I was raised in a household ruled by the clock. My mother has always felt being late was a serious social transgression, especially if you left someone waiting for you.
“Being late shows you think your time is more important than the person waiting for you,” she would say. “Plan to be 10 minutes early, and you will never be late.”
In my teen years, I followed that adage most of the time, and people routinely complimented me for my punctuality. I was proud to be following after my mother and expected to carry this good habit throughout my life.
Then I went to university, and discovered sleeping in was sometimes essential for surviving the stress and hard work of earning a journalism degree — while enjoying an active social life, of course. I usually made it to my classes on time, but it was often close.
Then I had my first child, and it all fell apart. After I gave birth, I was late for everything. Doctor’s appointments, church, play dates — I was always arriving breathless. Once I went back to work, I was often late for that, too.
When each of my four children was born, I gave myself some leeway in the lateness department. A certain amount of tardiness is normal for families with a baby. Babies are wonderful little creatures, but they are messy and unpredictable. If baby fills a diaper, spits up, or needs to be fed just as you are about to leave, you’re going to be late, and it’s not your fault.
I’d love to tell you things have changed now that there’s no baby in my house, but that would be a lie. Four children and many years of experience later, I am often late for church, for appointments, and yes, sometimes for work, too. Thank goodness my boss appreciates my abilities and forgives my lack of punctuality.
A lot of it is the demands of a large family which includes a toddler. After working all day, parenting all evening, while fitting in yoga and volunteering, I am often, frankly, exhausted. I look forward to sleeping eight hours on a regular basis again. Until then, getting up any earlier than I already do is just not reasonable.
Corralling that many people in the morning is a challenge, too, and being 10 minutes off can ruin the entire enterprise. Eddie does not do separation well, and can be extremely clingy in the morning. I try to work that into the schedule, but if something else crops up, from a sibling argument to a jam stain at breakfast, I’m sprinting.
I would love to blame it on the large family alone, but I can’t. You see, I know families far larger than mine who are never late for anything, and arrive beaming, with clean clothes and fresh-scrubbed faces. One of my friends has 11 children, and was always early for every event we attended together.
I’m still trying to fix my punctuality problem, but I have fixed a few of the things that were keeping me from getting out of the house on time.
The children make their school lunches and pack their backpacks the night before. Making lunch in the morning is too stressful and time-consuming. We review the children’s school agendas and check their homework the night before, too.
I try to pick my own clothes out the night before, too, and plan or pack my lunch.
On weekday and Sunday mornings, we try to get the kids to get dressed right away, rather than lounging around in their pyjamas until we start chasing them to get ready.
Still, I tend to be running many days, and most especially in the mornings. It bugs me, but I know a lot of parents struggle in the same way. I think once my time is once again mostly my own, this will get better.
Oops, got to run. I’m late for the deadline on this story.
© Copyright 2013