A friend of mine with four small children told me about a conversation she had once with her mother-in-law. MIL was trying to "encourage" her to add some small task to her daily routine. I can't remember what the task was, but it was some kind of chore that MIL thought would improve my friend's overall attitude about her house and her chaotic life with little 'uns. In an attempt to convince her just how simple it would be to add this "to-do item" to her day, MIL said: "It'll take you 10 minutes; that's it!"
When she told me about it, I had the same sinking feeling she did upon receiving this advice: If you only knew just how many 10 minute jobs I have in a given day, you would choke yourself on those words before speaking them in my presence.
It's the kind of advice that makes me want to throttle the person giving it, the kind that makes me want to say: "You don't have a freakin' clue what you are talking about, so shut your pie hole and leave me alone."
And people don't. Have a clue, I mean. I don't have a clue what your life is like, you don't have a clue about mine...no one really knows anything about us if we don't tell them, right?
So to answer the MIL's of the world, and other well-intentioned but clueless folks, here is a list of 10-minute jobs that make up my day:
- Get little people up and out of bed. Should take 10 minutes, always takes longer.
- Get little people dressed. Should take 10 minutes, always takes longer.
- Make school lunches. Whether you do this in the morning or the night before, it still must be done. Could take 10 minutes, usually takes longer.
- Change diapers. One at a time, 3-5 times a day.
- Wrestle toddler into car seat. Seriously can take up to 10 minutes, between playfully convincing her that it's her idea to get in her seat, warning her with consequences if she does not cooperate, imposing said consequences, and then giving in to the inevitable sweat-inducing, muscle-wrenching contortions it takes to get the completely stiffened body of a determined 2-year old to bend enough to get the almighty 5-point harness car seat fastened, while dodging her attempts to pull my hair, scratch my forearms, bite my fingers, and whack me in the face. Need to go more out more than once in a day? This little dance will happen each and every time she needs to be strapped in.
- Troubleshoot technology issues. Daily. Usually longer than 10 minutes, but let's call it 10.
- Print out coloring pages to occupy the children. So you can get more stuff done. Ha!
- Make beds.
- Return phone calls. Usually longer than 10 minutes. Say 20.
- Apply bandaids, ice packs, and/or healing kisses to run-of-the-mill little people injuries.
- Straighten up the living room.
- Tidy up the bathroom.
- Negotiate a peace agreement between warring toddler factions that have come to the very precipice of war over who had the Hello Kitty Driving A Car figure first. This could take 2 minutes: Give me the damn toy and retreat to your own damn corners and that's the end of that! Of course, that adds 30 minutes of tantrum and terror. So to really keep the job to 10 minutes, one must creatively, peacefully, take this time to have a "teachable moment" with one's children and show them how to resolve conflict in a way that honors all and promotes general well-being and ensures they do not become criminals when they grow up.
- That one above? Happens 4-6 times a day.
- Do laundry load #1. Transfer washer load to dryer load, start new washer load, fold freshly dry clothes, put them away.
- Do laundry load #2. Repeat all of the above.
- Pay bills online OR maybe buy a birthday present for a family member or friend online. Longer than 10 minutes, unless I know exactly what I'm looking for (which today, I did! 10 minutes to buy 3 birthday presents! Go me!).
- Check homework.
- Check backpacks, respond to whatever request has come home from school that day -- permission slip, donation request, library book notice.
- Look for library books.
- Return emails. If you actually want to return them thoughtfully, minimum 20 minutes.
Minimum 30 minute jobs:
- Make breakfast. Feed the masses.
- Round trip to school drop off.
- Make lunch. Feed the masses.
- Round trip to school pick up.
- Make dinner.
- Eat dinner with the family, just like June and Ward Cleaver.
Big Time Sucks:
- Grocery shopping, or any other errand needing to be done.
- Cleaning up after meals. Probably 1.5-2 hours total for the day.
10 hours later:
Have I read a book to the children yet?
Have I sat on the floor and played with them at all?
Have I talked to a friend, or to any of the people I really owe a phone call to?
Have I caught up with my neighbor, whose wife is in the hospital?
Have I read a book myself?
Have I watched The Colbert Report?
Have I heard anything at all about what is going on in the world? (Actually, I probably have, as NPR is the soundtrack to my day, but have I read a newspaper? Hell, no!)
Have I kept track of my kids online activities, talked about the bully at school today, tickled anyone, taken a shower, sorted through clothes to give to Goodwill, set aside the sport uniforms or had a cup of tea?
Have I done one iota of work for the jobs that actually pay the bills?
So, if you've got any advice on how to make my day go more smoothly, thank you. I'll pencil that in right after Task #57: Strangle anyone who gives advice.
ps. I know I am ranting. We do that sometimes.