Lessons Learned…

I hate when I resort to the: Let Me List Out How Much Is Going On In My Life type of conversation or content because I feel like it comes off as a type of humble-bragging? And I really don’t like where we are in society where it’s like the busier you are, the more important you are? Or something? I don’t like how “busy” has become a status symbol. All of that said, sometimes I get really down on myself for not getting the things done I was “supposed” to due to some arbitrary requirements I feel are set upon me by life and or family, and I have to step back and say: Well, now that I think about it, this week was crazy. And that guilt is exacerbated by the fact that I’m not working right now because I feel like I have NO EXCUSES. Everything should get done!

So I had to sit down and remind myself how crazy things were to try to let myself off the hook. I had to list things out to prove: Just because you didn’t travel in the last 7 days, doesn’t mean your life was full of free time. We had tons of stuff on the schedule over the last 7 days: 2 plays, 1 birthday party, 1 witch ride, 4 days of volunteering, 2 family celebration meals, 2 soccer games, 3 days of swimming, and 1 sleepover. I don’t even need to discuss my husband’s ailments and the ways they complicated things because THAT LIST OF THINGS ON THE CALENDAR IS PLENTY.

I just give myself such a hard time now that I’m not traveling as much. It’s like there’s a part of me that says: You don’t have a job now, you should be able to do it all. But I’ve had to relearn some lessons from the time I spent when I was a stay-at-home Mom before. Just because you don’t work outside the home does not mean you are suddenly filled with 40 extra hours of free time that the job-having person doesn’t have. When I was traveling so much I didn’t spend a lot of time questioning my purpose, but I’ve had one solid stretch of 7 days with no travel and I found myself beating myself up for how much I did NOT get done. So I’m having remind myself of old lessons.

  1. Every job I ever had gave me a quiet places to stay centered so my brain wasn’t clouded which made the days feel less crazy than when I’m at home. Being at home is like a being surrounded by a chorus of voices yelling at you about things that need to be done because everywhere you turn there’s a leaky faucet or a mis-aligned cabinet door. (Not that I would fix those, but I need to CALL someone to do it.) When I was in an office it was ONLY work clutter in my brain, which was a lot less than at home.
  2. Since I’m not working I’m doing school transport tasks so I really only have the hours of 8am to 2:45pm free. Just because I gave up a full-time job doesn’t mean I suddenly have a solid 8 hours free every day. I am looking at 6.75 hours if I am lucky.
  3. Those un-obligated 6.75 hours disappear fast while the kids are at school. When I don’t work outside the home, I take on tasks I never would otherwise. Like planning birthday parties or volunteering for an outdoor art exhibit. And if you’re dumb like me and plan those tasks smack dab in the middle of those school hours, you no longer have long enough chunks of time available to do ANYTHING big.  
  4. Computer tasks that involved emails coming in (making appointments, paying bills, communicating with teachers, school newsletters) get done while you’re sitting at your desk at your job. They take no time and you can do them immediately. But, when you don’t sit at a desk all day, they get put off until you are behind on EVERYTHING.
  5. When you have two incomes, you can resort to more expensive “default food” nights when weeks are crazy. You can order pizza or hit a drive-thru or eat out. I have to have something in the house for people to eat and I try to cook it to save money so I’m spending a lot more time on dinners than I was when I was working.
  6. When I had a desk job it forced me every morning to sit down and go through my tasks/calendar for the day. When you don’t have a job forcing you to sit down every morning and plan your day, it’s kinda up to you to do it on the fly and when you have busy kids and busy husbands and a dog that needs constant attention…things just get forgotten. 

I had to learn variations of these lessons the first time around when I wasn’t working outside the home. It’s kinda like how we have these programmed illusions in our head relating to beauty and body size? How we just all have agreed – without meaning to – that skinnier is better? Well…it’s like somehow I have this programming in my head that Not Working Outside The Home = 40 More Hours A Week Than People That Do Work Outside The Home. And this is not the case at all, and what extra free hours I do have spend a lot more frazzled than they ever did in an office so I end my day in a fog. And without the office-mandated time at the computer and with a calendar…I struggle to manage those hours.

I know it all just takes time and I’m still looking for work (although with the added kid obligations like swimming, and the necessity still for periodic travel, we are realizing I can’t do full-time right now) so it’s hard for me to force myself to adopt a “schedule” when I keep thinking: But this might also all be temporary… 

I’m just feeling shitty about myself, I guess, and I need to kinda spell things out to remind myself that I’m not just floating around in my silk pajamas with endless free time while the kids are at school. So I don’t need to be so hard on myself if I am started a new week with the SAME TASK LIST AS THE WEEK BEFORE.

I do think I’ll get away from the house for a little bit today to try to get some planning time in. I think I’ll ride my trike to the library to allow myself some time away from the mental clutter my house forces on me. I am traveling to Knoxville this week, but it’s a little flexible so I can take the time to figure that out. I know it will all work itself out but I just felt terrible about myself this morning when I started remembering all of the shit I didn’t do this week so I just wanted to give myself a pep talk on my blog reminding myself of the illusion of the excess free time when you don’t work outside the home.

Here’s to being kind to ourselves, no matter what your situation. 

5 Comments

  • Colleen

    This post resonates with me, especially what you said about the mental clutter. Mine is at my job which has become constant dealing with new issues that just arose or responding to managements demands to do something in the next few hours. Anyhow it means that my to do lists seem to get longer instead of shorter and I find that extremely stressful! And then I feel like I don’t do enough with my kids at home when I’m here. Like you I need to figure out how to reset my expectations of myself so I don’t constantly feel like I’m failing.

  • Sharon

    Thank you for this. I’m working half-time this academic year (college prof) instead of full-time like the last 11 years, and I keep beating myself up because “I should be getting all this other stuff (housework, long-term projects, calling the damn dentist) done, I’m only working half-time…..” But no. I’m now doing kid pick-up midafternoon instead of picking up from child care at 5, and I’m volunteering with some congressional campaigns (and spending lots of other time stressing about midterms in general), and… yeah. I need to cut myself some slack too.

  • Beth Edwards

    This a 100% this. I have worked full time, part time, Summers off as well as school vacations, and am know retired (a whole different ball game when your spouse retires too). Having Free????? time is a fantasy. It is very hard to schedule that time. You think of the 8 things that you can do that day, get 2 done and feel like a total failure, despite the fact that a friend needed you to help them and you did it, or you got a chance to go to lunch with a friend. I try to write a schedule, but don’t have time. Sometimes I need a nap. Yesterday I decided to take the bored dog that has been trying to dig under the chicken wire bArrier to the dog park. Give yourself grace and time for you. You have to take care of you or things will get worse quickly

  • Rebecca W

    I don’t have any words of wisdom, just wanted to say that I’m glad I’m not the only one whose house yells at them. Every now and then it screams!