Monday, January 12, 2009

Guilt

by Susan Sey

And yes, when I forget to write my post & leave the Golden Rooster standing around, tapping his claw, giving me squinty eyed looks, the first desperation topic that comes to mind is guilt.

But that's okay. Because I'm a stay at home mom (my full time job) & a writer with a contract & deadlines & everything (my part time job). I also have a husband who would like to see me from time to time, & friends & family who I enjoy quite a lot & would like to spend time with, too. I'm intimately familiar with guilt & figure I will be until somebody invents that time turner thing from Harry Potter that would let me jump back & forth in time so I could be several places at once & get it all done.

Is it bad that my first thought is, "Wow, think of all the laundry I could fold!"

I don't know about all of you, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I have to accomplish during the day. None of them are even of grand importance, aside from keeping the kids from killing themselves. It's more like being pecked to death by ducks. A vast number of small, inconsequential but necessary things that MUST be done or the household will cease to function.

Like dishes. Laundry. Grocery shopping. Bill paying. Checkbook balancing. Vaccuuming. (Okay, that's one's not so necessary. I skip it a lot.) Deciding what to cook for dinner. Writing a few pages, or even a paragraph every now & then just to keep my hand in.

Then I look at women who do everything I do AND hold down a job outside the home. A high-powered, impressive, takes-a-lot-of-brain-power sort of job. And I feel like a bigger loser than I already am.

Then I talk to those women & find out they feel exactly the way I do. Guilty. They want to spend more time with their kids & less time chasing paper.

So is there any answer? Any magic formula to getting it all done & still having a shred of sanity left? Or at least a few minute to sit down with a really good book?

68 comments:

Leslie said...

Don't worry about the little stuff. I try not to get upset if the house isn't as clean as I'd like it to be. I'd rather spend time with the kids/dh or read.

Jane said...

Sometimes I feel like there's too much on my plate and can't seem to do everything on the agenda. Time management is important, but sometimes you just run out of hours in a day. I try not to sweat it and tell myself I'll do it tomorrow.

Terry Odell said...

I tell myself I'll do ONE thing. And I mean ONE. That might mean paying ONE bill, or filing ONE piece of paper (from the huge stack), or putting ONE dish in the dishwasher, or whatever. Normall, of course, I don't stop at one. Or I promise that as soon as I finish X, I'm going to sit down and have a cup of coffee, or a piece of chocolate, or work on something I enjoy. For me, it's too easy to put everything on hold and write, so I have to reward myself with writing time if I get some 'real life' stuff done first.

Right now, I'm doing what I was going to do yesterday. :-)

p226 said...

Yeah. There's an answer. Learn to say "no." "No, I cannot do laundry right now, if you want clean clothes, the washer and dryer are in there." Then point.

"No, I cannot make this deadline. It needs pushed back at least two months."

"No, I cannot take the kids to this function, let's find other arrangements."

When people are overwhelmed, they tend to bring it upon themselves with the best of intentions. Mainly because they allow guilt to literally whip them into taking on too much. Moms seem to be the worst at this. Because there is no greater guilt than that of a parent who feels like they're not spending enough time with their family. Or who feels like they're not doing enough for their family.

The thing is, in a lot of families, moms get stuck doing a whole bunch of things most of the family could do for themselves. They just don't. Why? Because mom will take care of it. This tends to lead to a mom who alternates between anger and guilt. Anger because no one helps out enough, and guilt because she's too overwhelmed to provide adequate attention to the unreasonable number of tasks with which she's saddled.

Yep, moms tend to get a raw deal a lot in the home. That's just been my observation. It's fixable though.

Now I'm not saying this is the case here. I'm just saying it's not as unusual as a lot of moms think it is.

Trish Milburn said...

I totally understand what you mean by that being pecked to death by ducks feeling. Of course, I just looked at my to-do list for today.

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Leslie! Congrats on nabbing the GR this morning. He was getting antsy waiting for me to get myself together & release him. :-)

Great advice about not sweating the small stuff. Now if I could just figure out what's small & what's not... :-)

Susan Sey said...

