You will never be able to make more time, so you might as well give up the quest.  Just because you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean that you should always do it.  Be deliberate. Be intentional.  Question everything.

No More Newspaper for Me

Reading the newspaper every morning is as American as apple pie.  For as long as I can remember, the newspaper was part of my morning.  My parents read the paper every morning at breakfast.  My husband believes reading the paper every morning in relative quiet is a right afforded by the Constitution.  Or at least, this is the way he behaves.  Hell hath no fury like a man who didn’t get to read his newspaper…

I think I started reading the paper every day after college.  We lived in New Hampshire for two years while I was in grad school.  Hanover only had an evening paper so that took some adjusting.  After graduate school, we moved back to civilization.  The paper was delivered at 5:00 am which was perfect because I left every day at 6:00 am for the gym before work.  The quiet, early morning with hot tea and the paper was my favorite part of the day.  After I had my first baby, I needed to be more efficient with my time, so I started reading the paper during my cardio workouts.  By this time, I was working from home and had a gym in my garage.  This went on for years.

Our San Diego newspaper has been sold several times in recent years and the upheaval has taken a toll on the quality.  The New York Times started home delivery a few months ago so we jumped ship from San Diego to New York.  The New York Times is a thick, rich paper with supplements for days.  I couldn’t get through it in one workout session and the papers began to pile up.  Reading the paper had been automatic for so many yeas that I never stopped to think about why I was doing it or what I was getting out of it.  As the mountain continued to grow, I finally confronted myself.  Was the newspaper the best and most effective source of news?  Did I enjoy reading it?  Would I rather spend that time a different way?

I think news is important and I believe I have an obligation, as a citizen of the world, to keep myself informed about current events.  But news is readily available on the Internet and my home page has assorted news feeds that I review several times a day.  I also have a television with wireless headphones in the kitchen and I flip on the news a few times a day while I’m doing chores.  I realized that I usually already knew about what I read in the paper.  And I realized that I was completely missing entire arenas of new content such as podcasts and short videos.  So, I quit reading the newspaper and now I take my computer into the gym and consume a much wider range of content.  It has been incredibly freeing to have this additional 30-60 minutes a day to feed my brain how I wish.

Look at How You Spend Your Time

Now that you’re a working mother, it’s a good time to take an objective look at how you spend your time.  You can dig deep by keeping a detailed time diary or you can simply step back and walk through a typical day.

  • 7:00        Wake-up and play with kids
  • 7:15        Breakfast, pack lunches, morning household chores (beds, laundry)
  • 8:25        Throw on gym clothes
  • 8:30        Take kids to school
  • 9:00        Morning business activities (emails, checking in, social media) and finish outstanding household chores
  • 10:00     Workout with chosen content – often business oriented now that I stopped reading the paper
  • 11:00     Shower and dress for the day
  • 11:30     Prepare lunch and snacks for afternoon (me)
  • 12:00     Dedicated work time
  • 4:30        Pick up kids
  • 5:00        Snacks, dinner, play, chores, homework, baths and bed time
  • 7:30        Dedicated work time
  • 11:00     Final chores and get ready for bed
  • 11:30     Bed

A few days a week I take dance class, some days I volunteer at school and other days I have outside meetings, so the schedule shifts around.  Saturday and Sunday each have a different rhythm.  I work mostly from home, so I have to be very careful not to let chores expand into work time or I’ll have a problem.

If this level of detail doesn’t resonate with you, try mapping out some categories along with how much time you spend.

  • Personal care
  • Chores
  • Meal prep
  • Meals
  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Self-care
  • Family time
  • Relationship time
  • Social activities
  • Recreational activities
  • Hobbies
  • Leisure

Think About How You Want to Spend Your Time

Brainstorm how you’d like to spend your time.  Don’t go into full fantasy mode but you can be creative.  Look for easy wins.  These are places where small shifts can equal big gains.  If you hate to cook but don’t mind cleaning up, maybe your partner will do more cooking.  Or maybe he/she loves to cook but hates the clean-up.  Can you hire a housecleaner to give you more family time?  Do you need to find a regular babysitter for date night?

Own Your Priorities

Make active trade-offs and remember this phase won’t last forever.

I love to read pure, escape fiction and I have a lifelong habit of reading for 15-20 minutes every night before bed.  It washes away the day and makes a smooth transition to sleep.  But when the second baby came along, I gave it up.  I learned how to go straight to sleep without reading.  It was easier than I expected due to the exhaustion of having a newborn.  I decided that in this newborn season, I wanted to spend that time doing something else.  Someday I will have plenty of time to read, but for now I own my choice.

One of my greatest passions is dance.  I love to do it and watch it.  Our dance community in San Diego has grown exponentially over the last several years.  The little girl who used to sit in the back of the studio while her mama taught us, now has her own little girls who watch her dance.  I used to go to all the shows because there weren’t very many in San Diego.  Now you can see good dance almost every week-end.  There are also many more opportunities to perform.  This is wonderful!  But I had to make some hard choices.  I decided that my greatest joy in dance was dancing.  Having my body hurling through space doing impossible things to beautiful music.  So, I quit going to most shows.  I still see a few when I can bring the kids, but I count that as kid time and not dance time.  I also quit performing.  Performing takes a tremendous amount of time and commitment.  A lot of preparing for a show involves fitting costumes, trying make-up, getting to the theater early, waiting while others rehearse and perform.  Not all of it involves actual dancing.  For now, I focus my dance time on class where my body can be moving the entire time.  You can see this was a deliberate decision that I made thoughtfully with some regret.  I own the decision and embrace the regret.

Avoid the “Shoulds”

Do not let what you think you should do dictate your entire life.  Most of the “shoulds” are good.  You should stop at the stop sign.  You should eat breakfast.  You should exercise.  You should have family dinner together.  You should have date night.  You should send out holiday cards.

But guess what?  We don’t do family dinner or date night.  What???  Haven’t you rea the studies on the benefits of family dinner?  Don’t you care about your marriage?  Well guess what, family dinner simply doesn’t work for us and date night was causing more stress than fun.  So, we gave them both up.  And lots of my friends have stopped sending holiday cards.

You are an adult and a mother.  You can decide your own “shoulds”.  I encourage you to think about them and make choices that best serve you and your family during this season.

Choose a Few Special Things

Do choose some things that are special.  But let them go in a pinch.  Don’t feel obligated to justify everything.  I make all our Halloween costumes and birthday cakes because I want to, and for no other reason.  But I did purchase one Cleopatra costume for my daughter because that Halloween came when the little guy was three weeks old.

Make Space

Remember to leave space in your life.  This may not be your most spontaneous season, but you must leave space to recognize opportunities to grab the joy.  The greatest joy is not always planned.  And leave time for unexpected events.  You can’t plan for every emergency but don’t schedule yourself so tightly that an unexpected diaper change or a lost sock ruins the entire day.  Give yourself some breathing room.

Remember

You will never be able to make more time, so you might as well give up the quest.  Just because you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean that you should always do it.  Be deliberate. Be intentional.  Question everything.

If You Don’t Make Your Decisions, Your Decisions Will Make You

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