Tuesday, March 18, 2014

8:57 PM
The Endless To Do List
I am reading Brigid Schulte's new book Overwhelmed; Work Love and Play When no one Has the Time, which is basically a treatise on how unbalanced our lives are these days in response to the disproportionate expectations that work and family and society place on working women (and men). There are lots of useful nuggets of conversation fodder in the book - like the fact that working mothers make $0.60 to the dollar that a working father does, the pay scale and desirability of employees ranking like this: fathers, single males, single females, mothers. Or the fact that working mothers these days not only work longer and harder than ever before, they also spend more time with their children than stay at home moms did in the 1960s. There is only one way that women have been able to achieve this amazing statistical feat - they spend the majority of what "free time" they have with their children or on other household duties instead of alone or in the company of friends. Women have basically subsumed all of their own needs in response to the ever-ratcheting-upwards expectations placed on them as employees and as mothers.

An especially resonant section of the book discusses the issue of contaminated time. This is basically the phenomena that with so much going on, women have trouble being in the moment and dedicating all of their attention to a single task. Even when they outwardly appear calm or relaxed (watching the kids at the pool - oh so relaxing!), often there is a maelstrom going on in their heads (need to pay the bills, buy milk, sign up for camp, send that email... and so on.) This issue is so pervasive that even when they ostensibly should be able to relax, women have trouble letting go, or are stuck feeling guilty or uneasy that they have forgotten something they should be doing.

As I was reading this book over my unusually work-free weekend I was alternatively frustrated (why can we not figure this out - oh, right it is because of Pat Buchanan), reassured (I am not the only one), and elitist (wow, I don't usually feel as overwhelmed and panicked as this woman is describing feeling, I must have my shit together more that I thought).

Then Monday came, and looked something like this:
6:40 AM: Wake up
7:20 AM: Husband and son leave for day care/work
7:30 - 8:10 AM: Cajole daughter through dressing, brushing teeth and hair, piano practice and math practice while I squeeze in 2 x 7 minute workouts, do laundry, tidy the kitchen, water the backyard garden and get myself ready for work
8:20 AM: Start conference call in car
9:05 AM: Day care calls - my son appears to be ill and must be picked up
9:10 AM: Call husband - he is at least 2 hours away because he rode the train to work and the next one doesn't come for over an hour
9:15 AM: Call nanny and leave a message (while writing emails)
9:20 AM: Call Doctor to make an appointment (while writing emails)
9:25 AM: Speak with nanny, she can get son by 11 AM (text day care the news)
9:30 AM - 10:15 AM: Work
10:15 - 11:15 AM: Preschool Tour (since son's day care is closing next month)
11:15 - 12:00 PM: Work
12:00 - 1:00 PM: Lead business development meeting
1:00 - 2:15 PM: Conference call and prepare proposal
2:15-3:15 PM: Meet nanny and both kids at the doctors office; diagnosis pink eye and a double ear infection
3:30 PM: At pharmacy. Eye drops will cost $700 AFTER insurance. Call doctor's office to get different prescription.
4:00 PM: Work from home on presentation; submit proposal
4:30 PM: New prescription is ready so run down to pharmacy with dog to pick it up (Yay! Workout!)
5:00 PM: Administer medications to uncooperative 2 YO; gummy bears used freely as bribery
5:00 - 7:45 PM: Dinner/bath/stories/bed
7:45 PM: Husband arrives home; immediately tag out to meet a girlfriend to go rock climbing
10:00 PM: Arrive home, check email, shower, read, in bed by 11 PM
6:00 AM: Daughter wakes up with a headache and fever

As I look back at Monday it is hard not to feel like that woman that this book is written about. In a 17 hour day of awakeness I had 1.5 hours that were truly time for me - the time I efficiently used to combine exercise and socializing with an equally pressed-for-time mom friend. And this is in a situation where I have backup child care, a supportive husband who took the morning off today to stay home with the sickos, and a flexible job where I have a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of autonomy.

So I present this daily journal - not as a busy brag, but as the reality of my life and as a means of perspective for all of us working through the time-crunching demands of our days. Perhaps a good exercise for ourselves and our partners would be to make this kind of daily diary for a week or so - not to create an issue, but to create more of an understanding. Maybe this will also help us to figure out more efficient ways to get things done, or give us the courage to let some things slide. A food journal is recommended for people trying to better understand what, how, when and why they eat. Perhaps a time journal can also help us to cut out the empty busy calories.

To learn more about my Fitness Project, please contact me at mommytasker@gmail.com, MommyTasker.com, or connect with me on Facebook.

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