The Parent Trap

Working your way out of a parenting rut

I think it was around the time that I started falling asleep with the “Thomas & Friends” theme song running through my head on high rotation that I finally realized… I was officially in a rut.

From the time that one becomes a parent, the focus shifts from your needs and wants to those of your child. Ideally it is a very welcome shift, one that we are all (hopefully) somewhat prepared for when we decide to start a family. But what happens when it goes a step too far? When the day is done and your child is happy and well cared for, the house is clean (erm…sort of…), the bills are paid and you’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of minutes of quality time with your spouse but— suddenly—you barely know anymore what you need or want?

For parents who are working outside the home...well, that’s another blog post (or three) entirely. Let’s just say, I don’t know how you do it.

For those of us “stay at home” parents with small children, part of the trap is we are often relegated to our homes for several hours a day, hamstrung by “the routine.” (And we all know parents who follow the routine to. the. minute.) I’ve never been particularly militant about this, preferring to stick to a consistent, yet flexible flow of the day. But there is still no getting around meal times and nap times. By the time it’s all done and dusted, you’ve maybe popped down to the playground or the shops for a bit and then it’s back home for dinner, bath time, and bedtime.

Quite serendipitously, just when I started to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I was approached by a former colleague to take on a part-time consulting gig. The offer was two days a week, working from home, a great match for my skill set as well as the direction in which I had been hoping to take my career upon returning to the workforce. At the same time, our son started to show signs that he was ready for more consistent social interaction. Plus, our sitting service launched a daycare right here in our neighborhood.


But what if you are in a rut and there is no such divine intervention? Then what?  How do you re-engage with the world as a person, rather than exclusively as a mommy or a daddy? 

Being somewhat new to Carroll Gardens, I’ve been trying to get to know the neighborhood. I find I frequently discover new things that our community has to offer for those who want to change things up in a way that is slightly more relaxed than taking the life coach route.  One recent discovery: the (515 Court Street).

My impression is that the Brainery is quite well known in the community but if you are not familiar with them, they offer community-driven learning on the cheap and with minimal time commitment. Many of the classes are one night, two hours at most. Others may meet two or three times over the course of a few weeks, depending on the subject matter. Subjects I have recently sampled range from practical (Polishing Your PowerPoints) to fun and obscure (The Art of Suturing). And, if you sign up for a class and life intervenes, you can cancel for a refund as long as you do it a week before the course takes place. Check out http://brooklynbrainery.com/ for upcoming class listings.

Another recent discovery: wine! Okay—that’s a lie. I’ve been knocking it back for years. However, I did just read that this Thursday (355 Atlantic Avenue) kicks off “da vine mamas,” a monthly tasting group for local moms. For $25 per person, you can spend a couple of hours sampling a handful of owner (and local mom) Alyssa Becker’s favorite wines in the shop. Information on dates and how to reserve a spot is posted at http://www.2bdavine.com/pages/events

I’ve also finally worked out how to use Twitter in a way that is actually meaningful to me. Yep, I am just gunning it down the Information Superhighway.

I’m not really into bombarding the (very) few people who want to follow me with my random thoughts, but I AM into getting quick soundbytes of information that are actually relevant to me and my interests. Having signed up for Twitter feeds like @SkillPantry, @LifeHacker, @BKskills, @LifeLabsNewYork, @NYCListings, @lifecurated, @CarrollGPatch—to name a few, I now have a great short cut to finding things I want to check out so I don’t have to invest a lot of time combing websites and events calendars.

I’ll continue practicing what I preach and have a new goal to try something new each week if I can make it work. So far, it has. Does it mean less time with my family? Sure, there is always an opportunity cost. But I already feel like a couple of hours a week to get out and learn something new or do something for myself is not just helping me rediscover myself as a person, it’s actually making me a better spouse and a better parent. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all striving for?

I’ll admit, I still go to bed with the “Thomas & Friends” earworm but, thanks to the Brainery, at least I know how to suture. With a 2-year-old who likes to launch himself off the furniture all the livelong day, something tells me that’s gonna come in prit-ty handy.

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