Jane wrote: I try not to sweat it and tell myself I'll do it tomorrow

This is also great advice. I end up in Scarlett O'Hara mode quite alot. ("After all, tomorrow is another day...") That's the nice part about being a SAH mom. I'm my own boss. If something doesn't get done today, well, nobody's setting tomorrow's agenda but me. It's a freedom I really appreciate about my job.

Susan Sey said...

Terry Odell wrote: I tell myself I'll do ONE thing. And I mean ONE.

This is really great advice, too. I think part of being overwhelmed is not being able to separate out the work into tasks. It all feels like one giant, roiling mess I need to tackle at once. Breaking it down into separate tasks that can be accomplished 5 minutes at a time really helps. It doesn't get things done any faster but it does let me get started. And getting started as half the battle, isn't it?

Susan Sey said...

P226 wrote: The thing is, in a lot of families, moms get stuck doing a whole bunch of things most of the family could do for themselves. They just don't. Why? Because mom will take care of it.

This is SO true. Sadly, I'm at the stage with my kids where they're still too small to tackle a great many of the tasks that take up the bulk of my day. But lately I have been really enjoying how very capable my five year old is. She can easily get herself a bowl of cereal in the morning, & even my two year old clears her own dishes.

The day they are tall enough to work the washing machine may very well be the happiest day of my life. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Hey, Trish--

You have getting pecked to death my ducks on your to do list, too? What a coincidence! :-)

Good luck with getting it all done! Check back in later & let us know if you're checking stuff off. I'd feel good by proxy.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning y'all!

Susan, I so understand the guilt thing. Years ago when my kids were little like yours, I often had to pick what I intended to get done on my days of evenings off. Playing with my kids was a priority...but sometimes play consisted of them sitting on the kitchen counter drying dishes as we sang songs, or sitting on the floor playing match game while I folded clothes. (I've always been a multi tasker, even before computers hit the world!)

Now, I sort of juggle work, work related assignments, writing, blogging, housework (which I learned years ago, tidy is sometimes "good enough") friends and family.

Take today. Once I finish here, I have a certain group blog thing to finish and send to Anna C., then hit the post office to mail out Bandit Booty, lunch with my critique partner, come home and bake the grandbabies birthday cake, vaccum (the one thing I insist gets done when a 1 year old is coming over), put dinner in the oven and then write....or nap...night nurses LOVE their naps!!

Will I feel guilty over the house not being spotless? Nope. Would rather have a nice meal and presents wrapped and enjoy the family than stress over it. Will I feel guilty over the group blog not getting done today? Nope, I can send it to Anna tonight...or tomorrow. Will I feel guilty if the nap overtakes the writing...maybe, but then I can write tonight since I'll be rested.

See...pick and choose...we are not superwomen!

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: See...pick and choose...we are not superwomen!

And that sums it up, doesn't it? I like the part about not feeling guilty over the house not being spotless.

I have to confess here, though--spotless isn't even on my radar. Spotless left the building a looooong time ago.

My sister in law is an amazing housekeeper. She cleans things like...her baseboards. When was the last time I even SAW my baseboards, you know? Ack. Thank god she lives across the country. I really love her, & would be thrilled if she lived closer, but every time she comes to visit I have to clean the darn base boards. :-)

Virginia said...

Congrats Leslie on grabbing that rooster this morning! Have a good day with him.

Their is no magic way to get things done. I just try to take one thing at a time and what I get done is it. I try to do the more important things first and then move on to the rest. Like P226 said sometime your just have to say no, or if you want it done do it yourself.

Sometimes I do wish I had a magic wand to wave and get things done but thats just dreaming.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, since the kids moved out I do see the baseboards and occasionally clean them.

Going to what P226 said about mom's taking on stuff that other family members can do, I've given my husband the job of mopping floors twice a month. Major problem off my to-do list!!! Maybe I'll give him the baseboards too!

