Thursday, September 24, 2009

Realignment Needed

As anyone with a child knows, balancing your life with a child involved is not an easy task. What makes it even harder is that every few months they grow and change and their different needs throw even the best laid schedule out of wack. Add in the change of seasons, new classes, and the normal changes of life; and most parents find themselves adjusting and readjusting things all the time. Normally, a tweak here and a twist there does the job, but right now I'm looking at a full scale overhaul of how I/we do things. It's a bit overwhelming and I'm having trouble getting it all into focus.

First, there is the job. It sucks up a significant portion of my time. It's also not very flexible. I can change my shift time, but they are pretty adamant about that 40 hours a week thing.

Then there is family. We all have different needs. Michael needs one on one time, Andy needs one on one time, we need full on family time, and after the job, there isn't much time left over for all of that. Plus, I need me time so that I can be completely there for the family time. However, me time often takes the backseat, which makes me cranky and unpleasant to be around, which defeats the purpose of giving up the me time to begin with.

Next comes in the whole people need to eat thing. Can I just say that I hate walking in the door after a long day of work and instead of playing with Michael or chatting with Andy, I have to make dinner. Recently, Michael has been making it even harder by physically grabbing me and trying to drag me into the living room to sit down with him. I've also been getting very frustrated with the small number of meals that I can prepare in under 30 minutes that are healthy, not loaded with fat and calories, and don't have onions in them. Oh yeah, and there's the problem of forgetting to get crock pot meals ready the night before, or pulling meat from the freezer so that it has time to thaw for dinner. So far, the only solution I can find is fast food, but if I do that, we'll all gain about 500 pounds. (I have a Quarter Pounder problem.) I'm willing to pay cash for convenience, but not with the health of my family.

Oh, and then there is the exercise problem. Not only do I enjoy exercising (seriously, I have no idea when that happened, but it did) but I also have the slight problem of grandfathers dropping dead from heart problems that I need to keep in mind. Both sides of my family have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. I'm well aware that I have a lot of control over many of the factors that contribute to those problems, and staying active is one way to delay or prevent problems that other family members have encountered. 45 - 50 minutes a day doesn't seem like much in exchange for hopefully holding a grandchild in my arms one day.

But, it's never really 45-50 minutes. If I'm going to keep working on running, I'll need to get a gym membership. That means extra time traveling and dealing with gym stuff. I could keep using the bike at home, but I started running because the bike wasn't providing everything I was looking for in a workout.

And then there are all those other little things. You know, cleaning the house, spending time with friends, keeping up with Netflix and TiVo. And don't even get me started on all the books I want to read and crafts I want to do.

So far, I've identified the problem, but I'm having trouble figuring out what I need to do to realign everything to work as best as possible. Right now, it's all just swirling around in my head, but no solid ideas are taking hold. It's a bit frustrating.

I guess it's time to sit down and make a list.



Beth said...

Yes! Oh my gosh--exactly! I can't tell you how vigorously I'm nodding my head. There is not enough time in a day, and not enough of me to go around. There's no such thing as balance. It's all a myth.

Michele said...

I can not agree more except add in single mom and 3 kids! There are never enough hours in the day!

LauraC said...

I'm telling you, if you could give up some sleep you could get some extra time in there.

And yep, add in Jon traveling (which means I do ALL chores) and two kids and you can see why I constantly gain and lose the same 10 lbs.

I will say that buying a treadmill is the BEST DECISION we ever made. It is always here. I can do it after the boys go to bed. I can do it in any weather. I even had Jon rig a tv so I can watch my shows while I run. We bought a super deluxe one and compared to a gym membership, it paid for itself in 18 months.

Downside it takes up a lot of space.

Deanna said...

Wow, hit the proverbial nail on the head. I'm glad I'm not the only one that resents having to make dinner after coming home. Sometimes I find myself irritated that my husband doesn't know how to cook so that I can be the one sitting in the living room with K-man and playing. And it's really really frustrating when I'm pulling dinner ideas out my butt (sorry to be gross) because I forgot to thaw anything the night before!

Do you get a lunch hour at work? I've been closing my office door and doing 20-30 minutes of yoga (via DVD on my computer)and it does wonders for my stress level and for my core fitness. Get one of those yoga 'burn' series and you'll be sweating, too.

We have an elliptical at the house and did the same math that LauraC pays for itself and we generally use it after the baby is asleep. I've also used Jillian Michael's 30 day shred video (ummm...Level 1 is STILL kicking my butt) for some vigorous exercise...and you're done in 22 minutes.

