Hopelessly Optimistic About Time

To my extended family, my tardiness is a running joke.

I was never the most punctual person, and shuddered at the thought of being the first guest to arrive at a party. I’ve adopted the social policy of “fashionably late”, not only as a way of life but as a courtesy to the host. Personally, I prefer guests arrive a few minutes late so I can finish my makeup or get one last appetizer on a plate.

Tardiness isn’t all my fault. It’s hereditary. My parents are notoriously unpunctual, though they’ve improved with age. Their ski boat is actually named ‘Running Late’.

Credit: Print Liberation
Credit: Print Liberation

On a second date with my now husband, we were meeting for a post-work movie date. I was getting ready when he called from outside the theater, asking where I’d parked. I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t started my car yet. He laughed when I told him where I was, and I put some serious pep in my step. I was trying to impress this punctual person, and my “running late” trait isn’t my finest.

Tardiness doesn’t permeate all facets of my life. I’m punctual for work and to pick up my kids at daycare. It makes them feel safe and important when I arrive on time. Plus, you know, daycare frowns upon tardy parents and will charge accordingly. Lastly, I cringe at the thought of them alone with the teacher, most lights turned off. It happened once, and I felt horrible.

My husband leaves for work around 6:30am, so it’s all me to get our  girls ready for daycare. As we go through our morning routine, I’m always moving, like a mama shark. But even on those days when I think we’re ahead of schedule, something inevitably goes awry: my 1 year-old, Emmeline, douses herself in the cat’s water, or I run up and down the stairs repeatedly fetching accessories for my 3 year-old, Edie.

There’s been times when being late bit me back. For example, I planned to meet up with friends and our kids at an outdoor Easter egg hunt last month. The event started at 10am in Glastonbury, and despite my best intentions, couldn’t get everyone bathed, dressed, and out the door on time. We left our West Hartford home at 9:50am, and arrived at a field plucked clean.  The kids (whose parents were on time) had baskets full of plastic eggs and cheap candy.

Edie didn’t mind; she is young enough where the attraction is running around the field with her buddies. But I felt humbled in front of a handful of my friends. How long did I think a kids’ Easter egg hunt would last? Why can’t I just start the process of getting out the door sooner?

It comes as no surprise that my habit of running late has been exacerbated by two largely dependent kids. Yes, Edie can put on her shoes and brush her teeth, but I still manage much of her routine. And well, Emmeline can’t do anything productive besides feed herself. In fact, much of her doing is destructive. I am the MC with the watch.

Despite my track record, when I’m on time, it feels great. I’ve even been early on a handful of occasions, and I felt downright accomplished.

You may notice a pattern of negative feelings associated with this behavior. However, I waiver between feeling ashamed and embracing my tardiness. Like most working parents, our energies are divided among many competing tasks. We have full lives and  ambitious plans. Unless we are talking inflexible events like flight departures or wedding ceremonies, is it too much to ask for a tardiness pass during this chaotic time in our lives? My husband is less comfortable arriving late. As much as possible, I’m sensitive to other people’s valuable time. But does it matter if we arrive at 6:20 to a 6pm barbecue? Maybe to some, but I give people the benefit of the doubt and hope they do the same.

If you invite me to a party, I’ll follow through and will be a great guest. But please don’t ask me to bring an appetizer. Desserts are more appropriate. They’re more likely to appear on the table on time.

11 thoughts on “Hopelessly Optimistic About Time

  1. When I returned to work from maternity leave, I actually had to change my daily schedule because I was 20-25 minutes late every day and it was super stressful.

  2. Haha, my husband is chronically late FOR EVERYTHING. It makes me nuts. I always tell him that it’s takes him longer to “take a dump” than he thinks it does (he seriously sits on the throne FOREVER) and we are perpetually leaving at about the time that we’re supposed to be wherever we are.

    I do think it’s hereditary. My daughter is JUST LIKE ME – ready on time with bells on. My son lallygags in bed or on the toilet or on the sofa, saying, “I’m going…I’m going…” every time I nag him!

  3. Thanks ladies. Jenn and Emily I applaud your punctuality! That’s a pipe dream for me; I merely aim to get there exactly on time 🙂

  4. This is such a tough issue. In our personal lives, I think we all need to just cut each other slack and allow for all our humanity. Yet, at work I depend on other people being timely, not only for meeting with me but for the sake of clients, events and others as well. It is really hard to be understanding, as a mom who often struggles with time herself, while also knowing how many folks it impacts. I think of this as one of the biggest challenges for working parents, me included. Welcome!

  5. Great post! Before baby, I was the person circling the block 4 times because I was early to the party. Things are definitely different now since so much is just out of my control. Don’t blowouts always save themselves for just when you’re running out the door? I try not to get worked up about running a few minutes behind, but I HATE being late! Unfortunately, it’s kind of par for the course at this point.

Share Some Comment Love

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s