My Day Well Spent

April 16, 2011

in Relationships & Family

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.

Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer and blogger living in Austin, TX. A mother to three children ages three and under, including a set of identical twins, she maintains a loose grasp on her sanity while blending her passion for writing and all things family. She blogs about the humorous in parenting, marriage, and life in general at The Twin Spin.

"A Day Well Spent"

 

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:

 

"My Day Well Spent"

 

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

 

 


Heidi April 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

Wow, you just described my life! In fact, I “accidentally” sat down and read this when I was supposed to be on my way to the kitchen to make lunch. But I’m glad I did! I will now close my laptop and make that picnic lunch for the boys who are playing in the backyard! I find it’s so much easier for me to not get distracted when I’m outside. At least then I can’t see the dirty dishes or laundry that needs folding!

Michelle@Organized Families April 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I love this post. Excellent way to keep things in perspective, especially the part about your kids staying young forever…they grow up so quickly.

Leigh Ann May 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Thank you, Michelle. Every time I look at them they are more and more like little girls.

Fran Aslam From Online writer April 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

Wonderful post you got here. I could not write any better. That is what an elite women is all about these days. We all go crazy doing one thing or the other every day. But then in your eyes and in the eyes of some people we are the winners too.

I enjoy reading your post.

Fran A

Leigh Ann May 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Thank you for your kind comment! And please excuse my untimely reply. :) I do have to keep in mind that there are many moms who look at me and think I’m doing a great job — not to mention my kids!

gigi April 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

For those of you who have younger kids…it actually doesn’t get that much easier when your kids grow up and go to school 7 hours a day. In fact, I’m constantly shocked at how fast the 7 hours flies by and how still, not much gets done.

I wrote a post about how multitasking is kind of overrated and the attempts to do it can be really unproductive. I’ve started to focus more on just one thing at a time, too, and it’s helped me a ton.

redkathy April 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm

“before I know it, I’ll spend my free time wishing they were here with me to sit in my lap ” yes you are right. I have great relationships with both of my sons, who are now adults. In fact hubby says I am still the youngest sons best friend! I love my kids and do miss those years. Just be careful with that graph, you may just loose yourself along the way! At this time in life my husband is now my child and my father a newborn. How much can one woman give?

Christina Linnell April 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Leigh Ann,
The reminder that these days are fleeting really resonates with me too. I am a complete joke when it comes to multi-tasking my time. When I need to just stop and be with my children, this is a tough thing for me. I think I can do it all and all at the same time.

Leigh Ann April 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm

“I think I can do it all and all at the same time.” <— Very well put, Christina. Multitasking is great if you can do it effectively. And multitasking with kids is a double edged sword. On the one hand it's necessary, but on the other hand, sometimes I try to multitask so much when I should be playing with play doh or reading a story to them.

Thank you for featuring me this month!

Alex@Jocuri April 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Hello Leigh Ann,

I think we all have those moments when we start something and end up doing something only to realize at the end of the day that we didn’t finish any of the task we started.

Because of this I always try to keep in mind the first task I started, this way no matter how many other jobs I start I always know where to go back to.

Distraction are part of everyone’s life but we have to learn how to control and manage them.

Leigh Ann April 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Very good advice, Alex. That’s what my epiphany was all about, and it’s working so well for me!

Beth April 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I like how you apply methodologies that worked for feeling organized and in control at work to what you do at home. Even though they feel completely different and the chaos with toddlers can be UNbelievable, it’s important to lean on what you know and what you can apply to parenting. I often forget to do that and keep the worlds so separate, I don’t apply what I’ve learned at work to home and vice versa.

Leigh Ann April 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Thank you! It’s funny, but when you think about it it’s not at all surprising how we can apply our professional management skills to parenting. They really do go hand in hand.

Tia Peterson April 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Hello LeighAnn!!

Welcome!

