House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

Time: is there ever enough?

by Meagan Francis on September 7, 2010

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s back-to-school time here in Michigan, and my three oldest boys are brushed, washed, fed, and have been (gently) pushed out the door to the bus stop. Tomorrow my youngest boy starts preschool, and–for the first time in a few years–we’ve hired a regular sitter to come three mornings a week. Since Clara was born I’ve been patching child care together on an as-needed basis, but now that she’s a toddler whose favorite toy in the house is the toilet and all its accoutrement, I’m finding I need an extra set of helping hands more regularly.

Suddenly, I’m facing the happy prospect of having time. Blocks of unfettered hours in which I can do, well, whatever I want. Work, of course. But I could also spend some of it reading. Staring out a window. Exercising. Shopping. Eating. Mindlessly clicking. It’s my time. How do I want to use it?

Since so many of us have kids entering school–maybe for the first time–right now, I figured this would be a great opportunity to talk about TIME. How do you manage it so that it doesn’t slip away? How do you keep social media from overtaking your life? How do you fit in the things you want to do amid the things you need to do? How do you figure out the difference?

I’ve touched on all these issues a lot here at lot at The Happiest Mom. I’ve written about leisure time, making time for the things you want to do, and turning “should-do” tasks into “want-to” tasks. But this week I really want to zero in on the time issue. It’s so easy to sit down at your computer at 9 AM with big plans for what you want to accomplish, then stand back up at noon with nothing but a stiff butt and vague memories of Twitter conversations. In our day to day lives, it’s easy for your average Tuesday to just seem so ordinary. It’s hard to believe that anything special could happen today, or that it will matter much if you fritter it away. And yet, when you stop to think about it, our entire lives are made up of ordinary days just like this one.

Tomorrow Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think will be here to share her thoughts on managing time and being a happier mom.

I’d love if you’d comment here and answer one (or more!) of these questions to help kick off the discussion:

  • What are your biggest obstacles to finding or making time to do what you want?
  • How do you determine the difference between what you really need to do–and what you don’t?
  • Do you ever feel like you could get so much more done if you could just figure out how to manage your time?
  • What tools or tricks do you use to help keep on top of your time?
  • If you could somehow “find” an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?

Looking forward to your answers, and to sharing Laura Vanderkam’s thoughts with you tomorrow.

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Maman A Droit September 7, 2010 at 6:24 am

I never seem to have time to clean my kitchen! I thought I would just do it by telling myself no baking until the kitchen is spotless, but alas, that has just resulted in a dearth of baked goods. I feel like I spend hours a day scrubbing pots & pans, yet the sink is still full. Argh.

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Meagan Francis September 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

@Maman-a life with no baking wouldn’t be fun at all. :) I love to bake, and my best trick is to skip some of the steps that involve mixing things up in a lot of different sized bowls and to NEVER use a bowl that doesn’t fit in the dishwasher! I know that first one is probably a true baker’s nightmare, but my cookies and muffins always turn out fine :) Maybe not county-fair-ribbon-winning good, though…

I also clean as I go. So as soon as that mixing bowl or those measuring cups are done, they’re rinsed and set in the sink. When I’m done with the flour it goes back on the shelf. That way when I get to the “waiting for the stuff to bake” part, all that’s left is loading in the dishwasher and wiping everything down.

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Amy September 7, 2010 at 7:46 am

Answers to the questions above:

1. For me, the biggest obstacle is my energy level. Time does exist to clean, to de-clutter, to organize, etc. But I am so darn exhausted when I have those snippets of time that I use them for other things (like sacking out in front of the TV to soothe my brain–while folding laundry, of course!).

2. I know what I really need to do when one of my daughters (or both) is crying (for real). Ditto for what I don’t really need to be doing. Nothing stops mindless Internet play faster than a screaming kid.

3. I don’t think I have a time management problem, per se. It’s just that so much of MY time is claimed by others–the dogs, the husband, the kids. Oh, yeah, the full-time-plus job I’m starting up again next week.

