So, I'm back. It felt like we were away for forever, but it was a wonderful, wonderful holiday. We drove all the way to Ontario. Oh. My. Gosh. Longest trip of my life! There were 6 of us plus a dog in a 7 seater van. We brought a car topper full of stuff for my big sissy and the entire van jammed full. On the way home, the topper was full of toys and the van was still stuffed. There wasn't much leg room.
Amazingly, the kids did sooo well. It might have helped that there was a steady stream of movies, drinks and food shovelled back to them. If there mouth wasn't hanging open while staring at the movie, it was stuffed with food and drink. There wasn't opportunity for yelling...
We made it home yesterday, so it has been nice to get back and do the laundry, get some groceries and get ready for work. The kids are ready for school and I'm pumped for my new courses! I have a million and one things I want to do this year. Number one on the list of practical things is getting the inside of my house finished! I've about had it with the constant waiting. I want to decorate! My list of practical goals is very, very long, but we've had some reminders in the past few weeks of the fragility of life that have forced me to re-evaulate.
First, it was my son's blue face. Second, it was visiting some sick family. Third, it was hearing of bad health news for a couple of different friends. I have felt a great urgency these days to get it right as well as to spend quality moments with family and with my own children. The new year always brings a rush of newly set goals and aspirations and this year has been no different. However, my viewpoint has changed. I still have the same financial, career and health goals, but my scope has experienced a shift in view. The things I really want do not pertain to money and weight. They pertain to family and God. And I want to get it right.
There are many things I've learned in life. First, life is not easy, especially the life of a mother. It is hard and tiresome. Second, chocolate is the cure for everything. Those two lessons alone sum up life, or mine at least....
Really though, I have actually learned more in life than that, especially about writing. When I first starting writing to publish, I thought I was awesome. (I still kinda think that, but don't burst my bubble m'kay?) I wrote the worst stories on this planet. My editing consisted of adding commas and periods, not deleting lines and scrapping whole stories to start over. I've been writing for a few years and though I still have a long way to go, I've grown a lot, too.
One important lesson a colleague taught me just this summer is the value of line editing. Not enough can be said about this task. The story improves a thousand times if the entire story is edited line by line. So much more can be said when the sentence is tweaked just a certain way. The next lesson was that line editing is hard and very time consuming.
There are many practical lessons in the art of writing that I have learned, but perhaps the most important lesson is about patience. That may sound like an obvious statement, but it's the truth. Nothing happens overnight. Nothing just appears on the paper. It takes hard work and determination to get it there and it also takes patience to get it right. It takes patience to be published, to improve writing skills, to make industry contacts, to parent, go to school and write all at the same time. For someone who plans every second of the day and future, patience is a really hard trait to have. But it is essential, along side hard work and tenacity.
To being patient and working through the frustration.
In case you haven't been able to tell by my many days of non-writing, cracks have been starting to show for a fair few days now. I will admit that this challenge is causing me to buckle under the pressure. My husband (and my sister, and pretty much everyone I know) tells me I need to let up on myself, but I actually don't know how to do that. My mom says it's because I'm a perfectionist and I have a need to control everything. She may be right on several accounts, but it still doesn't solve my problem.
I don't believe in giving up on my dreams just because I'm a mom, and I don't believe it's fair for anyone to ask me to do that either, but is it necessary to ask that of myself, or at least to let off a little, to save myself from myself? (Whoa, are you still with me?) Maybe, because today I went just a little crazy from the pressure.
I got up early to get my son on the bus and spent the next two hours feeding and dressing kids, doing the laundry and putting about a week's worth of clothes away, doing the dishes etc, doing paperwork, cleaning the bathroom and saving my kids from destroying each other. I got about an hour's worth of school work in before it was time to cook lunch, prep my daughter for school, run some errands, and drop her off at school. Then I raced home and got another hour, hour and a half tops, of schoolwork done before racing back to school to get her. Then I rushed back home to catch my son's bus, cook supper, eat, dress everybody and raced back to town for piano lessons. I had 30 minutes between 6 and 6:30 to get some money for the piano teacher and actually talk to my other two kids before I raced back home to drop them off and then back into town for a Preschool board meeting. I then took about 10 minutes afterwards to do some Christmas shopping before racing back home to make lunches, pack bags, check schedules, emails, and attempt school work. (Okay, that's a lot of "racing", but that's honestly what it's like!) By that time, it was 9:30 and I was crying because I didn't get to write today and I really, really, really didn't want to clean the bathroom again *gulp, sob, gulp, sob*. I may have also yelled at my husband because he wasn't home to take the other kids for piano. Oops!
