Having a job and being primarily responsible for the home and children is tough. While many men are in this position, it’s more common for women to be heads of single-parent households, or to be the one in a two-parent/two job household who does most of the child care and household chores. The difficulties of this position have been analyzed extensively, but women still find it a tricky balancing act. Here are some me-first tips that can help.
Being in a rush creates enormous anxiety. Not knowing until the last minute what you need to do is often the cause of that rush.
Get a handle on your schedule. Get out a piece of paper, or open up a new .doc file and write it down: awake at what hour? showered by when? what time are the kids up, dressed and fed? when do they leave for school and when you you leave for work? The same goes for the afternoon: what happens when the kids get out of school? where do they go, when, and how do they get there? where and when do they do their homework? When you start supper? When do you serve it? When are you done with clean-up?
Get the whole day down. Include time for weekly house cleaning, shopping and other chores and activities. Then take a look at it and understand that it doesn’t work. There is simply not enough time for everything that needs to be done. Something has to give.
If there’s a spouse, show him the schedule and get cooperation. When both parents are earning a living, there is no good reason for one parent to be responsible for everything that used to be considered “women’s work.” (And the amount you earn has nothing to do with the balance of work: it’s the amount of time you have available that counts.) If you’re in a relationship that’s worth keeping, there must be an equal sharing of responsibilities.
When your kids are a certain age, they need to take responsibility for their own personal obligations, and need to start sharing in household tasks. Any 10-year-old can wake him- or herself up with an alarm clock, sweep a floor, and make breakfast.
Guilt? Forget it. These are things kids should do. Your job is to give them responsibility, as quickly and as much as they can handle. That’s how adults are made.
Call in the reserves. If you have relative or close friends nearby who can help with child care, get them on board. You might be able to make a sharing arrangement – for example, one mother looks after all the kids while another does the grocery shopping for all the mothers. There may be social services agencies that offer the support in the form of free or low-cost after school programs and child care.
Say “No” More Often
As you’ve taken the above measures, you’ve revised your schedule so that now there’s enough time in the day to get things done, hopefully with a few minutes to spare for yourself.
Don’t give them up just to please others! You’re no longer in seventh grade, and life isn’t a popularity contest. You can be flexible, but your time is worth as much as anyone else’s. Bearing the title “Mom” does not obligate you to sacrifice your mental and emotional health to satisfy others’ pleasure. If you can’t take it on comfortably, don’t do it.
That goes for your kids, your spouse, the organizations you belong to, and your job. There’s an insidious saying, “If you want something done, ask someone who’s busy.” Don’t be that person. Your goal is to be a little less busy.