The Days Are Long…

Coming home from a family walk last week, I happened to be in the backseat with our precocious, surprisingly deep-thinking, 7-year-old. He looked pensive for a moment (all while perched on his booster seat, with scrawny legs crossed neatly – a truly adorable sight) and then turned to me and said: “You know how some people say 2021 went by very quickly? I think it did too.”

Cue mike drop. A 7-year-old who realizes the profound truth that time flies. 2021 felt like a time vortex; days that felt like eons, but then the reality of the fact that the year sped by like no other. Because – let’s face it – it was (yet another) year that felt like no other.

I’ve written before about my admiration for Gretchen Rubin’s work – I find her material very relatable and have incorporated so many of her life improvement strategies into my daily life that I’ve lost count.

One of her more famous discussions centers around the simplistically profound conclusion that: “The days are long, but the years are short.

Today I’m just going to focus on the first bit because, friends, the days can feel really, really long sometimes.

Our extended break between Christmas and the return to school has been a blessing in many ways; case numbers are relatively high in our province (especially considering we have always had very low infection rates per capita). After a “heavy” year – the word I’ve decided best describes 2021 – I needed the extra breathing room.


It’s ironic, as a mother, how often I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day…but then also that the hours drag on interminably and there are far too many of them.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my children deeply, but it can sometimes feel very, very hard to fill all those hours.

They wake up early – often before I’ve set my own feet on terra firma. They’re always hungry…but eat fast. They no longer nap and are no longer content to sit still for hours reading books on my lap or cozying up on the floor doing the same puzzle 15 times in a row (thereby allowing me to turn off my brain). Honestly, it’s not that uncommon for them to be awake after I go to bed.

By 8:00 am last Saturday I had: helped with breakfast prep + cleanup, read the daily devotional + finished a chapter in our latest book (an epic account of Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic; Endurance by Alfred Lansing – highly recommend) and fielded about 22 requests for screen time.

By 10:30 am I had gone on a family hike (and snapped more pictures of the festive decor downtown), played two rounds of the board game Sorry, and deflected about 17 more requests for screen time.

By 1:00 pm I had helped prep lunch, gone for another walk (how could I turn down a 10-year-old requesting to go for a walk with her mother?), and settled the kids in their rooms for an hour of quiet time.

There are just so many hours to fill.

We do lots of (good) things. We go outside: we walk and hike and bike and play soccer and visit playgrounds. We play games and build LEGO. We read (a lot). The kids spend hundreds (literally) of hours outside with neighbourhood friends playing soccer and doing chalk art on our quiet little streets. We go skating and we stroll down picturesque streets. We sit around the table by candlelight each night and talk about our day (and endless Harry Potter trivia that is slowly melting my brain). But each activity can only fill…so much time.

We also allow plenty of screen time – some of it with quasi-educational value (drawing off Art for Kids Hub falls in this category to me), most of it not. Disney+ and Netflix have saved my sanity during this pandemic. In the last week my children have watched Encanto exactly 5 1/2 times. I made it through 1/2 the movie and do not need to finish it OR re-watch it. But it does keep them happy for roughly 90 minutes.

90 minutes might seem like a lot, but in the span of a day, a week, a month, a year – I can assure you it’s not.

In addition to 5.5 viewings of Encanto, in the last week they have also watched all three extended editions of The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Like I said, there is plenty of screen time in our house.

I don’t necessarily have a point to all of this, except the observation that sometimes the days can just feel long. Not because they’re particularly bad or hard – and I’m not opposed to kids feeling bored or entertaining themselves or to spending a portion of the day in front of a screen (trust me this plummets significantly when school is in session) – but just because there are so many hours to fill.

Now excuse me while I go put Encanto on…again.

Thoughts? Do you ever feel the same way?

Header photo by Malvestida Magazine on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “The Days Are Long…”

  1. I first heard “the days are long but the years are short” when I had a one-year-old and a colicky newborn and boy, were the days ever long. But now, that one-year-old will be 18 in a couple of months and it’s not like I miss those days, but I wonder if I did okay. I did a lot with them for sure, and they seem fine and well-adjusted and happy, but…well, I guess none of us really know. We don’t get report cards or anything, do we. I do remember the days being very long indeed, especially in January, and we weren’t in a global pandemic!

  2. It must really be different with kids because I think the days are short, but the years are long. Each day for me goes by quickly (wake up, morning chores, work, exercise, dinner, wind down for bed), but the last couple of years have been endless because the monotony is really getting to me. I think if I had kids, I would let them watch tv all day long because, well, I’m not creative enough to come up with other entertaining ideas! I’m impressed that you find OTHER things to do!!

