Monday, 16 March 2009

Moving the goalposts

In my last post, Me time, I talked about how my definitions of Me Time have changed during my first few years of motherhood. I’ve been thinking about that and it struck me that I change other things in order to feel happy about them, or to make something work.

When I became a mum, I became much more efficient, work-wise. Before motherhood (BM), I would frequently work 15-hour days and much of the weekend. Somehow, I managed to keep earning roughly the same amount of money, but cut back to between 4 and 8 hours a day, with at least one non-work day a week, sometimes two. Some of this has been making a concerted effort to cultivate contacts who send better-paid work (generally design-oriented things pay better). But most of it has been changing my working practices, so that I don’t check an Internet forum (or blogroll) every 15 minutes. At first, when the vast majority of my work had to be done while R slept, this meant I limited myself to about half an hour internet a day. As I was able to find more time, I could allow myself a ten-minute browse at the end of a specific (big) chunk of work (e.g. a chapter edited, 100 images cropped, all links checked, etc.). And since getting my little netbook, I’ve been able to do most of my internetting, in five-minute breaks between housework and childcare.

Even without the internet rationing, I think I became more efficient in other ways. Switching Outlook off for two-hour chunks. Making efficient To-Do lists. Better estimating how long something would take. And, most importantly, being fresh for work most of the time, because I had had breaks to play, do housework, walk round town or the park, rather than just spending every second of my waking hours in front of the computer.

Since finding out I was pregnant, this time, I have had to start making changes again. Fortunately, in some ways, I had lapsed into some of my old habits, so will be able to gain some actual time and some invisible time by getting back to the good ways. My internetting has migrated to the office a bit again, especially since my delving into blogging. Outlook is on all day and emails are responded to immediately. So inefficient! And my organisation, scheduling and estimating skills have lapsed somewhat, as well, and could do with a good kick up the butt.

But I have also found myself changing the goalposts. In the same way that I redefined Me Time, I am redefining what I need to get out of a day, a week, a month… One thing I have changed is giving up ironing. Being pregnant has given me the excuse to occasionally sit on the sofa and watch TV without doing anything at the same time. I don’t need to iron. Never used to. If there’s a party or a business meeting to go to, I’ll iron for that. Otherwise, no.

We’re very busy at the moment so spare time is in short supply. But, in order to keep healthy and sane I will leave the living room in a mess and tidy it up in the morning, with R’s help. I’ll leave the dishes on the side and fill the dishwasher in the morning, so I can get into bed with a book and a cup of tea, instead of rushing around. In blatant defiance of my environmental principles I am putting small loads of washing on and setting the machine to dry them immediately afterwards, instead of hanging half the load around the house or outside.

And no doubt over the next few months I will move the goalposts again. And again. But if it keeps me happy and still able to bring in my half of the lentils, then that’s what I’ll keep doing. Hopefully the field will stay flexible enough to take the reorganisation.


  1. I totaly agree with your way of thinking, i also gave up ironing and do the dishes in the morning so i can relax at night whilst 3week old is sleeping and the others are in bed. Being pregnant again does make you slow down and re-think how we do things. whilst I was pregnant i had 3other little ones to look after so moving my goal posts and making time for me became important especially since i was working 24hours a week at night aswell.

  2. Good post. I am working extremely inefficiently at the moment, and you have inspired me to make some changes. I frequently break off from doing one task, to do another, and end up accomplishing neither. The nature of my job means that I have to cope with frequent and unpredictable interruptions, which makes it hard to 'settle' into anything. I think turning Outlook off is an excellent idea - I too tend to reply to e-mails instantly, even if that reply requires me to root around to research the answer.

  3. Amy: That must have been very difficult managing being pregnant with three other little ones! I am worried enough about how I'm going to fit one more into my life, though I know we will manage it when the time comes.

    MTJAM: Always glad to be of service. Now... make sure Outlook is switched off. (And note to self: do the same!)

  4. it was very tiring but i managed to have a nap at 3pm every day thanks to my wonderful husband which kept me going! you will manage thats whats wonderful about us mums! xx