What to do when you’re starved for time

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Ironically, right after my last post, which talked about how to use stretches of low-intensity time productively, a heap of Things landed on the top of my head. Tons of work. New clients. Sick kids. A house in shambles.

So let’s flip the coin. How do you cope when there simply aren’t enough hours in a day? Everyone has their tricks, but here are mine:

#1. I get up early. And I mean, really early, like when it’s still dark and the roosters are crowing. I know, I know, I’m not really THAT much of a morning person either, but I figured out my day is a lot more productive if I get the most difficult tasks of the way before the kids are even up. Which brings me to…

#2 Save your productive time for the important stuff. If you know that your energy and concentration ebb in the afternoon, don’t plan anything big for that time of the day. Complete the large tasks (whether it’s major work assignments or cleaning out the refrigerator) in the morning. I allot time in the afternoon mostly for mindless stuff like picking up around the house and maybe some admin tasks.

#3. Get the most out of your time. We all know what this means, right? Set the phone aside. No quick peeks at social media. No glimpses of the latest yarn arrivals at Woolstack (guilty here). And no hopping between tasks – if I’m writing an article, I don’t stop in the middle to answer an email (unless I’m convinced it really can’t keep an hour!). I don’t answer most phone calls, either, because an interruption of even a couple of seconds gets me out of the loop and makes me spend more time on whatever I’m doing.

#4. Get enough sleep. I don’t always follow that rule to the T, I admit. I used to work nights after the kids were in bed, but I don’t do that anymore, because I realized my health and sanity pay the price. If you overdraft on your “sleep batteries”, your brain becomes sluggish, everything takes more time, and eventually, you have to take a nap. I’m typically in bed by 10 p.m., which allows me to feel rested and ready for another day by 5:30 or 6 a.m.

#5. Reevaluate. How much of the strain is temporary and unavoidable, and how much is because of choices? I had to let go of clients and pare down some other commitments because they didn’t work into my schedule. Living under constant stress is unsustainable and not worth it.

Happy Passover (my least favorite holiday)

Pure loveliness

At this time of the year, I always wish I had the means to reach whomever set up the counterproductive tradition of combining the Passover chametz hunt with spring cleaning. That, and the founders of the waaaaaay overboard chumrot (unnecessarily tricky practices) like covering all the kitchen surfaces. Hello, aluminum foil, how nice to see you – NOT.

I’d file a collective lawsuit against them or something. Because when I toll the accumulated stress, chaos, frustration, exhaustion, and pangs of hunger of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children unable to get a proper meal in a disordered pre-Passover home, the mental damage is just unimaginable.

Jezreel Valley in spring

If my children grow up and decide to part ways with Jewish tradition, I’m laying the charge at Passover’s door. Yes, it’s that bad. I envy the rich people with holiday homes they can use just during this week.

But, on the up side, this year I managed to lower the level of insanity a tiny bit. I left ALL the bookcases and closets alone (other people in this house who are unhappy about it can roll up their sleeves and get busy – I never told them not to), and in the week before the holiday, I peeled off my scrubbing gloves and went with the kids on a hike through the woods.

Such lovely weather. So many different kinds of vegetation, especially lush after a generously rainy winter. This most beautiful time of the year, totally wasted on cleaning.

Chickens on a stroll

And here is just a random pic of the backyard flock roaming while I was cleaning out their coop. The rooster just showed up out of the blue over a week ago. Isn’t he a handsome boy?

Why burning bridges isn’t a good idea

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Back in the day, when I was a starry-eyed young mom, I received an email from an equally young reader, a newlywed who wrote, “My husband landed an amazing position and I will never need to work again. Please give me suggestions on ways to fill my time until we have our first child.”

As far as I recall, I came up with various ideas for charity work, gardening, crafts, and housekeeping. Today, however, I would give that sweet lady – and my own daughters, when they reach the proper age -a completely different outlook.

I would say, Congratulations on your husband’s new position. I hope he will retain it throughout many years and provide the necessary financial stability for your family.

I also hope that your marriage remains healthy and happy, and that your spouse never makes you feel like ‘less than’ for not bringing in an income.

If you plan to stay home with your children, I applaud your choice. Children thrive when there’s a parent to be with them in their early years. Families thrive when one spouse has enough flexibility to keep the common ship sailing smoothly.

But no matter what, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’ve burned your bridges and locked yourself in. Keep something you can fall back on.

Whether it’s a flexible profession, a business you can upscale if necessary, or a degree that allows you to work from home, always have something to give you financial security in tough times.

This isn’t negativity or pessimism, any more than purchasing an insurance policy is. It’s just common sense.

We live in a hugely unpredictable world. Businesses fail. Wars rage. Global pandemics flare up. Economies flounder. People lose their health and earning capacity. And, sadly, sometimes marriages fail as well.

I have lived through this. I gave up on the ability to support myself, on the security of a husband’s good job and a house purchased outright. Then, when the job was lost and the house swallowed by a black financial abyss, I found myself in an isolated outpost, with no transportation, no stable internet access, and not even secure electricity or running water supply.

