Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time Blocks

Let's face it, we moms have a lot to juggle! We always fall short of what we want to get accomplished in a day and feel like there is more work to be done than we can possibly do. If we get our closet cleaned out, we realize there are still a few other closets to clean out. If our laundry is all done and folded, and put away, we have no time to get dishes done. If we do tons of dishes and get the kitchen looking perfectly clean, the living room looks like a tornado of toys hit. If we spend too much time reading to our kids and playing games with them, supper ends up being PB & J. If we cook a gourmet dinner, we are constantly frustrated with the kids and shooing them out of the kitchen and unable to sit down all day.

We can't do it all. If we try to, we will burn out. We can't compare ourselves to others because they have different lifestyles, circumstances, and talents. I am not as brilliantly crafty as Monica, don't cook from scratch as much as Tammy, don't live as organically as Lindsay, don't snag as many freebies as Crystal, and don't think as much as Jess. We are all gifted in different ways!

If I focus on keeping the house immaculate, my kids will be neglected. If I focus only on the kids, we won't have anything to wear, any clean dishes to eat off of, or any food in the house and thus my hubby will be neglected. How can we moms balance out all of our responsibilites?

I'm not an expert, but I have found this method to be helpful for me at this season of my life and therefore I want to share it with my fellow mommy friends out there:

Time block! Don't neglect the kids or the house but jump back and forth between the two all day long in little blocks of time. I call it time-blocking but you could call it whatever you want to. Most of you probably do this instinctively and have never put a name to it.

(Now obviously if you are sick, or have a sick child or have a newborn, you are going to do the least amount of housework possible, so these tips aren't across the board for every situation)

What does time-blocking look like in our household? I'll give you an example, even though I'm no expert on homekeeping or mothering. There are different things that come up each day and so this is just an idea of how time-blocking can work on an average day. Notice how our day jumps back and forth between time with kids and household responsibilities.


Kids eat breakfast with Daddy before he goes to work
Mommy gets up and does breakfast clean-up (since I still get up a few times a night with a baby I get to be lazy!)
Kids play together while Mommy feeds the baby and maybe squeaks in a bite to eat herself
Mommy and kids read/sing/pray/work on verses or Questions and Answers book
Kids play together while Mommy straightens up the house, throwing a load of laundry in, de-cluttering, putting baby down for a nap etc.
Mommy pays bills, checks e-mail or gets a chore done while the kids again play on their own
Mommy reads the kids a story and feeds baby
Mommy gets the kids a snack and then the kids play
Mommy and kids do an activity, whether going somewhere like library storytime or swimming, or working on a deep cleaning of their room
Mommy reads some Bible chapters to herself while the kids play together
Mommy gets out art supplies and the kids do some coloring while Mommy cleans up the kitchen or prepares lunch
Lunch and feeding baby

After lunch:

Boys nap and Ali has quiet time in her room while Mommy has an hour of "free time" to blog or read
Ali comes out and needs a quiet activity while boys nap an hour longer
Mommy fixes a snack for everyone and feeds baby
Kids play together (in the yard if it's a nice day) while Mommy tries to do dishes
Mommy does an activity with the kids (story, art project, etc.)
Mommy feeds and holds the baby
Kids watch their 30 minute video while Mommy makes supper
Supper
Daddy tickles the kids and reads to them while Mommy cleans up supper
Mommy and Daddy both ready kids for bed
Mommy feeds baby
Daddy reads a story. Mommy reads aloud from her Bible chapters for the day (reading through the Bible in one year).
Mommy feeds baby
All kids go to bed
Mommy and Daddy have "free time" to catch up on chores that need to be finished, talk, watch a movie, be online, read, sew, go grocery shopping, or go to Bible Study or Youth Group
Mommy feeds baby
Mommy and Daddy go to bed
Mommy feeds baby
Mommy sleeps a bit
Mommy feeds baby
Mommy sleeps

Another day begins....
Whew!

Obviously, it is our goal that the kids help us with the household chores and cleaning and so time with them and homemaking will overlap many times, especially as they get older. While they help with picking up and putting away laundry (and light dishwashing), there is still a lot they cannot do, like paying bills, making menu plans, organizing papers, make phone calls, etc. and so it's a necessity that I have time blocks for these chores in the home in between times of playing with the kiddoes. I have a feeling time-blocking will be a way of life once homeschooling begins, as I will have many things to teach Alathia, but also household chores to work on, as well as having other children to take care of and entertain. And keep in mind that while I'm doing chores, I'm constantly being interrupted by kids needing attention, forcing me out of a time-block of cleaning, and into a time-block with them. How long are my time blocks? It varies.
15-20 minutes is pretty standard and this coincides with my kids' current attention spans. However, if the kids are playing well together in their room and I get wrapped up in deep cleaning the bathroom, or kitchen, it could end up being an hour. Some time blocks may last 5 minutes, (when the kids go outside to play and come in after 5 minutes, etc.)

