WAHM Realities: In Control of My Time

This oldie but goodie was originally published on The Mom Forum. Every month we face a new challenge with making the best use of our time, but this time last year, I was able to manage expectations and time just a little better so that I could work from home and still be the Trailing Spouse chauffeur. I’ll update you on this soon!

I felt exuberant. I’d had a productive work week even with my husband in Europe, mainly because my newly retired Mom flew down from Boston to help. I tested a more thoughtful work schedule, front-loading my week to catch up so I could absorb any curve balls.

My husband came home and I told him my plan: move all the babysitter time from my older son to younger son who is still at home with me so I can be more productive — and more importantly, be alone more often instead of typing one handed while preventing him from eating a highlighter.

Dan’s eyes went wide. He’d been crunching numbers and we had to get more frugal, not less. We stared at each other over a cacophony of LEGOs, Cheerios, and crayons, at an impasse. We both knew he was right. Any extra money I thought we had was going to our Hurricane Irma deductible, and we still didn’t know if that was enough. All my dreams of work projects and feeling in control rather than playing catch up drained from my face faster than Daniel Tiger bursts into song.

All I wanted was to feel successful at something other than child rearing (an important, difficult and wonderful achievement to be sure, but I need more). Cue Belle: “I want adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere.” I can’t feel more than adequate if I’m constantly trying to catch up with work, especially when I resent my kids getting sick because that cuts into my work time. These aren’t healthy feelings for anyone.

My husband wants this for me too. I know this. So even though I want to kill him right now for sinking my dreams of working alone into the reality of our budget spreadsheet, I consider how to use my time better.

That’s it, I realize. If I need to both stop spending “stupid money” like comfort lattes, and reconsider my work schedule to make better use of my time, could both of those goals work together?

I just need to feel in control of my time.

I made a copy of an upcoming week from my Passion Planner. I wrote all my goals for not only changing my health but also my time. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that these equations made all the difference:

  1. Health: less time in the car = less stupid money spent = happier baby = less mess in the car = happier family all around = no more feeling embarrassed at school drop off.
  2. Get audiobooks related to my pleasure writing so I stay motivated and also make the time in car enriching for First Mate (the youngest).
  3. Stockpile blogs for one anchor client. Most of the stress in my week comes from three hard deadlines that I have for one client. There’s no reason why I can’t work ahead, except for time. So I will prioritize those blogs for the rest of October. I can’t write those (well) with First Mate, so I use my sitter time for that.
  4. I still need weekend time. We had hoped that with our oldest in school, I wouldn’t need to work a full 8 hours on the weekend. Well, that just isn’t the case yet. Still a goal, not yet possible. So the husband and I reorganize our family weekend expectations, and Sunday is my work day again.
  5. That “frees” Wednesday-Friday for outings and my work as Communications Director for a nonprofit family theatre. I very carefully split my job description into goals, tasks, and how long each of those takes – with buffer time. I scheduled evenings and Thursday morning for this focused work. That way, Wednesday and Friday daytime, I take First Mate on outings and can field correspondence and new tasks without getting overwhelmed.
  6. I also scheduled a block of time for handling these new tasks every week, or for Professional Development to stay ahead of industry thought and trends. I find many great podcasts that I can listen to in the car, feeding into need #1.
  7. My husband and I made a pact to stay awake after the boys’ bedtimes, for both the sanity of my work schedule and our relationship. This also helps a personal goal of mine to wean First Mate by 2018.

A lot more thought and planning went into this obviously. It means I stay home without our one car a lot more often, which I thought I would hate because I love being outside and getting my kids into nature. But First Mate loves exploring our yard, and it caused me to get more thoughtful with the play area in my home office, which I will detail out once I really get it where I want it.

Is it perfect? Not in the slightest. This week, my husband has to travel for work again and it will all go sideways for a couple of days. But I feel way more in control of my time than I did two weeks ago. And that feeling is a hell of a lot more valuable than two comfort lattes from Starbucks to kill time in the car.

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