Now, to be clear, this does not happen every day. Once a month, Thursdays are crazy like this, but not every day is insane. Still, something happens usually every day that throws everything off track, and as of late, diminishes or eliminates my writing time. I'm not willing to sacrifice all of my relaxation time because without it I will be crazier than I am already, but should I be giving up something else? How much can a person really give when they're stretched so thin?
Since the kids or my husband are just not on the table of sacrifice, it comes down to the school or the writing. But I just don't know if I can. It might break my heart in half to give up on either of these dreams.
What do you think? (Or do I want to know?!)
So, you've got a few things on your plate and you're wondering how to balance them all. Welcome to the club. With 3 kids, school, writing, household duties, job commitments and more, I have learned a few tricks to keep everything straight. Here's three things that help me:
Some people like to fly by the seat of their pants. Me, I like to have a plan. In fact, I've already got my summer holidays planned nearly down to the minute. Some people call that OCD, but in order to juggle everything and make things work, everything is planned. The Plan also usually contains some sort of contingency plan because it's guaranteed that at some point someone is going to barf. My kids even love The Plan. They ask every night what we're doing tomorrow, and if The Plan calls for free time, they're confused. The Plan usually means something is happening, so the idea that The Plan is actually not to have a plan is beyond a three year-old's comprehension.
"Ya, but what are doing tomorrow?"
I plan for the month at the beginning of the month, and then for the week at the beginning of the week, and then for the day at the beginning at the day or even the night before. It's the most effective tool for managing everything. I even plan times of the day for bathroom breaks. Not on the plan? Not doing it. Anal retentive? In more ways then one...
Think about it, though. Businesses aren't run on whims. They're run by appointments and planning. For example, if you're a doctor and you don't have appointments booked for the day, what the heck are you gonna do all day long? Planning is an essential part of any well-run establishment. Even Supermom has a schedule. She didn't become who she is without one.
How funny is this picture?
This second one really ties in with making a plan, but it is somewhat different. Every day I make a list of everything that needs to be done. It's usually in chronological order and errands are numbered by geographical positioning for which route will get everything done and me back to my house without having to drive down the same street multiple times. Ok, so now I really sound like I need a psycholical assessment, but, people,
time is everything! And, if I get a few extra minutes to read a book, then it's worth it. One of the best feelings in the world is scratching something off my To-Do list. It makes me feel like an olympic champion. Without the list, the plan goes to pot, and without the plan, the whole day is shot.
Work in intervals.
The third thing that works wonders for managing everything is to work in intervals. I work 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. I set a timer and then bust my butt for 25 minutes. This works best for writing and schoolwork because it helps keep me focused and brings up my production. I get more done in two hours doing it this way than if I just tried to work for two hours straight. By the time the first hour is up, I'm "working" on Twitter and Facebook, or buying "supplies" on Gap.com.
You might ask, how do you teach your kids (or yourself) to enjoy the moment if you're always guiding them to plan the next one? Well, don't involve your kids in the planning. If you told them today that Grandma was coming next week, you'd never heard the end of it! Plus, they can't handle more than what's happening right now or today, so limit your announcements to the present day. My daughter always gets caught up in "what
comes after the next sleep", so I constantly have to remind her that we're only worrying about today. As for yourself, if you plan the way I've suggested (at the start of the month, week and day) you'll already know what's happening today and you'll be able to enjoy
the time you've allotted to working on what you want to accomplish. Don't give up on all spontaneity, though. You may just miss some good moments if you're too focused on your goals for the day.