Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Parenthood and Cruising: Two of The Hardest Jobs You'll Ever Love

We got away from the marina for a solid two days. That's something.

But, alas, we find ourselves back here at Nanny Cay.  Except this time, instead of greeting visitors, we are waiting on marine mechanics to help diagnose why our generator went on the fritz.

So back to "work" we go.

"I am literally fixing something every day," Scott lamented over coffee this morning, "Every. Single. Day," he punctuated. And it's true, he is. Cruising really and truly is fixing your boat in exotic locations. Sometimes the fixes are simple and more of the preventative nature, like re-sealing a slightly leaky porthole or stitching a torn sail ... other times it's more serious, like the ceasing of a major mechanical system or breakdown of something structural. These things usually require much more time and effort (which is usually synonymous with money) like the attention of a professional, time at a marina, and/or a special part flown in. These are the issues many cruisers lament. Our current conundrum is one such issue. <sigh>

For many "self-sufficient" sailboats, a generator is something of a luxury, these boats have enough solar and/or wind power to keep their batteries topped up and usually have minimal power demands to begin with. We are not that boat. We are what I like to call "cozy cruisers." Our boat is more than a vessel made to take us places, it's also our home and, as such, we like certain amenities. We enjoy our three speed fans, we prefer our water to be pressurized (and warm if we feel so inclined!), we enjoy having ice and cold drinks, we have gadgets (both personal and boat-y) that need to be charged pretty regularly, and we LOVE fresh water. Lots of it. While we have a nice little solar set up that can usually keep our batteries topped up at anchor when the sun shines unobstructed, we will almost inevitably fall behind after two or three days.  Which is when we make water. We run our generator to make precious H2O for two or three hours after which we have full water tanks, charged up appliances, and boat batteries that are fully loaded. It's a nice system that works really well for us.

Until our generator craps out, of course. Then we are kind of screwed.

Which is why we are back at the marina where I can take the girls to the beach or on a walk so Scott can work on the boat, something that is almost impossible with three little ones aboard.

Let me tell you, chasing around three small children is exhausting. My day is a blur of diaper changes, meal preparation, nursing sessions, playtime, tear wiping, hazard removal, snack-plying, soothing and near-constant tidying up. I almost never stop moving. Like any full-time, stay at home mom I have very few precious minutes to myself. When the babies sleep, I am usually cleaning, doing laundry or running an errand. If I am lucky, I have an hour or two every few days of computer time in which to blog. Don't get me wrong, I know that I am beyond blessed. Being a mom is the greatest thing in the world to me and I love it more than anything (for real) - but holy crap, it's a lot of work.

And this is where cruising and parenting are very similar: they truly are two of the hardest "jobs" you will ever love. And despite the fact that both come with more stress and responsibility than any "paying" job ever will, you will not, in fact, get paid for raising humans or keeping a sailboat afloat. Wah wah.

So how, exactly, are cruising and parenting similar you ask?

The Daily Grind
With cruising and parenting every day is, indeed, an adventure, but both require a pretty rigorous daily grind of SOP's and routines. And, believe me, it can be a grind. Both are incredibly challenging, exhausting, frustrating and sometimes you will question what the hell you are doing. Though there are a million books, blogs, and articles on the subjects - neither come with a manual and much of the information you find out there is either bogus, a matter of personal opinion or contradictory. There is no "one size fits all" approach to cruising and parenting, and we all must do what works best for our boats, situations and families.

Lack of Control
With both cruising and parenting, there is an almost complete lack of control; kids are not robots who can be programmed despite our best efforts (oh how lovely it would be to hit the "sleep through the night", "stop tantruming", or "do as you're told" buttons!) and, as cruisers, our lives are often dictated by mother nature and/or our boats (and their finicky systems!) despite our personal wishes. For a major "type A" person like myself, this one is a hard one to deal with.

Raising children and living on a cruising sailboat require a tremendous amount of responsibility. As cruisers we have to be riggers, plumbers, electricians and mechanics to keep our boats running. As parents, we must be teachers, role models, disciplinarians and supporters. Our kids' health, happiness and safety falls entirely on our shoulders. We all hope to screw up as little as possible - even though screwing up is inevitable and par for the course in both parenting and cruising. The primary goals are to keep the kids alive, raise good, happy people and keep the boat afloat and working smoothly. Pretty tall orders.