Have you seen the commercial for some trash bag where the mom fills a big bag and gives it to her, probably 5 or 6 year old son to take down to the trash can? He stares at it for a minute, then she says, "Think you can handle it?" Nothing like challenging a male to do something to see it get done, hehehe

jo robertson said...

Oh, Susan, you hit the proverbial nail on the head with this topic -- GUILT, don't we all wallow in it from time to time?

I say "wallow" because guilt is a totally useless and damaging emotion. It serves no purpose for us and just makes us feel bad about ourselves.

My 2009 mantra (and actually it was my personal mantra for 2008) is "It is what it is." Or as my granddaughter used to say to me, "Jammy Jo, accept and lovingly release." Ah, from the mouths of babes!

You know that totally corny cross stitching piece that's been around for ages? The one where the mom is rocking her baby and the caption is something about dishes and housecleaning keeping but not babies who need to be rocked?

That is soooo true. If I had to do it all again, I'd set aside the useless chores and just spend as much time as possible with my children.

Donna MacMeans said...

Best not to ask the one who has lost their sanity how to regain it (grin).

My kids are grown so my suggestions are of little help to you. You do have my admiration, though.

My suggestion is to be sure you carve out some time for yourself to write or read even if it means some other "necessity" slides by till tomorrow. Say "no" to friends who will take up more time in chatter than you can afford to give. Cut yourself some slack. WHen all is said and done, what will you remember - the amount of time you spent on laundry? Or the time spent with family (and yourself)?

Hey - congrats to Leslie on the GR! I rather like occasionally switching up the post times. Good for you Susan.

terrio said...

I am well acquainted with guilt. We go way back. But I believe we're starting to lose touch. Or I hope anyway. I totally agree with everything p226 said. There are times you have to say "no" and there are times you have to delegate.

I'm a single mom with a full time job, a 9 yr old, and a part-time college schedule. Add in blogging, writing and dating and it's a little crazy. But now I'm thinking I'm glad my apartment doesn't have baseboards. If it did, they'd never get cleaned. LOL!

Don't let it get to you, Susan. Life is too short and kids grow up too fast. I still can't believe my kiddo is hitting double digits this summer. When did that happen?!

Beth said...

For me, the biggest thing has been to Let Go.

I've Let Go of unrealistic expectations (mine or those belonging to other people - hey, if dust on a lampshade in my house bothers someone, I'll gladly hand them a rag to do the job themselves *g*)

I've Let Go of the need to micromanage. My kids are older so they do the majority of the housework from laundry to dishes to cleaning bathrooms. My husband does the vacuuming. My kids also each make dinner once a week and my son runs errands I don't have time for. When I was under deadline, he even bought our groceries. I wrote him up a list, gave him some money and sent him off. He did amazingly well ;-)

I've Let Go of doing things just because it seems like "I'm supposed to". For instance, all three of my kids play sports and while I'll happily sit through a basketball game, I get bored at track meets - and they are LONG. Really long and you spend quite a bit of time watching other people's kids. So when my daughter runs track this spring, I'll stay home and write. If the only reason she's running in circles and leaping over hurdles is for MY benefit, she can do it in the back yard *g*

Great post, Susan!

Janga said...

I am convinced that no matter where we are in life, there will never be enough time to do all we think we should do. I retired early, thinking I'd have time to do all the things I'd been putting off. I'm sure God's still laughing at that one. There are still never enough hours in my day.

As long as the house is not so bad that I'm likely to be reported to the health department, I sneer at guilt when it visits and go back to my writing or to playing with the grands. :)

Anna Sugden said...

Great post, Susan! The image of being pecked to death by ducks is so apt!

I admire women like you - and many of you who have commented today -truly. I don't have children, nor do I have a job other than writing, any more. And yet, I too am wracked with guilt about not having the time to do all the things I have to do. [boy, do people think your time is their's when you don't go out to a day job!]

Luckily, I have a lovely hubby who tends to be relaxed about house cleaning (baseboards? Are they like skirting boards?) and ironing. And he loves to cook.

