As they say, when it rains it pours. That is absolutely true of April. I am excited to introduce you to yet another amazing writer, Leigh Ann Torres.
As I flitted around the house from one task to another, starting a million things and finishing none, and being interrupted by my three children every 26 seconds, I had a flashback to my former life as an assistant branch manager at a financial institution.
I felt smart. I felt professional. I felt in control.
In this particular flashback, I sat in a management training course on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The instructor stood before the class and stated, “Managers get frustrated with spending so much of their time putting out fires, but if they apply the 7 habits effectively, there are no fires to put out.” Or something of the sort. Come on, it was like 5 years ago. I’ve slept many a night since then and lost many, many brain cells to my three children.
It’s true. Most days I feel like I am rushing around, dousing blazes right and left between my three year old identical twins and/or their fourteen month old sister. Some of these fires can’t be avoided. But most can.
I have several modes: mom mode, writer mode, mediocre housekeeper mode, blogger mode, obsessive email checker mode, I forgot to switch the laundry mode, Twitter addict mode, let’s see what’s new on Facebook mode, how many hits have I had on my site today mode…the list goes on and on. Did you see how many of those modes have me chained to my computer or phone?
I do all of these things randomly throughout the day, never focusing on one, rarely finishing any. I get a text message from my husband, which leads to checking email on my phone, which leads to moving to the computer to type up a lengthy reply, then over to breaking up a skirmish over Tinker Belle dolls in the other room. Before I know it, I’ve completely forgotten that I was originally in the kitchen trying to clear the breakfast dishes — and breakfast was over two hours ago.
Sitting and reading my girls their favorite stories leads to jumping up and checking my Tweetdeck once I see they are engrossed in their own books. It doesn’t take them long to realize I’m distracted. So they get distracted. And bored. And frustrated. And then starts the whining, fighting, slapping, hair pulling, and here comes me with my hose to put out yet another fire. And where is the baby, by the way? (I’m kidding. I usually know where she is. Almost always.)
These things lead to very bad days. Those days where at the end of it all, I ask myself,
“Where did I fail? What am I doing wrong?”
But deep down I know what the problem is.
Their lack of focus mirrors my own lack of focus. My haphazard mix of mothering, tweeting, playing, blogging, housekeeping, reading, and just plain randomness frustrates us all. The day ends feeling wasted, and when I look at my surroundings, I realize I’ve gotten nothing done. And that “nothing” includes providing my girls with a structured and fun learning environment in what are some of their most formative years.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. — Steven R. Covey
Some changes were in order. It sounds ridiculous to have an epiphany of this sort, but I realized I needed take stock of my duties and prioritize appropriately. I needed to stop giving everything equal amounts of my energy and allocate my focus where it was needed most — my family. They depend on me to not just feed and clothe them, but to teach them, entertain them, play with them, love on them, and give them my undivided attention, even if it means I’m watching them go down the slide over and over again. After that’s all said and done, the rest of my time (ha!) goes to house work, maintaining the family finances, writing, or blogging. Oops! Don’t forget that hard working husband. He deserves a little face time too.
Here’s a little non mathematical algorithm I came up with:
This gist of the idea is that my kids and husband not only take up, but deserve most of my time and attention. Their the purple, obviously.
The black is the housework. Maybe because it’s dreaded. Maybe because if I don’t mop the kitchen floor the bottoms of our feet will turn black from all the muck on it. Either way, it has to get done if I want to give my family clean dishes to eat off of or send my husband to work in clean underwear. Or any underwear at all.
From here on down it looks pretty grim. The smallest parts are reserved for my writing, blogging, and working on my site, with the tiny, itty bitty pink sliver dedicated to myself. For when I, you know, want to shower or something.
This chart may be a slight exaggeration, or maybe not. It depends on the day, really. The fact of the matter is that I have to prioritize my life and my tasks if I want to feel like an effective mother, wife, or writer. If I want to feel like an effective person.
If I can get all the laundry folded and the dishes done during nap time, then I just freed up most of my evening for writing or spending time with my husband. If I can balance the checkbook while the girls watch their post lunch, pre nap TV, then I can spend some of nap time catching up on Twitter and reading my favorite blogs.
Do I sometimes take a night off and spend a few hours at a coffee shop writing, reading, or just plain people watching? Not very often, but sure. Can you sometimes find me on the couch during nap time, getting a few minutes of shut eye after a particularly rough night with the baby? Um, yes please. Will I put off doing the dishes one evening so I can get a really important and worthwhile post written for BizChickBlogs.com? You bet.
My children won’t be this young forever. They’ll soon be going to preschool, then kindergarten, and before I know it, I’ll spend my free time wishing they were here with me to sit in my lap and read The Very Hungry Caterpillar again and again. And again. But while they are here with me, they need and deserve my undivided attention, and what doesn’t go to them, I can divvy up between other things that I need to do, and if I’m lucky, or just feeling selfish, what I want to do.
But when I roll into bed at perpetually too late an hour, whether my back is aching from scrubbing dried broccoli off the tile, or if I blew off the laundry to play in the sprinklers with my kids all afternoon, this is the wisdom I want running through my head:
“A well spent day brings happy sleep.” — Leonardo DaVinci