Do you feel like, as a busy mom, there’s not enough time in the day? I think this will help that. Also, this post is mainly geared towards stay at home moms (because that is what I am and it’s my perspective) so this may not resonate with working moms.
A few months ago I felt all the stresses of life and my responsibilities come to a head.
I had tons of household projects to do.
Lots of cleaning.
Lots of administrative things like appointments, etc.
Some work stuff to get done.
Oh, and all the million diaper changes and tantrums and fight break-ups and making dinner and, you know, grocery shopping and it was all Just Too Much.
I sat down in my room – okay fine I laid down dramatically on my bed like they do in the movies – and I tried to figure out what one earth was happening. WHY did it seem like the days were endlessly long and ran on forever and yet, somehow, I never got anything done.
Forget about getting ahead.
That’s for retired people and the childless.
You Are Probably The Same
I asked myself…
“Why do I feel so frantic about my to do list? Why do I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off? Why…. when I’m a stay at home mom… is our life not as slow as I’d like?”
And then I realized that – over the course of the past few years with watching babies and toddlers and then preschoolers, then more babies… that I had started viewing my day in a modern way previous generations would not have done.
I had started compartmentalizing my life into two areas:
- Compartment #1: Life when kids are awake and around
- Compartment #2: Life when kids are asleep or being watched by someone else
Then it got worse.
On top of all that, I saw that I’d begun filing my responsibilities, tasks, activities, and hobbies all into ONE of the compartments. And, shock of all shocks, filing them into the compartment that had the fewest hours.
AND, to add insult to injury, I’d been feeling guilty if I did any Compartment #2 tasks in Compartment #1. So basically… I wasn’t getting done all I needed and was feeling like a bad mom when I tried.
Well, my my my.
No wonder I was strung out, frazzled, and exhausted. I’d bought into a Modern Mom Mindset that is totally anxiety inducing and unrealistic.
(Note: If you’re a working mom, you have a third compartment – while you’re at work!)
So Let’s Look How This Plays Out
(This is part me, part hyperbole to make my point)
I decide that if I want any time to read my Bible, pray, read a novel, spend time alone, exercise, or have some peace and quiet then I need to get up before my kids.
Well, if the kids get up at 7 am (which is late for lots of kids, tbh) then that means I’ve got to get up at at least 6 a.m. to do these things. I read for a few minutes, do a Beachbody workout because I’d have to get up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym and that’s bananas, drink my cup of coffee and the day begins.
In one hour, I’ve checked off my frantic Self-Care. In fact, now my heart is kinda racing and the day’s only just begun.
Then from around 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. give or take, I get NOTHING done that needs to be done of an adult responsibility nature. I switch to Compartment 1: Mom Nurture Brain. I cuddle, sing, play, build LEGO, change diapers, break up fights, make snacks, make lunch, clean the kitchen, and try to be happy the whole time.
If I get frustrated and yell, I wallow in misery for at least 20 minutes.
1 p.m. comes which means nap time and now if I want to do any work, any chatting, any cleaning, organizing, or food prep then I gotta GET ON IT while they are asleep or in room time.
I do a few things, but feel tired and worn out and want to rest a bit. This happens and then BAM everyone’s up and needs a snack and if I want to get anything else done now I need to stay in Compartment 2 which means cartoons or screens because obvs I can’t do food prep or office calls or organization while the kids are awake.
If you’re a working mom, you aren’t doing Child Compartment activities OR Household Compartment activities during the day.
This Is When Things Start Going Haywire
After a few weeks, months, years of this something else starts happening.
You become bitter because you don’t have time to get all the things done.
You become resentful that no one is helping you do all the things.
You become anxious that you’re a bad mom/wife/housekeeper/employee.
When you’re “supposed to be” playing or doing a Pinterest craft with the kids, all you can think about is how the floor needs a mopping and you wanted to write that thank you note, and there are some household maintenance projects that need doing…
When you’re supposed to be cleaning and organizing and Adulting you feel guilty that you were not a present attentive mother all day.
But you’re so tired at 8:30 p.m. and don’t feel like dealing with the garden and you didn’t sort all the laundry either and now your husband wants to spend time together, but really you’d rather take a bath and go to bed so now, you’re also a bad wife.
In an effort to Do Better, you begin endlessly listing all your character flaws:
Typical Modern Mom Character Flaws
- I’m not self-disciplined enough. If I was, I’d get up an hour earlier (even though I’m exhausted) and would spend the hours in the evening getting responsible things done instead of crashing.
