Blog Archives

Between a crib and a hard place

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while—life has been a little crazier than usual. We’re in the middle of some financial difficulties. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that things have changed for us in major ways. It’s not just simple stuff—like having to limit my random expenditures or to make my own coffee instead of stopping at Starbucks (I do that anyway!). I have to cross things…lots of things…off our grocery list (meat, organic anything, everything unnecessary). I layer and wash the same few outfits over and over instead of buying new clothes for our growing boys. In general, I just don’t spend money unless absolutely essential.

My husband is working pretty much all hours (evenings and weekends) when I’m not at work, and I’m working multiple jobs outside of my main one. Anytime I’m not working at the office or to the beat of an aerobics CD, I’m with the kids. This translates into little time for me and even less time for blogging…especially because the housework just keeps falling further and further behind.

Don’t worry. We’re okay…just a little busier than normal.

So, in the name of saving time, which is the theme of my life right now, I thought I’d share a short update…

Co-sleeping update

My toddler son would rather fall asleep soaked in both his own and my or my husband’s sweat than to fall asleep alone. He has to have some physical connection (a leg, arm, etc.) to one of my or my husband’s body parts in order to fall or stay asleep. (See photo.) And, he still can’t sleep without a pacifier (which we do not even allow as an option in the daytime!) After nearly 17 whole months (since his birth) of trying variations of bassinets…and cribs…and crib mattresses on the floor without the crib, my son still has yet to sleep a single night by himself, without the presence of me or my husband. Really.

And, yes, we have tried…and tried…and tried. There have been tears and screams, hours of them some nights, sometimes coming from both toddler and parents…well, mama at least.

One day, we just stopped fighting it. We both figure that when he’s old enough to understand that it’s way uncool to sleep with us, he’ll eventually sleep in his own bed. Fingers crossed. (Can you please cross yours too? I could use some extra help in this area.)

Until I find another free moment, take care!

Calling all working moms: What are your rose-smelling secrets?

People keep asking me if I had a nice birthday. I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to be that person—you know—the one who answers a positive question in an unexpectedly negative way and then causes an unnecessary, awkward silence. In my opinion, if I do that enough, I will lose friends…or at least acquaintances, who will do what they can to steer clear of the pessimism and uncomfortable situations I create. After all, who wants to talk to a big complainer anyway?

So, back to my 32nd birthday. It was okay, I guess. I spent the majority of the day at work planning an interesting project, then took my son to a pediatrics appointment that lasted way longer than it should have (hours), and afterward de-stressed at a kickboxing class in the evening. My husband bought me pink roses (my favorite) and a pint of the best hot fudge in the whole world (disgustingly enough, yes, I eat the hot fudge by itself—to me, that is a much better treat than a sundae…although I definitely enjoy a good sundae every once in a while too. And, no, in case you’re wondering, I don’t eat the whole pint at once…that would be disgusting.)

All in all, it was a fair day. And, I was accepting of its mediocrity at the day’s end, because I had taken off from work the next day (Friday, the day after my birthday) to celebrate with a three-day weekend and plans to spend some much needed quality time with my son, stepson, and husband…who I feel like I hardly ever see anymore between working every day, going to the gym, and just taking care of life’s miscellaneous, like grocery shopping and paying bills and keeping the house livable.

My first day off (Friday) ended up being pretty much like every other weekend or vacation day I take- somewhat stressful and less than fulfilling.  I spent too much of the day thinking about what I should be doing with my time (like the stuff I mentioned above, plus laundry, dishes, dusting, mopping, packing up clothes that don’t fit the boys anymore, etc). Although I did take care of some of those tasks, I didn’t achieve as much as I could have…because all I could think was, “this is my special day off, and I should be spending time on things I really want to do (like beading, drawing, blogging, shopping, or reading).” I didn’t do any of those things because I felt guilty that I should be doing housework.

Amid over-thinking what I should or shouldn’t be doing with my time and then disappointing myself with not accomplishing much of anything useful or fun, I spent a good amount of the day chasing a toddler around the house as he tried to climb the oven and all the safety gates in our home, pull our air conditioning units out of the windows, jump off the couch, and dive into the toilet.

