I find it very hard to adjust. I'm not a naturally relaxed person and I have plenty of extra struggles to exacerbate that. I find the lack of head space with kids around quite difficult to manage. And when I do get time to myself I really want to make the most of it, but gosh it is hard sometimes.
I read a really helpful post when I was in the midst of this struggle recently. We'd gone from tonsils-out to chicken pox to holidays and I had very little time to myself. At the end of many weeks the kids started spending more time with their grandparents and then got back to kindy. I sort of had to practice what to do with the time I had. I wanted to roll my sleeves up and just rip in to the job of being on my own, but I felt paralysed - as so often I do. Kate Baer had just the phrase I needed: too tightly wound.
In a post called When you are too tightly wound, Kate writes this, and I totally get it. I'm so glad someone else has put it in to words when I'm there. And that I'm not a weirdo:
It happens every night. Twelve hours of parenting has passed, the kids are finally in bed, and I feel the weight of it all on my chest.
Austin will suggest we go to bed. We need more rest! But I can not go to bed. I am too tightly wound.
Anyone who has parented a human for more than five minutes has felt the coils of the day wrapping around their insides, making the chest tight and the stomach hungry for nachos. By 9pm, I have no words left. I just want to sit in the dark, watch Michael Scott, and not have to think any intelligent thoughts.
I really like identifying what's not working in my life and trying to resolve it. I can't do it on a big scale, but I can do it on a smaller scale, and that counts. Having really battled with feeling so tightly wound that I'm paralysed, and now helpfully having a name for it, I really wanted to fix the problem.
I have found over recent years that I have loads to do, but only some of it is critically important. When I have a bit of spare time I could do some cleaning or organise dinner early or play around with some bloggy/websitey dreams or sort out my photos or find homes for things that have just been unpacked or tidy the car (ugh) or dig out the sewing machine... the list goes on forever. Heck, I could even get out of the house.
When working in a job years ago that was busy and broad and flexible I learnt to not only write lists of the jobs I had to do, but when to do them. It meant that instead of thinking about everything all day and flitting around inefficiently, I could focus hard on my 10am job, knowing that I didn't need to worry about the 2pm job, because I would do it at 2pm. So I have tackled my home life in the same way, and pulled out the big guns: I bought a whiteboard.
Each day has a few tasks assigned to it, and written up on the board. It's pretty simple and obvious really. There's the usual housework/cleaning jobs. And I've added a few extras like "kitchen bench" - with the assumption that the business areas of my kitchen are likely to need a tidy up often, and if they're getting out of control at least I know they will get attention once a week. I wrote "washing" on a Saturday, terribly anxious that everyone understands I do washing more than once a week, but least on a Saturday I can take stock of where I'm at, think of anything that has been missed, check for items languishing in the hot cupboard etc. I've also added in a few jobs that I'd like to get done at the computer - things I'm working on that have not quite come to fruition because I can't get my act together, the dreaded job of sorting my photos on Picasa, and a day to check over my bills and budget.
I love it. I love knowing all of these things will get time and attention, and that I don't have to think about all of them all the time. I like being told what to do. "Well it says on the whiteboard that I have to do it, so I had better do it." I actually really, really like getting things done, I just seem to need to be freed up to do them. And to be made to do them! When I'm too tightly wound I don't have to think, I can just follow the rules.
I actually missed the first two days of whiteboard this week, because Monday was the first day of school and the rest of my life (and I had assigned too many tasks to one day, so I'll have a re-shuffle), and I missed Tuesday because I had three tradesmen in the house and was a little thrown. So I've let them go for now, and today I just focused on today's tasks. One of them was the kitchen bench, and once I'd tidied the essential area (you know the one, with random toys, scraps of paper, pens, kids medicine that is not being used anymore...) I was on a roll and tidied the whole bench to way above and beyond the call of duty. Hooray! I do rely a little too much on waiting until I'm on a roll, but it's effective. Thanks whiteboard.
I wonder if you've noticed the title of this post. I wonder if it's true for you. I've learnt the hard way that total freedom can leave me lost and aimless, but a little sensible discipline gives me focus and results. Good results, not boring results. I can keep my head and my house tidy, I can live more in the moment, I can do the things I have to do and the things I love to do. And hopefully even enjoy them and do them well.
|My beautiful kitchen bench. If it doesn't last, no problem, my whiteboard says I'll be fixing it again next week.|