Monday, August 30, 2010

Busy Toddler Means No Free Time!

Dear Jocelyn,
I am having trouble juggling the demands of my toddler, running my home, and my part-time work. It seems like I never have enough consecutive minutes in the day to get anything done. Do you have any tips for time management?
     -Busy Mom

Dear Busy,
Moms everywhere run into problems with time management. Children have a way of messing up schedules, throwing off priorities, and looking adorable while doing so. When you were single, or married without children, you likely found that you had time to clean at your leisure. You probably also did not have cheerios dumped on the floor and fingerpaint on the wall. So the problem is two-fold—you have more tasks to do, and less time to do them in. There are several time management tips that will keep you more on track:

1) Schedule, Schedule, Schedule! Develop a schedule. This does not need to be a minute-by-minute, “set in stone” schedule. Rather, find five minutes (maybe give your toddler a piece of tape and let them have at it!) and think about what you want your week to look like. Are there daily chores that need to be done? Weekly? Monthly? Write them down on a generic calendar (one that has four Sunday-Saturday weeks) so you can see what a typical month should look like. Write down what chores need to be done, and when you'd like to do them. Include your part-time work (maybe half-hour segments several times a day). Your child will benefit from organization and structure. Having a bath at the same time every day, playing at the same time, etc., can help him settle into a daily pattern.

2) Be realistic: While you would like to raise a perfect child, be a star employee, and have your home looking like Martha Stewart's, that is not realistic. Think about what is reasonable—can you commit to doing laundry twice a week? 10 hours of work a week? Sweeping/vacuuming main areas as needed? Keeping the dishwasher loaded/unloaded? Make a priority list of what needs to be done, and do those items first. Things like dusting ceiling fans or organizing clothes can wait until your child is a little older.

3) Incorporate your child into your work: Find ways to let your child "help" you. Invest in a mini-broom, or give him a dust rag and let him follow you around. This will keep your toddler busy, and hopefully train him for the future when he really DOES help you around the house!

4) Relax! If you don't stick to your schedule, or if some chores get overlooked, it’s okay. Most people do not expect the house of a new mother to look perfect. Allow yourself to lean on support from others. Consider hiring a maid occasionally, or schedule playdates for your child so you can work.

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