Sidenote: as much as I’m bitching that I got nothing done, I did do the laundry, the dishes, and some organizing in my bedroom. I took my little guy on two walks in the beautiful weather, and I taught an aerobics class in the afternoon. I cooked two meals from scratch (which I never do), and I relaxed with a glass of pinot noir and an hour of Netflix with my husband before I hit the sack. Looking back on that, on top of the roses and hot fudge, I can’t say it was a bad day. Yet, I was far from satisfied with it. It felt like a busy, but mostly unproductive day, in both the ways of housework and of relaxation. Maybe my standards are too high?

Day 2 (Saturday) was much better. I stopped thinking so much and just got to doing, both necessary things—like paying bills and cleaning—and fun stuff—like going to the park and shopping (as a family). By today (Sunday, day 3 of my three-day birthday weekend), I finally feel satisfied. I can say honestly that the weekend was everything it should have been—productive and relaxing. I accomplished a good part of my to-do list, and I got plenty of playtime with my stepson and son, snuggle-time with my son and husband, and even a little me-time to exercise and blog.  I truly feel ready to start the workweek.

But…why do I do this to myself—why are days off such a stressful mix of worrying about the best ways to spend my time and of feeling guilty and unsatisfied about how I end up spending it? Two-day weekends just don’t seem to cut it for me anymore. They’re simply not long enough to prepare me mentally for the week to come. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself having anything more than those two days weekly away from work anytime soon. So, what’s the solution? Any suggestions from anyone out there? I think I asked a similar question the last time I took a vacation (and felt like I needed a vacation even more when I returned.) I got some good suggestions then about putting a little vacation into everyday life. Maybe I’ll compile and post a list about the working-moms juggle if I get some more ideas…how do other working moms make the most of the time when they’re not at work?

In the meantime, for the first time since I got them, days ago, I just noticed the amazing scent of my birthday roses, sitting on the table next to me. If that’s not a reminder of the importance of answering such questions as the one above, then nothing is. However, instead of spending the last couple hours of my precious weekend searching for an answer, I’m going to enjoy some chardonnay and a little cuddle time with my hubby before the cycle re-consumes me, starting tomorrow when I go back to work. Cheers.

Revisiting values

Sometime over the last two months, Jacob’s (one-year-old son’s) bedtime has migrated from 7PM to 9PM. This change has impacted my life in significant ways. Yes, it means that I have more time to spend with him at night after work and the gym, which has been nice. However, it also means that instead of spending those two hours cleaning, writing (blogging), or practicing step aerobics routines for the classes I teach, I am doing one of two three other things:

#1    I am playing strange games with my energetic toddler: games like get-myself-as-tangled-as-I-can-in-the-furniture-then-have-mommy-pull-me-out-repeat-repeat-repeat or like scream-loudly-until-mommy-removes-the-butterfly-magnet-off-the-fridge-and-gives-it-to-me-so-I-can- put-it-right-back-and-scream-again-repeat-repeat-repeat.

#2    I am lying in bed with him, starting at his old bedtime, 7PM, with my to-do list racing through my mind and prayers that he’ll fall asleep before 9PM so that I can deal with at least one major task. All the while, he is trying to crawl or roll away or jump on the bed, so I say “hey!” and pull him back to lie next to me (another one of those strange games that he likes to play over and over). Then begins the unintentional (but still annoying) head butting, kicking, or punching me while he gets comfortable.

#3    I almost forgot this one, but it’s not accurate to leave it out. My husband and I are arguing about who gets to go do his or her “very important” whatever while the other one keeps an eye on Jacob, or tries for two hours to get him to go to sleep (see #2 above). By the time Jacob is finally asleep at 9PM, I’m too exhausted to do much of anything.

As you were reading that last bit, you might have begun judging me or at least questioning how I do things. (Obviously, I’m okay with that, or I wouldn’t post my thoughts publicly.) You may be asking why I don’t just surrender those two hours to cherished time with my son, wondering why I don’t simply put him in a crib and let him cry, or questioning why I don’t make other time in my days to clean or write or whatever. These are all good questions, questions that I ask myself all the time, questions with answers tied somehow to my values.

Several months back I explained my step-by-step process for analyzing my values, and I invited you along for the ride. In case you didn’t hop aboard then, here are the questions I suggested we ask:

  • What do I value the most in my life?
  • What’s important to me?
  • What do I strive regularly to achieve?
  • What should I use to guide my goals and the way I spend my time?