    1. It can be hard to find the right balance. I also think, in terms of kids, personality makes a HUGE difference. When I was young I would spend hours and hours reading to myself, but neither of my kids will do that. They are good at playing solo in their rooms for an hour or so (something we’ve done, almost daily, since they were 6 months old or so!)…but definitely like to be in the mix and are extroverts that want near-constant interaction.
      We’ve mostly avoided screens so far today; it’s very cold here, but we did a woods walk and are about to go do a short stint of skating on the pond. And then it will be video time so I can hammer out some work tasks!

  3. I love this post. The days are long. And the years are short. And I keep wondering if I am filling those short years with the RIGHT things, with ENOUGH things. You sound like you are doing exactly right.

    1. Definitely not “exactly” right, but trying to balance my sanity with not wanting the only thing the kids remember to be television screens (though, I have a lot of VERY fond memories from my childhood that involve screens; cartoons on Saturday before anyone got up, having access to cable cartoons at my grandmother’s house AND being allowed to watch The Price Is Right while eating dinner off TV trays, and watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with my Mom most evenings).

  4. My kids also have made comments about time feeling like it “flies by”, in general, and it honestly worries me sometimes. I KNOW for a fact that I felt like my childhood years went on FOREVER. Literally felt like an eternity! And I was a busy kid, involved in lots of activities, etc so it seems like in theory maybe time should have gone fast? I don’t know. It worries me though because I know all adults feel like time goes so fast, but generally I’ve always felt like kids don’t have (or didn’t used to have, in the past) this same perception (from what I’ve experienced, and heard from others, anyway). So it concerns me that maybe something with our modern lifestyle, the screens(? plenty of that at our house, too) or something else? is causing time to “speed up” even for kids. And what does that mean for when they get to be adults???(!) I have really thought about this often- it’s an honest concern to me! lol!! I don’t know the answer though.

    I know what you mean about the long days in the moment,though- although I rarely feel like that anymore now that the kids are older. Also because I work full time, I feel like most of my days are “spoken for”, and even days I’m off, the boys entertain themselves for a lot of the time and don’t need ME for all the little stuff anymore. For example, my kids now, at 12 and 13, would never come in my room in the morning to wake me up, or ask for breakfast. They generally just do their own thing until we engage with them somehow, haha. But I know very well what you mean- I’ve been there. ๐Ÿ™‚ When kids are younger and you need to be involved with it can be very, very exhausting.

    *We watched Encanto on Christmas Day, and I was disappointed!! I have no desire to watch it again, either. I LOVE Disney everything, but this one just didn’t do it for me!!! I was so looking forward to it, too.

    1. I just didn’t get the appeal of Encanto, but as soon as they finished watching it the first time they immediately asked to re-watch it. I don’t find the music catchy, the story engaging, or the characters overly compelling, but my kids have definitely swallowed the KoolAid.

      I definitely found the days when the kids were littler VERY long, but I wonder if some of this feeling lately has more to do with the fact they have just been home so much more than under normal circumstances. We are definitely “underscheduled” but still, even the few things they do participate in have been canceled for huge chunks of time. The normal breaks (for them and me) just haven’t been there. Months of being home, no winter concerts, times when we couldn’t do playdates. I’m not sure if I’d still feel this way if we weren’t living in pandemic times.

      But there is still lots of good, too. I know I’ve been able to do more things with them and I have a feeling they’ll remember the highlights (like today we did a woods walk + went outdoor skating) and not all the filler/downtime at home?!

  5. Yes, the days are long. I have an 8 year old and almost 4 year old, and I hear you! One thing I’ve discovered is that cleaning is some kind of force-field. If I’m watching dishes or sweeping or folding laundry, somehow my kids figure out something to do on their own. It’s almost like they don’t want to come near me in case they get sucked into the chore. I think it’s possible to simultaneously love your kids and acknowledge that being around them all day is exhausting! The people who say “You’ll long for those days when they’re grown up”… they just don’t remember what it’s like to be woken up by a small child every night for TWO YEARS.

    As for screen time – every family has their own technique, but we have a “shows at 3pm” rule on the weekends. It helps my sanity because I know that I only need to make it until 3, then I can finally sit down!

    1. During the beginning of the pandemic, we had a Movie at 3PM. Every weekday (no screens on the weekends because then my husband was off work and we would go do a hike or some other outdoor adventure). I honestly do not know what I would have done without Disney. I sometimes felt like I was crawling to 3PM, but it was such a hit with the kids and it was the first time they had ever seen most of the Disney classics.
      I definitely have friends who restrict screen time A LOT more than we do for their kids, but I just go with what feels right and know that my kids get a good balance of outdoor activities and other cultural things (like family meals together, and me reading out loud to them a lot)…but I know they would have watched a lot fewer movies without a pandemic.