So, I should be free from guilt, right?

Wrong. *g*

But, I'm learning - especially not to sweat the small stuff.

Hubby has a great saying that he quotes at me when I'm fretting about something or other "You can't fight gravity". That along with "what's the worst that can happen?" are my 2009 mantras.

Which means I can finally get back to doing what's important to me (and us).

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Lists. That's all I can say. Lists. :>

Congrats Leslie on catching the Golden rooster!

Beth, I'm putting Let Go on my to do list for today. Snork.

P226, you are SO right about delegating and saying no. Hear that, honey? *saying this to my DH* Even P226 is saying to DEL-E-Gate!

Grins.

Now that my older boy is 8, he's got chores. My lovely DH has home chores which he does brilliantly, but he has GOT to delegate at work. Otherwise he's not home enough to do his chores HERE. Snicker. It is a lovely day when the kids get old enough to carry dishes to the sink, load the dishwasher, bring down their own hampers, etc. I'm loving that. :> Now if they could just make a bit less laundry to put IN the hampers...

Ah, well, one thing at a time. Or as the AA folks mantra goes, One Day at a Time. I keep reminding myself of this too, Susan because the kids do grow so fast. Just yesterday I forced myself to stop folding laundry - and don't get me started on the d*mn baseboards - and just go play with my son. He won't ask for much longer, he'll prefer his friends to his Mom and I'll still have laundry either way.

Let's practice Beth's mantra, shall we? One two three....breath and say: Let Go....

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Leslie enjoy your day with him

Susan I know what you mean I find it so hard sometimes to find some ME time so as I can read. I work 40 hours a week and only have 2 days off like most working people but 1 of those days really needs to be used to get grocerys and housework done I need and want to visit family if they don't come over to my place. Unfortunately I don't have an answer for you I will be reading everyones posts to find one for myself, I know the answer for me would be to retire but I can't afford to do that so I often leave some of the housework then when I have holidays I catch up on that I really need more time to read LOL

Have Fun
Helen

Keira Soleore said...

Susan, you've broached a topic very close to my heart. It's my common frustration, my pet peeve, my life, and it's overwhelming. How do you not drown? Sometimes it feel like I'm swimming upstream constantly and staying in one place, but if I stop swimming, then I'll be swept backwards over the waterfall.

P226, I really liked reading your comments. Prioritization is what you're saying, right? But there's guilt there, too. How do you prioritize and even let the lower hanging fruit fall off without feeling guilty? That guilt is a killer of motivation and enjoyment.

Christine Wells said...

Ahhh, I feel your pain, Susan! Every word you wrote rang true--except my 2B folded laundry pile does tend to mount up! I just can't make myself care about housework.

The guilt I feel most is in not spending enough time playing with the boys but I've resolved to change that and during my husband's sabbatical we've spent a lot of time in the pool or reading books or shooting water pistols at each other. I'm trying to live in the moment. It's very hard not to think while I'm writing that I *should* be doing something else, or vice versa. But beating yourself up doesn't get things done any faster, and I think Terry's idea of getting one thing done a day is a good one. If I accomplish one thing in each sphere, then I can tick the day as having been a success. This is while the children are still small. When they're away at school I'll set bigger goals.

Good luck in your search for balance, Susan. As you say, you and I have one and a half full-time jobs, one of which requires copious amounts of over-time! There simply aren't enough hours in the day to do both perfectly and we're crazy if we try.

Susan Sey said...

Virginia wrote: I try to do the more important things first and then move on to the rest.

This is such good advice. I went to a Steven Covey workshop once as part of employee training, & they did the thing with the rocks & the sand. You know, the exercise where they fill a bowl half full of sand, then ask you to put all these rocks in, too.

Of course, the rocks don't fit. YOu have to take the sand out, put the rocks in, then pour the sand over the rocks to make it all fit.

Moral of the story being that the important things in life are the rocks, the minutiae is the sand & the only way it all fits is if you put the important things in first.