- I’m not organized enough. If I was more organized, there wouldn’t be a mess and things would always look tidy with labels.
- I am selfish. The fact I want to have “me time” all the time means I’m not a good mom and I better buy a gratitude journal and write at least 15 lines a day of all the things I’m thankful for so that I don’t forget how blessed I am even though I’m on the verge of running away and leaving my bless-ed life to someone else.
- I’m not good at playing with the kids. The fact that I don’t like to sit endlessly and play games CREATED FOR CHILDREN means that I’m not playful enough and this’ll land the kids on a couch one day.
- I am not a good housekeeper. Instead of admitting I just hate a dirty house, I try to convince myself I don’t mind by telling all the guests I don’t mind a messy house cause my kids are making memories.
- I’m not patient enough. I yell at the kids and they don’t deserve that even though they’ve drawn with marker all over their new furniture and have had a sour attitude for days so when they have misplaced their soccer cleats for the 5th time this week (because little kids can’t play sports without having as many practices as the NFL, amiright) I feel guilty I cannot calmly and patiently search the house for them.
We’re living in an unrealistic world of crazy expectations then beating myself up when we don’t meet them.
We Are On A Crazy Train
Of course we aren’t getting anything done when we save All Adult Responsibility for a few short hours a day (at the end of the day when we’re most exhausted) instead of weaving them throughout the whole day we’re home with the kids.
Or even – SHOCK AND AWE – having the kids work alongside us all day.
Or using late afternoons and early evenings to accomplish things that need doing.
So What Can We Do?
To be honest, the biggest thing you can do is shift your mindset. As I was cleaning a while back I had this thought that’s worth mentioning…
➡️ Kids don’t learn responsibility and hard work if we’re only taking care of our responsibilities and hard work while they’re in bed.
Like kids don’t learn to clean by watching us cleaning (*then they are just learning to watch us clean), they learn by doing. They learn to sit in waiting rooms, to do tedious projects, to fold shirts, and to do whatever else by DOING.
How To Stop Compartmentalizing
1. Think about the world over
Start assuming that anything that needs to be done can be done at any time of the day and, if the kids are around, have them pitch in. You don’t need two compartments in your life. Imagine women all over the world – not just in America.
Some women walk hours a day for water.
Think they feel guilty they aren’t playing Hi-Ho Cherry-O?
Of course, that isn’t our reality, but the point stands.
2. Let go of the unrealistic thinking
As soon as I realized I had two compartments, I started working to combine them.
I started doing some of the projects that needed doing while the kids were all around. It was sometimes annoying and frustrating. It was at first chaotic as all get out and then has gradually become more orderly.
And a side effect is that an interesting thing has happened… they learned how to do some things.
They learned not to touch the paint and how to use screwdrivers and how to bake cakes and not to touch loose parts of bookshelves that need assembling and how to remove a doorknob with a drill and other things.
This makes it worth it.
3. Choose to stop the madness
You don’t have to fill your entire day from sun up to sundown, or later, with child related activities that prevent you from doing anything that you actually have to get done.
Resist the pressure to fill mornings, afternoons, and early evenings with child related activities. Instead focus on things you can all do together to build your family culture.
This looks different for every family, of course, but if all the child-compartmented activities squeeze the day out and you’re left with 1.5 hours a day to fulfill ALL of your responsibilities… this isn’t sustainable.
4. Have “You Time” When The Kids Are Awake
Sometimes when you are craving “me time” you are really just wanting to be an adult who gets to do what she wants to do.
Not an unreasonable request seeing as how YOU ARE AN ADULT.
So while the kids are playing, read a book. If you want to get some coffee from a coffee shop, go. The kids will learn (by doing) to sit quietly in a public place. You don’t have to wait until everyone is being babysat or sleeping to enjoy life.
It will sometimes be very difficult and fights will break out and someone will fall or cry and you’ll be like WHAT’S THE POINT, but it gets easier.
The kids pick up on this.
They learn to let you be for a bit.
They learn to solve some of their own problems.
They really do.
You Got This, Mama
This week I encourage you to do some Compartment #2 activities during Compartment #1 and see what happens.
It may feel stressful at first, some people might have tantrums, and you might even decide to pull the kids out of an activity that isn’t making family life better, but it’ll be worth it when you FINALLY get the kids in bed and your to do list is no longer a mile long.