Monday, August 20, 2007

Getting Things Done

This is a response to Jennifer at Parent Dish's article on Getting Things Done.

I could've written this when my oldest daughter, Mary Grace, was small. If you don't read anything else that I'm about to write, read this - "Never" is too strong a word. You will get things done again. They may not be the same things that you used to do, and the things you used to do may not get done at the same speed you used to do them, for a while, but it will get easier every day.

Here's the thing about being a first time parent - you don't know what's coming. When the baby is teething, you don't know that it's just a short term thing. You have no experience to tell you that these 3 am wake ups with lots of shushing and hall walking and Tylenol are temporary. That's why you feel like you're "Never" going to sleep again, "Never" going to be able to make dinner from scratch again, "Never" going to be yourself again.

Well, ok, that last one is a little true. Having a baby changes you forever. No doubt about it. But the rest, nah. You'll get things done again.

You and your husband are still learning. And just when you get one thing mastered, like taking a shower without the baby screaming his fool head off (hint: nap!), the baby changes on you and you have to now figure out how to keep the baby who doesn't take naps in the morning anymore entertained while you take a shower (hint: bouncy seat!). Just when you figure out how to make your baby organic pureed vegetables from scratch, he's ready for non-pureed food. Just when you figure out how to change diapers without breaking his delicate little bones, he learns to roll over and tries to break his own bones falling off of the changing table!

It's my understanding that all of parenting is like this - just when you figure out how to hide spinach inside a meatloaf so your teenager won't die of vitamin deficiency, she decides she's going to be a vegetarian, and you have to learn to hide the meat! (Hiding meat is very difficult in meatloaf, by the way).

One of the biggest adjustments, for me, regarding getting things done was learning that I had to be productive in small bursts. It's probably true that you'll never, ever have an entire day to yourself again to fritter away, writing and drinking cappuccino. Or, at least, not for a good 15 years or so... But you will learn to write in short bursts. You will learn to grab 5 minutes here and there, and it will be almost enough. This post, for example, has taken me all day to write. I started it around 9 am. Here I sit at 5 pm, still writing. It was hard to learn to do housework this way. I used to wait until the house was awful, then spend an entire day getting it clean again. Now, with the help of FlyLady, I've learned that you can keep a house clean in 15 minute increments. I've developed patterns, or routines, that allow me to keep the house cleaner. Not spotless, (that's like trying to rake leaves during a tornado with a 2 year old and a 5 month old!) but clean.

You will learn the tricks. Necessity is the mother of invention, but mother's invent due to necessity! You will figure out how to read books. My trick is that I nurse lying down in bed, and I read a book behind my daughters' heads! Ha! I actually read MORE now than I used to. I mean, babies have to eat, right? If the older one isn't interested in nursing, I can keep her busy, or she reads too! See, I'm being a good role model!

As for lists, and not having paper, I have two suggestions - put a white board and marker on the fridge, so you always know where it is. Or you could carry a recorder in your pocket and just tape yourself saying, "Buy milk," or "Pick up dry cleaning," or "Write great American novel," or whatever.

You'll get more efficient. You'll learn that if you're making dinner, you might as well make two and stash one in the freezer for a bad day. You'll learn that it is much easier to clean the house once and keep it clean than it is to clean weekly. You'll train your husband to clean up after himself (and for $99.95, I'll tell you that secret!). You'll buy groceries for a month, and just run to the store occasionally for fresh things like milk and fruit, rather than shopping a few times a week. You'll figure out exactly how many errands you can run in a morning before your baby has a nervous breakdown, and you'll maximize those errands to be as efficient as you can - you'll go to the grocery store and the dry cleaner on one side of town one day, and the pharmacy and the hardware store that are on the other side of town the next day. Your expectations will change to accommodate this new little person who has taken over your life.

And he will get easier every day, too. As he grows and changes, his capacity for entertaining himself will increase. His capacity for helping will increase - Mary Grace can go get me a diaper for her little sister Claire! And here's the secret of large families - the kids will increasingly entertain each other! Of course, their capacity for getting in real trouble also increases, so put the guns, knives, and explosives out of reach now, while he's not paying attention to where you've hidden them.

I said a lot of "nevers" when MG was little, and I've been proven wrong on all of them. My house is clean, my kids are happy, and yesterday I baked three new recipes (Irish soda bread, ham and cheese scones, and chewy granola bars) and boiled a chicken for supper while Claire was down for nap and MG was playing. Today I made an entire dinner for myself and for a friend who has a newborn, from scratch (well, I fudged the brownies, but who makes brownies from scratch?) I've figured out how to get around with the two of them, and we've been all over together.

Give yourself time to figure it out, and you will. You'll have good days and bad days, but eventually the good will outweigh the bad. Never say never. Be well, Jennifer. This too shall pass.

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