Recently, between working at home, volunteer work, and family responsibilities, I had one of those days with a to-do list that would take a week. I’m sure you’ve had those days too. I knew my time was precious because my husband was going to be travelling for work, my backup childcare (Nana and Auntie B) were out the country, and my other babysitting options were dealing with their own major issues. Of course, on top of that, our babysitter had a family emergency and had to be away.
I had two choices. First, there was my usual strategy, if I couldn’t get someone else to watch the kids. I would get them started on a craft or game that would keep them busy without much help from me. I would then try to get as much work done between interruptions. I would hope that everyone would take a long nap, and then “let” them watch a DVD so I could get a little more work done before my husband got home. I’d pass of the kids and spend the evening hiding out in my office. By the end of the day, I’d be tired, frustrated and still have lots to do.
But, after a lot of recent exposure to self-help, inspirational talks about embracing the moment and living in the present, I decided to try a different way. I put my laptop away, got down on the floor with the kids and spend the morning building trains and playing with babies. I set the work aside – really, I wouldn’t get that much done anyway – and embraced the chance to spend an unexpected day with my kids. I looked at the time as an opportunity to do things I wouldn’t usually make time to do. So, we made a rice cake faces for lunch. The kids loved the fun lunches and the undivided attention from mom. I admit I did still work frantically through naptime and in the evening, but during the day, we enjoyed our time together.
I’ll admit that this approach worked well the first day of without childcare. Quite a few planned and unplanned days without childcare later, I have not really improved my ability to put my work aside and embrace the moment. In some ways, instead of getting easier with practice, it is getting more challenging as the work piles up. In other ways, I realize the work will be there when I get to it, and I’ll get more done in one hour focused on work during nap time than I will in a whole morning of trying to work between dressing baby-dolls, finding missing train pieces, and wiping noses. The most important lesson for me is that when I’m focused on one thing, I am much better at. I feel more productive, I feel less frustrated and I enjoy it more, whether it is playing with my kids and impressing them with my artistic lunches, or working online and supporting my students in their learning.
How do you deal with the inevitable and unexpected interruptions to your plans?