I mentioned how there are a couple different approaches to tackling these questions:

  1. Try to sum up in a few words a broad value that is important to you.
  1. First, think about different goals or activities you value. Then, try to define broad categories that group sets of these goals/activities together.

I shared my list of values….

Kids’ Health and Development

Relationships with Family and Friends

Physical Fitness

Being Happy: Maintaining Sanity

Learning and Growing: Trying New Things

Becoming a Better Person: Learning from Mistakes

Being Thankful

Integrity: Being True to Myself

Making a Positive Difference in Others’ Lives

Keeping Life (House, Car, Office) Organized, Clean, and Clutter-Free

Before I go into what we did next (defined goals and activities that aligned with these values), I’m going to stop here…just in case you want to think a little more about values. As for me, I’m going to spend some time reflecting on my own list, possibly amending and appending to it, and hopefully living my weekend in some ways that align with it.

Catch ya on the flip side.

On finding balance

Like a good girl, I pulled myself out of bed on this Saturday morning, over an hour before I knew the rest of the crew would be up. In spite of my creaky body and eyes that required prying open (after staying up later than usual last night to hang with the hubby), I went downstairs before 6AM to get a jumpstart on some weekend cleaning. As I looked around our kitchen and living room, I wasn’t really sure where to begin. And, quite honestly, there were a hundred other things I would rather have been doing with my time (like sleeping in). Still, I spent the next hour or so slowly deconstructing the tower of toys, books, and mail under which we once ate dinner. Though I hadn’t seen its wooden surface in weeks, I knew the kitchen table had to be under there somewhere…and it was my mission to uncover it before breakfast.

Between ripping up credit card offers, tiptoeing up the stairs with armfuls of toys and books, and leafing through coupons and mailers, I was a little upset that my husband and I had let the house get to this point. I mean it’s not filthy or unlivable. However, it’s one of those things that if we kept at it throughout the week, we wouldn’t have to spend our whole weekend chipping away at it. But, then, I reviewed in my head the kind of workweeks we’ve had lately and how cleaning on weekdays would mean sacrificing some of the things that are most important to us, like going to the gym, taking the kids to the park, or getting at least 6 hours of sleep. Once again, my brain returned to the topic of balance and how to figure out how to best spend my time.

A few of my first blog posts were on this topic. At the time, I wondered if finding the ideal ways to spend my time, one’s time, could be distilled down to a simple equation that involved identifying:

1. Our values

2. Goals that align with these values

3. Activities that bring us closer to achieving these goals

And then, thinking about:

4. The amount of free time necessary to devote to each of these activities

5. Activities that we currently do in our free time that don’t align with our values or goals

6. When free time exists in our schedules (maybe more than we thought if we subtract #5?)

When I attempted to work through that equation, I abandoned it when things got sticky, somewhere around #5. I promised more than one of you that I would return to these ideas about balance and prioritizing someday soon. Well, today is the day that I will at least stick one foot back through the door. Here are my newly evolved (?) thoughts on the topic:

  • I think it’s absolutely, unquestionably essential for all moms (people really) to take some of their precious time, no matter how limited, to think about their values and priorities: about what’s important to them, what’s worth spending their time doing. Because if we don’t take a moment to ask ourselves these questions, then the little time we have each day will be filled with whatever serendipity brings. While spontaneity and going with the flow can be a good thing sometimes, spending our days riding with the tide may leave us feeling unsatisfied. To make the most of our days, we must make a conscious effort to prioritize our time.
  • The process to finding balance is not a one-shot deal—it’s a continual journey. It’s one that requires us to revisit our ever-changing values, goals, choices, and commitments, and to ask ourselves again and again if we’re happy with how we are living our lives and spending our time.

That’s all for today because my Saturday routines are screaming at me, and my son’s nap will be ending any minute. I promise more to come on the topic. In the meantime, happy weekend!

 

Having a baby: Not that hard for everyone…?

Although my blog may lead you to believe otherwise, I’m actually #1: not a huge complainer and #2: quite satisfied with my decision to have a child. And, I guess I should point out that I’m also #3: NOT on the brink of a major breakdown. Thankfully.

I got a call today from a well-intentioned aunt who expressed her concern for the negativity in my posts. She wanted to check in to “make sure everything was okay” because I sounded “very [pause]…tired.” After a 30-minute conversation consisting mostly of me working to convince her everything was just fine, I started to question two things. (Neither of which was related to whether or not everything was fine—things are not easy, but they also are definitely not too hard to handle.)

