I’ve always been a planner. I remember wanting a date planner for homework…in elementary school…to go with my very adult Trapper Keeper. To-do lists, brainstorming, habit tracking: these are all my jams.
So after A&Z came home from the hospital, we used the BabyTracker app to get them on a concrete, fool-proof schedule. After six weeks, when Troy and I both had to go back to work, we had to find a way to adapt our daily schedule to theirs without having things fall through the cracks.
This scenario goes hand-in-hand with the first day of school, new jobs, or any big life change, like virtual schooling in a pandemic, maybe.
How can you best allocate your time without feeling exhausted?
How can you juggle everything without dropping anything?
I felt like I had absolutely no time, but somehow the days were never-ending. Two books really helped me put things into perspective and provided the awesome list-making hit that I love. They don’t directly deal with parenting or kids, but instead, how to balance your parenting role along with all of the other roles we play, especially when it feels like you’re starting to spin out of control.
Fair Play by Eve Rodsky
Fair Play, lauded by Reese Witherspoon, provides a giant checklist and analysis of everything that could possibly be needed to keep a home running smoothly (100 tasks in total). It also takes into account the mental load of each task, from the decision-making to the planning to the follow-through. Most of these tasks disproportionately fall on wives/moms, lovingly referred to as the “she-fault” partner.
Bottom line, one person cannot be responsible for all 100 checklist items. (Check the website to take a look at the list)
Eve Rodsky explains that lack of appreciation, gendered division of labor, and miscommunication all contribute to why most households have difficulty juggling everything. This counts for couples as well, not just families with kids.
The Concept: An actual card game. Each checklist item is printed on a card and divvied up between the couple each week/month/year, whichever works best. The couple is supposed to discuss each card, so there is no miscommunication of what the job entails and the minimum expectation of how it’s done. This is a solid, dude-friendly way of dividing up the housework and covering all bases. No assumptions, no excuses. All time is equal, regardless of income.
Fun fact: Fair division of labor doesn’t necessarily look like 50/50. Oddly enough, according to the author’s study, a 79/21 division of labor is enough for women to feel like they have enough time in their day and for the household to feel like it’s running smoothly. Don’t ask me how, but after Troy and I did our divvy, it definitely feels like we have our sh*t together.
Another bonus from this book, we adapted having our own personal “unicorn” time (2-3 hours each every weekend) where we do not have to split twin duty. While one has the girls, the other can sleep in or play video games, whatever we need without the guilt.
Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner
Three months after A&Z were born, I had to travel for a work conference. With this extra time away, I planned on going running, or going to a nice restaurant, or sleeping more than 5 hours at a time. All the things I used to do before…
What else had gone by the wayside? Most pressingly, I’d been paying for a really expensive gym membership and had only gone maybe 2-3 times in the last few months. Ugh, the wasted time and money was infuriating.
So I got online and found Fringe Hours. With this concept and an empty journal, I was determined to find three extra hours to put into my day.
The Concept: “Fringe hours are little pockets of time throughout the day that often go underused or wasted altogether. These moments may not seem like much at first—five minutes here, half an hour there––but these little pockets can be collectively leveraged by women in meaningful ways.” Author Jessica Turner suggests using a daily time tracker to figure out your normal schedule, then going in and seeing where you can be more efficient with your time, like during your commute, your lunch hour, or during your kid’s nap.
You have a certain block(s) of time when you are required to care for your children, especially when they are tiny. Commit to that time and be present with them completely. After they are down and taken care of, use fringe time to commit to yourself.
In my small pockets of time throughout the day, that’s when I try to do my tidying up. You know, the quick house chores that only take 10 minutes but somehow you always end up procrastinating. I also have my “morning fringe” before the girls wake up, for setting myself up for the day (tea, checking email, calendar planning), and my “night fringe” for tackling bigger things, like deep cleaning/decluttering, working on Child(ish) Advice, running, or even getting my Real Housewives fix.
Days with kids can seem depressingly long, but once the girls are going down for afternoon nap or getting on pajamas, I know I’m in the homestretch. I know I have 2-3 full hours that are all mine. It creates a clear division between my parent time and my personal time.
Is this strict scheduling? No, but it does change your mindset and makes you a bit more conscious of wasted hours. Plus, I don’t really sacrifice any time with my girls because I’m trying to multitask with a half-hearted attention span.
Disclosure: This book is published by a Christian publisher. I don’t believe this affects the content of the author’s procedure, but I don’t want you to be surprised when you go to read it.
If we’re talking about COVID times and having to balance alternative school, that’s one more Jenga piece to add to the already-busy life of a parent. Maybe there are some unessential things in your life that can be put on hold while you find time? Maybe some things can be delegated to your partner? Maybe some stress can be alleviated by just waking up 20-30 minutes earlier?
Both books ask you to take stock of your home’s daily schedule, a task that easily gets overlooked in the day-to-day. Whether you’re looking for work-life balance, work-life blend, or just something resembling an actual life, I think these two titles have a lot to offer.