Timeboxing, single mom edition

So. I mentioned a post or two ago that I’m really impressed with Nir Eyal’s book, Indistractible. Did I mention, though, that so far I’ve only read from it while on business trips, or during breaks when I don’t have to do my day job? Somehow it seems much more inspiring when I’m not doing the tight-rope-walk between paid work and all the other work I do as a parent.

When I’m on a business trip, generally someone else is taking care of cooking, cleaning, meal planning, shopping, and all the yard work. I don’t have to deal with contractors or bother with my bills, and I’m not the emotional go-to when kids are planning dates or dealing with school or volunteer projects or homework.

When I’m on vacation or taking time off for holidays, I literally have 8 extra human hours per day to work with and can do all the “home work” I want to.

It’s trying to do both sets of jobs that gets me.

Still, I’m determined to make this work, because I have noticed at least one way in which Mr. Eyal is spot on: too often when I’m stressed, lonely, unconfident, or uncomfortable, instead of facing the issue head-on, I distract myself. I turn to a snack or some Dr. Pepper, or I go switch a load of laundry, or I jump on social media and find something funny or irritating: any of these things seems to give me the boost I need to go back to the task at hand… at least after I’ve finished some less important stuff first.

Anyway. Speaking of distractions, my point of TODAY’S post is that I have set up my timeboxes. My calendar is super colorful now, too, since I coded my “domains” by color. And I did okay on the break. But now I’ve I realized I am seriously underestimating the time required to “Just Be Mom” in the traditional gender role, augmented by the fact that there is no “dad” partner here.

Making and eating and cleaning up after breakfast? Sure that only takes 15 minutes — if we only eat cheerios every day. A trip to the grocery store? “30 minutes” I’d said, never mind the fact that even if I drive it’s about ten minutes each way in traffic. Again, maybe if I’m only buying cheerios and not picking up any prescriptions.

Speaking of prescriptions, how about dealing with sick kids, or a sick self? Luckily I can take off paid work, but “home work” looms over me and stacks up. How about arranging appointments, and working with insurance? How about dealing with all those phone calls during the work day, which bump my work hours back a bit?

My girl came home from school today in tears. When she came downstairs to talk, I hugged her and chatted with her until she’d come up with some solutions and felt better. That doesn’t quite fit into those boxes I made for myself, and yet parenting is my first priority.

I know I’m supposed to be my first priority, according to the book. And that makes sense. But do you think I got that hour of exercise and pampering I’d scheduled? Reader, I did not.

I even scheduled my sleep. And though I’m fairly certain that by the end of the break I was getting my full 8 hours (with strict bedtimes so I can be up and at ’em by 6), my last few nights have been full of vivid dreams that leave me feeling like I haven’t slept at all.

In fact, last night’s dream? Well, it was complex. But we’ll just say it ended in a Broadway-style musical. The featured hit was a song sung by ruined adults hanging out in a jail cell. It was called “Bad Mommas” and the tune has been in my mind all day. Hmm.

I’m supposed to revisit the schedule at the end of the week. But I think tonight during my “relaxation time” — if I can make that work — I will revisit my calendar instead, and use the old contractor’s rule of thumb for “mom tasks.” I’ll take every estimate and multiply it by three. And if it turns out like it did a few years ago when I really tried to “time budget” everything, I’ll find there are literally not enough hours in the day, unless I drop a whole lot of things — or multitask, which leads right back to Distraction.

And the funny part is, alongside all this, a part of me is fretting that the kids are gonna be full-fledged adults in a few years, and then who knows what my schedule might look like then, or what loneliness I might try to distract myself from. For now I’m determined to be the best parent I can be, first and foremost. And that does involve me learning to take better care of myself and my time, so I can be sure they know how to do that too.

Wish me luck. ❤

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