In theory, I'm great. In practice? Not so much. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: Have you seen the commercial for some trash bag where the mom fills a big bag and gives it to her, probably 5 or 6 year old son to take down to the trash can? He stares at it for a minute, then she says, "Think you can handle it?" Nothing like challenging a male to do something to see it get done, hehehe

Ha! I haven't seen that one, no. I have only girls myself, & I'm already dreading the social manuevering that will become necessary to enforce my will around here when they're teenagers....

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan, I love that Covey exercise. It's so visual a reminder that the big things - family, friends, stuff we love - have to go on the calendar first and the baseboards (sand) can go last or not at all. :>

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: If I had to do it all again, I'd set aside the useless chores and just spend as much time as possible with my children.

I think that'll be my new mantra. As long as my kids know they're loved, my baseboards can go to heck. Unless my sister in law comes to town. She's hell on baseboards.

Then again, she'd probably do them for me eventually. If I let them get bad enough. Maybe I should see if she'll come over...

Susan Sey said...

Donna wrote: I rather like occasionally switching up the post times. Good for you Susan.

Yeah, it's all about keeping people on their toes. Did it on purpose. That's my story & I'm sticking to it. :-)

You also had some great advice about saying no to more chatter than I have time for from friends. I think this year I'm going to invest in Caller ID. People know I'm home from 1-3 because I'm writing & the baby naps so that's when they call. I'd ignore the phone but that's when my agent/editor knows I'm home, too. So I think caller ID is going to my my gift to myself this year. So I don't get trapped chatting when I should be writing.

Susan Sey said...

Terrio wrote: I'm a single mom with a full time job, a 9 yr old, and a part-time college schedule. Add in blogging, writing and dating and it's a little crazy.

Good lord. I'm exhausted just thinking about your life. And now I feel guilty for whining. :-)

But no! I will say NO to the guilt! Guilt is unproductive & exhausting. NO, Mr. Guilt, GO AWAY!

There. How'd I do? :-) I like this saying no business. I'm going to practice...

Pat Cochran said...

This older woman (sounds better than old lady, LOL) learned a while back that you handle only what needs handling, the rest you get to when and if! We started out with 2, added 4 children and what was important was the 6 of
us. Add on school, band, school
district volunteering and we were into the thousands, yet the 6 were
still my main focus. The 6 have multiplied to 18 with spouses & grandchildren. YET that focus
stays on the immediate family and
always will. All the rest is
still on the when and if basis!

Pat Cochran

Susan Sey said...

Beth wrote: hey, if dust on a lampshade in my house bothers someone, I'll gladly hand them a rag to do the job themselves *g*)

I like how you roll, Beth! And I can't WAIT until my kids are old enough to do for themselves. I have a 5 yo & a 2 yo, & right now I'd settle for being done with diapers & having two competent tooth brushers/flushers/wipers in the house. Well, four, if you count me & my husband, but we mastered such things long ago ourselves. I'm mostly focused on the kids. :-)

And somebody else to grocery shop and/or cook dinner? I...I...I feel light headed just thinking about it. I might need to lie down. Somebody fetch me a cool cloth for my head!

Susan Sey said...

Janga wrote: I retired early, thinking I'd have time to do all the things I'd been putting off. I'm sure God's still laughing at that one.

Well, you know what they say. If you want to hear God laugh, tell him/her your plans. :-)

I guess that's just the thing, isn't it? There will never be enough time to do it all. I'm going to do my level best to do the important stuff &, like you said, sneer at guilt when he comes a-knockin' because my best is good enough, darn it.

Susan Sey said...

Anna S. wrote: Luckily, I have a lovely hubby who tends to be relaxed about house cleaning (baseboards? Are they like skirting boards?) and ironing. And he loves to cook.

Ah, the blessings of a husband who doesn't see dirt. :-) I have one of those. And interestingly, the one household task that I simply feel no guilt over ignoring completely is the ironing. For some reason, that one doesn't bother me AT ALL. None of my clothes require it (the secret bonus of the SAH mom gig), none of my children's clothes require it (again, who does the shopping? I do!), and when my husband needs a shirt pressed, well, he has a PhD. He can figure out the iron.

