I took a walk with a friend and fellow business owner this week. We encourage each other to be entrepreneurial, we have projects to discuss. You could say we had a good alibi.

New pedestrian bridge on Lake Merritt

But the truth is, I needed a break. For me a walk around the lake with our dogs was the perfect antidote to having too much to do. In fact, it felt like one of the great things I did for myself this week, enjoying the new Lake Merritt landscaping, the lovely weather, checking out a heron catching a fish. I was free of the kids and enjoying hanging out with a buddy, when I should have been working!

It takes so much time to make our life with the kids work, and I’m fortunate that I have clients and projects. So I feel guilty and maybe a little ungrateful when I don’t use every single minute between school dropoff and afterschool pickup to do billable work. (If you’re a client reading this, I’m very sorry your project was delayed by my walk. I promise I’ll have it no more than 2.5 days after I said it would be done!)

Am I burned out? Is parenting taking a toll? Maybe, somewhat, depends on what the meaning of “is” is. But I’m also getting fed up with feeling like I’m on a hamster wheel, needing to prove something day after day. I don’t know why I feel like I’m faking it—I work hard, I deliver great stuff for my clients (when I finally deliver it). Everyone deserves a moment to breathe, even me!

But of course the problem is somewhere deep down I don’t believe it. Our culture is like a love poem to overworking and overcommitting and overstimulation. Too much is never enough.

Except I do better work with a clearer head. Having a bit of time for inspiration and ideas and even 10 minutes of yoga in the morning gives me a bit of breathing space. I can crank out design work projects in a nonstop way, but it starts to feel (and look) rote if I don’t give myself a break.

It’s becoming clear that I’m a fairly impatient parent. The 5-year-old can take 20 minutes to “be getting dressed” and not really take off her pajamas or get on any of her clothes for the day. She can half half an outfit on and get carried into another activity, completely lost in thought. I pick her up after school and she’s deeply engaged in a game or drawing, and will not leave until she’s done, no matter how huffy I get about our schedule and what needs to happen right now.

In other words, she’s completely present, and does not live slavishly by the clock yet.

As an uncle I think I was much more relaxed. Being “part time,” having the kid for an afternoon or an overnight, but knowing I’d give him back, made it easier to indulge my lovely godson, and follow his lead on what makes a good day. 24/7 parenting is way different; there’s much, much more I need to do. But do I have to become a zombie to do it? I sure hope not. I didn’t have kids only to be a joyless taskmaster.

We’re coming up to 6 months with the kids, and I think it’s time to take a step back and realize that being late for school, or not getting everything on my list done, is not the end of the world. Would it be such a disaster to deliver her to school with not quite every hair on her head combed and de-tangled?

I think my daughter should be teaching me about how to live. I’d better start listening.