Two questions

The first question I asked myself is if I am, indeed, too negative in my writing. My answer to that was another question: what is too negative? I’ve mentioned it before, but a few reasons I created this blog are to vent, work through my problems, organize my thoughts, and share my experiences with other moms. Although a bitchfest is not exactly what I was aiming for, there are some days that my posts become just that. Sorry. But, writing is my therapy, and I want other moms going through the same to know they’re not alone. I consider myself a positive person by nature. I want to be motivating and cheerful as much as I can. More than that, however, I want to be honest. I don’t want to have to censor what I say…especially considering my goals of writing in the first place.

The other question that came up in my conversation with my aunt stemmed from a suggestion she made multiple times: that my situation is different and more difficult than those of other moms—that it’s not that hard for everyone. Maybe.

Today’s bitchfest

In case I haven’t complained enough, I did a bit of reflecting on why my situation may be more challenging than most, and I did come up with a few things.

A terrible c-section. As I was preparing for my all-natural childbirth, enduring the 40+ hours of labor, and pushing for several hours more, the idea of a cesarean frightened me. Yet, since my c-section, I’ve heard stories that are not bad at all. Mine was awful. I couldn’t walk or ride in a car comfortably for over a month. I couldn’t lift baby or move faster than walking without pain for at least three months. It wasn’t until four months postpartum that I was able to get back into any of my exercise routines. Over a year later, I still have pain and swelling on one side of the scar, where the doctors say they “must have pulled the sutures too tight, but there’s nothing we could do.”

No family around. It definitely isn’t easy not having any family within several hundred miles of where we live. Since my son’s birth over a year ago, I’ve had one extended weekend visit from my mom, one week-long visit from my dad, a couple of days with my (aforementioned) aunt, and a few weekend visits from my sister . That’s all. Getting a break means paying a sitter $10+ an hour or hoping that baby can last in the gym nursery long enough for mommy to get some exercise therapy.

High-maintenance baby. My baby has had to be held or entertained nearly every waking minute from the day he was born. For the past year, the only time my son has been content is in my arms; next to me, my husband, his brother, or someone else entertaining him enthusiastically; or when he is sleeping. I look in awe at the babies and toddlers I see who are content in their bouncy chairs, Pack ‘N’ Plays, cribs, Exersaucers, etc. Jacob has never been one of those babies. The most he ever has lasted with any of those (unless asleep) is 10 minutes…usually he cries as soon as we put him down. That translates into no breaks for me. I know, you may say, I should have just left him until he got used to it. We did that and do that…nearly every day…because we have needs (like using the restroom and eating dinner). Jacob is relentless. He cries until he is choking on his snot and covered in a rash. He doesn’t stop until someone picks him up.

In addition to those things, which (arguably) make my life harder than those of other moms, I’m also juggling a full-time job, being a stepmom to a 2nd grader, and dealing with my husband’s work schedule, which requires him to leave before the sun rises and to work evenings and weekends. Last but not least, one of my self-induced sources of “suffering” is that I have a ridiculously high need to be productive. Before baby, I worked out 1 to 2 hours a day; spent several hours a week beading, sewing, and writing; managed to keep the house in order; and worked full-time as a researcher and part-time as a step aerobics instructor and a karaoke disc jockey. I’ve had to cross a few of those things off my to-do list since becoming mommy, and that makes me a little sad.

Normal or not?

But, am I worse off? Who knows? I’m not sure we really can compare. I’m not sure it matters. We all have our complaints, our difficult times, no matter how hard or easy it is from an objective outsider.

Although my aunt can say with conviction that she “rarely experienced the negatives” when it came to having kids, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of moms who beg to differ. Again, whether it’s the norm or the exception, I’m not certain. However, I’ve gotten tens of responses to my last post requesting ideas for ways to make mom’s life easier. That leads me to believe that a good number of mamas think it’s worthwhile to share their tips on easing the hardships of new motherhood.

Anyway, thanks, Aunt Sandy. I appreciate your genuine concern for my sanity. You will make a fantastic grandmother someday (hint, hint to other potential readers of this blog.) And, one more time, let me say that I’m…totally…okay.

As for the rest of you, I think I’m gonna need an extra day or two to organize all the great suggestions for things that work for mamas and babies during the first year. I got more ideas than I expected. Thanks everyone! (Please do keep ’em coming if you have something to add.) More on that soon. Happy 3-day weekend!

