How? Seriously. How?

I woke early because the boys were fighting about whether one of them should be allowed to cough at 5am.

We stumbled grouchily through our morning and got everyone to school in clothing with food in their bellies. The principal cornered me to ask if I’d proctor one of the loathsome State Standards Tests mandated by No Child Left Behind Or Lovingly Taught Much Other Than Tests. I was in a fog trying to catch up of errands on this, my child-free morning, and finally got to email at noon.

Please pay your bills, please comment about this idea about the soccer team pizza party, please reply to the doctor’s office about whether your kid’s new allergies are responding to the new medication, please buy stuff at our exclusive, super special sale, please offer to proctor the state test, please proofread this white paper, please edit these case studies, please subscribe now to the children’s theater season, please submit emergency contact forms or your kid can’t come to camp this summer, please sign this petition, please double check your automatic order before we send it, please pay for preschool, please share this committee plan, please go to the Board meetings, please send the school money because we’re underfunded, please respond about your preferences regarding the temporary buildings, please look at this budget so we can talk at the next budget meeting, please read this thread so we can position ourselves for the next funding round, please send a proposal that includes high level strategic work as well as simple deadline-crunched writing, please read this book, please sign up for soccer for Fall by Friday because fees go up next week, please use your reward points before they expire, please bike to school tomorrow a part of the massive community effort to minimize local car trips, please plan Mother’s Day so you’re not doing it last minute again, please look over the lease and sign it by Friday, please return or renew your library books, please return or renew your kids’ library books, please let us know when you mailed your Netflix disc, please upgrade your software, please take care of our cat while we’re away for a week, please rate your experience…

That list of emails, which was tame for the middle of the week, put me in a major, shoulder-slumped funk. I certainly don’t have to answer all those requests, and those that need replies can often get a “no.” But a lot of the things on my list I actually *do* need to do.

Please tell me how people do all this? How do they or you or I fit it all in? I want to do a good job on the projects I’m being paid to write or edit. I want to do a good job rewriting my book. I want to submit a proposal for a conference because I’ve had a paper brewing for four years and still haven’t written it. I want a clean house and don’t have the option of making someone else clean it. I want to run several times a week and go fencing at least twice a week and do yoga at least every other day. I want to actually play with my kids when they’re here. I want to prepare and cook good food for at least three meals each day. I want to see my friends and read a book and watch a movie or two. I want to reply to letters written me by dear friends. I want to take the kids to museums and play word games and develop their science and math skills and remind them about gratitude and teach them patience and kindness. I would like to learn another language or two. And I want to sleep more than four hours a night.

So tell me. How do I do that?

How do you do it?

22 thoughts on “How? Seriously. How?

  1. One thing at a time? I can totally relate. There are so many things to do, for others, for yourself. I wish I had a magic wand so you could do them all. I think the key is to be intentional about a few. And be reasonable. Do what you can do. One thing at a time. Hang in there, Busy Momma!!

  2. Do that?! I wouldn’t dream of doing all that….

    At the end of the day, this seems to be what I go on…

    1. Does everyone have clean clothes for tomorrow? Clean is a relative term, and underwear is almost never worn correctly by small boys anyway.

    2. Do we have some fresh, healthy food in the house for tomorrow? Healthy food that will be eaten anyway. This does not necessarily mean “food I am going to cook”–peanut butter and rice cakes are perfectly fine food for dinner

    3. Did everyone brush their teeth? (I know, “everyone” and “their” do not go together. But did “everyone brush his teeth” implies that I monitor my husband’s teeth-brushing too, which I don’t.)

    4. Did homework get done? (But, you know, it’s really my third grader’s homework, not mine. It’s between him and his teacher.)

    5. Did the kids have some time to play, and did they do it nicely? Well, that’s the big one, but, well, we try….and there’s always tomorrow.

    Hey, someone else can surely proctor those NCLB exams, and if they don’t find anyone, well, maybe they can’t give them, which might not be a bad thing.

