to-do list each day and it's been helpful.
But even with that great advice, I was floundering a bit. So I created our Summer Schedule, which has been a hit. I'm extremely lucky that both girls nap well, so I have at least 1.5 hours mid-day all to myself. And the Internet sucked up every last minute, making me feel like I wasted a precious resource.
On a whim, I signed up for the Big Picture Classes (BPC) Phone Photography course online. For once, they included Android phone owners in the description with specific content just for us, and that's what sold me. (Every other class I've heard about is iPhone-centric.)
I have a history of signing up for online classes and not following through. I love having the materials and reading through them at my own pace, but this means I miss out on the "community" created during the class.
So on July 1 I read the first assignment and played along. At first I rolled my eyes about taking a photo of my feet (I mean, really?!) but then I realized that the prompts had a lot of flexibility and room for creative interpretation. The point is not to just complete the assignment and check it off, but to really THINK about how I can do it creatively and make an image I'd want to include in our Project Life album.
|Assignment 1 - Where I Stand|
Part of the class is a "photo scavenger hunt" with a list of 7-8 open-ended prompts. I've been working on those as well as the daily assignments and having a great time with it. I've loved seeing how the other students around the world are interpreting the same instructions. I'm learning more about how to use Instagram and related tools, plus several new camera and photo editing apps for my Android phone: PhotoGrid, Pixlr Express, and Vignette.
And I'm fired up. I can't wait for new assignments to be posted. I'm looking out for opportunities to cross off more scavenger hunt items. I want to spend some time with the documentation for my camera app, which I paid $5 for 6 months ago and never learned how to use properly. I've rediscovered how freakin' awesome my Galaxy Nexus phone camera really is.
And what I've realized is that I need to be learning new things. Just crossing tasks off a to-do list isn't enough for me. One of the valuable things I got from work, and didn't realize until now, was the constant learning curve of new challenges. The culture of my old workplace was that you never got to "just do your job well" - you always had to take on new work and "do more with less". I used to grumble about it, but it turns out that I *need* that sort of challenge to stay engaged.
Don't get me wrong - I am learning new things about parenting and my kids each day, but that is a very different process for me (and often an exercise in frustration as we all learn how to grow together!) - it's all that squishy interpersonal stuff I've never been very good at.
So this Phone Photography class is exactly what I need right now. I'm thrilled to have a place to channel this energy and regain what I lost after not being at work for so long! This is making me really, really happy right now.