Activities (focusing our time on achieving goals!)

Day 4 on prioritizing: choosing activities that reflect our goals and values.

Before we start spinning our wheels too quickly, let’s take a quick moment to review where we are. We are working on a process for making the most of our free time, outside of work and aside from our day-to-day responsibilities. Over the past week or so, we have worked to identify our broad values and the goals that align with those values. Today, we’ll think about what activities will bring us closer to accomplishing those goals.

Good? Good. So, what kinds of questions are we asking ourselves today? How about:

  • When given the choice, how do we really want to spend our time?
  • What are the activities that bring us closer to achieving our goals?
  • If we know our values and goals, then how should we divide our time to reflect them?

Last time, we put together a set of one or more goals for each value we identified. Let’s pull those out to use as our starting point for today. Today’s objective is to get a list of specific activities and timeframes together so that next time, we can start seeing where they may fit into our schedules. To do that, we need to think VERY specifically about these activities. I think the best way is to:

1)      Define the activity very specifically.

2)      Think about how much time you want/need to spend each time you engage in that activity.*When thinking about how much time, make sure to consider any prep time that activity requires (for instance, travel time to the gym, or time to make yourself pretty before you go out with friends or on a date). Also, if the activity varies in length (say, a phone call with a family member), then estimate how long you would usually spend…or even better—for time management’s sake, at least—how long you would ideally like to spend.

3)      Think about how often you would ideally like to do whatever it is you described. Let’s think about it in terms of how many times per day, week, month, or year (pick a timeframe for each activity).

Okay, so let’s make another table starting with the goals from last time in the left column.  (I’m inserting my values above each set of goals, just as a reminder. Although it’s not necessary, I think it’s helpful to do.)

Starting from the top, we’ll go through each goal and think about activities that will bring us closer to achieving that goal. As we’re going through, we may find that many of our goals are actually activities themselves. That’s great! In those cases, most of today’s work is already done! Just add the goal to the “Activities” column and specify how long it will take and how often you want to do it. We also may find that the same activities may achieve more than one goal. Again, yay! That makes our lives easier—if I can get a step closer to two or more goals with just a single activity, then I’ll take it!

Are we ready? Let’s do it!

