Monday, November 12, 2012

Toddlers, Tinker Bell, and Time Management

I have toddlers. To be specific I have four children under the age of four years and a six year old. Between meeting their needs, and there are a good number of “special” ones, maintaining my household, and keeping my sanity I struggle like most moms to find time for the pursuits that bring me joy and personal fulfillment. My father was great proponent of the maxim that you make time for the things that are important to you. And while I agree, I have never quite perfected or even got a hold on the kind of time management that allows for everything that is needful in a given day.

What does Tinker Bell have to do with this? So glad you asked. She is the means by which I carve out an hour of get-it-done time every day. Well, her and Winnie the Pooh. We don’t have television in our home per say, just movies and Netflix. And more and more lately I have been keeping the idiot box switched off due to that nagging sense that my kids need to play more and watch less. But this has meant that my get-it-done time becomes Mommy-builds-blocks-and-has-tea-parties-time. Wonderful good fun, to be sure, but it left me with more undone at the end of the day than an hour’s worth of dishes and tidying. My one hour in the morning was apparently worth two and half or three hours of evening time. I would start on dishes after dinner, tidy a few things and it would be 9pm. I would go to sleep at 11 in order to get in writing and reading time, but my kiddos are obscenely early risers. I just couldn’t keep up.

And then I made a discovery. I had been stringing myself out, trying to give too many things my attention all at once. I was multitasking myself stupid. It happened one day while I was trying to send an email, while listening to an audio book, while trying to get my baby to settle down and go to sleep on the bed next to me. He was having none of it. I was getting nowhere fast. In a fit of frustration I pushed the computer away and looked my little guy right in the face demanding with my expression to know what on earth he wanted from me. He smiled. I melted, picked him up, and spent maybe five minutes singing him to sleep. I then finished the email, and went back to listening to my book.

Sometimes we have to split ourselves. We are busy. We’re moms, multitasking is in our nature. But we cannot be our best selves, as mothers, writers, wives, or friends if we are constantly splitting our attention. And until alchemy successfully bottles time (anyone know if they are close yet?), there is only one solution that I have found. Give time.  Give it away to one activity for a designated amount of minutes. I have a little digital timer, and I will set it for say thirty minutes. For those thirty minutes it is play time. Mommy is here, no distractions, no trying to listen to talk radio while we play picnic, just me and my kiddos. Then in goes Tink, and mommy is cleaning or making phone calls or writing or baking or something.  It only takes a little. And the work and the calls to be returned are still there when the timer goes off.  When I give my kids the time they need from me, which only seems like a lot when I am trying to do too much at once, they, shockingly are more willing to play nicely with each other, sit and watch their show until lunch, and be the angels I need them to be for the next hour or so.

I am still strung out. I still demand quiet mommy time on Saturdays when it’s Dad’s turn to watch the kids. But during the week, thanks to my timer and Tinker Bell, I know that the things that matter most are getting the attention they need.
Anika Arrington- Necessary Nurture


  1. I love finding things that work! I was reading recently (sorry, don't remember where) about attaching a new habit (specifically writing time) to something in our morning routine. For example, I get kids on the bus every morning, so I could attach a walk right after the bus as a new habit. But, unfortunately, every morning of my week has a different schedule, so although I fell in love with the idea, it's not something that will work for me right now (I'm still working on it, though). Great post, thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes--I can really relate!! When I had young ones--I always gave them an hour in the morning to play--then it was my turn and you are so right. After you give them time then they play together wonderfully all day. What a miracle!! Great post.

  3. Love it! My timer is one of my best friends.