Finding time for it all

Question: I work full-time – gone from home 11+ hours a day. I have 2 young boys, 4 and 5 yrs old, and an older husband who runs his company and also just as tired as I am after work. No in-house help (my preference). My husband does help around house and with boys, but they still want MOM. How can I get organized, so I can remember all school deadlines; don’t have to clean and do laundry all weekend; and also how I do find energy and emotions to spend quality time with my two young sons in the evening? We eat dinner together each night, but I’m pooped!! I really need to help my kindergartner each evening with a little writing or number counting. I do read to them each night, 2 books a night. Everyone in bed by 9 p.m. SHARP. BUT, I’m exhausted and just treading water it seems. Am at my limits emotionally and time-wise.
– Jean

Answer: Repeat after me – I can’t do it all! You cannot keep cutting more and more pieces from the same pie and think you will be able to serve satisfying pieces of pie. You are the “pie” and there is only so much of you to go around. You can, however, find time for the things that mean the most to you and your family. It will be a trade-off: reordering a few priorities and revising your expectations of yourself.

First, make a list of everything that needs to be done (from parenting to house chores) each day, each week, each month. Add to that list at least two things a week to do for you (from phone calls to a friend to an abandoned hobby). This “time for you” is non-negotiable. You must find ways to rejuvenate yourself or everyone in the family pays a very high price. It’s the only way to change that feeling of “treading water”.

Now, write your name next to the things you WANT to do (like family dinners and homework help for your boys). Similarly, ask your husband to add his name to things he WANTS to do. Then, add your sons’ names next to the things they are capable of doing. (Let me help you here – they can clean their bathroom sink, tub and toilet. They can put their toys away, their shoes in closets, and their dirty clothes in hampers.) A family is a team that works and plays together. Your sons need to feel like active, contributing members.

Next, you must decide what to do about those things on the list that no one wants to do. Do you want to assign these to members of the family or do you want to get outside help? Keep in mind the time demands on everyone involved. No one person in the family should be burdened with all the yucky jobs. Yet by necessity, we all commit to things that are not our first choices. Your goal is to create a family life that sustains everyone in the household. Everyone’s needs must fit into the balance-equation. Children’s needs are more time-consuming but family life must serve the adults as well. Remember, just because your boys ask for MOM doesn’t mean mom has to come running. You are a hands-on mom who can guiltlessly allow dad to meet their needs too. Teach your sons now how lucky they are to have two loving parents.

Are there some things you can simplify? Preparing meals that be adapted for multiple days or quick-fix meals. Are you giving yourself adequate transition-time from work to home? Maybe you and the boys need a short break before starting the dinner – a fresh veggie snack, a cup of tea, and some silly time to forget about the pressures of the world. There may be some things on your list that require a little creative change.

Lastly, kudos on the consistent bedtime! You are ahead of many working parents on that one. Use the final minutes of your day to polish your soul – write a gratitude journal of one thing that pleased you today, take that bubble bath or slow dance with your husband to an old love song. Be kind to yourself! You are trying to juggle two full-time demands. Let go of some of your commitments for a while until you’re “floating” again!

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

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