Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Time for Everything

A few weeks ago I was trying out a new method of cleaning the kitchen, and I took pictures every 5 minutes to mark my progress. It was interesting and instructive, but the most important thing I found had very little to do with dirty dishes.

I set the timer to take a picture every five minutes, and I realized that C interrupted me literally (for real for real) once every two and a half minutes during the whole half hour process. He would interrupt me as I was taking the picture, then about two minutes later, then when I took the next picture, etc. He was not doing anything wrong, just asking for help with a straw wrapper or needing help with a car tire or asking for a snack, but it was literally every two and a half minutes, which made the actual time of cleaning the kitchen take much longer. Yet if I had not recorded this, I would have thought he interrupted me just a couple of times, rather than 12 times. I guess all the interruptions sort of ran together in my memory.

This led me to think of a few things. First, no wonder it was so hard for me to get anything done. If you doubt me, try to do a simple task, like folding and putting away one load of laundry, but every 2.5 minutes, spend 30 seconds doing something completely unrelated, then go right back to what you were doing, then repeat, etc. So I felt a little better about the state of my house. But then I thought, how am I to have a life that is not filled with chaos, when this is the way I have to proceed whenever I do anything?

I don't think that it is coincidental that this was going on at the same time that I have been giving serious thought to making my life more sane, really cutting out the unnecessary stuff/activities/expectations, and allowing myself enough time to really complete my tasks. It's as if my life is calling out for me to make some executive decisions to get it all in line.

The first thing I really feel like I need to do is take an honest look at the kind of time it takes me to do my paid work, and to really schedule that much time (or more) into my weekly schedule, so that I am not running around crazy right before deadlines. I hate pushing things to deadlines, but in spite of my previous efforts, I still find myself racing the clock about once a week, if not more. So that really needs to come to an end, at least to the extent that I can make that change happen.

This is harder than it might sound. When I first started working from home, it was out of necessity because I couldn't use day care for C, and I had not been able to get a job before he was born, I am thinking because of my belly. As an example, I applied for a job along with two other applicants, neither of which had my education or my experience. I didn't even get a call back, and the other candidate who didn't even have her degree got the job. Pregnancy discrimination is real, y'all.

But in the end it worked out for the best. I started taking in editing, and then I got on with online teaching, and now I'm starting tutoring as well. It's nice to have the flexibility of not working in an office (no commute! woot woot!) and having a bigger presence in my kids' daily life is important to me.

But on the other hand, how much of my presence is really necessary? I have struggled for a long time with hiring sitters because I feel like watching my kids is something that I can do for free, so why pay for it? As I am working through this and really making myself consider childcare as a necessary expense (because if I don't use childcare, I don't sleep, and that's ridiculous), I am discovering that I am really, really frugal. As in, tightwad, moneygrubber, etc. I am so, so cheap, my friends. It's kind of ridiculous.

So I am easing into the idea that if I am working for half of each day, and then mothering for half of that day and then the evening, that is okay. My kids are not going to suffer by playing at someone else's house for a couple of hours. It's so ridiculous to worry about, but it's really hard to let go of. And I feel like it's time to really step out in faith and really treat myself like a "working mother," (as much as I hate that inadequate term) because that's what I am.

So to show my willingness to follow the urging of my spirit in this, I am actually going to schedule more time than I absolutely need. So that I might actually just go to the store alone, or (eek) just take a nap once a week, or something like that. And I know I will feel guilty for the first few months of writing checks, as the little voices argue that only lazy mothers need help, but I am banking on the fact that a couple months of full nights of sleep might change my thoughts and banish the perfectionistic voices altogether.

For those of you who have a better handle on work-life balance, this whole struggle might seem ridiculous, and I am hoping that it will seem ridiculous to me in only a few weeks. Until then I am gritting my teeth, writing checks, and sleeping at least eight hours every night. Wish me luck.


  1. Seriously, who has the work-life balance under control? Not many people, and if they do, I'm betting their youngest is 4 or 5. My kids interrupt me all of the time as well (just imagine 4 kids 5 years-old and younger), but I am *sometimes* able to pass on the load with the older boys having much better motor skills and height! Don't be too hard on yourself, half a day is not bad and will help everything go better!

  2. That's what I'm hoping! :) Somehow it was a big deal just to make that decision, you know? I think actually carrying it out will get easier with practice.

  3. Yeh I'd like to repost this on my mom's wall to help me in the "keeping the house clean" debate she and I gots goin on. Every 2 mins sounds right on the money.

  4. Jeni, if she tells you that keeping house is easy if you just try, you can say "That's great! I'd love to watch while you take care of my kids and clean my house. I'll have a coffee and take notes. So, you're on your way over right now, right??"