On Finding Time

Posted on Feb 24, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 5 comments

The struggle for time and balance seems fairly typical for most moms, whether working at home or away from home. I’m sure I’m no exception.

I’m not a great multi-tasker. I work best once I get into a flow, say after about 20 minutes. Once I’m in that place, it’s very hard for me to shut off until I reach a pre-determined stopping point which tends to be task oriented, not time oriented. I don’t do well with setting the timer and working for X number of minutes. I like to check something off my list.

At work I was very good at time management and at completing tasks. Deadlines, projects, to do lists. Yes. I’ve also had an on-again/off-again romance with day planners since First Year uni. I am not completely Type A, but I do have some pretty strong tendencies in that direction.

At home, I feel like I’m either scrambling, avoiding, dropping the ball or time wasting. It’s an uncomfortable place to be.

Before motherhood it seems we are pulled in fewer competing directions and our commitments have clearly demarcated time slots. Work time is work time. Self time, couple time, friend time can all be fit in around life tasks like cleaning, cooking, sleeping and errands.

As a mom, there are no clear time slots for anything. It seems like all of these responsibilities need to happen at once, while caring for tiny dictators.

I very rarely get a chance to get into my post-twenty-minute-work groove. I very rarely feel that I am working in my optimal range. I feel like I’m juggling all the time. For a klutz like me that is an incredibly unnerving way to live. My heart rate is shooting up just typing this.

Clutter, disorganization, noise. They stress me out. I hold my breath. I feel swept away in a swift moving river and I start to panic.

I have coping mechanisms but I haven’t really found answers. I focus on keeping the toys picked up, keeping rooms tidy. I write lists. But I also avoid. I check email, facebook or twitter, rather than trying to write or catch up on bookkeeping because I only have five minutes instead of forty-five. If I were to add up all those five minute chunks in a day, which are generally wasted on social media surfing, I would find I have much more time than I think I do. The reason I do this is because I haven’t yet learned how to break out of my need for compartmentalization.

For 8 months, we had a mother’s helper who watched Rain four mornings a week while I worked. This is the closest I’ve come to finding a balance between self, work and mother.

The rest of the time, the reality of working at home with kids is very different. I have tried working while the kids napped but if they wake early I often become resentful. I have tried working while the kids play. The task takes longer with the interruptions and in the end I am frustrated and stressed by the mess the kids have created while I was in my supposed work zone. Because of my need to work in that zone, I can get a bit obsessed with my projects. The more I work on a project, the more I want to, the more it occupies my thoughts, the more it competes with my children (especially if I was pulled away before completing a task). I seem to shift continuously between denial of self and selfishness. This isn’t exactly the compartmentalization I’ve been looking for.

For me to really feel that I am managing my time in a positive way, I need to be clear about what is work time and what is family time. I want to be more present with my children and more present in my work.

This delicate balance isn’t going to be a static place where I can stand still. I expect it will take footwork. I expect I will have to say no to some things. I expect I will have to break down my tasks into smaller and smaller bits so that I can still achieve a goal in a five minute work window. I expect I will have to work on my attitude. I expect I will have to live with shorter time slots that reflect life with little ones. I expect that most things will take longer than I want them to. I expect I will probably never get it perfect.

How about you? How do you create space for yourself or your work and still focus on your children? What boundaries have you had to enforce? What have you had to let go of?


  1. I am not terribly good at balancing work with kids. In fact, I think that hardly anyone is, and it makes me feel a little better.

    I have had to let go of my deadlines. They’re just not happening, especially the soft, self-imposed ones. If I worry about it too much, I go crazy. These kids are not going to be little forever, so while they are I’m trying to go with the flow. But I’m a Type A at heart, so it’s way easier for me to type that than to live it.
    .-= AmberĀ“s last blog ..Dishwater Blues =-.
    Twitter: AmberStrocel

  2. Like Amber, I have had to let go of deadlines. I am so much more easygoing as a mama than I ever was childless. I would have driven myself crazy šŸ˜‰
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: MamaĀ“s last blog ..Dealing with Childrenā€™s Feelings =-.
    Twitter: CodeNameMama

  3. This sounds so much like me. I really liked the work time, me time, couple time thing. Kids do not play by those rules and since I’m home with them all the time I feel like I can never get anything done because it takes me a few minutes to switch from one task to the other. I spend a lot of my days frustrated – at me, the kids, me the husband, me. Basically, I haven’t figured it out.
    .-= Marilyn @ A Lot of LovesĀ“s last blog ..Dancing: Wordless Wednesday =-.
    Twitter: MBels

  4. The lesson that kids teach us is to slow down, be in the moment, let go of outcomes, and be prepared to cancel plans.

    Easier said than done!
    .-= harrietglynnĀ“s last blog ..Seven month update =-.

  5. I laughed when I read tiny dictators! My friend says we are living with little crazy people, when I think about it it does seem like that. My house is messy. My son said our troubled relationship would be better if I played lego with him for 20 minutes two times a day. That would be great except I have 2 other children, not to mention a partner and my long neglected SELF! Whenever I can get my kids to help clean or cook I do even if it makes a bigger mess. I just somehow feel better. Someone mentioned the flylady (?) and I have been trying the 15 minute clean ups. Inviting people over is always the great motivator for me to clean.

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