Monday, March 19, 2012

Make My Life Easier Part 1

Last week I asked you ladies for your advice on ways to make life easier. We got hundreds of comments on the blog, Facebook and Twitter. I learned so much – thank you for sharing your smartness with me. Let’s get started:

The problem: Like every other mom in the world, I am stressed out, exhausted, have no time and feel like I’m not doing a good enough job managing kids, house, work, time, activities, etc. I wondered if there were simple solutions that might help me do my job at home a little better.

What you told me: I sort of see the feedback you gave me as falling into two categories:
  • Generally Awesome Advice that Will Make My Life Easier (Part 1)
  • Specific Tips and Tricks to Help with Problem Areas (Part 2)
The first category includes three main ideas which make everything else easier. They're kind of like umbrella concepts that cover all the specific problems areas (planning and scheduling, laundry, cleaning, cooking, organization, etc.) that you identified. I plan on really trying all three of these ideas out and look forward to them making everything (if not easier) at least more manageable. That's the thing about using an umbrella, you still get wet. But if you don't use one - you get drenched. Here's an illustrative graphic of what I mean:

Without further ado here are the three umbrella concepts...

Item #1: Stop & Assess
Before I do anything else, I need to stop (drop and roll) and evaluate where I’m at. Like a lot of you, I'm trying to do too much at once and as a result, I feel like I'm not doing a good job at any of it. For me, multi-tasking doesn't mean "very efficient", it means "frenetic flapping about". I hop from task to task, so I’m not really getting anything all the way done. As a result, I feel dissatisfied and crappy because even though I’m constantly working, there's no corresponding sense of accomplishment or pay-off. That adds stress and frustration.

For example - I start something and then someone needs to be wiped or the phone rings or I get an email and what was I just doing again? As one of our commenters so eloquently put it: “I am overwhelmed and I try to just focus on one thing at a time and ...SQUIRREL!”

I know that feeling and I want it to stop. So I’m going to slow down and answer the following questions:
  • What HAS to get done? What’s the REAL priority?
  • What in your house is driving you the most nuts?
  • Who can help you?
  • What kind of person are you?
I don’t mean this last question in an indignant and finger-pointy way. As I read through the comments, it occurred to me that the suggestions that were working great for some people would just stress me out more. So here’s what I’m asking – are you a load a day laundry person or a once a week laundry person? It’s maybe good to know that before we dive in. Because trying to do something that just doesn’t jive with your personality and lifestyle isn’t helpful – it will only add stress. A lot people suggest using technology and apps to help organize their schedules, plan meals and share grocery lists. I find the idea of that more stressful than just doing the shopping. But for someone else, the idea that an app could coordinate that for them would take a lot off their plate.

Item #2: Make Your Kids Help
The goal with parenting is to raise small humans who eventually become independent, right? So they can take care of themselves and maybe even help other people or one day have small humans of their own to care for. So why wouldn't you teach them the basics of what it takes to take care of themselves and where they live? I sometimes feel that by taking care of things for my kids, I'm showing them how much I love them. But maybe I need to stop doing that so much.

Ultimately, we're not doing ourselves or our kids any favors by doing everything for them. If they share a bathroom, they can learn to clean it. They can help with laundry. They can learn to be responsible for their own stuff. (Editor's note: I learned in one of my fancy schmancy Child Development text books that kids as young as two years-old should be expected to help regularly with household chores. That means you can set the expectation now and have 16 years of help around the house. Weeeee! -Guru Louise)

Of course, at first that means a lot more work for you. And patience - OY VAY - the patience it will take to do this. Because I can sweep the kitchen in about 5 minutes. When the kids do it, it takes 20 minutes and they miss about half the dirt.

But the point is - I didn't have to do it. And here's another perspective to consider:
"My mother-in-law is Italian – like, way Italian. And she never allowed my husband to step into the kitchen or even make his own bed growing up. Now I have a partner who can’t boil water, scrub a toilet, or do a load of laundry. I taught him how to clean a bathroom when we were still dating – and he was 35 years old! Gaaah! I love the man desperately, but he’s completely useless when it comes to anything domestic."
Item #3: Learn to say No
I hate to say no (unless it's to my husband). If someone from my kids' school asks me to do something, I'm nearly always going to say yes. Because I can. But lately, I just can't. And then in addition to feeling stressed that I don't have any time, I feel guilty that I said no. So I loved this comment:
"Say no. Why are you volunteering at school when you could be at home mending the holes in your sanity? Seriously, make a resolution to say no at least once per week, and go up from there. There are TONS of moms out there who haven't showed up for library duty, like, ever - and no one cares. No one has even noticed. Just stop extending yourself for other people unless it's something so important you're willing to let everything else go to hell for a bit."
It doesn't just apply to volunteering to help with kid stuff, either. It's making the choice to take on less. I think this comment actually wraps up all three of the umbrella concepts really, really well and is incredibly smart:
"I've learned (the HARD way, of course) to stop whenever I'm feeling stressed or rushed or overwhelmed and ask myself what I'm feeling pressured to do at this moment that is exceeding my limits of time, energy (or $ or goodwill or whatever limit I have). Then I think REALLY HARD about whether I actually have to do that thing. Maybe I can do it later or in a different way or just not at all. Get ruthless about it and say no, buy instead of bake.
Let others actually experience the logical consequences of their choices by not killing yourself to rescue them (yes, even your kids). There is only so much time and energy in a day. Even if I can't take any major responsibilities off my plate, I can always find something I'm pressuring myself to do (or letting others pressure me to do) that can be done differently or not at all, and it keeps me sane to make those evaluations and choices every time I feel my stress level make my blood pressure rise."
Tomorrow, we move onto the problems areas we all need help with (things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, organization and managing the kiddos).

xo, Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

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