“Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” ~Ben Franklin
As a wife and mother of five children under age nine, I am always looking for ways to get more out of my days. How can I find time for my self-education project without neglecting my responsibilities?
Get up before the kids. Just 20 minutes of quiet morning prep before everyone starts waking up sets me on track to a productive day. A quiet moment with a fresh cup of coffee makes me feel like I'm in control.
Give small children special attention at key times. After my older children leave for school, I try to engage my pre-schoolers in a hands-on activity like baking cookies, cutting paper, or constructing a tent in the living room. In the afternoon we take a walk.
Of course we also love reading together. I've read hundreds of great children's books while cuddled on the sofa with my little ones. If I prioritize these activities, I won't feel guilty when I need to say "Time for you to make your own fun now."
Know what’s for dinner by 9:00am. Since I am feeding a family of seven, I can't decide what we are going to eat at the last minute. I start thinking about the big question early in the day. If the recipe involves several steps, I spread the work throughout the day. (Example: Boil a whole bag of chicken in the morning. Chop it up at lunch time. Give the kids a few pieces for lunch. Mix up filling for pot pie on the stove in the afternoon. The only thing left to do is prepare the pie crust, assemble, and bake about an hour before dinner.)
Organize one area every day. I never have a long stretch of time to do a large amount of cleaning and organizing by myself. I have discovered the trick is to do these tasks in small bites. Sort one drawer, or one cabinet, or one shelf, or one bag of hand-me-downs every single day for the rest of my life!
Expect some chaos. This was the scene yesterday: Two dirty diapers simultaneously. Toddler is crying, Baby is screaming, five-year-old is standing by whining for something he isn't allowed to have. Phone's ringing. We're fresh out of baby wipes. Dog's barking. Someone's at the door. Tea kettle is whistling . . . and so it goes. There are variations of this scene every day. Add some broken glass, missing car keys, a giant spill. You get the idea.
I put out the little “fires” one by one and pace myself. Peace does eventually return. We usually have one or two chaotic moments each day. Anticipating them has made me a better mother.
These are some of the practices I follow. When I stick to a rhythm, I usually find enough time and energy to work on my self-education goals. Some days are more productive than others. When I let things slide, I soon find myself buried up to my neck in house work and before long someone is asking the big question, "What's for dinner?"
How do you make time for self-education?