Time management for busy mothers

So many mothers I talk to these days are genuinely very busy.  You say to someone “Hi, how have you been?” and they reply with “I am flat out, I am so busy with work and the kids.”  It almost feels like a competition to see who is the busiest. Gone are the days where families could afford to live off one salary and the mother could stay home and focus her attention fully on the children and running the household (which really is a full time job in itself).  Having some good time management skills are essential to survival no matter what stage of the motherhood journey you are on. 

At the start of each new week we are all given 168 hours.  How do you spend your time?  If you are lucky enough to enjoy 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night you will spend 56 of those 168 hours with your eye closed dreaming peacefully.  If you work full time you will spend at least 40 of those hours at work and possible up to another 5-10 hours getting to and from work.  More hours are taken up with routine and mundane activities such as eating, showering, cleaning the house, washing clothes and checking emails.

We are all at different stages of our motherhood journey and for some right now you are in the thick of babies and toddlers.  Those 168 hours may seem like the longest hours of your life and you cherish the two hours in the middle of the day when the kids are having a nap. The part of the motherhood journey I am in right now means a lot of my hours are spent driving kids to and from school, sporting activities, birthday parties and work.  How do you spend the rest of your hours?  Do you spend a lot of time on social media, or watching TV? Do you love to read, exercise, cook, get out in nature, meditate or socialise with friends?  How can we as mothers make the most of the spare hours that we do have each week?

Being organised and having a plan for how you want the day to go is always a good place to start.  It doesn’t mean that everything will work out perfectly but you at least have hope that some of the activities will be achieved.  Sunday morning is the only day of the week I don’t have to be up by 6am.  Last Sunday I had grand plans of doing some gardening, washing the cars, doing the grocery shopping for the week and enjoying a much needed relaxing brunch at my mum’s.  But my morning didn’t go to plan.  My 5-year-old daughter came in to our room in the early hours of the morning with a nose bleed, my 15-year-old son wanted me to read over his science assignment that was due the next day and the dog had vomited in his crate during the night.  We made it in time for a lovely brunch at mum’s and I managed to tidy the inside of the car and do a quick mini shop to get us through a day but nothing else was really achieved.  As a mother we have no choice but to be flexible as it is hard to plan when unexpected events always seem to present themselves.

Another way to use your time wisely is to practice saying no.  Some women naturally want to attend to the needs of others, after all that is our mothering instinct shining through.  However, try not to commit to doing activities that don’t bring you happiness or don’t serve your family.

Don’t multitask.  As busy mothers we feel the only way forward is to multitask.  However, Stanford Psychology Professor Anthony Wagner, states from over a decade of research that multitasking isn’t efficient.  Multitasking can only be done when two activities are using different areas of the brain, such as driving and listening to music.  What we do as mothers is known as serial tasking or task shifting.  This requires our concentration to be constantly broken and redirected to different tasks, which actually uses up more of our energy. I am very guilty of unloading the dishwasher while eating breakfast and listening to a child read a book for homework in order to try to get out the door on time.  It is exhausting and none of the tasks are done well. 

I have an affirmation above my mirror that I look at each morning and it says “I will do something today that my future self will thank me for”.  Some days that something is a big accomplishment that moves me forward in my business but other days it is something small like helping a child understand a homework task.  No matter what stage of your mothering journey you are on think about the hours you are given each day and try to manage your time so that you do one thing that your future self will thank you for.  Even if that is cuddling your children a little longer, or making time to listen to your partner’s day.

 

Written by 

Jo Larcom 
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves

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