Goals Activity (how long, how often)
Kids’ Health and Development
Take Jackson to the library at least twice a month.
  • Go to library (45 min, 2x/month)
Read to Jacob most days of the week.
  • Go to library (45 min, 2x/month)
  • Read to Jacob (15 min, 5x/week)
Take kids on walk to park once a week when weather warms up.
  • Walk to park (1.5 hours, 1x/week)
Set up a play date for Jackson at least once a month.
  • Call or email Jackson’s friends’ parents (10 min, 1x/month)
  • Supervise play date at park or at home (1.5 hours, 1x/month)
Look up online different activities to enhance Jacob’s development at least twice a month and share with sitter and husband.
  • Go online and find baby development activities (15 min, 2x/month)
  • Print and post baby activities for sitter (15 min, 2x/month)
  • Discuss baby activities with husband (15 min, 2x/month)
Relationships with Family
Spend time with husband at least three times per week.
  • Get a sitter and go on a date (3 hours, 1x/month)
  • Have a date night at home (2 hours, 1x/week)
  • Watch a show on Netflix together (1 hour 2x/week)
Call brother, sister, and parents at least once per week.
  • Call brother (1 hour, 1x/week)
  • Call sister (1 hour, 1x/week)
  • Call mom (1 hour, 1x/week)
  • Call dad (1 hour, 1x/week)
Call grandma and aunt at least once a month.
  • Call grandma (1 hour, 1x/month)
  • Call aunt (1 hour, 1x/month)
Check at the beginning of each month to see what birthdays are coming up. Record birthdays in calendar with reminders so I remember to send cards/gifts.
  • Check for birthdays and add reminders to weekly calendar (20 min, 1x/month)
  • Go shopping online or at stores for gifts/cards (1 hour, 1x/month)
  • Mail gifts/cards (20 min, 2x/month)
Relationships with Friends
Check in with out-of-state friends every couple of months.
  • Check for birthdays and add reminders to weekly calendar (20 min, 1x/month)
  • Send e-cards or mail cards (20 min, 2x/month)
Have friend(s) over to the house at least once a month.
  • Extra cleaning (2 hours, 1x/month)
  • Food prep (3 hours, 1x/month)
  • Have friends over (3 hours, 1x/month)
Go out with friends at least twice a month.
  • Go out with friends (2.5 hours, 2x/month)
Physical Fitness
Do something active for at least 45 minutes 6 days a week.
  • Take a walk to park (1.5 hours, 1x/week)
  • Teach step aerobics class (1.5 hours, 1x/week)
  • Kickboxing class (1.5 hours, 2x/week)
  • Practice step aerobics for class (45 min, 2x/week)
  • Elliptical machine or treadmill (45 min, 1x/week)
Lift weights three days a week.
  • Weightlifting class (1.5 hours, 3x/week)
Limit dessert to once per week; substitute fruit/Greek yogurt for dessert on other days.
  • Look through books/online for healthy dessert recipes (30 min, 2x/month)
  • Prepare/cook/bake recipes (1 hour, 2x/month)
Cook dinner using fresh, natural ingredients at least twice a week.
  • Look through books/online for recipes (15 min, 1x/week)
  • Cook dinner (1 hour, 2x/week)
Cook batches of healthy food on the weekends to pack in work lunches and freeze.
  • Look through books/online for recipes (15 min, 1x/week)
  • Cook and bake (2 hours, 1x/week)
  • Pack up into freezer/fridge containers (15 min, 1x/week)
Have fresh fruits and vegetables and dips ready to grab for the weekdays.
  • Wash and cut up fruits and veggies and put into containers (30 min, 2x/week)
Maintaining Sanity: Being Happy
Get 8 hours of sleep most nights.
  • Sleep! (8 hours, 7x/week)
Read for fun at least once a week.
  • Bring something to read on elliptical or treadmill (30 min, 1x/week)
Find time to make a piece of jewelry at least once a month.
  • Look for inspiration for jewelry ideas (10 min, 2x/month)
  • Make a piece of jewelry (2 hour, 1x/month)
Learning and Growing: Trying New Things
Check the news online or on the radio once a day.
  • Log onto news site and read headlines (10 min, 1x/day)
  • Turn on news when in car (10 min, 1x/day)
Try a new recipe at least twice a month.
  • Look through books/online for recipes (30 min, 2x/month)
  • Prepare recipes (1 hour, 2x/month)
Find out more about the blogging world—try to post at least 5 days a week.
  • Read other blogs (10 min, 3x/week)
  • Write (1 hour, 5x/week)
Becoming a Better Person: Learning from Mistakes
Reflect for a few minutes each day on how the day went, what I learned, what I could do better next time, or who I can go to for help/feedback.
  • Think or write about lessons learned (5 min, 1x/day)
Being Thankful
Reflect every day on what I’m thankful for.
  • Think or write about what I’m thankful for (5 min, 1x/day)
Integrity: Being True to Myself
Reflect at the end of the day on how that day fits with my values and goals and what could be better tomorrow.
  • Think or write about how my day fit with my values and goals (5 min, 1x/day)
Making a Positive Difference in Others’ Lives
Carve out some time to explore what kind of service/volunteer activities I could reasonably fit into my schedule.
  • Research volunteer opportunities (30 min, 1x/month)
Reflect each day on interactions with others, how positive I was, and what I could do better.
  • Think or write about how my day fit with my values and goals (5 min, 1x/day)
Keeping Life (House, Car, Office) Clean and Clutter-Free
Work a little each month to clean out attic.
  • Clean attic (1 hour, 1x/month)
Go through old clothes, purses, and shoes a little each month and give the ones I don’t use to Goodwill.
  • Go through old stuff (1 hour, 1x/month)
Set a weekend every month to clean out car.
  • Clean out car (1 hour, 1x/month)
Set a weekend every month to dust and vacuum.
  • Dust and vacuum (2 hours, 1x/month)
Go through the mail and Jackson’s old school papers once per week.
  • Go through mail and misc papers (1 hour, 1x/week)
Work a little every couple of months to put together photo albums and scrapbooks from memorabilia in the attic.
  • Organize memorabilia (1 hour, 1x/month)

Wow…that was exhausting! And, we were only thinking about the activities and not actually doing them!

So, I’ll give you all a couple days to figure out your activities. Next time, we’ll take a look at the hours, days, weeks, and months that comprise our lives and see where all these activities can possibly fit in.

