Carving out time for myself and my kids

Those closest to me have noticed a difference in me lately. I’ve been less frantic, and less panicked about all the things that I haven’t done. I’ve made some changes in my life, and are continuing to do so, that have enabled me to carve some time out for myself and my children.

Like many people, I have a lot on my plate. I didn’t exactly designed it that way… Life just ends up going un-according to schedule. Since our veterinary business took a few years longer to start than planned, I grew my other business, Africa Sleeps, in the meanwhile. Even though I retired from teaching, I still ended up being an entrepreneur with two businesses that need a lot of attention, as well as the founder of a charity, as well as a mother and wife. This isn’t bragging; it’s more of an admission of guilt. In our society, we value busyness too much, and don’t place enough emphasis on enjoyment of the moment.

This last year has been increasingly frantic. I found less time to spend with my children, and no chance to ever get on top of my work for my three major obligations. Of course, the charity is the organization that suffers the most, because it always gets bumped behind my two businesses. As much as I value the creativity of building a new business, and the passion for natural products, my work in Ethiopia is the most important to me. And yet it’s always at the bottom of the heap.

As I was driving down south to Portland to meet my sister for a much-needed getaway, I decided to listen to an audiobook that I had been waiting to have some time to get to. It had been recommended to me by one of my former students, went to Ethiopia for four months to volunteer for my charity. The Four Hour Workweek was is inspiring… Reflecting in all those hours of driving, I took a hard look at how efficient I actually am, how I spend my time, and what is most important to me.

First of all, I realized how many times the day that I get distracted by unnecessary activities. The prime example is Facebook. I started to go on A Facebook diet. I realized how many times a day I would have a break in tasks, and then end up on Facebook for 5 to 15 minutes. Well, those 5 to 50 minutes add up. I still need to use Facebook for work… So I can’t go cold turkey. But I installed an app that dealt with my organizations pages, and put the Facebook app several pages back on my iPad desktop. To my surprise, I didn’t miss it at all. I found that even checking Facebook once every couple of days was sufficient to keep up with friends. There simply just too much garbage information coming across the wire. This all takes time… Time I don’t have. So the less Facebook the better.

Secondly, I realized that I was trying to do too much in one day. I was constantly frustrated with all the things that I didn’t get done. Multitasking actually sucks. It’s a horrible efficiency strategy. So I begin giving myself two major tasks for a workday. That’s plenty to do in a day ground between school hours. Because I only set myself to tasks to do, I also had to really think about what was most important with my time, and delegate some of the less important tasks to others, but I couldn’t eliminate all together.

My third important take away was how much I could assign to others. I do use the strategy in the past, employing a housekeeper, and even a marker to get some of the more mundane and tasks of my teaching load done. But since we started the veterinary hospital and have been living on an extremely limited income (just Africa Sleeps,) I have been trying to do more and more myself. So I started thinking about what I could delegate to my staff at the hospital, and decided did to hire a minimum wage personal assistant. I advertised for the personal assistant job, and ironically, have not had time to hire someone! That’s next week.

The other part is “encouraging” my husband to take on some more family tasks. The truth is that he is not run off his feet… It’s a start up veterinary hospital and the veterinarian isn’t busy all the time! So he is learning to use some of his downtime to pay bills and run errands. {insert joke about teaching an old dog new tricks} But seriously, Jason is learning to use some of the non-booked time in his day for household obligations, instead of whiling away those hours and having to tack on household stuff afterwards, at the expense of family time.

On the way back from Portland, I listen to another short audiobook about effective mornings. Basically, the whole point of What the Most Succesful People Do Before Breakfast is to get up early and pay your self in time first, like the Wealthy Barber suggests with money.

I realize that my evenings after the kids went to bed were mostly being used to go back to work. I work too much… Have I mentioned that?

So I decided that I would get up an hour earlier every day, and give myself an hour of time for myself. I didn’t dictate what that time should accomplish. But I found the mornings that I sit with a cup of espresso or chai, and either blog or reads, fill up my cup in the way that a few things do. The one thing I miss, having children, is quiet breakfast. So this is my way of carving out a quiet breakfast for myself, and a little refractive time. Consequently, at the other end of the day, I am either going out in the garden or spending a little time talking with my husband after the kids go to bed. Then, I go to bed myself. With a few exceptions {insert another joke about training an old dog new tricks} I’ve been avoiding working at night, when I am least productive anyway.

The most recent changes we’ve made is after our trip to Las Vegas. Prompted by our children’s less-than-subtle hints, Jason and I had deep discussion about our lack of time with kids. The truth is, until one of those major obligations is gone, we don’t have a lot of spare time. But we had found we had got into the technology trap… Much of the time we did have to spend on the children, we were wasting on technology time instead. Jason will go to his iPad, and I would go back to work. Sloth and Overwork. Neither reflected our true priority, of enjoying our daughters before they grow too old to enjoy us. So Jason has ditched his iPad, or rather tried to and was having a terrible time until I hid it on him. And I am making an equal attempt to not go back to work after 5 PM. Most importantly, we have taken the pledge to say “yes” to our children, and squeeze in activities and time with them during the day.

Our lives are these constant works in progress. The last few years have been building… Building our businesses and setting up our lives for the next stage. Now we are in the editing phase of carving out time for ourselves and our children.

If you find that you are short on time, not spending time with your kids, and too busy with work, I highly recommend those two books. They’ve prompted a lot of discussion in our lives, with more changes and editing to come.

6 thoughts on “Carving out time for myself and my kids

  1. What a great post! I will definitley have to check both out.

    I’ve recently found myself in a similar space.. working too much and not leaving enough time for myself— to rest and relax and regroup.

    Between working a FT provincial government job and doing PT work at a photography studio (with flexible hours and only 10 mintues from my house– much to my temptation to work at all hours, I’m finding!), plus saying yes to every single invitation (friends’ home parties, random volunteer things, etc), and maintaining a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend who lives 2.5 hours away, I was just burnt out.

    I’ve started saying no to some social things that I don’t think I’m overly keen on going to, and started taking a break during the nicest part of the day (between 4-6pm) after I finish my day at my FT job— to enjoy dinner in the sun on my patio before heading to the photography studio. It’s amazing what that has done for my morale and spirit!

    I’ve reorganized my schedule a bit to accommodate quick weekend trips up to see my girlfriend (or spend time with her when she comes to see me) and it’s worked really well.

    • You should definitely check the first book out! You would really like the section on remote work (totally applicable to most government jobs!)

  2. My challenge has been somewhat different.
    My husband is gone a lot – work, work, and more work.
    I spend all day/evening (and often nights, because one’s often sleeping in our room) with my kids…we’re homeschoolers (or, rather, unschoolers, which honestly seems to take more of my time because I’m working all the time at cultivating the kids’ interests). In other words, I spend a huge amount of quality time with my kids; I feel very fortunate that it is this way and I love it.
    My challenge has been not being able to have time for myself. Again, my husband works a lot; also we don’t have any sitters at all. And I tend to fall somewhere between introversion and extroversion – which means to me that while I enjoy the time I have with others, I also need time by myself…and I don’t get it very often. I can get pretty rattled and anxious having so little alone time. This is something I’m continuously challenging myself on…with varying degrees of success. I’m a work in progress, I guess!


    • I think it’s even more challenging to find time for yourself when there aren’t distinct times for kids, times for work etc. It can be a lovely way to live, melded like that… but on the other hand, it’s super hard to “Carve out” time….

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