I'm going to have to examine this phenomenon. This no guilt thing attached to my position on ironing thing. Maybe it's transferrable? And wouldn't that be handy if it was? :-)

Oh, & I imagine baseboards are like skirting boards. It's the wooden trim along the base of the walls, where they meet the flooring.

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: Just yesterday I forced myself to stop folding laundry - and don't get me started on the d*mn baseboards - and just go play with my son. He won't ask for much longer, he'll prefer his friends to his Mom and I'll still have laundry either way.

This is simultaneously my greatest wish & my greatest fear. That my kids will grow up. That's my job, getting them from where they are now to the point where they're happy, fully functioning people with rich, full lives that aren't dependent on me. But oh it's going to happen so much faster than I want.

Except in terms of laundry. You're right. That day can't come soon enough. :-) But I'm going to store your advice away in my heart today & make sure I remember it when my 5 yo comes up with another elaborate game of let's pretend while I'm trying to cook dinner. I will make a much better effort to remember my lines tonight. ("Okay, mommy, let's pretend I'm an orphaned puppy who can talk & you find me behind the desk & you'll say, 'Oh my goodness, look! It's an orphaned puppy who can talk!' and then you'll ask me if I have any owners and...") Because you're right. She won't ask much longer.

Susan Sey said...

Helen wrote: I find it so hard sometimes to find some ME time so as I can read.

Isn't that the truth? One of the small luxuries I hadn't even considered a luxury until it was taken away (by my charming & beloved children) was being able to sit down & spend an hour or two lost in a book.

Just before my youngest was born my husband & I got away all by ourselves for a few days. And when we woke up on the first morning all by ourselves with a whole day spread out before us & no reponsibilities or toddlers filling it up, I said, "Wow. So, what do you want to do?" He considered this for a moment, then said, "Read."

I said, "Baby, I love you."

We snuggled up in that bed, back to back with a stack of books & read all morning. Match made in heaven. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Keira wrote: Sometimes it feel like I'm swimming upstream constantly and staying in one place, but if I stop swimming, then I'll be swept backwards over the waterfall.

Amen, sister. I let the house go to pieces this weekend. We spent all day on Saturday driving all over creation looking at bunk beds. (My girls are at that age now.) We ate out for lunch AND dinner. On Sunday I had my husband drop me at a coffee shop. I wrote for 5 hours while he hung out with the babies. Then we went out to eat again.

So I threw guilt out the window & did only fun, family stuff or stuff for myself this weekend. And because I didn't do all my usual chores, I started my week today by forgetting to blog & scrambling through the grocery shopping without a list, stumbling around my FILTHY & disoraganized house. I'm behind & I feel like the waterfall is two inches behind me.

Was it worth it?

Mmmmm, well, I really did love the writing. :-)

Swim, swim, swim...

Susan Sey said...

Christine wrote: If I accomplish one thing in each sphere, then I can tick the day as having been a success. This is while the children are still small. When they're away at school I'll set bigger goals.

I think this is so sound & balanced. One thing in each sphere of my life. I can handle that.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I spent 5 hours in a coffee shop all by myself yesterday writing. It was an unprecedented luxury & when my husband picked me up he said something absolutely mind-blowing. He said, "Well, it'll be like this every day in a few years."

And it will be. In a few short years, my kids will both be in school all day & I can schedule my writing in terms of hours rather than minutes. Like you said, bigger kids = bigger goals. Nothing but good times ahead!

Susan Sey said...

Pat Cochran wrote: This older woman (sounds better than old lady, LOL) learned a while back that you handle only what needs handling, the rest you get to when and if!

I can only imagine the kind of prioritizing you had to do with six kids at home, Pat! My mom had four of us & sometimes I just call her up to say thank you & I love you. Because now that I have kids, even half the number she had, now I KNOW...