    • This is honestly even more than I get done. I tell my kid that homework is practice, and if he wants to work on something challenging or he enjoys doing the extra practice, he’s welcome to do homework. But otherwise, I tell him playing is more important.
      Peanut butter and rice cakes is most certainly fine. I’m a big fan of hummus, crackers, and apple night.
      Playing nicely would be the Holy Grail, observance of which would render all else superfluous.
      I snuck into the school to read to my son’s class today so I wouldn’t get asked to proctor. The kids loved it. Game, set, match.

  3. I had grand aspirations of weeding/mowing our yard yesterday during my one child-free moment – naptime. Instead I spent nearly 3 hours just reading/responding to emails and filling out paperwork for camps and preparing an agenda for a committee meeting and blah blah. I have no answer, but I do think those everyday demands have a way of creeping into every moment and diluting any/all productivity elsewhere. So I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to think of them as one category or job that I will address in a dedicated chunk of time that I set aside for it (vs the constant creep).

    ‘Creep’ issues often bogged me down at my job, and I had a colleague who used this approach with success so I figure I’ll try to apply it to my at-home life and see if it works before I lose one of my children in my backyard jungle.

    • I, too, schedule logistics time. Bills, emails, letters, forms, memberships, etc. get an hour twice a week. That’s it. I weed through email crap on the walk with grouchy, sleepless little guy to pick up big guy at school. Has to be enough. Cuz it’s all I have. Scratch that…all I’m willing to give.

  4. i just had a long conversation about this the other week. i told a friend, “figure out what is non-negotiable. negotiate the rest.” we talked a lot about sorting out wants from needs and mapping priorities and re-adjusting the schedule every few weeks or months or whenever it needs to be done.

    i don’t have kids, i will grant you that. but, the older i’ve gotten the more i realize that my capacity is way smaller than i ever expected it to be. to stay sane, i actually have a lot LESS friends and a lot less activities than i ever thought i would. i probably say no 7-10 times for every yes, and i have to weed my spread of goals and plans like someone would weed a garden. often, diligently and with as little sentimentality as possible. i try to sort the must-haves versus the want-to’s. i prioritize the must-haves and put the want-to’s in the mental hope chest i keep around for these purposes. i’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what is a dandelion and what is a rose in terms of goals (dandelion = becoming a professional bike racer, for example, or even “biking five times a week.” rose = biking when i can because i love it, knowing that my love will keep bring the desire/follow through back even if i don’t put a number on it).

    stuff like that. haha!

    anyways, this all sounds like a lot. i do hope you can find balance and sanity and achievement of some of your goals!!

    • oh also. in terms of those little things and stuff like emails. i’m a big fan of the timer. set it for 25 minutes, do as much as possible and then shut it down until the next time you have set to pay attention. if it isn’t an emergency or a child, it doesn’t have a right to your time. YOU decide when and how and where it fits. that is my philosophy. makes things a lot more peaceful in my mental schemas!

    • I usually spend December evaluating wants versus needs in anticipation of New Year’s re-prioritization efforts.

      Good idea to revisit, even daily, the “am I doing this because it’s crucial or because it’s habit?” process.


  5. As all other commenters before me, I am in this boat right along with you. There are a million things I want to do and feel like I actually do a quarter of them. But, I never drop things off the list and surrender. They stay there and taunt me. I’ve only recently played around with the notion that some of my “Must Be Done” endeavors just may NEVER be done. But the thought depresses me.

    • I refuse to admit things may never be done. It’s a long, long life. The kids will be small for a really long blink of our adulthood. Okay, so, like 10% of our life or, really, 20% of our functional adulthood. Most of which is gone.

      Never mind.

    • Mmmmm. Vacation. Have trip planned with children, but we all know that’s not a vacation.

      Wanna meet in, say, Hawaii? Leave menfolk home with kids and we’ll breathe clearly for a minute or two?

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