Thursday, February 23, 2012

Super Mom Power: Micro Efficiency

This week, while moving lunch along, I suddenly noticed I was doing that Super Mom thing. Wait, that thing right there. What is that thing you are doing? I wondered to myself.

I never thought of myself being the hyper-efficient parent cooking this and cleaning that and readying that for her family, and giving that other thing a tweak in passing. What, me? Preparing daily lunches? How quaint and optimistic!

But it turns out that's what I do every day. Making breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day. Keeping things running smoothly and taken care of.

My life revolves around routines that keep everything moving and somewhat on schedule.

Schedule? snort! How confining, you might say. Ah, well, if you expect to get everything or even most of what you'd like to do in a day, yes, a schedule can help make that happen.

For instance, I decide we will pop by the library and then go to the children's museum the next day. But that means I need to get the little girl up early enough. I have a window of time between morning preparations and the need for lunch and nap, and I can't waste any of it.

It takes a minimum of an hour and a half - more likely two or more - to get her up, dressed, and fed and channeled before we can leave. Then it will take us about ten minutes to get to the library, and another thirty or forty minutes to find books and check out. Hurrying her along is not really an option, but channeling her is an art. This week, I managed to get our visit from arrival to checkout out to a mere twenty minutes! And she still found time to come lie on my feet several times. Libraries can be so wearisome despite the thrill of new books.

By the time we got to the museum, she'd been awake about nearly four hours and was starting to yawn. Oh, dear. I knew I she could use lunch and a nap by that point, but I pressed onward since I'd already promised the museum, and instead plied her with snacks and water on our way.

We finally got to the museum and spent about an hour running around exploring exhibits and playing, less than she'd like but almost past her endurance at that point. Then back home rather late. Ugh.

And maybe she ends up being too tired to eat much for lunch, and then I had to corral her toward snuggling and reading before her nap because if she's going to sleep, it had to be by three, or our evening is so screwed, aaaaaaaaahhhh!

Aaaand pause.

There was a period of time earlier in her life in which I was lucky to get out the door at all because of the mountain of logistics it took. Now I fit small tasks in between other small tasks. That is the real Mommy super power.

For instance, when I wake up in the morning, I dash through my own grooming and online check-in before I'll get the little girl up. I nudge her along to get up and out. I snuggle her and make sure she'll stay upright. I direct her to start taking off her pjs, which can take upwards of ten minutes if she's more excited about a toy or book. I help her choose her trousers for the day. I set them out in front of her, and say, "okay! put on your pants!" and then I leave the room and go to the kitchen to lay out breakfast ingredients. I check back in with her. She may or may not have progressed to "pants on" status. I redirect and/or start the process with the shirt, then I go open the curtains and neaten anything left out in the kitchen. I help put on socks and shoes. I help her pick out her headband and hair clips for the day, and go to fluff my own hair with conditioning oil, and then brush her hair with any remaining conditioner, which saves me yet another handwashing.

I've already put out yogurt, applesauce, any nuts, and juice and milk. I cook up whatever eggs/oatmeal/toast I have planned, and corral/nudge the little girl to climb up into her chair so I can affix big girl bib, set down remaining forks, etc. Aaaaand we eat.

Later, while she's finishing breakfast, or between refreshing juice/milk/toast/clean spoons, I read the paper, put away clean dishes and/or reload the dishwasher, restock her travel bag with fresh water and snacks for later, put out any mail, get out any coats or gear, write out a grocery list for the day, and check for any activities I need to remember. If she's really slow, I'll change the kitty litter while I wait.

It's making use of those increments between tasks that helps keep me going. And all while gently nudging her so we can move gracefully through our day rather than resorting to glaring and screaming. As I said, hurrying is not really an option. We are moving at top speed in slow motion.

I do the same thing through lunch and "quiet time" routine, hoping to get her to gear down before I lose energy and patience. Then when the afternoon energy crash descends, I gratefully watch my husband take over for a while.

The evening malaise is the biggest gap in my day. I've already started dinner prep during lunch, so I can unfocus for a while before jumping back in, but man, do I need a break. I can barely hold a focused conversation.

Then it's back into the game and the rush toward dinner, bedtime routine and evening prep. Dinner together as a family is an especially appreciated bright spot. Then while my very dear husband is taking on post-dinner, bath and bedtime routine, I'm starting a load of laundry and feeding the cats and taking out garbage and cleaning up after dinner and separating the cats and supervising teeth brushing and finding clean socks for the next day and sweeping a little and bringing up a new air filter and and and breathing between jobs.

I know Flylady encourages us with "doing something for only 15 minutes" at a time, but my Mom Days are spent doing two or three minute tasks between the bigger ten or fifteen minute tasks. It works. At least most of the day. And somehow I've turned into That Mom. Efficiency for the sake of sanity. I'm totally cool with that.

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