      I find the same with my kids – when I’m doing dishes or laundry, they do tend to leave me alone. Though, at this stage, they also are responsible for helping at various stages too; like they put away their own laundry and our daughter empties the dishwasher and they both typically help clean off the table. I think they figure if there are chores that need doing I’ll remind them, and if they stay out of my way, I won’t add anything else to their chore list.

  6. I can relate to the days feeling long, but the years short. I was a stay-at-home-mother until our youngest was in first grade, and looking back so much of that time with the three kids was a blur. I have ZERO regrets, but there were some days that just lasted forever, LOL. And we did a lot of activities as well (play groups, various parks, zoos, summer camps, etc.). I have so much respect for childcare providers…I enjoyed all of the time with my kids, but I know I would not have that kind of patience or tolerance for others. And, I also agree that 2021 flew by so quickly. It’s really hard to believe we’re already into a new year….

    1. Both kids started 3 days/week of preschool when they were about 2, but before that for both of them I was basically with them 24/7. It was exhausting in a different way; though it was constant care, I think it was a bit less challenging on the head?! Naps and early bedtimes and pushing them in the stroller on long walks all allowed me to turn off my brain a bit to their needs. Overall, I 100% prefer the older stages, but I find the days long in a different way now. I think when they were littler the days did go by faster; and I also felt less pressure to make sure they were being adequately stimulated which has been tough with the pandemic. Being responsible for keeping them active and engaged with academics, where when they were little I just wanted to keep them well fed, clean, and content.

      2021 DID fly by, though! And fingers crossed, schools will re-open next Monday. I’m really hoping case counts start to drop now that we’ve passed the spike from Christmas gatherings…

  7. Oh boy, do I ever feel the same… although I don’t have kids and can only vaguely relate to the long days of entertaining them (I’ve occasionally, but not often, had the pleasure with my niece and nephew).
    I personally feel that they days are just flying by (like Dominique said) and that a lot of my hours a spoken but then I also realize that I probably do have more down time than other people… it has so much to do with how we ” perceive” time.

    I often feel that if my day is “fuller with stuff”, it goes by slowly… whereas when I have time to “idle”, the hours just fly by. Does that make sense?

    1. That definitely makes sense – some days feel like they speed by WAY too fast (I often can’t believe when I check the clock and see it’s time to meet the school bus because it LITERALLY feels like I just dropped the kids off at school minutes earlier)!
      I guess it’s all about realizing the days are all precious and not trying too hard to force a particular rhythm to them? Some days will go fast. Some will go slow. Some days I’ll have the energy to chat in the living room with the kids after their evening showers and just chat until it’s way past their bedtime (last night; this was lovely), and other evenings I’ll be so tired and burned out I’ll send them straight to bed with a kiss and then collapse.

  8. it really depends on the day. when we have many scheduled activities, it seems we don’t have enough hours to relax and chill, other days when we are intentionally schedule non-schedule days, they can feel long. By 3pm, I’d ask, it’s okay 3pm? when is dinner time? hahha
    yet, i think time flies so fast. not because of the pandemic but overall. I realized yesterday how tall my 9 years old is already and soon I can’t lift my 5 years old. Everytime I hug them I remind myself that this window of opportunity with them is closing faster than i want.

    1. It does hit me sometimes when I look at the kids and realize how independent they “can” be. They don’t need me to buckle them in or feed them or bathe them. When I look back at pictures from when they were little, I can’t believe it hasn’t been THAT long since they were toddling around, arms outstretched, looking for a place on my hip.
      Time does fly…and sometimes it doesn’t. And I guess that’s just the cycle of life!

  9. Elisabeth, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My son (he’s my oldest) went to college this year and it was an event that rocked my world. I’m still grappling with the fact that a huge phase of our lives is over (tears are coming to my eyes while I’m writing this.). It’s really true- the years go by so, so fast.
    BUT! I was a stay-at home mom for many years, and I can vividly remember those long, long days. Desperately trying to find ways to fill those hours- walking really slowly, stopping to look at every twig and rock, trying to make each activity last as long as possible. I wish I could go back and do it all again, and appreciate every moment and be more mindful- but the truth is, I would probably do it all the same. Those days are just hard.
    The best advice anyone ever gave me (kid-wise) is to make sure you have no regrets when it’s time to let them go. Everything you’re doing is perfect- spending quality time and making the moments count. Not every moment- that’s impossible. But it sounds like you’re very, very mindful about the way you’re raising your kids- they’ll look back on these beautiful memories, and cherish the close relationship you’ve created. You’re doing great, and don’t worry about the screen time. You’re limiting it to a very reasonable amount- they’ll be fine!

