Monday, March 29, 2010

No More Excuses

One of my favorite books is Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik. Aside from the fact that I wish I'd lived the life that inspired the book, what I really love about this book is that it's about living life without making excuses, without holding back. So often, we are told that when we have children, we have to delay gratification, put things on hold, wait until they're older. Paris to the Moon recounts the experience of Gopnik and his wife moving from New York to Paris when their son was six months old. It was a long-time dream of theirs to live in Paris, and being parents didn't hold them back from taking a huge leap of faith to achieve their dream.

It seems that there is almost always a reason to not do something when you have a child. J and I aren't the most motivated people in the world, and we often fall into the trap of making excuses for why we can't do something or go somewhere or just generally live a more interesting life. It's one of the primary reasons why we feel we're just not suited for the small town/suburban lifestyle - it adds one extra hurdle. Instead of being able to drive 10 minutes and end up at a museum or a baseball game or an awesome sushi restaurant, we have to drive a minimum of an hour, plan on being out for most of the day, and at this point in E's life, haul along most of his worldly possessions. So we tend to stay home, occupying ourselves with the many chores or projects in the house and yard. While we usually get a lot done, we end up feeling frustrated and bored, and that the weekend has passed almost without our noticing it or really even spending any time together.

Recently, we decided that we need to make more of an effort to spend our time consciously, to do the things that feel like real life instead of just filling up the hours. There are some great things within a 1-2 hour drive of our town. We keep waiting for the perfect time, for the weekend when there is no birthday party, no projects inside the house, no yard work, and I've come to realize that weekend will never happen, so we might as well just dive in. Below is a list of things we want to do. It's not quite packing up everything we own and moving to Paris, but it's a start.

Visit the farm that produces our meat
Art Museum
Visit cool small town with lots of fabulous local food markets, about 80 miles away

This past weekend, we checked the art museum off the list. Our weekend was incredibly busy - Saturday morning swim lesson for E, dinner with friends Saturday evening, Sunday trip to the city - yet, this morning, I felt more rested and refreshed than I have in a long time. During the course of our weekend, J and I didn't have any spats about whose turn it was to do some random household chore and E made it through the entire weekend without a single meltdown (unheard of lately). We were focused on each other, focused on doing things that fill us up and renew the connections between the three of us. The house is a disaster and the yard work was left undone, but I count this as our most productive weekend in a very long time.

I'm interested in how other families experience this issue of making excuses and of waiting for the "right" time that in reality will never come. What do you put off, thinking that you don't have the time, money, freedom, etc., to do? If you've found a way to stop making excuses, what motivated you to break out of that pattern?


  1. It does seem like there's always a reason not to do something when kiddos are involved. We go in spurts usually, where we're really good about just going somewhere or doing something for a few weeks. Then we fall back on the old stay-home-and-do-"projects" routine, like you and your husband. It's tough, tough, tough. Maybe Paris ought to be what we all shoot for. I know I'd drag my kiddos just about anywhere for a crepe avec Nutella! =>

  2. Our weekends have been hard. It seems like every time we get a handle on our life, something changes. I was home with my son after he was born except for a couple of hours a week when I was an adjunct, and Saturday was one of those mornings. That cut into our weekend time. Then I went to full-time work, and we spent our weekends going to lunch and shopping and catching up on loads of laundry. Now we have my daughter, and our weekends are almost harder than weekdays, because we have no routine yet. I'm hoping that we, like you, can feel like we enjoy our weekends and our time together. But so far, it seems like we're just trying to get by....

  3. By the way, my husband and I have some issues with Adam Gopnik. We're both familiar with the book you mention, and we liked it, but I don't think he just got to pack up and go to Paris. I think the guy has money and a very convenient job that allowed him to do that. I guess I'm a cynic.... (Because really, I'd love to do that, too! My cynicism is my excuse, I suppose.)

  4. Jana, I actually agree with you about Adam Gopnik as far as the money/convenient job goes. (I wish I had money and a convenient job too.) But I think many people who do have those advantages would still find a reason not to make a life change as huge as the one he did, so I figure if he can pack up and go to Paris, I can find the time and energy to take my kid to a museum. I have to take my motivation where I can find, i guess!

  5. For us it's definitely more financially drive. However we also live a distance out of the city and it makes it difficult to be more involved in activities we would like. The town we live in doesn't offer a lot in the way of children's programming, so we find we are on the road searching out opportunities elsewhere a lot. I'm not willing to trade in the other comforts of country living yet, though I'll admit the simplicity of being closer to work and closer to fun is very alluring.

    Before my husband and I had children, just after we were married, we had a dream to move across the country to Vancouver. At the time it seemed like such a huge leap to do that. As much as it appealed to us, we were scared off by how hard we thought it would be. Gosh, had I known then, what I know now, I'd be gone in a flash. With kids, it DOES seem that much harder. Perhaps years down the road I'll look back and say that even with kids it wouldn't have been hard.

    I could go on and on, the point is though, that we do get wrapped up in our lives, lose sight of some perspective. It's natural I think. But every once in awhile, a reminder like this comes along and it encourages us to step back and think about what we would like to do differently.

    Sorry for rambling! Enjoyed this post.

  6. We've been lucky that our son likes car rides, and loves to see new places. Instead, our home is our reason not to leave: We've been renovating it for four years, and building on for nearly one.
    When we're finished, we'll enjoy staying home more than we ever have; but I'll be relieved, too, to be able to spare weekends for country drives, state parks, our favorite farmer's markets and plenty more.

  7. Enjoying your blog and trying to read all your posts! My husband and I met in medical school and were either med students or residents through our 20s. I turned 30 a few days after finishing residency, and less than a year later, our daughter was born. So we spent the years that most people sow their wild oats not being able to do many interesting things, which motivates us to get out more now. We don't want to miss out on any more adventures because we have a baby--so we take her along. We're lucky that she's a good traveler.