The time-management super-mum – turns out I’m not it.
So one of the last things I posted (before a rather long unintentional and unpredicted hiatus from Instagram), was in fact an optimistic ‘pre-review’ of a book I was reading. It’s called ‘I Know How She Does It’ by Laura Vanderkam.
It is literally this woman’s job to improve people’s time management….and the book is directly aimed at working mothers who feel that they’ve lost the ability to have ‘me-time’/’self-care’/’pre-mum identity’/whatever you want to call it. So as her apparent target audience I was pretty giddy for inspo.
I turned the pages eagerly, excited I would soon fix my predicament of being a stay-at-home-whilst-working-at-home-mum-of-an-ever-demanding-toddler, with seemingly no time to myself or to give my blog and Instagram any quality time and effort. This was going to be my savior.
On reading this book, you are empowered, full of tips and tricks, and evidence of real women who work and have quality ‘me’ time and family time. It asks you to log your time in half hour slots across an entire week and see how you are filling those 168 hours.
My results were that I spend an enormous amount of time fannying about with chores – tidying up, washing up, laundry, hoovering, etc etc. This took up lots of hours across my week, second to work and looking after Eva. What a shame to be using so many hours on things that don’t make me happy…as the book says wisely : ‘the laundry can wait. Contentment shouldn’t’.
Statistically after all this Cinderella stuff gets done, I worked out that in my 168 hours of a week….if I slept a good 7-8 hours a night, and work my contracted 21 hours a week (stay with me)….that technically leaves over 90 hours in the week. ‘90 HOURS!!!’ I cried with glee….and here’s me thinking I will never build my blogging empire, or gather any kind of big following, or ever make anything of this, because that takes time and I just don’t have it. Oh what a fool I’ve been!
But let’s break that down – All week I am caring for Eva at home….and nothing with a toddler is easy. Simple tasks of going to the loo or getting dressed or brushing your hair are painful, because she wants in on everything – she wants to wrestle for the toilet roll, or worse – the bleach, she wants to ‘help’ mummy get dressed by slamming wardrobes and nearly losing a finger, she wants the brush I am using to brush her own hair (or our long-suffering cat).
So along with the hours that are taken up caring for Eva…the hours it takes just to go about my daily business really rack up. Then there are the Thursday nights and Saturday mornings I use as ‘escape to the gym class’ time.
Then there are hours that are lost to shitty little things like getting petrol, or that bit where you’ve put the kid to bed but tea isn’t quite ready. Not quite as simple as the first liberating realisation that there really is no reason why you shouldn’t be taking over the world with those spare 90 hours. Those 90 odd hours are littered with toddler tantrums, lost keys, meal prep, errands, random phone calls to sodding Npower, and general nuttiness of life. They are not literally 90 hours to myself with no other commitments or distractions….and yet I criticised myself for not bossing life because I measured my use of them as if they were all fair game. And the perfect route to stealing joy from yourself? That's right : unrealistic expectations.
And so come the feelings of inadequacy….”I have 90 hours, and I can’t manage to keep blogging. I can’t manage to commit to something I care about. I can’t manage to keep in touch with friends very well.” In this slump, I look around at my house and see that the lightbulb in the living room has gone. There are cobwebs in the hall. there are tatty skirting boards in the kitchen. The laundry basket is overflowing. What a failure I am – with 90 hours I can’t even maintain the house (despite so many hours lost to that very task), let alone work towards my goals of mummy bloggerhood.
The women referenced in the book were working 50/60+ hours a week and still ‘smashing it’ with their time management, fulfilling their professional goals whilst spending quality time with their children (after completing the time log challenge and shuffling/improving things at least).
My point is this : read this book with caution and with full awareness of what stage of life you are in, including what limitations there are to that phase. Be kind to yourself when you work out how those 168 hours can work for you. I am not a high flying career woman like many were who were mentioned in the book, I work from home part time and I’m still trying to work life out, nearly 2 years since the shittest time of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about the discovery that there are better ways to do things, like when to best use me time and how to mutli task better, or do chores, or use the ‘gram in the way that’s best for me – i.e in a way that I am present for Eva in all her tantruming glory rather than ignoring her to hours spent online ‘upping my engagement’ (fuck that).
As I’ve said ; ‘free’ time is not always ‘free’….just because I’m not working (which I do during Eva’s nap times and her nursery slots) does not mean the world is my oyster. But there are things you can do with a child in tow and things you can’t – I cannot blog whilst Eva slaps the keyboard and tries to eat the charger cable, but I can chuck a wash on, or nip to the bank, or catch up with a friend - and feel like I’ve got something out of those hours besides wiping up squashed banana and screaming into a pillow.
This is a very positive book, and for someone like me who can tend to catastrophise things (like thinking I’m a shit housewife and mum for not being a mumpreneur super human with my so called ‘free-time’), it really shows that days are not black and white good or bad. They are made up of lots of little slots of time, and time is not as strict as 24 hours in a day. That feels comforting when you get to the end of one and think ‘I still haven’t changed that fucking lightbulb’, because you can look at other bits of the day and realise you went for a nice walk with the pram, or did a good work session during nap time. You can look at the week as having lots more hours you can tweak for yourself.
As the book says ‘humans invent all sorts of ways to make themselves miserable’, so for me I will take its best advice, time management aside, when it reminds me ‘in life, and particularly life with little ones, happiness is a choice.’
I know this isn’t my usual blog topic, but I have dreams and ambitions as much as the next mama, and I think that last quote is something I need to remember as I strive for them…however many hours I‘ve got! My message to you after I fell victim to the pressures of the book's lessons: never feel inadequate. You are capable of great things and what matters most will take up the time it deserves.