    1. I keep telling myself they’ll be fine!? It is definitely different from my growing up years in some ways (I spent hours and HOURS exploring the woods by myself and while our kids have more freedoms than many kids their ages, there have still been some huge societal changes so life is just different then when I was a kid)…
      This week it definitely just feels like a lot of hours to fill. I feel guilty about not filling them all “well” – but the kids seem content. It’s also very hard to deep-dive into work tasks when the kids need help switching between activities (asking permission to organize a neighbourhood soccer game – I want them to still ask permission, but there isn’t a single hour that goes by that doesn’t include at least one…but usually MANY…disruptions).

      That is another thing about my childhood – no one seemed to really worry as much about screentime. We watched lots of things as a family, but I don’t remember my parents hassling me to get off the TV on Saturday mornings? It was also different, though, because we only had 3 channels, so if there wasn’t anything interesting on…there just weren’t many options. My kids can’t remember a world without Netflix and Disney+!

  10. “Donโ€™t get me wrong โ€“ I love my children deeply, but it can sometimes feel very, very hard to fill all those hours.”

    Yes. Times 1,000. The days are so long here for us, too. And our winters can be so bitterly cold (it’s currently -26F with the windchill right now) so we ended being cooped up inside so much, like last week it was way too dangerously cold to be outdoors. And if we can’t get outside, it makes the day even longer! Will is now at the stage where very few things entertain him, besides getting into things he shouldn’t get into. So we are constantly picking him up and plopping him back down by toys and then repeat that about 1,000 times it seems. He was home for 2.5 days this week because he spiked a fever and then had tummy trouble, I think related to his antibiotics, so I tried to balance work + caring for him and that made for some super long days. Phil was able to stay home yesterday so that was a huge help but Tuesday was awful!

    I sometimes feel like maybe I am not doing parenting right? Because I feel kind of downtrodden right now… Surely the terrible sleep and all the ailments we are dealing with are making things extra challenging. So it’s really helpful to hear other moms acknowledge this struggle. I think most parents feel this way but not everyone says it out loud or in a post… I sometimes feel bad and worry that people will read my blog and think – gosh she is miserable, doesn’t she appreciate her kids? And I do. I love them so very much and there are times of joy. But right now we are in a super challenging stage and the challenges are far outweighing the joyful moments… But I know this, too, shall pass and we’ll be in a better stage eventuallly.

    1. Oh Lisa – I wish you lived up the street and we could sit down and debrief over a cup of steaming coffee.

      Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and can definitely leave me feeling miserable some days. I think some of this has to do with modern life and some of it has to do with my personality/those of my children.
      Years ago I met someone who had FIVE children. I said I couldn’t imagine having that many and she said: “I could never do that now. It was so different when I was raising kids.” There was a lot more freedom, a lot fewer electronic devices…kids were just able to be kids and women, while they loved their children, were known as housewives – not “stay-at-home-mothers.” Their role was to tend to the home, not JUST the children. Obviously we still do that now, but there is pressure to be perfect at it all, maintain healthy marriages and friendships oh – and THRIVE in a career. Some people juggle this well (depending on the level of support for things like childcare, for example, but I think a majority of women are completely burned out by it all, especially given all the weight of the pandemic).

      I really enjoy the book All Joy, No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, which shows how our roles have shifted from basic care and teaching children how to support the family to being responsible for their emotional, physical, and academic achievement. Simply put – there is a LOT of pressure on parents today.
      And then personality. I need a lot of sleep, am introverted, and like to plan. Having children that have relatively low sleep needs, love to be engaged, and are NOT introverted makes for some very exhausting days.
      I’m currently reading a book called How To Be Sad (ironically, by someone who lives in Denmark and has written all about the Danish lifestyle); she struggled with infertility for years and then when she finally had a baby found it excruciatingly hard. The book as a whole I haven’t loved but the chapter on parenting just felt SO refreshing because she talked about her immense guilt over being able to have children in the end and then finding it to be utterly exhausting. So much to be thankful for…but it’s incredibly hard.