Me time is hard to come by - I struggle with that, too. Thanks for posting all of this...makes me feel better to know that we moms deal with the same issues. Hang in there...let us know what ideas you come up with!

JenFen said...

I agree that there is no easy answer and we are constantly tweaking things little or big in order to try and find the right balance. I think you have a lot of possible solutions but in order not to get overwhelmed, I would work on one problem at a time.

As for dinners, may I recommend you see whether Schwan's delivers to your area - they have a ton of products which allow you to make good, mostly healthy dinners when you are in a time crutch. I use them on nights when Jake has soccer practice and I generally still have files I know I will be working on in the evening and then when you add in the simpler meals you already rotate and the few days you do remember to defrost meat or start a crock pot dinner and Schwans really pays for itself in convenience if you ask me.

Once that is taken care of, I would work on giving Michael the one-on-one he needs because you won't be able to work on me time and exercise if you are suffering from mommy guilt or having Michael whiny and pulling on your pant legs. Maybe you could develop a sticker chart so for every weekday that you come home and can't spend one one one time with him right away, he can put a sticker on the chart and then at the end of the week, have something fun planned for just the two of you. I am doing that with Jake right now to help him get up and ready in the morning for school because it was something he wasn't use to. His reward is me taking him to Chuck E Cheese for pizza and some video games just me and him. He is so excited I didn't have to nag him to do any of his morning routine this morning.

Just a few ideas. I have more if you don't like these but I think the most important thing is one day at a time and one thing at a time.

Heidi O said...

I am right there with you. I was never so happy as when my kids went back to school so that I could have a little me time and exercise time. I hope you find your balance. I know the jessica seinfeld cookbook talks about doing a lot of the stuff on Sundays as a family.

Maria said...

It is so hard. The whole balance thing is so elusive. Can you try spending some time on the weekend (an afternoon?) making dinners and lunches for the week? Maybe Michael and Andy could help with some of the prep? That way you can just throw whatever you have made in the oven/microwave to reheat while playing with Michael during the week. I bet Andy can reheat things...maybe that can help with your time crunch. Also, there are some great recipes from Rachel Ray that are two-three night dinners with slight alterations. Let me know if you find the magical soloution!

Stacey said...

Will Michael "help" make dinner? Cole and I have some great bonding moments when he's sitting on the counter while I cook dinner. It doesn't always work though.

We eat a lot of Trader Joe's food that just has to be heated up. I try to cook a real meal on Sundays and that lasts a couple of days. We also eat too much Subway and Panera.

Good luck finding some balance. It's HARD being a working mom.

Steph said...

As usual Joanna you summed it up perfectly. I don't have it figured out either. My only time saver that I can think of is the 'cook once, eat twice' theory... make a casserole or something like that one day (a lot of times for me that's Sunday) and then have leftovers for a day or two. Pioneer Woman's enchiladas are great, but take a while to get ready- good for a Sunday w/lots of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Mommy, Esq. said...

Great post. We only make it work because someone cleans our kitchens/bathrooms twice a month and the Nanny usually takes care of the kids food (I just have to buy ingredients). I find I need to be better about grocery lists so we can eat healthier. Exercise has gone by the wayside but my husband cooks us dinner when the kids go to bed so I might try to start exercising while he is preparing dinner. I agree with Laura though - if only I could function on 4 hours of sleep. The most successful, happiest working moms I know have always been able to function on very little sleep. To bad I missed that gene.

Julie said...

This is such a universal mom issue. Even with me not working a 40 hour workweek, me time does not exist, exercise time does not exist (which is ok by me b/c I hate working out), meal planning/prepping is the BIGGEST pain in the a$$ and totally unenjoyable, and just forget about that To Do List b/c just keeping up and maybe watching one TV show a week is all I can get to.

The meal ideas I have are to use things that are pre-prepped/chopped--Trader Joes has some great products and ideas that are not frozen dinners. The no onions thing though is limiting b/c there are onions in almost all prepared foods or sauces. I struggle a lot with mealtime, even though I can get started before Bill comes home--he doesn't even walk in the door b/4 6:30, so once he does we need to eat and get moving for bedtime. I used to cook a lot for pleasure, entertainment and therapy--before Lana of course. We used to entertain--imagine that?! Now I feel like any meal I don't have to prepare is my favorite meal, even if its a extra value meal.

Its so hard to balance everything without someone or something taking a backseat. Lists help--I am a list maker too.

Karen said...

This post describes the working mom's life exactly! Now that I am at home for a bit, I have a bunch of stuff that I want to get done before going back to work. And I used to think that I didn't have any free time before kids....