A friend of mine asked me (tongue in cheek...I think) to blog about "time management, the mom's version", which I have to admit I'm still struggling with myself, but I figure its a good place to start. Perhaps if I blog about it I'll give myself something to live up to and then I'll get on track! Just kidding, I already have a system of sorts, but it just requires that I keep coming back to it after I stray (which I do frequently!).
So, you may think that the mom's version of time management is about how many machines you can get running at once, to automate your life as much as possible: let's see, if I start the washer, then the bread maker, then the dishwasher, I should have time to fold yesterday's laundry and prep for dinner before I need to change the load, start the dryer and then get the dishes put away and take the bread out - but then time-of-use billing came in for hydro and messed up that system! So while I still do some of that figuring in my head before starting out on a list of tasks, I'm lately trying to focus on doing things in baby steps, in small manageable chunks, the Flylady way.
For those of you who don't know Flylady yet, I urge you to check her out at www.flylady.net. When we were recently on our family retreat I happened to mention her to some of the women present and we all erupted in a chorus of praises for this resource! I was thrilled to be among people who also appreciated her help, because although I know cognitively that we all struggle with household management and juggling the time with family and work or other outside obligations, it always feels like my own dirty little secret that I don't have it all together yet, and that I still struggle with basic household STUFF that needs to get done. Must be more of that "women's guilt" thing!
Flylady's basic premise that I've gotten is that you can do anything for 15 minutes at a time, and that you need to take baby steps; that biting off more that you can chew is the major cause of our failures as we strive for Perfection - which we all know is very elusive (read "impossible" although I keep hoping I'll stumble into it one day).
This translates into some very specific, concrete things that can save time in your day to day life, building routines that become habit. Flylady has many of these, but I've only managed to adopt a few so far, and not perfectly by any means. For instance a daily "swish and swipe" of the bathroom can do wonders! A quick wipe down of the counter top and the toilet followed by a quick swish with the toilet brush to keep things smelling fresh, and the bathroom just doesn't get as messy as it can if I leave it for a whole week to end with needing a big scrub. The other task here is to wash the shower down quickly while I am in it! Flylady says "soap is soap", which is true, so whatever soap I'm using on me, once I've scrubbed me down, I give the tub a once over with the same stuff. And now my shower never needs a big scrub because it stays in better condition generally!
Another thing that I do is have everyone presort their laundry. We have 3 hampers, one each for whites, darks, and colours, and everyone puts their own stuff in them. Then I generally run the machine at least once a day with the kids putting away what I've folded. Then Flylady has the whole house divided into "focus zones" so each week of the month you address a different area of the house, and keep it covered in a rotation.
Now I have to admit that I don't follow it religiously. And having my own quirks I just can't take all the advice there as is. I tried, really I did. But when I tried to add one thing at a time to my routine, I just fell off the wagon entirely. So I built myself a full scale routine (which Flylady says not to do!) and jumped right in. That way if I get 50% of it done I still feel like I've gotten something accomplished and I'm encouraged to keep going, whereas if I miss doing the one thing I was supposed to learn to do then I just beat myself up! So take the routines and make them work for you with your own quirkiness, and find what works best for your family situation.
The other thing that I'm learning is, kids are often able to do things earlier than we give them credit for and derive a sense of value from contributing to the running of the household. Yay for child labour! A ten year old is quite able to push the buttons that start the washing machine, a seven year old can operate the rice cooker very well and kids as young as two or three can put their own dishes in the dishwasher, just to name a few examples. All of this contributes in some small way to give you a few more moments here and there that can add up to enough time to take up a new hobby, like knitting! (Still progressing on the hat, I'll keep you updated as I go!)