I’m not necessarily someone who would be described as organized: perhaps scattered would be more accurate. I am always looking for suggestions on how to manage my family, but I find that the advice of the “experts” on the morning television shows often leave me feeling discouraged. Is it just me or does anyone else ever wonder how many assistants these people have to help them coordinate their schedules, do their hair and makeup, cook their meals, and tend to their children so they can sit on the television telling me how to find balance?
I am not an expert of anything, and I am not a complainer. I am a mostly-try-to-stay-at-home mother of four children who have hectic school and work schedules and swim team practices, play rehearsals, and piano lessons to attend. I work two part-time jobs, keep the books for our home business, volunteer for my church, help my aging parents whenever I can, and occasionally get a few minutes to exercise or clean my house. My husband works out of town for months at a time, so the bulk of the homework duty, yard work, errand running, housekeeping, and day-to-day peacekeeping fall on my shoulders as well. In other words, I am busy.
In trying to manage my busyness, I am learning the hard way that life is all about being realistic in our expectations. The key to being more organized is to recognize and then manage the current motherhood phase we are experiencing. When my children were small, I found it much easier to create chore charts, meal plans, and study schedules for my family. Life was busy and chaotic then, but it was a different “busy” as I could somewhat control everyone’s schedules. I’ve moved into a different chapter now. While I have not given up on trying to be more organized and continue to make lots of lists, here are a few things I have learned that help me to be a more effective, not to mention happier, mom.
#1) Motherhood is not a competition! It doesn’t matter how clean my neighbor’s house is, how polite her children are or how manicured her fingernails are. That perfect neighbor feels just as inadequate as I do some mornings. I am not living her life, and she is not living mine, so I try to ignore the temptation to make comparisons.
#2) It is okay to be human. Moms wear a dozen different hats interchangeably. I remind myself to accept that I am NOT going to accomplish every task for every role I play every day. At the end of the day as I review my not-completed to-do list, I also make a mental list of everything I did accomplish that day. If no one else noticed, that’s okay. I can give myself a pat on the back.
#3) Utilize mini-bursts of efficiency. I have learned to take on tasks for brief intervals if I don’t have time to tackle the entire project. I am amazed at how much housework I can accomplish when I allot myself 30 minutes of committed cleaning. Then when I’m done, I’m done. I may not have finished cleaned every closet, but I can take pride in the fact that I got those toilets sparkling clean. Sometimes, enough is enough.
#4) Learn to relax. Sometimes the most resourceful thing moms can do is to just take a 30 minute breather to read a book, watch a mindless television show or go for a quiet walk. Remember the advice of the flight attendants? We moms have to “save” ourselves before we can help anyone else with their oxygen masks.
#5) Don’t forget Serendipity. Some days it might not appear I got anything done. But, often those are the days I was truly at my best. An hour spent listening to a teenager or a lonely friend is more important than dusting or fixing a gourmet dinner. I ask myself, “Is this going to matter five years from now,” whenever multiple tasks are screaming for my attention simultaneously.
#6) Write it down. The simple act of putting the list on paper (whether it’s the shopping list or packing list or cleaning list) helps me to unclutter my mind and regain focus when I am toiling and spinning. Having a written list relieves the pressure to remember everything and minimizes the stress level. Oftentimes it doesn’t look quite so bad on the sheet of paper compared to what I had visualized inside of my head.
#7) Adjust those expectations. Real children leave their shoes and backpacks on the floor and forget their homework. Real moms run out of milk on Monday mornings and have lots of unmatched socks in the laundry room. Real moms lose their patience and have to apologize. Real moms know it is okay to use paper plates now and then.
#8) Accept help. I am independent by nature and want to do it all by myself. But, the fact remains that I physically can’t be in more than once place at a time. Neighbors are more than willing to give my kids a ride now and then when I’m at work. My children are usually very willing to help. Teenagers can help the younger ones with homework, fix dinner or do the grocery shopping. Younger children can sweep floors, set the table, or color handouts for Sunday’s lesson
#9) Learn to laugh! Humor is the best tension diffuser I have found. It works with husbands, teenagers and toddlers. The most stressful moments make the funniest stories. When I feel like screaming sometimes I actually remember to grab the camera first. Stains eventually fade, two-year old haircuts grow back, and yes, someday this will be funny.
#10) Enjoy the (amazing and yet exhausting) journey. A few years from now, I know I will look back and will miss this stage. My house will someday be clean and quiet, and I will miss the dishes in the sink and the bantering at the kitchen table. I am happier when I don’t take things too seriously and enjoy the fact that I am needed. It is a good thing to be needed.