Eventually, I rallied and started fighting for financial independence (a process that’s still ongoing). But it was hard, and knowing that I put the torch to my own bridges didn’t make it easier.

You aren’t a less devoted wife and mother for having a plan B. Do what you must to protect yourself and your children. If you are lucky, you may never need it.

But if you do, you will be glad you prepared for every scenario.

Why I don’t regret staying home with my children

Some years ago, there used to be a young woman. She lived in an isolated outpost with two, then three, then four small children. All day long, she took care of her kids and the household. She cooked and homeschooled, herded and milked goats, made cheese, fed chickens and gathered eggs. She took care of all the dishes, laundry, diapers, and other humdrum chores.

In between, she took her children for walks, played with them, read to them, baked with them, and sometimes even did creative things like making soap and candles.

And boy, did she fail to appreciate herself and the magnitude of work she did for her family.

As you have probably gathered, I was that woman. At the end of an exhausting day, I would sit down, wipe my brow, and tick off on my fingers: “Well, that’s two loads of laundry done, soup cooked, cheese made, baths done, floor washed, and little ones in bed. Whew! I guess I’m not completely useless.”

When I look back, I just want to give that frazzled young mom a hug and tell her, “You’re far more than adequate. You perform a staggering amount of work. You deserve a lot more recognition for all you do, as well as a long bath without anyone pounding on the door.”

Despite the financial struggles, logistic difficulties, and overwhelming loneliness of those years, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They were precious, and children only get to be little once.

There was something magical in living in the middle of nowhere and having my children run around hills with goats, sheep, and horses. And while I hope I will never have to struggle financially and emotionally so much, I will always cherish these strolls down memory lane.

If someone out there is reading this and is in a similar situation – small children, lots of work, not much money, not much external appreciation – please value and love yourself. You deserve it and more.

The dictionary of an overworked freelancer mom, part 1

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One of these days, I’m going to write a more serious post. Like what it’s like to live in a country that was so proud of being a vaccine pioneer and now appears to be in total shambles. Or how to save on electricity during a massive killer heat wave.

But today, it’s time for something just for laughs.

A: Advancing. Something you’re supposed to do on projects instead of browsing the biography of Elvis Presley.

B: Break. Something you should never feel guilty for taking. In fact, I guarantee that you need it.

C: Client. Someone who bombards you with emails while they need you and disappears for a month when it’s time to pay.

D: Deadline. Wait, how can it be tomorrow?! I thought I had a week.

E: Entertainment. Watching your kids chase chickens around the yard.

F: Food. Something you’re somehow supposed to come up with three times a day. You try to convince your kids leftover soup does too count.

G: Getaway. Something you daydream about nonstop.

H: Hunger. Something you feel around noon when your stomach rumbles and you recall you’ve gotten breakfast for everyone except yourself.

I: Internet. Something you rely on for your work, which tends to flop just when you’re having an important discussion over Skype.

J: Jig. Something you do when you finish a big project.

K: Kill. Something you want to do when your computer crashes.

L: Lucky. The way you feel when you open the refrigerator and see there’s still some milk left for your morning cuppa.

To be continued…

Is working from home really better for the family?

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Some days, honestly, I doubt the answer.

As a mom to a bunch of young kids, working from home gives me the benefits of no commute, a flexible schedule, and the ability to work in my pyjamas at the kitchen table.

It also means, however, that I often find myself working a whacko schedule of late nights followed by early mornings and the occasional hour in the afternoon.

Whenever someone is awake, forget about productivity: distractions can propel me into making ridiculous mistakes like using info for Orange County, NC, instead of Orange County, California (true story!).

I’m always there, but I’m also not really “there”, because my eyes are glued to my laptop screen. And when the time comes to close the laptop for the day, I find it hard to disengage.

Here’s a dirty secret: when you work from home, many people consider it not working at all, even if you make pretty good money (Covid and the lockdowns changed this cultural assumption somewhat). As such, family members expect you to be always available for a phone call or a quick errand during the day and don’t understand what you mean by “busy”.

There are days when the lure of walking out of the door for a set number of hours, then coming back home to really BE at home, is almost overwhelming. Then a kid gets sick or I make a trip somewhere and see the traffic, and think that my choice of being a home-based freelance writer makes sense after all.

The ideal solution for me would probably be a designated home office (and a whole lot of help with little ones!). Until that is in the making, I’ll make do with what I have.

I’m still here

Rainy view from our balcony

Yes, I’m still here. Just bogged down with massive amounts of work – something I find hard to complain about, in the current economic climate.

I’m striving to find balance and have enough time for the kids, the house, and just to breathe.

Luckily, after weeks of enticing weather, we’re having some freezing cold, rain, hail, and a promise of snow. I’m a big fan of warm sunny weather, but hey, this is an opportunity to hole up in our cozy home and do relaxing things like reading and crafts.

Hope you’re all having a safe, warm February!

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