“I just wish someone had written out a template of a timeline for what a day-in-the-life of a mom of two looked like so I would know how I should be spending my time,” I told a friend. Something of the “if you do this, you get this” variety would be nice to have. A formula of sorts. I imagine if someone gave me Tetris-like building blocks to put together in outlining time in my day, I could figure out how to do all of the things. “If you wake up earlier at 5 every morning, you’ll have 1.23 hours to journal before starting your day.” “If you start writing when the kids go to bed at 7:45 every night, you’ll complete a novel in ten months.” “If you rest no more than 30 minutes every day, you might retain enough sanity to do the journaling and complete the novel.”

Time is the one resource I don’t have enough of and can’t buy more of when I run out, so thinking strategically about how I use it is my best chance at efficiency. It’s a common claim that freedom goes out the window when you have kids, probably because personal freedom seems directly correlated to the very limited amount of time you have in between looking after little ones. If freedom is defined by a person’s ability to go places and do things they want on a whim, then yes, that’s gone for us parents – not forever, but for the foreseeable future.

We, as human beings, always want freedom, and once we have it, we always want more. But I have to believe there is more to being free and owning personal freedom than financial flexibility, date nights or going to the gym. Equating freedom to being able to go to work and not leave early to pick up a sick baby from school seems shallow.

Sure, if I didn’t have two young boys, I could invest in property without the restrictions of school district ratings, travel to Italy like I’ve always wanted to, take a cross-country vacation in an RV, go to a movie anytime I wanted, or get drunk without having to worry about surviving taking care of my kids with a hangover.

I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, write whenever I wanted.

I would be free on the surface, in the literal sense, and that sounds appealing. But I could never give up my other freedom: the freedom to experience radical, life-changing, rewarding, dramatic and thrilling human existence. The freedom to live remarkably beyond my own individuality. One of the most exhilarating and gratifying freedoms we have is the freedom to change. My family and my kids push and inspire me to change and grow every day, and so I evolve, I grow into this parenting thing, I think I’m getting better at it.

Ultimately, having children is unequivocally and genuinely life changing. Having free time isn’t. Someone who is not tied down by the needs of young children or the limitations of a family life is not necessarily more free than someone who has to consider packing a three-ton diaper bag before ever leaving the house.

My freedom comes from self-transformation and complete love. When you have kids, those things are part of the package deal. It may not be physical freedom (I’ve got a few more years of diaper-bag packing), but it’s definitely an unmatchable inner freedom I could never surrender.