Until next time…

Goals

Day 3 on prioritizing: goals.

Let’s take a step back here. I think it’s important to do that whenever I’m thinking really hard about something—take a step away, look at the big picture, remind myself of what I’m really aiming to achieve. So, what’s our aim?

We’re trying to answer a big question: what is the best way for moms (each of us individually) to spend the time that’s left over after we’ve taken care of the necessities (work, basic parenting duties, etc.)? I think the way many of us would handle this question at first glance would be to reply immediately, “what time, you crazy person?!” and then return to the hustle bustle. However, even if it’s only ten minutes here, half an hour there, most of us have some free time. And, because that bit of time is so precious, we should put a good amount of thought and care into what we decide to do with it.

To prioritize our time, we are working toward identifying: our broad values and the goals that align with these values, what activities will bring us closer to accomplishing those goals, and where in our busy lives these activities fit in.

Phew…okay, back on track. So, last time, we made a list of our values. Now, it’s time to think about goals. But, one more thing before we dive in: let’s think about how we will define goals. How ambitious should we be here? Are we talking short-term or long-term goals? Should we keep goals general or should we make them specific? For me personally, I’ve found that goals are most helpful when they:

  • are ambitious, but realistic (achievable)
  • focus on a specific time frame
  • clearly state what needs to change (or be maintained) and how

So, for instance, instead of “I want to be healthier,” I might say something like “Prepare a meal using natural, fresh ingredients at least twice a week” or “Start exercising for 30 minutes at least three times per week.” Instead of “I want to be more organized,” my goal might be “Go through all my random papers once per week and file or toss.” Using the criteria above, some goals may actually be activities. Again, I think that’s just fine.

Alright, already! Let’s do it! Pull out your values lists, and let’s go!

Values Goals
Kids’ Health and Development
  • Take Jackson to the library at least twice a month.
  • Read to Jacob most days of the week.
  • Take kids on walk to park once a week when weather warms up.
  • Set up a play date for Jackson at least once a month.
  • Look up online different activities to enhance Jacob’s development at least twice a month and share with sitter and husband.
Relationships with Family
  • Spend time with husband at least three times per week.
  • Call brother, sister, and parents at least once per week.
  • Call grandma and aunt at least once a month.
  • Check at the beginning of each month to see what birthdays are coming up. Record birthdays in calendar with reminders so I remember to send cards/gifts.
Relationships with Friends
  • Check in with out-of-state friends every couple of months.
  • Have friend(s) over to the house at least once a month.
  • Go out with friends at least twice a month.
Physical Fitness
  • Do something active for at least 60 minutes 6 days a week.
  • Lift weights three days a week.
  • Limit dessert to once per week; substitute fruit or healthy dessert on other days.
  • Cook dinner using fresh, natural ingredients at least twice a week.
  • Cook batches of healthy food on the weekends to pack in work lunches and freeze.
  • Have fresh fruits and vegetables and dips ready to grab for the weekdays.
Maintaining Sanity: Being Happy
  • Get 8 hours of sleep most nights.
  • Read for fun at least once a week.
  • Find time to make a piece of jewelry at least once a month.
Learning and Growing: Trying New Things
  • Check the news online or on the radio once a day.
  • Try a new recipe at least twice a month.
  • Find out more about the blogging world—try to post at least 5 days a week.
Becoming a Better Person: Learning from Mistakes
  • Reflect for a few minutes each day on how the day went, what I learned, what I could do better next time, or who I can go to for help/feedback.
Being Thankful
  • Reflect every day on what I’m thankful for.
Integrity: Being True to Myself
  • Reflect at the end of the day on how that day fits with my values and goals and what could be better tomorrow.
Making a Positive Difference in Others’ Lives
  • Carve out some time to explore what kind of service/volunteer activities I could reasonably fit into my schedule.
  • Reflect each day on interactions with others, how positive I was, and what I could do better.
Keeping Life (House, Car, Office) Clean and Clutter-Free.
  • Work a little each month to clean out attic.
  • Go through old clothes, purses, and shoes a little each month and give the ones I don’t use to Goodwill.
  • Set a weekend every two months to clean out car.
  • Set a weekend every month to dust and vacuum.
  • Go through the mail and Jackson’s old school papers once per week.
  • Work a little every couple of months to put together photo albums and scrapbooks from memorabilia in the attic.

