Since DS was about 6 months I have arranged with DH to either have him give me the time to do the hobbies I need or get a babysitter for me so that I can. From 6 months to a year I worked out every single evening for 2 hours (which coincided with his evening nap, BTW) because I was determined to be ten pounds lighter than my prepregnancy weight and toned as all heck and I joined a strict regime at the gym with a trainer. I even worked out on occassional Saturdays during nap time and on Sundays I strapped DS into the back pack and went on a cross country power walk through park during his nap. But then wedding was over and I scaled it back to twice a week for an 1 hour and half yoga session with my girlfriends from work. Once a month my girlfriends and I had a "bowling league" night (read drinking lots of beer in ugly shoes and dishing about our men while occassionally chucking a ball down a lane so we wouldn't get thrown out). During my vacation I usually pick up a sewing or knitting project and I have always brought my knitting and my current reading to work so that on the commute, during coffee and lunch breaks, I can read and knit a little. There is a small circle of five women at my job now who also knit and we sit around during the morning coffee break and compare projects and knit while we discuss our students and our personal lives.
I sing. At my last school I had a teachers band I was in and we did "gigs" (mostly at school performances but three times in public venues which was very cool since I hadn;t done that since I was in my twenties and I really missed being on stage) which we had once every couple of months and practiced every week or so with the new songs, some of the covers and some of them ones I wrote. That was fun! I am trying to start one up again here as I really really miss that creative outlet. DH used to come along so that kids could dance and listen and then we'd all go out to dinner.
I also draw and paint. When the kids are in bed or during our longer vacations I bring my sketchbook and my colors and I draw, or when DS is occupied with trains and DD is napping I go out on the roof and draw. It's really important to me.
DH and I also have a date night every Friday from 6pm-11pm (after DD is in bed) most weeks we go out with other friends, dance, talk, debate, etc, but once a month we go for an intimate dinner and a film, or a play. We have done this since DS was about 4 months old.
We also have a little dinner party club with some friends so each month one of them has a dinner party and we take turns hosting. Next week is my turn (I'll do two or three this year in total) and I am planning a medditeranean themed dinner with grilled veggies and pitas...it's so fun! Benjamin helps me plan the menu and will help me make cookies.
I LOVE to cook and bake. I do as much as I can on the weekends, and if I can involve DS and DD all the better. I am always concocting excuses for why I NEED to bake 3 dozen cupcakes or a few different batches of cookies. Drives DH batty when I comandeer the kitchen but it is a real cathartic release for me and I love it and DS loves helping and DD...well she loves playing with the measuring cups in her chair while we bake and loves to eat the mistakes for us and help lick the bowl.
We travel as much as we can. When DS was 20 months we did a road trip of southern Argentina, driving in a circle from buenos aires, to Punta Tomba to Trelew to Eskiel,up to Barie Loche and back across to Buenos Aires. It took five and half weeks. Then when he was 2 and half we drove northward and did a tour of the salt flats and desserts and plateaus of Salta and Jujuy. Just AMAZING. We took weekend trips to Parana, Iguazu Falls (if you've ever seen the Mission...that's the waterfall) and The Perito Moreno Glacier down south. When we went back to Scotland to see DH's family, we took DS to the Loch region in Scotland, spent a a few days for Easter up on the bonnie bonnie shores of Loch Lomand, and went up to the Isle of Skye with him. We went down to York, Haden's Wall, Kent and London (best kids science museum EVER) We went down to Paris on the overnight train and over to EuroDisney, because why not? We travelled all over Costa Rica while we lived there, from Cahuita to Manuel Antonio to Montezuma and all the volcanic springs and safari parks in between. Just this past week we finally got out and about in Colombia and saw Rio Claro...Astounding beauty and by far the most remote and stunningingly untouched nature reserve I have ever been to. I love my photo albums and the memories have been fantastic. If I couldn't travel, I wouldn't want to live.
Oh, and my job? It is the most fun, creative, engaging job I could ever imagine having. LOVE my job. I'm a teacher, so I get great holidays(1wk,4wks,2wks,and 5wks scattered across the year), decent money, and I get to be a teacher!
Here's how we do it:
I work in international schools that pay quite a lot of money to foreign hire teachers and pay for most of our accomodation expenses. We live in parts of the world that are very very cheap to live a good quality of life.
Food at restaurants is fairly cheap. Gasoline and cars are cheap. Clothing is cheap. Healthcare is almost always 100% free on the state plus I get really very good private insurance for the family should we prefer not wait in long lines, from 80% coverage to 100% coverage...and they do housecalls here!
Our maid/babysitter has always costs us about 2-4 dollars an hour. In total we usually spend about 3% of our expendable income (meaning after rent, bills, food, and transport) on childcare and housekeeping. I do not wish to spend my time out of work working on cleaning my house. I loathe having to do it and I usually cut corners to make it go faster which is bad for everyone. I am happy to pay someone else to do it. If Ilived in the States, I could not afford the life style I am accustomed to. It would probably take me a while to find a way to make our lives work the way it does now.
We also take turns. DH has a poker night every Thursday, and teaches private lessons twice a week at night. And I get a girl's night out on Tuesday or Wednesday...but hopefully I can swap between that and band practice soon.
I also sleep on average about 5 hours a night. I always have though, even as a small child.
We also take the kids to as many of the things as we can include them in. Most of the dinner parties for example are with other kids so they can run around and play together, and they always try to get to my band practice, and DS loves to paint and draw too, so we often spend the day doing creative stuff together (since he was about 2 and started finger painting -- we let him finger paint the tiled kitchen walls (since they could be washed down) and I would paint in the hammock on the patio just next to him.) DD loves to dance so the band thing is perfect for entertaining her.
It can be done, but it is not for everyone. I just happen to be one of those manic people who can't stop moving and thinking and doing all the time. Drives DH nuts. He keeps trying to get me to smoke pot again so I will calm down...what he doesn't know is that pot only stops the doing, not the thinking.