What do you do with 4 hours of time alone by yourself at your house? Do you ever get such a mythical thing? This is my prize – 4 hours of freedom, 3 days a week – while the youngest is in preschool now.
I love my kids very, very much. But this summer has been so long! They have been fighting for the last month, and the epitome of summer parenting is that for every room that they are not occupying (and thus, I am able to clean), they are making a tornadic mess in another room (or two).
I talked a little bit about this last week, but wanted to go into more detail about how I organize my week. As moms, we dedicate a lot of our so-called “free time” to our kids. We continue to pick up and clean up the house after we put them to bed. We go to sleep after them, and get up before them. We are there for them in the middle of the night, and at all hours of the day.
Not only is the freedom of preschool time a dedicated work time for me to run my business and have some writing time, but it is my “mommy time” to get caught up on all of the projects around the house that having the kids home all summer has not allowed me to do. The possibilities are endless: cleaning closets or the basement, organizing bookshelves, clearing out the pantry.
I am hoping that this school year, I can tackle one of these bigger “to-do list” projects every month – I am not ambitious enough to try for one a week, although that would be a good goal that I would never achieve. I’ll say my reach goal would be two in one month. I had hoped to hold a garage sale this summer for all of the baby things that we no longer need and are now taking up room in storage…but time got away from me and here we are, back into the swing of school and life. So, the culmination of my list of projects is going to be a Springtime garage sale and then donations to clear things out. Marie Kondo I am not, but it’s time to purge around here!
We are very blessed. Our two youngest children do play nicely together – at least part of the time. They also get into trouble together. In the last few weeks, I’ve found broken glass in our son’s room from an hourglass that somehow miraculously ‘just broke’ and Barbie hair in the upstairs bathroom sink because the youngest decided all of her dolls needed a hair cut. So, I’ve cleared out his toy boxes and re-arranged his furniture already, and my husband cleared the drain in the sink over the weekend last week (never fun!). These are the needful cleaning projects that we end up doing in the day to day, so that our kids don’t step on broken glass or overflow the sink.
The bigger stuff – that also needs doing – gets put off because it is hard, and isn’t part of the survival of the day to day.
Before/during/after our main floor renovation earlier this year, I cleared out toy boxes in the living room and family room. But it is an endless job. And when kids are home, they claim that they could never give up their favorite baby toys that they haven’t played with in ages. Or the outfit that they absolutely love and couldn’t possibly pass along to someone else – no matter that it is way too small and tight/short.
So, these are the things that we, as moms, really just have to get done when our kids are gone. I truly try to purge the things that they no longer play with. And I do try to get my kids to help clear out the toys and pass along to younger kids they know. But, at the end of the day, they like to hold on to their favorites. And it’s so much easier and quicker to do when they’re not here “helping.”
Beyond these bigger cleaning projects – not to mention things like mopping the floors or deep cleaning cabinets or washing windows – we also need time to step back and catch up with ourselves. Generally, I take Monday mornings to simply recover from the weekend. I clean up the toy mess, pick up around the house, and just sit and enjoy my coffee. Unless there is something I absolutely have to be at, I do not go out on Monday mornings. The youngest and I hang out. I may let her watch cartoons or a movie. It’s kind of my mental health morning. And it’s totally important to have that! If we are traveling on Monday, I do this on Tuesdays. Whatever the first day of the week is, I take that morning to re-set and just chill.
That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything – the cleaning up usually involves spot cleaning the floor for some sticky mess, possibly laundry (I do sheets and towels on Mondays, before tackling the mountain of clothes), and the usual. But, I do it in my jammies and don’t focus on work until I’ve caught up with myself and sort of cleaned up the spaces around me.
The rest of the week flows from that start. It is important to me to have that down time at the start of my week. I don’t follow any other specific schedule for other days. I spend around 30 minutes each morning working on social media for clients while I drink my first cup of coffee – possibly more, but usually that is my start, so that I can pop on- and off-line throughout the day for short intervals later to finish any work left. If we are busy over weekends, I usually schedule out weekend client posts on Thursday and Friday.
My weekday afternoons are taken up by the usual mom’s taxi – school pickups, sports practices, activities and games. I try to mentally plan out meal ideas that sound good, which may or may not work depending on schedule changes, weather, and life. Last week, I actually made dinner every night – a feat I have only repeated one other time this year – but it felt good to get back to basics and spend those evenings at home with my kids. Really good, for us to have that regular mealtime at home during the first full week of school.
I say that I try to write when I have that free mommy time while everyone is in school – and I do! – but the truth is that I write when ideas come to me. If I don’t write down ideas when I think of them, I will definitely forget. So, I’ve been known to pull out my computer directly after dinner, in order to get my thoughts out, and then I can boil them down more when I’m by myself.
I do try to get all the dishes done right after dinner, and clean the kitchen up completely before we move on to the bedtime routines. This allows me to take some more time just to chill after everyone goes to bed. Sometimes I read, or watch a movie, or catch the news, but I do not often “work” after the kids go to bed. I have been known to get up and write when I’m wide awake at 4:00 am…but evenings are downtime for me just as much as my Monday mornings.
I am a people person. I like to talk just as much as the next extrovert around. But I also really appreciate the times throughout my week when I can step back and have some quiet by myself. Don’t we all need that? Time to just enjoy the quiet. There are days when I need noise, and often keep music playing in the house during the afternoons. But sometimes turning it all off and reading a book or magazine is just as important.
My advice? Take that time. The laundry, cleaning, and picking up will always be there tomorrow. Take the precious quiet time after your kids are in bed for yourself. Whether you have several hours of kid-free time while they are in school, or only have that time after they go to bed, do the needful things and then just ENJOY! If you have gotten through your to-do list for the day and have an extra hour, take that time for yourself. Somehow. That downtime will help you give your kids your best self later.