I’m not sure how comprehensive this list is for me, but the reflection alone was helpful. I’m going to print mine with some extra space so I can add to it as things pop up.

What about you? Is anyone out there? If so, how is this process working for you?

Values

Day 2 on prioritizing.

This is going to be so good for me! I don’t know when I last actually took the time to analyze my life, my values, goals, and how I spend my time. It’s been way too long. April—it’s all about spring cleaning! Out with the old time drains and in with ways to make the most of my time. If anyone is out there, try it out with me and let me know how it goes!

Okay, starting from the top: values. Hmmm…what kinds of questions should we be asking here?

  • What do I value the most in my life?
  • What’s important to me?
  • What do I strive regularly to achieve?
  • What should I use to guide my goals and the way I spend my time?

I think there are a few things going on for me mentally as I think about these questions. I’m sort of going in two directions:

(1)   I’m trying to sum up in a few words a broad value that is important to me.

(2)   I’m first thinking about different goals or activities I value and then trying to define broad categories that group sets of these goals/activities together.

I think either approach will work. Let’s see what we get….

Kids’ Health and Development

Relationships with Family

Relationships with Friends

Physical Fitness

Maintaining Sanity: Being Happy

Learning and Growing: Trying New Things

Becoming a Better Person: Learning from Mistakes

Being Thankful

Integrity: Being True to Myself

Making a Positive Difference in Others’ Lives

Keeping Life (House, Car, Office) Clean and Clutter-Free

So, for me, I came up with the above (in the order that I thought of them—I’m not sure we need to rank them—yet, at least). There’s some overlap in some of the areas, but I think that’s okay.

Is that it? For now, I think so. Good thing I can always go back. I’m learning that blogging is good like that.

Did anyone else try it? Thoughts? Next time, onto thinking about goals!

On prioritizing

As I was just lying in my toasty bed with the warm, soft skin of my 11-month-old son in the crook of my arm (I’m still breastfeeding, and I had just finished nursing him), I considered my options.

Option 1: I could stay under my comfy covers, next to my most precious, ever-growing and ever-changing baby boy for 35 more minutes until my alarm sounds.

OR

Option 2:  I could run downstairs and write a quick post before begins the whirlwind of getting my seven-year-old stepson ready for the school bus and then beginning my work day. (Thankfully, I don’t have to go into the office every day that I work. I work from home from 7AM to 4PM two days a week and a sitter comes to my house.)

I decided to let fate guide me by kissing my snoring son gently on the forehead. If he woke, I’d stay in bed until he fell back asleep; if he didn’t stir, then I’d go with Option 2. When he remained perfectly still, I reconsidered Option 1 for a few seconds before slipping on my glasses in the dark. As I was sneaking out of the bed, it made me think about how often I’m faced with these kinds of decisions. How are we, moms, supposed to determine whether this or that is a better use of our time, especially when time to even ponder such thoughts is so precious these days?!

In the minutes I have left to contemplate this question, I’m going to take a crack at formulating some sort of educated guess…

Well, for myself, and I imagine that for most people, there are some uses of time that are givens; the “oh-I-do-that-because-I-have-to”s. For me, that category of activities includes working 40 hours a week (if given the choice, yes, I would definitely work, but maybe not quite so much), preparing meals (hail Trader Joe’s for carrying a whole selection of ready-made meals that everyone in my house will eat!), and doing laundry (yes, I would gladly skip this one altogether, thank you), just to name a few. I think the question I want to focus on here is about the rest of the time in my schedule, in our schedules as mothers, wives, employees, etc. How are we to know the best ways to spend our days, hours, minutes?

I think it’s fair to assume that the answer is different for everyone. Perhaps, however, the way we each arrive at our unique answers could be the same? I bet all it really takes is carving out time to reflect on a few variables and put together an action plan.

But, what are those variables? Let’s see….

  1. Values
  2. Goals that align with these values
  3. Activities that bring us closer to achieving these goals
  4. Amount of free time necessary to devote to each of these activities
  5. Activities that we currently do in our free time that don’t align with our values or goals
  6. When free time exists in our schedules (maybe more than we thought if we subtract #5?)

Well, that’s seems easy enough—nothing too groundbreaking here. Let me know if I forgot anything—I’m good at leaving glaring holes in my logic when writing in a hurry. Maybe my next post can be exploring how all these variables fit together? Until then, happy mothering!