      1. I read All Joy, No Fun years ago. I should re-read it sometime! I’m reading “Motherwhelmed” right now and some of it is resonating with me, especially the author’s comments on the expectations we have of ourselves. I was 1 of 5 kids and really don’t know how I did it, but it was a completely different kind of parenting. I mean my parents spent time with us but we were also expected to entertain ourselves and it was just less hands on overall? Plus we lived in a tiny town in a remote area so there were fewer activities to choose from, my parents got to work in 5 minutes and could come home for lunch. It was just totally different than what we are doing today.

        How to Be Sad sounds interesting! At a minimum I should check it out so I can read the parenting chapter.

        1. So much has changed in modern society. We happen to have a lot of the “older” style functionality living in a small town, walking to school, both myself + my husband working from home, me only working part-time so in most senses for the kids they have a SAHM – and it’s still feels hard! I do think my mother was tired lots of time (she only worked part-time until I was about 10, when she returned to work full-time as a nurse in a demanding leadership role), but we had a lot of independence. I remember being a kid and biking relatively long distances solo to go to friends or playing in the woods behind my house for HOURS with a friend. I think our kids have more independence than many their age, but I still feel like a helicopter parent compared to my childhood.
          How to Be Sad had some very good insights about motherhood (I do think it’s important to mention that this book discusses infertility, infant death and there is definitely some colourful language, so want to make that clear in case those are challenges for people reading).

  11. I worked at a daycare for a few years in college and this was one of the things I thought about a lot (and what ultimately made me question if I even wanted kids, lol): All of the hours to fill! There are just so many hours in a day to entertain kids and I can just imagine how exhausting that can be. For me, I definitely understand the adage, although the days seem to fly by for me, probably because I have so many hobbies and I’m trying to fit them all in at once!

    I love that you’re talking about this, though, because I am sure that so many parents feel this push/pull, especially right now when it’s winter and covid and people are inside and isolated more. We need more parents talking about the mundane, hard parts of parenthood!

    1. Absolutely! It’s a blessing and can give you the most amazing moments of your life, but it’s also really, really hard. I think it’s harder, in many ways, than it used to be. I talk a bit more about this in today’s post as well.

      For one thing, I think there is more “entertaining”. Even for my kids – who do live in a spot where they can play outside with friends independently (when COVID restrictions/weather allow) and who DO spend time in their rooms alone building LEGO and art…there is just still a lot of entertaining to do. And I don’t think that happened when I was kid. My Mom was engaged with me plenty (and only worked part-time until I was almost a teenager), but I would just fill my own time the majority of the waking hours. I think kids in society have lost a lot of independence and parents have to pick up most of this slack. We drive to activities (some people over long distances because so many of us live in suburbs) and arrange the playdates (no one has landlines now and so these things are a lot less spontaneous) and play the games.

      I think maybe the onset of smaller families impacts it all as well. Kids used to typically have multiple siblings and so there was always someone to play with/fight with…where most families now (my own family included) have one other sibling which can cause…lots of tension. Though, to be fair, I grew up with 3 other siblings and we fought PLENTY!

  12. Like NGS, San, and Stephany, I don’t have kids. And I honestly question whether I could do what you (and all parents ‘these days’) do. You have my admiration and respect for being SO deeply involved in your kids’ lives, particularly when they are so different from you!

    I think my parents lucked out, somewhat. They got two relatively introverted kids who loved nothing more than to read and (eventually) play video games. Yes, there were summer trips to the pool, but on a daily basis, I remember being fairly self-amused. My mother may remember it differently, but those are my recollections.

    You are parenting in SUCH a different time – so much is expected of you! You are supposed to be the source of fun, entertainment, and enriching activities while also keeping them from killing themselves, feeding them, and ensuring that they become functional adults. Someday. It’s a lot. And for an introvert like yourself, whose personality differs from your kids? So much harder.

    So yes, I suspect the days are long. While some of mine are, for the most part? They go pretty quickly, as do the years. But like I said, I admire and respect parents today. You do what I could not! (This was one reason I was okay with not having children (infertility issues), and in hindsight [given my post today] I am glad I did not…)

    1. I do think in general kids are less capable of entertaining themselves. My kids do…but I think there is less freedom (although my kids likely have a lot compared to many of their peers in larger urban settings).
      I also think not having childcare and not having many extracurriculars (partly on purpose, partly imposed because of COVID) makes a big impact. I end up spending…a lot of time with my kids. I’m trying to fill it with fun and productive events (my daughter has already done a load of laundry today because school is cancelled; sigh), but there is also a lot of time spent being “bored” in their rooms playing. They do well with this, but definitely don’t gravitate naturally toward it. I have to send them to their rooms or outside to play independently, where I SOUGHT that out all the time as a kid.

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