Time-blocking your priorities is not the answer to getting it ALL done. Remember how I said that you just can't do it all? You can't! Try it for one day and when you fall into bed after working a 18-hour day with no breaks and areas of your house are still not perfectly organized you will realize that you just can't live like that every single day. Instead of getting it ALL done, time-blocking allows you to give priority to the people and tasks in your life that are most important. I don't feel guilty taking some free time at night to relax knowing that there are dozens of chores I could be doing because those chores will ALWAYS be there and if I can't sit down to rest, I'm going to be an irate, overwhelmed, unhappy Mama to live with! I time-block in order to get most of my chores done, not all. One of my friends once told me, "Only God gets His to-do list done each day."

Before you can time-block, you have to recognize what your priorities are with your kids and your home and learn to let some stuff go. In order to spend more time on activities with the kids you may have to vacuum twice a week instead of every day, or mop twice a month instead of once a week, use paper plates, shop bi-weekly instead of weekly, or simplify the meals you cook, etc. Training my kids in the Lord and spending time with them is a priority, as is keeping them fed, healthy, and as clean as toddlers can be. Having good food for my hubby to come home to is a priority as well as making sure we have clean spoons and clean baby bottles (even if no other dishes happen to get done that day). A lot can slide when you have 3 kids 3 and under. Someday in the future my house may be cleaner and less toy-infested, but right now I need to enjoy the little ones God has given me because it goes all too fast.


How do you balance the responsibilites of children and your chores in your household? I'd love to hear your tips!

7 comments:

Thia said...

I too "time block." I've made two changes lately. I put in time mid day and early afternoon for prayer and each morning I write down things that my husband has remarked up that I think he wants done. I make sure those get done before any of my other chores. I was pleased to see that your kid have a lot of independant play time. Mine do too and I kept reading all these blogs and sites were the kids don't and it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I remember having a lot of independant time as a child.

Kristin said...

This post made me think of a question that I've wondered about for some time now. I'll ask it of all your readers, as well as you, Lindsey.

How much time do you spend actually on the floor with your children playing "House", Barbies, babies, trucks, etc.? I feel like my daughter is constantly asking me to play with her and she and her younger brother just aren't at a stage yet where they will entertain each other for any longer period of time.

She will do "independent play" if it's something like painting, coloring, or play dough. But other than that, she is constantly looking for a playmate when it comes to the more imaginative things.

So some days I feel like all I do is "play" and was wondering if there are others that feel that way too.

The Three 22nds said...

I am really not good with a routine. We do not have a daily schedule, although there are times that I wish we did.

But I definitely time block on a daily level and on a weekly level. For example, on Friday mornings I tend to do concentrate more on domestic tasks. Wednesday afternoons I usually spend more extended time with the boys etc.

We very rarely have a day where we don't go somewhere, and I tend to build my days schedule around that "event". I also do a lot of stuff in the evening after my kids go to bed (7-7:30). My older kids don't nap and we do a lot more preschooly stuff during the baby's nap time.

Kristin,
that is an interesting question. I started to answer it but it was taking too much space! maybe I will post about it on my own blog later :)

Edwena said...

I think I do this too. It's all about balance. Isn't it?

Mrs. Jo said...

Kristin,

Great question! I've just been thinking that I need to "play" with my kids more than I do. They play together so constantly and happily that I often just don't take the time to sit down and play princesses or dolls or trucks or anything! Their daddy plays with them a bit (Dads love toys you know!) but we tend to spend our time reading to them, instructing them or I lay out their food, or lay out their craft and oversee it. I really need to work on getting down on the floor and just playing with toys. Because Ali was such an independent little kid from day one, she hasn't needed constant entertainment. Instead, she needed constant monitoring because she was liable to wander off and get herself into trouble exploring or being naughty. Because Jer came along only 21 months later, they are excellent friends and spend hours each day playing things (usually whatever Ali says to play) and singing songs and "reading" stories to each other. You will find that next year at this time your kids will be constantly doing things and won't even remember to ask you to play with them! Of course the drawback is that they will be fighting constantly too!

About the only "play interacttion" I do with my kids is helping them put together an alphabet puzzle, helping them stack buckets, giving tickle tortures or playing Kissy Monster, playing Candy Land once in a great while, or asking to draw on their magnadoodles. I do end up helping dress dolls a lot in their little clothes when Ali gets frustrated about having trouble getting them on!

The Three 22nds said...

Mrs. Jo said pretty much what I was going to say. I do activities with the kids more than I "play". We color, playdoh etc together because they won't stay sitting there unless I am there too. We read a lot of stories, play some games, do puzzles together.

When it comes to "playing" though, I am out. I have been known to say, "mommy doesn't play. That is why I gave you a brother." I actually feel bad about that, and feel like I should play more, but I am kind of torn too, because I don't want them to depend on me for ideas. They play all day together. They always assign me a character in their imaginary play, and I add dialogue as I clean up or make lunch.

I do build legos with them, and blocks and put train tracks together. But if their cars are talking to each other, I am usually not involved. That is what daddies and aunts and babysitters and brothers are for :)

I have been considering involving myself more, but they are so happy playing together, I don't want to wreck it.

Kristin said...

You're a busy woman! I like the idea of time blocking. I tend to get overwhelmed easily and let things build up. I think time blocking would make things more manageable. Thanks for sharing!

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