The Hours
Boats and babies will demand your attention 24/7. Both will wake you up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. Children, like boats, require a tremendous amount of attention and TLC to keep in good order. If neglected, you will pay dearly in either a mini Spencer Pratt or a derelict boat - both of which have the potential to be the bane of your existence. We do everything in our power to avoid such outcomes, and to avoid these outcomes, you've got to put in the hours. These are jobs that you can never step away from. There is no break room out here.

Like parenting, cruising is a life of extremes where a day can go from hunky-dory to "oh $*@*" in a matter of seconds. One minute you are a boss mom with three well behaved little ones at the park, the next your toddler is pitching a fit because she's mad at the wind while one twin is wandering into the street and the other is eating a cigarette butt. One minute you are a boss sailor enjoying a lovely beam reach, the next minute you blow a halyard, your autopilot craps out and all hell breaks loose. Zero to utter mayhem in the blink of an eye. For real.

The Stress
Living in tight quarters is stressful. Approaching storms are stressful. Dragging anchor in the middle of the night is stressful. Rough passages are stressful. Breaking stuff is stressful. Having sick kids is stressful. Dealing with tantrums is stressful. Three children running in different directions is stressful. Having to chose which crying infant to pick up first is stressful. You will worry incessantly about your kids getting hurt, bullied or worse. You worry regularly about your boat being holed by a floating object or catching fire. The anxiety of what could happen is ever present and must be kept at bay. This is not easy.

Taking risks and facing the unknown are regular occurrences as cruisers and parents. Sometimes you have to put trust that your boat and your kids can weather the storms thrown at them. Parenthood, like cruising, can - and will - scare the #*$& out of you daily. Both will force you to take a good, hard look at yourself. Both will show you what you are made of, and both will be glaring reminders of what you need to work on. Sometimes, you just gotta "let it go" and trust that everything will be okay. Again, not easy for someone like me.

The "Ick" Factor
Cruising and parenting are dirty jobs. Working in an engine room is messy. Changing oil is messy. Replacing a hose is messy. Dealing with snot and puke is messy. Feeding babies is messy. Injuries are messy. Changing diapers is messy. You will deal with a lot of poop, this is a fact.

Cruising, like parenthood, will test you in almost every way imaginable.

But it will be so worth it.

Because despite of all this (or possibly because of it?) there is the potential to be rewarded in ways you cannot even imagine. Cruising and parenthood will teach you about life and the world. They will make you a better, more thoughtful person. They will teach you to live in the moment and appreciate the "now". Both will enrich your life and change you forever in the most profound ways.

So we keep moving forward. We put one foot in front of the other day after day, despite the frustration, the exhaustion, the uncertainty and the seemingly never-ending task lists because we made the (very conscious) choices that brought us here. Always on the hunt for that perfect passage, that incredible beach, or that serendipitous meeting that results in a life-long friendship. Every day is a search for that deep belly baby giggle (best thing ever), the spontaneous snuggle that melts your heart (best thing ever) and the promise of being greeted by those precious, adorable smiles every morning (best thing ever) - day after day after day. It's all about the love.

And because of this, we take the good with the bad. We count our wins and learn from our losses. Because all of the cliches are true: Life is short. It goes by in an instant. Enjoy every moment. We only live once...

So we do what we can to make it count, because - at the end of the day - it's just a generator. And as frustrating as getting that damn thing working again may be, it's all part of the journey.

3 comments: said...

Again, Brittany, your writing and insight are spot on ! You put on paper (well, on the Internet air) what we needed to hear right now. As we also seem to be fixing or replacing a lot this season. We haul out at Nanny Cay June 1 - hope to run into before we go. PS - Kids are SO cute.

Anonymous said...

Hey hey we would love to see a specific list of what Scott was lamenting over coffee in this post. We are currently building a sailboat and we would love to start with systems that are simple to maintain. So what has Scott been spending most of his time fixing?

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