A Stitch in Time

Click here to learn how to knit this clock cover. 

Real Simple magazine’s April 2012 issue deals with a topic that I find myself returning to in my blog: time. In the magazine, in her editor's note, Kristin Van Ogtrop discusses how completing an endless stream of chores at home has been found to produce increased cortisol levels in women.  Some of these tasks include meeting current expectations for parenting. As a full-time working mother, I have often lived under the shadow of guilt, not only for leaving my children in the care of others, but also for my unwillingness or, perhaps, more precisely, my physical and emotional inability, to live up to the “helicopter mom” standards that have been so in vogue.

Several years ago, in addition to my teaching job, I served as the yearbook editor of a school with over 1,600 students (a role which included running ad sales, organizing fundraising events, scheduling portraits and athletic photos, as well as constantly taking phone calls or answering emails from parents).  At this time, I began to resent the homework my sons’ teachers sent home for me to do.  Almost every evening there was an activity that my younger son, who was five or six at the time, could not seem to complete by himself—measuring the length of our den, for instance, or graphing the heights of both humans and animals in the family.  Additionally, his older brother had complex assignments, which, when left to himself to accomplish, were completed rather shoddily.  Coming home in the evening from our high school teaching jobs, for my husband and me, was not a welcoming respite--to regroup, to nest, to nurture, to bond--but, rather, a time to be assaulted with  yet another to-do list. 

This is a photo from a family collection. I wonder if these
women ever had time to relax as they are doing here, or
are they merely posing?

The article in Real Simple highlights the necessity for women to find time to unwind and relax, free from interruptions and chores in the evening.  When my children were little, I was faced with the fact that I could not function well at work or at home if I spent the few hours I had at home acting as my sons’ teacher or doing laundry or cleaning.  I wasn’t a knitter at that time, but after dinner and baths each night, I spent an hour or so lost in novels and magazines.  As a result, my children sometimes lived with consequences for my failure to keep up with their schoolwork.  For instance, when my younger son was in the first grade he forfeited field day and its ice cream because he hadn’t turned in a reading log with its requisite daily parental signatures.  (This item was probably buried in its blank state of the bottom of his bookbag.)  I can only imagine how children who are raised by non-English speaking parents fare with such expectations.

This is a knitting blog, however, and my ramblings about time do relate to this subject.  Even though other working mothers tell me they don’t have the time for such an activity, for a little over three years now, I have been knitting every day.  As I carve out time for this hobby, I have seen how I have become a more relaxed, healthier person.  But making this decision for “me time,” like all choices, means sacrifices in other areas.  I hire someone to clean, even though our family budget really doesn't allow for this luxury.  And while I do ferry my boys to a round of athletic activities and tutoring, I am also not the model homework coach or parent volunteer. 

The most recent project to occupy my time--Natalie Mitts from the latest
edition of Interweave Knits magazine.

Each day I encounter plenty of women who are on call round the clock, examining the contents of their children’s backpacks every night, checking class websites and completed homework papers, volunteering at athletic events, acting as Girl Scout troop leaders, teaching Sunday school, etc.  When I review each of these women’s schedules, I say to myself the familiar line (and the name of a novel and a movie), “I don’t know how she does it.” 

Viewing other women’s jam-packed schedules also makes me wonder.  Is the fact that I spend time outside of work knitting, cooking, reading, gardening, and browsing yarn stores or attending fiber events detrimental to two boys?  Boys who have no interest in any of my hobbies?  I don’t know.  For the most part, for hundreds of years parents had their adult sphere of activities and children their own.  Is the fact that I sit knitting while my older son is at football practice and the younger builds Lego creating an unhealthy family dynamic? 

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Ultimately, I have to have faith, and say, “I can’t be certain. But I won't be whole and happy if I live any other way.” Maybe my kids won’t go to Harvard because I have allowed them to live with the consequences for their academic mistakes. But, on the other hand, some awfully successfully and happy people, have had childhoods without the constant hyper-attentive parenting styles of today. The idea that a parent’s job is to provide a roof and to put food on the table might seem harsh in our current era of parental protection and hovering, but what toll does the other extreme take on a mother or a father and, ultimately, the entire family?

For me, along with working and parenting, I will keep knitting.    My boys like the fact that if I’m off at some fiber event, they will probably be allowed more video game time and that, even though my husband does cook many meals, there is a higher likelihood of their enjoying fast food burgers.  With the uncanny wisdom of young people, they recognize that invasive control isn’t fun and that vigilance and happiness make strange bedfellows. Along the way, they might also gain some skills in self-reliance and responsibility.


  1. What a great post, Liz?! I am sure so many people can totally relate to it. I also have issues of guilt when I spend time on my hobbies. Like right now, I should be doing laundry and cleaning for the weekend, but here I am. Hehehe...You are very right. It makes me a much happier person and when mommy is happy, EVERYONE is happy. Hehehehe....So, true!


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