Time management is hard. Books and YouTube videos abound with all manner of tips, tricks, and systems.
You can make an Ideal Week with Michael Hyatt, time block with Cal Newport, or manage your calendar with David Allen. Maybe you even landed here at Simply Convivial because you came across my articles or videos on time budgets and daily cards.
But time management is even more complicated for moms.
Any care-taker position is less “manageable” than academic or corporate work, and motherhood is the ultimate care-taker role without clocked hours. Our primary responsibility really is to respond to the emergent needs of our family. We often can’t predict what will be needed each day, except certainly patience and kindness.
So watching videos about how executives structure their time and fit their tasks into a routine can be demoralizing. Our responsibilities are often not contained clear-cut tasks that can be checked off. We do not have many measurable outcomes. We have few, if any, deadlines imposed from the outside, except for the deadline of RIGHT NOW when toddlers call us from the bathroom or dump their milk on the floor.
Time management seems impossible
With the possibility of executive-level time management tactics excluded, we can be tempted to think that flying by the seat of our pants, not planning, not structuring, and just dealing with everything urgent in front of us is therefore the only method possible for us.
But executive-level control and scattered-fire-fighting are not the only two options for moms at home.
Another and related time management hurdle we have as homemakers is that what works in one season will not work in another. No matter the season, we can always fly by the seat of our pants, so that’s another reason we’re tempted to just accept it as our chosen method.
Yet the reality is that God has placed us in our homes with our families, in a life and world that is ever changing and ever demanding of us in different ways. It is for our good, for our maturation, for our sanctification. We don’t want to be the servant with the single talent, burying it because it seemed like the safest option.
Using time intentionally.
We want to take the time we’re given and invest it well, intentionally, for maximum return as the other servants did. Investing never happens unintentionally. Investing always takes attention and effort. It’s not something done when you feel like it. Investing is proactive, not reactive.
So if we are to abound in good works and make the most of the time, we have to be proactive with our time. Flying by the seat of our pants is not how we turn a profit on our time, ourselves, or our family. It’s not how we serve best.
To invest our time, we have to recognize our season and our responsibilities and adjust accordingly as time goes on and life changes. This is true even when it feels like we have no control over our time. It is true even when what used to work no longer works.
Postpartum Time Warp
The shift to motherhood can catch many women off guard. The helplessness of the baby, the total dependence, is a wake-up call to self-denial – and that’s a good thing. That’s not “losing yourself,” except in the manner Jesus spoke of as the only way you’ll actually find yourself.
The physical ups-and-downs of hormones, pregnancy, and post-partum life cannot be managed with GTD principles, time blocking, or the right mix of schedules and lists. It can feel like a season of bent time. Time feels utterly different in this season, no matter how many times you cycle through it – and that is a gift to embrace and work within rather than fight.
The goal isn’t to maintain a “consistent” (as in “the same”) routine or level of productivity from pre-kid, through baby times, into the elementary years and beyond. Sameness is a harsh master and a bad standard. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to other moms, nor should we compare ourselves to our pre-hormonal days.
Women flux by design and we grow in wisdom as we learn to embrace the time we’re in rather than try to remake it into a masculine-style productivity standard. Embrace the baby moon of reveling in not only the new baby, but the new perspective it gives you on your bigger babies. Slow down. The hormones are rushing, leveling up your connection to, attachment to, each individual in your family. That’s the job right now.
Your attachment to your husband and children and their attachment to you are seeds planted now that will fruit later. We don’t ever skip right to fruit. When we’re in the planting time, there’s no judgment that we aren’t seeing fruit to harvest. Plant. Water.
Even without checklists, you can still be productive
Put “smile” on your to-do list. Watch your kids as you nurse. Pray over each one. Notice how each is changing and what discipleship each needs. The view from the nursing rocking chair is different every time, and a season to work with and not against. Have conversations you wouldn’t usually take the time for if you had all your energy to be moving around. Read. Think. Pray.
It’s ok for this to be a slow season. Don’t judge it by your pre-kid productivity standards or by the progress made on your task list. Your energy and abilities will ebb and flow dramatically during these seasons – and that’s normal and ok.
Think of your time like a farmer. Be ok with planting seasons that look forward even while only seeing bare dirt. Make hay while the sun shines, but don’t feel guilty about the rest during thunderstorms. Weather comes and goes, energy comes and goes, and there is a time for everything.
Are you homeschooling and needing to make the most of your time?
Join the Schole Sisters for the “Homeschool Essentials: Time” online retreat, October 7. I will be speaking with Brandy Vencel and Abby Wahl about using our time intentionally and passing on habits of good time management to our kids.