Oh how I love your graph!! It’s exactly what I started doing this month. Now, for me, it’s not easy, and there are days that I want to run out of the door screaming, but I know that my son and taking care of my home ought to make up the bulk of my life, personally. I realize this way of prioritizing isn’t right for everyone, but it is right for me. I include personal time in that – real personal time and not personal time tweeting or being on Facebook.

So far, I am very happy with the way April is turning out! I don’t get blog posts out as often as I’d like, I don’t get to tweet as much, and I don’t get on Facebook nearly as much, but my life feels much more balanced and focused.

Great first post and I really hope that you write more!

Tia

Leigh Ann April 17, 2011 at 12:58 am

Thank you, Tia! I actually had to remind myself how much I loved to read — books, not blogs — before I got heavy into blogging. I used to go to bed early just so I could have more reading time! So now I have a stack of 4 books on my nightstand, and a list that is still growing for the next time I head to the bookstore.

And I am VERY happy with the way my days have been going since I started using my time more wisely.

Leighann April 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I can relate so well friend.
I too had to prioritize because my time was slipping away from me and I was missing out on time with my daughter.
I can always go back and read a blog, I can’t go back and capture her childhood.

Leigh Ann April 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Very true. These days truly are fleeting.

Crystal April 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I know right where you’re coming from & I think to a degree you’re right. I only hope you don’t find yourself in that perfect mentality. When you reach too hard for perfection trying to soak up all those moments & get everything done it’s really easy to lose yourself. Try to be sure you make time for you. You know, so you can shower & all.

Leigh Ann April 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Excellent point. My goal in this epiphany of sorts was not so much to make sure I was devoting *all* my time to my children, but to make sure I was using my time wisely. Instead of darting here and there doing this and that and never completing anything, I decided to use the time I did have to do what needed to be done, thus freeing up more time later for “me.” You’re right — me time is SO important.

Liz Bronson April 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I want to revise my post- I think that quality time is great and all, but sometimes, in the midst of chaos, we need an “adult moment” where we check email/Twitter/Facebook and connect with the outside world. None of us is perfect, and being a mom can be isolating, so we reach out to just hear that life is continuing outside of our orbs. Kids need to be able to play alone, and sometimes finishing that post that has inspired you, or checking in with a friend, helps us to relax and deal with the hectic world that is life with toddlers.
Also, I’m thinking (hoping) that when our kids get older, we’ll have more quiet time when we can work simultaneously while they do homework, or have full days of school to be able to do our mommy activities that never get done. Right now it’s constant and overwhelming, so if the occasional Words With Friends game happens in the middle of play time, that’s just a way of mommy staying sane. Thanks again for the thought provoking post!

Leigh Ann April 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I completely agree. I’m being a bit tongue in cheek when I say I only get a tiny sliver, although it definitely feels that way sometimes. But my main goal in this was to organize my time better. Instead of doing things haphazardly, if I made better use of my time, then I COULD have more time for the things I wanted to do, as well as have uninterrupted time with my children, and not feel like as many parts were suffering. And yes, they do need to be able to play alone, and thankfully having a same aged sibling makes that even easier.

Doc Teeter April 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm

One of the things we can do to make our lives healthier is to organize them properly so that we don’t become overwhelmed – but I think you need to add another slice to your pie (or algorithm) above – and that is some time for yourself alone.

Some nice yoga, a quiet bubble bath, something to reward yourself for a job well done each day so that you know you are appreciated.

Liz Bronson April 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm

This is awesome, Leigh Ann- so well put. We want to have quality time with our kids, but when we do, we’re distracted and doing 14 other things. It takes a conscious effort to put away the Twitter etc and focus on playing Tinkerbell. It also takes rest. I find it a lot easier to sit in the playroom “watching” my kids and playing with my phone then putting my phone away and REALLY playing and thinking of creative ways to engage with them. I think there is a way to figure out, and as a start, I’m going to end this comment to go play catch right now. :)

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