Wednesday, October 23, 2013

4 Lifesaving Time Management Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms

It's all too easy for mothers of young children to feel they are at the mercy of everybody else. Have you ever felt that you can't make plans because your child may or may not be sleeping? Have you ever dragged kids along to appointments when they really shouldn't have been there? Have you ever gotten to the end of a busy, hectic day and wondered what in the world you accomplished?

Of course you have. I remember reading books about time management hoping to find some ideas of how to take control of my time, but none of the books were written for stay-at-home moms with young children. I thought 7 Habits of Highly Effective People might help, but it was clear from the start that Mr. Covey didn't have to worry about diaper changes and trips to Costco. I tried Julie Morgenstern, and while I found some useful ideas in her concept of placing tasks in designated times, again, I felt that she wasn't addressing my stage in life.

Staying at home with young children is an incredibly rewarding and challenging lifestyle, but if you don't have a plan for managing your time, your life can begin to feel like one bleary crisis after another. Guilt may override the inherent pleasures of motherhood when you feel that you cannot meet all your obligations. You can't care for your young children at the same time you get your hair cut. You can't seem to plan for the future (gifts, meal planning, date night) because you're always dealing with the present. Most of all, you can't remember the last time you spent an hour developing your own talents or pursuing a non-child-centric project of your own.

With the help of a babysitting co-op and a few extra tips, you can take control of your time, reduce your mother guilt, and feel like the captain of your own ship again, even if you have many little ones sticking their fingers under the bathroom door while you try to get a few moments of peace and quiet. Let's see how it's done.

Organize a Babysitting Co-op

Most stay-at-home moms don't have extra cash to spend on babysitting, so they take care of 100% of the childcare themselves. While this is admirable and certainly does save money, it's not your only cash-free option. By working with friends and neighbors in your own situation, you can pool your mothering resources and create time for each of you to take control of your lives and have some time for yourselves. Not only will you rediscover what it's like to go to the store by yourself, but you'll come back to your children with clarity, having had time to make plans, remember who you are, and rejuvenate. For all the information you need to organize a babysitting co-op of your own, read Babysitting Co-op 101.

Make a Weekly Schedule

Your schedule changes from week-to-week, but if you have a rough outline of what happens when, you're better able to manage your time and say "yes" or "no" to requests for your time at a moment's notice. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Monday: Laundry, Heavy Cleaning
Tuesday: Babysitting Shift, Baking and Freezer Meals
Wednesday: Shopping, Errands
Thursday: Free Day
Friday: Laundry, Moderate Cleaning
Saturday: Cleaning, Family Day, Preparation for Coming Week
Sunday: Church, Family

Let's say you're making a dentist appointment, and the receptionist asks if Tuesday the 14th will work. You know that you're responsible for a babysitting shift for your co-op on Tuesdays, so right away you know that won't work. However, you know that you can always count on free babysitting on Thursdays, so you ask if she has any appointments available on Thursdays.

Also, when you have a designated time for each of your major tasks, you can put things off a little, knowing they will get done in due time. It's Wednesday, and you notice the laundry piling up in the laundry room. Instead of feeling burdened by that laundry every time you see it, remember that laundry day is just two days away. It will get done. Today you have something else to take care of.

Decide on Your Non-Negotiables

Let's face it. Not everything on our massive to-do lists has to get done. Life will go on (maybe even with a little less stress) if some of those things are left unchecked at the end of the day.Yes, you've been wanting to make those chocolate chip pumpkin bars you found on Pinterest for a week, but they'll still be there if you don't have time to make them now. One person's non-negotiables may be very different from someone else's, and that's fine.

Your list may look different from mine, but here are some of my non-negotiables:

  • Showering and dressing in something other than sweats or yoga pants
  • Cleaning the kitchen after breakfast and after dinner
  • Finding at least 10 minutes for personal devotional time
  • Spending one-on-one time with each child at some point during the day
  • Eating with the family
Outside of these non-negotiables, I can be flexible, but if I let these fundamental-to-me things slip, I don't feel right. I feel like I've lost control of my time and my life. Mountains of other things demand my time, and I will do a whole bunch of other things each day, but if some of those other things don't get done, life goes on.

Plan Just a Little Bit Ahead

When you finally have a few minutes to yourself, instead of immediately watching a re-run of Downton Abbey, take some time to plan "just a little bit ahead." Don't try to tackle a project like freezing a month's worth of crock-pot meals. Just do something to get ahead. Here are some ideas.

  • Look at next week's calendar to see if there's anything unusual to prepare for (a birthday party you need to buy a present for, Mother's Day, etc.).
  • Bake a batch of cookies and put them in the freezer.
  • Cook dinner early!
  • Go through your bill's drawer and make sure everything's on time.
  • Gather up the library books and set them by the door so you don't forget them when you go out on your errands day.
  • Set up a playdate.
  • Make a shopping list.
  • Pack your diaper bag for next time you have to go out.
You'll feel like you have more control over your life when you have little things taken care of ahead of time.

In Conclusion

You are the master of your days, even though it doesn't feel much like it when you're caring for children all day. Children can learn to abide by your schedule, and they can also learn that sometimes they, along with everyone else, has to be flexible in order for a family to thrive peaceably and happily. Organize a babysitting co-op, plan a little ahead, make a weekly schedule, and decide on your non-negotiables. Start today, and tomorrow you'll breathe a little deeper.

No comments:

Post a Comment