Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Time, Time, Time

My first post in the New Year seems as good a time as any to speak a little bit about time and how we juggle it here in the WG household. This is part of Inspiration Bit’s group writing project on time management, so enjoy!

There are four children in this house, five if you count Mr. WG. We have a somewhat crazy schedule, with school from 7:45 to 4 p.m. (noon for the little ones), Brownies every other Tuesday, piano every Wednesday, speech therapy weekly, and behavioral/social therapy set to start up again soon.

I have found that in order to get things done, done right, and done on time, I need to do it all myself we need routines and schedules and lists, and we also need outside help. We have tried and rejected many systems ‘round these parts, and there’s no guarantee that what works for us right now will continue working for us as time marches on. But in the meantime, this is our way of cramming all the crap we have to do into the puny little excuse for a day that we get.

So. Let’s start with the outside help part.

We hire someone to clean the house on Mondays and Fridays. I would rather go without my TiVo than forgo the cleaning lady. (Thank God, that is not a choice I will ever have to make, since my TiVo has a lifetime subscription.) I have no desire whatsoever to scrub toilets. Yes, if money got really tight, I’d make do, but this is one of the things we have decided we need to be able to afford. It saves us time (which translates directly into money for me, since I’m freelance), plus the massive therapy or even more massive divorce costs.

So the cleaning lady takes care of scrubbing stuff and folding a lot of the laundry, which leaves us to take care of the kids and other exciting things. Here’s what we try to do.

We set clear expectations. I made lists for my daughters – their morning and afternoon routines. I keep them in sheet protectors in the binder labeled WG FAMILY OPERATIONS MANUAL, a name I blithely stole from the very cool Char. They know how to find the right page and check off their chores with the dry-erase marker.

We plan ahead when possible. On Sundays, I make up a menu my kids can choose their lunches from. It’s just a simple table, where they can choose 1-2 itesm from the “entrĂ©e” column, 2-3 from the “side dish column” and one from the “dessert” column. I find it makes them take ownership for their lunches. I print out a copy for each of the girls, and I make the boys’ choices for them, and then I collate it all into a single table that I print out. That also goes in a sheet protector in the binder, and Mr. WG consults it each morning when he makes lunches.

(An interesting note: were I in charge of making lunches, I would do it the night before. But I’m not. So I don’t. I think it makes the morning way more hectic, but the morning is not my job. So what I think doesn’t matter.)

We recognize that WG is only human and cannot do everything. Also, Mr. WG contributed 50% of the DNA to these children, so everyone does not have to act so damn surprised that he helps to care for them.
We have a fairly clear division of labor. Breakfast and morning kid stuff – Mr. WG. Trips to the doctor, unexpected day home from school, anything that would interfere with normal work hours – WG. After school, homework – WG. Dinner, cooking and cleaning – WG. Ninety percent of D’s therapy appointments – WG. Bathtime and bed – Mr. WG. Doing laundry – WG. Folding laundry not folded by cleaning lady – Mr. WG. Car maintenance – Mr. WG. Paying bills – WG. It works for us. But the key is, if I tried to do everything, nothing would get done, and no one would be happy.

Grown-ups need routines, too. I have my own morning, afternoon, and evening routines, in sheet protectors in the binder. It’s an easy way to put myself on autopilot and make sure the dishwasher still gets unloaded, the wash gets into the dryer, the homework supplies bin is ready and waiting.

We say no. Used to be, when people called to ask me things, the conversation went like this:

Caller: WG? How are you? That’s great! Listen, I was wondering if you could cook twenty-six meals for this lady who broke a toenail and is stuck on bedrest while it heals? And also, she prefers that each meal be themed, and that you make appropriate decorations so that she can really experience it fully. So, we need all twenty-six for, like, tomorrow. You can do that, right? You’re home anyway….

WG: Sure! Yeah! That sounds great!

Not so much anymore. Now they call and I just say, “I would really love to, but I can’t. I’m sorry.” I don’t even explain half the time. I have my own commitments, I have the things I choose to give my time to, and I am learning to let go of the guilt that comes from not being the world’s bitch.

We enforce time. We currently have a universal bedtime of 7:30 p.m. in our house. Barring truly unusual circumstances, at 7:31, you will see nary a little kidlet in sight. Or I won’t, at any rate, since I leave to walk four miles at 7:30 every evening.

We respect time. Think that shopping trip is gonna take an hour? Let’s make it 90 minutes. If we get back early, we win! Everything takes longer than you think it will, particularly when there are children involved. Particularly when one of the children is not even four years old but stands taller than his older sister and weighs SEVENTY FREAKING POUNDS.

We take time for ourselves. I walk four miles at night, or I do strength training. Mornings, I run or bike intervals for 20 minutes. Mr. WG respects this time. He plays basketball on Saturday nights. And is encouraged to go out with friends more often, but he generally prefers the company of his computer. But we chill. On our own or with each other or whatever.

I think the key to any successful system is flexibility. When it's not working for us, we change it. And we move on. So, you're all up. You can share your tips here, or join in the yourself!


Anonymous said...

This is some excellent advice! I need to get organized too. It is always a challenge around here.

mom to three great kids said...

Sounds a little bit like my household.

We have three children living with us and one visiting on weekends. We have boy (15), boy(13) and girl(4). Just as i was reading your post i realized we have a whole system going on without even planning it..My husband leaves for work et 6:15am therefore getting the older kids ready for school is my job. They can do their own breakfast now, so i just get their lunches ready (sandwiches are done the night before and whatever can stay in the lunch box overnight gets put in too)and in the morning i just put in the cheese pack...yogurt..ect.two time a week my daughter goes to pre-school. so on those days i get her ready to go too...when i get back with her...i do the usual....making beds....doing dishes...laundry...preparing the coffee maker for the next morning(for hubby).. If my husband gets home early he'll make supper and i'll clean afterwards, if not, i'll make supper and he'll cleanup afterwards. and while doing supper, i try to help my kids with their homework and try to answer my daughters 101 questions. It does get hectic sometimes. And whatever i dont have time to finish that day husband either helps me finish it or i leave it for the next day. It's pretty much the same routine everyday. And like you, we are flexible...we have to be.

Thanks for the inside look at your family life.

Anonymous said...

This is an incredibly useful post. We need to do some of what you are doing.

Unknown said...

I only WISH I was so organized! Granted, I'm only having to deal with an 8 month-old and a hubby, but I'm a long way from this!

By the way, you've been awarded with the Wonder Woman Award on my blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Please tell me you are going to publish this somewhere. This is some of the most helpful advice I have seen in years--and wonderfully written to boot!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely wonderful!!! You are extremely organized and I love how you work together as a team. But most of all, I love how you both schedule time for yourselves!

Anonymous said...

WOW! I MIGHT CAN TRY THAT. i've spoiled my oldest daughter she want get rid of none of her toys she is ten every time i go in her room it's a mess. I HAVE A NINE MONTH OLD I DO EVERYTHING MOW ,CLEAN COOK, TAKE OUT GARBAGE , FEED DOGS.need help.Time for my daughter to help.My husband works alot.

Anonymous said...

so great to hear about all this.
i am a new nanny, 19 years old, looking after a 2, 4, and 5 year old, 40hours a week in a huge house with no rules or regulations...
i've been breaking everything down for the past month i've been working here, looking at the problems and noticing time management is just soo huge.

again, thanks, i'm not the only one dealing with this! haha. =)

Web Time Clock said...

Thank you for making things so planned. beautiful advices, I will surely implement them in my life. Keep updating.

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