Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Year's Goal #1: Better Time Management

Now here's what I like most about being a stay at home mom: planning and working in fun activities to do with the kids. We've done some great stuff, like ridden the Downeaster (train) to Boston a few times, visited sisters in OH, MA and NY, had numerous picnics at the beach, taken ferry rides to Peaks Island, etc. Before my sons were on the scene, my daughter and I went to Chicago with my Ohio sister and her daughter two times. This is the stuff we do while "staying home."

I've been home with them from day one, but have been lucky in that I've continued teaching English twice a week, in the evenings. When I'm off teaching, my husband takes care of the family. He feeds them dinner, and puts them to bed. This has been a nice routine we've had, up until now. It's kept us organized. But over the summer, we moved up the coast to Rockland, where ESL teachers are not in huge demand. I tried a semester of driving down to Portland and back for my evening classes, but what with the cost of gas, and the 1.5 hours of driving each way (79 miles) for a 2.5 hour class, it just seemed silly. And this past September, I realized that my daughter is going to start kindergarten in exactly a year. Kindergarten! It just crept up on me. Where did the past four years go?

Rather than squander the rest of the year (perhaps there's a better verb - the past four years have not been a waste), I've decided to give our lives a bit more structure. I have found that when I'm not teaching, and don't have any sort of schedule, the days just slip by. I'm determined not to let that happen. So, I'm going to try and give us a schedule, to give us some structure. I shared the following plans with my mother (see below), and got the response, "Now, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment." It's true, she knows me pretty well. But her doubt fuels my motivation to make these plans work! I've never been one to make New Year's Resolutions. I don't buy new exercise equipment at the beginning of the year, with hopes of magically finding time to work out more often. I've never tried to quit drinking coffee on January 1rst. I don't decide to try and make drastic changes to my personality when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. But this time, the New Year is as good a time as any to start my plan. Even if I succeed in only 50% of the ideas, I'm still better off than before. Although I tell my students to avoid cliches, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Here's the general outline. Seeing it in print, it's not so intimidating!

French lessons: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I'm the instructor. Sorry kids, you're going to have a bit of an accent American. I'll work on pronunciation.
Baking Day: On Tuesday, bake bread from scratch. We did this every week for a good two months last year, but for some reason, just fell out of practice.
Hiking Day: Every Tuesday, I want to take the kids for a hike. Part of why we moved up the coast was to be closer to nature. A decent hike was at least a 45 minute drive from Portland. We now live near mountains and parks.
Bath Night: Bathing the kids will happen in the evening on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, spontaneous on Saturday and Sunday. No more jumping in the shower with me in the morning. I want and need my privacy these days.
Visit Nana and Pa: We've been doing this all along. But Thursday will be the day to drive to my parents' house and spend the day. Of course, we'll be flexible, if need be.
Storytime: Every Wednesday, 10:30, at the Rockland Public Library. It's a good time for the kids to play with other children, and hear new stories. We live just a block away, so we can walk there, no matter what the weather.
One Night Off: My husband has promised me, now that I'm not teaching an evening reading and writing class, that he'll give me one night off a week, to go do whatever.

And now that a week has gone by, I am pleased to report that my 4.5 year old Beatrice and 2.5 year old James know some basic colors and animals in French. We've had a lot of fun (even during the mess of yesterday, I worked in the French lesson), and the new schedule has kept me on track and focused. On Tuesday we went to Merryspring Nature Park in Camden, and walked around the trails for a bit. We did not visit my parents on Thursday, due to freezing rain. We reupholstered some kid chairs, something I've been meaning to do for a year, instead. We made it to Storytime, and the kids were bathed as planned. I did not get my night off, but plan on scheduling one next week. We didn't bake any bread, because I just thought of adding that into the schedule right now. Not bad, for the first week. I'll keep you posted!


Anonymous said...

Wow, I am now motivated to run a similar schedule. I'm impressed. I thought it was good that I put housework on a schedule (which I never follow) but great idea to put the kid activities on a calendar too. Thanks

Anonymous said...

This is interesting and feeds my fear :) about leaving my job (rather, reducing my out-of-home work to 4 hours per week) and at the same time leaving structure behind. At this point, I can't decide if setting up a structure like the one you describe would keep me sane or drive me crazy. My gut instinct tells me that planning fun stuff would help, but that teaching French 3x/wk would drive me that a fun activity for you and your family? I'm also curious... do you have feelings of regret if you don't get through your schedule?

Just Curious

StuntBec said...

That's so funny. Cleaning day is Monday, but here it is Wednesday, and the bathrooms are calling my name. Maybe if I switched it to, Friday...then my household chores would be completed in a timely manner.

After my first son was born, I did not teach for a year, and did not have anything scheduled. One day was so much like the next, that I felt overwhelmed, and didn't leave the house very much. After I started teaching again (5 hours a week), the schedule helped me to organize my stay at home life. So now that I'm not teaching again, I realize that I really need structure, in order to motivate me to leave the house.

After almost another week of scheduled events, some happened, some were missed. Monday was dismal. French got the shaft. I got busy organizing documents for doing our taxes, which I confess put me in a cranky mood. So I skipped the French lesson. After supper, forget about baths, I just wanted the kids in their jammies,stories read, and lights out ASAP. I was fine with it - being flexible (I think) is important. After all, being a stay at home mom is being self employed, right? I'm the boss? I only got bummed Monday night, when my husband said, "I only mean this in a positive way, but you skipped the French lesson today. And wasn't tonight a bath night? It's a slippery slope." That bummed me out.

But not for long. Tuesday was a really fun day. I did some laundry in the early morning, while sipping my coffee. We had a quick breakfast, got our bread going, and then went for a hike. After the hike we dropped in on a friend, who reminded me to relax and ENJOY my time at home with the kids. Excellent timing for that reminder.

And now it's Wednesday. We've been to storytime at the library, and are going to do some French this afternoon. I haven't figured out what to cook for dinner tonight, but am hoping to get inspired soon. And the French is very fun. I'll write an article about it. I'd love feedback. I just can't be in a cranky mood when we do the lessons!

Thanks for the comments! If you end up setting up a flexible schedule - tell us what it contains!


Anonymous said...

I loved this follow-up post. It just goes to show that things are not always as they seem. I had a very different picture in my mind of your schedule. I think that it's amazing that the more we talk (or blog) about these things, the more we realize how many similarities there are on the thought process, hopes and fears of moms who stay home with their kids. I really appreciate the window that "Stuntmom" provides on the minds of other moms in this situation. And I only mean this in a positive way, but I think your husband should stay out of it! Do you offer commentary like that on HIS workday? I understand that they're his kids, too, but he needs to see the forest and not just the trees. He's got a wife who is giving a huge gift to the kids whether French class happens or not. Best of luck, I hope you'll keep us readers posted. And once I'm home, I'll try to let you know what happens with my schedule.