Midlife Crisis: The adventures of a thirtysomething first-time horse owner

If you haven’t quite figured out how to juggle horses with Everything Else You Have To Do, you’ll appreciate this column by Amanda Smith.

From Amanda:

When Life Gets in the Way

Raise your hand if you work a 40+ hour job and have an hour commute each way….


OK, now raise your hand if you have critters (or kids… or both; I’m not picky)  to take care of when you get home.


Raise your hand if you also have a 30 minute drive to see your horse.


And what about a husband who is awesome and who is working on yet another graduate degree because it’s the right thing to do for Team Smith, but you don’t want to ask him to walk the dogs and feed them when you get home from work –and maybe do a couple loads of laundry–so you can dash off to the barn, because he really has to get that project finished. Hands up… Anyone? Anyone with a similar guilt-inducing situation?


And finally, anyone out there who– after taking into account the guilt of burdening your spouse with the dogs, the piles of dirty laundry, the dishes needing to be put away and dinner needed to be cooked and whatever else there is to do– skips the barn to get ahead of household responsibilities thinking “I can just head to the barn tomorrow evening instead…”?


Yeah, that’s pretty much been my 2012 so far. Now let me be clear, my husband never, ever complains about me going to the barn, so the guilt is completely fabricated by me, myself and I. My theory on this is that it’s a result of the facts that I (1) am female and (2) was raised in a matriarchal Italian family… and if you don’t know Italian mother guilt… I’ll tell you about it sometime!

Right or wrong, I think it’s just a fact that females put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own, and no amount of women’s lib or Gurl Power will be able to eradicate that. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve established my very own Order of Needs to help me prioritize who needs what first:

1)      “Lesser Beings” – this would be anything dependent on a Grown Adult Human for its care. In my case, this class includes Alfie and my dogs, Hank and Gus (“the boys”). Since Alfie is incredibly well-cared for by amazing people at the boarding facility, all I have to worry about daily is the boys. For now.

2a)  “Team Smith”- meaning household affairs and chores, including but not limited to cooking, cleaning and yard work (though yard work is often low on the list!) and anything else that makes the household functional and happy, rather than a chaotic hell. (when your house is as wee as the Wee House… it can quickly become a chaotic hell).

2b) Family – yes, sometimes even my dysfunctional family trumps me.

3)      Amanda – me.

I don’t neglect myself by any means, but I do try to make sure everyone else is relatively content before I check them off the list and move on to me. If that means I don’t get to indulge in curling up on the couch perusing the latest issue of Garden & Gun because it was raining earlier in the evening and the dogs didn’t get their walk then, that’s OK by me. But let’s face it–those dogs aren’t going to let me relax on the couch if they haven’t been out for their evening walk anyway. They’ll sit and stare at me, and then start to whine. It means I have less time for myself, but I’m down with that. Life happens. And balancing it all with what I want to accomplish as a rider is not easy.

However… Lately I have kind of tweaked my outlook on how and why I get things done. Which is great, since the first three months of the year get me (and my riding) every time. When we finally pull into the driveway at 6 p.m., it’s dark and the psychological component of that makes me feel like I still have SO MUCH TO DO, so I can’t possibly go to the barn. But rather than leaving things undone at home and feeling all that guilt when I run off to the barn, I have taken the first couple months of the year to kick that to-do list’s butt while it is still dark.  I’ve been working hard to stay on top of little things that can easily pile up, and tried to create and maintain a steadier routine for Lesser Beings and Team Smith, and thereby setting me up for more free time.

And now that daylight savings has started and it doesn’t get dark until 8 p.m., I don’t have as much to do at home, so I don’t feel as bad about heading out to the barn after work. Except for the pollen. THAT has kept me inside the past couple weeks. If you haven’t experienced spring in Atlanta, you have no idea how ungodly awful the pollen can be. For someone with allergies like me, it’s downright terrifying!

So with a little kick in the pants, I’ve actually created more barn time for myself during the past couple months. Do I want to be “spring cleaning” at 8:30 on a Tuesday evening? Not really, but I am confident that I’ve done the right thing. Planning ahead! Anticipating what needs to be done! So instead of letting life get in my way, I’ve been clearing the way with my machete of better time management and motivation!

And no small quantity of coffee.

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