4. A great multitasking tip for new moms–by a hands-free pumping bra. I’m actually doing two things at once right now! =)

5. I SHOULD say I’d work out if I had that extra hour. But in reality I’d rather cozy up with a book and a cup of tea.

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Meagan Francis September 7, 2010 at 11:08 am

@Amy- Lack of energy is a big obstacle. If i don’t get enough sleep two nights in a row, I’m a zombie. Same goes for not eating well, not moving *enough*…I am still having a hard time reconciling the fact that I am no longer 18 and can’t stay up until 2, subsist on cupcakes and soda, or lay around all day and expect to be able to function. Of course, getting enough sleep isn’t always a choice when you’ve got kids…sigh!

Love the suggestion of a hands-free pumping bra. If I were pumping with any regularity I would totally invest in one!

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kate September 7, 2010 at 9:44 am

So many thought-provoking questions!

For me the biggest issue is time management. Working from home I constantly feel pulled in every direction. I should be writing. I should be washing last night’s dishes. I should be walking the dog. I should be tidying up the living room. I should be relaxing before son gets home. I should…. then nothing gets done well or fully because I can’t focus on one thing.

An extra hour? More dilemma frankly! I think I do have enough time, I just don’t always manage it well. I’m great on deadline with my editing jobs, etc, but when it comes time to manage my own things, I’m not so good. That being said, I have in the past made a list of everything I’ve done in a typical day — I get a lot done, it just doesn’t feel cohesive, if that makes sense.

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Meagan Francis September 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

@kate-I totally hear you on working from home. The flexibility and ability to tend to things like housework and the kids during the work day is a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? I’ve started to embrace my own personal rhythm which is a lot less balanced from day to day than I used to think it should be, but over time, it evens out. For example, I might work like a madwoman one day, logging 10-12 hours at the computer. But then the next day I barely look at work and spend most of the day with the kids. The third day might get devoted to cleaning and cooking. I figure as long as it all balances out in the long run, it’s working for me!

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Lyyli September 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

Ohhhh, if I could only find the “right” answer to all of these

Perhaps my biggest obstacle to finding time is my perfectionist tendancies. I want to do everything on that ever-growing-to-do-list just “right,” which means I spend too much time on silly, meaningless tasks. But in close second is my inability to say “no” to volunteer opportunities, particuarly those involving the kids. I feel like I try to overcompensate for working–making sure I’m super-involved in both of my dd’s schools.

I secretly think that other moms must have found out the secret in how to do it all: being a mom, wife, daughter, co-worker/employee, volunteer, short-order chef, master house cleaner, and friend. And if I could just bribe somebody to tell me the secret of mastering my time, I’m be there too!

As for the question regarding the extra hour, it makes me smile to think about such a question because I have an image in my head that I’d be taking a nice, warm bubble bath, with a glass (or bottle) of lovely wine and a small plate of cheese–but in reality, I’d probably fill that time with folding laundry or some other taks that never seems to get done.

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Meagan Francis September 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

@Lyyli, I don’t think there is any such mythical mom. We all just decide to put our energies in different areas. And some moms have more help than others, family, paid and otherwise!

For me, in a perfect world I’d split the difference–a 15-minute laundry folding spree followed by a 45 minute soak in the tub.

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Allison @ Alli 'n Son September 7, 2010 at 11:36 am

My biggest obstacle to making time for what I want is guilt. Taking time away from my family, even though I’m at home all day with my son, or taking evenings away from spending time with my husband.

To help keep me focused and to make the best use of m time, I make lists of what I want to accomplish. That helps me prioritize, and realize what needs to be done, really doesn’t and what can wait another day or two.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I’d spend half of it with my hubby and the other half sleeping. Both are the best ways I have to recharge.

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Megan September 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

My problem is motivation… I get quiet time so rarely that when I do I don’t want to work or clean, I just want to savour the silence (or sleep… there never seems to be enough of that). That and a never ending to-do list means I feel like I shoudl be doing ten other things instead of the one thing I sat down to do.

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