Treethyme said...

Were you reading my mind when you wrote this? I was doing laundry, taking down Christmas decorations, revising a query, revising my NaNo story, trying to re-do the synopsis for the NaNo story, submitting another story, researching an article for my day job, writing two other articles for my day job, critiquing a scene for one friend, a new chapter for another, and a whole NaNo book for another. Responding to emails, playing on Facebook and MySpace, going my bit at BN.com, trying to finish the book I'm reading, fix dinner, run on the treadmill and, oh yeah, get dressed. Am I forgetting anything?

I thought life was supposed to get boring when the kids grow up and move out?

Treethyme said...

That was supposed to say "doing" my bit at BN.com.

It's not all bad. I love the writing, I have two girls' nights out in a row, and most everything in my life is good. I just tend to overbook myself, and always have. I'd rather be busy than bored.

p226 said...

P226, I really liked reading your comments. Prioritization is what you're saying, right? But there's guilt there, too. How do you prioritize and even let the lower hanging fruit fall off without feeling guilty? That guilt is a killer of motivation and enjoyment.

Waitaminute here. If you've prioritized, and you've done what you can in a day, and you've let go of the rest, what is there to feel guilty about? Being human? Living on a planet that has a 24 hour rotational cycle?

I mean, there's two kinds of guilt, right? You have the kind others heap on you. And then you have the kind you heap on yourself. But you have to really ask, don't you. If you've prioritized, and you've done what you can, why continue to feel guilty? You shouldn't. And it's really that simple. At the end of the day, you've done what you can, and that's it. It's a very matter of fact thing. You have $x hours in the day and $y tasks.

If you're finding you're coming up short of $y, well, there's nothing you can do about the number of hours in the day, is there? So your ONLY option is to prioritize, ask for help if you need it (this is not a sign of weakness) do what you can, and ... well, to hell with the rest.

People really get themselves in trouble when they try and mess with the constant. 24 hours folks. That's all you get in a given day. You can try to squeeze more out of it by spending more of them waking. But in the end, that just derails your productivity by negatively impacting your mood, judgment, and decision making skills, which spirals into screwed up priorities, which spirals into a sense of non-accomplishment, which spirals into needing more hours in the day.

Nah. Prioritize. Get help where you need it. Do what you can, and let the rest go.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan said: I can only imagine the kind of prioritizing you had to do with six kids at home, Pat! My mom had four of us & sometimes I just call her up to say thank you & I love you. Because now that I have kids, even half the number she had, now I KNOW...

Ditto what Susan said, Pat. Whew! 6?? I wanted 4 or 5 and had to stop at 2, but there are those days...wow.

Susan, I'm so glad you call up your mom and do that. THere were four of us as well - 2 of each - and I so often wish I could call my mom and just say, "WOW" Ha! I'd also love to ask her all those Mom questions I never got a chance to ask, as she crossed over before I even met my DH, much less had the kiddoes. How on EARTH did they do it? Seriously Pat, is it just what you said, focus on the kids and let the rest march merrily to h*ll in a handcart? :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

THere you go, P226. Focus on the unchanging axis of the chart - the 24 hours - put the important stuff in and let the rest go.

Okay, everyone...breathe....Let Go.

Snork!

I'm laughing, but I'm tryin'

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, what a great post. I think people program guilt into girls really early - partly because it means we're all running around like chooks with our heads cut off (sorry, GR!) trying to keep everyone happy then. Works for some people in the relationship! :-) I'm trying to get over the urge to feel responsible for so much (mind you, I don't have kids - parents ARE responsible for their kids!). I'm also trying to convince myself that it's OK to take a break now and again. The problem about working from home is that there's ALWAYS something to do, isn't there? With my more normal jobs, at least when I went home, I was away from the urge to tinker.

Hey, Leslie, I LOVE that avatar. He's such a little cutey. Keep him away from the rooster. I suspect the GR would win any argument!

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

The day they are tall enough to work the washing machine may very well be the happiest day of my life. :-)

Ha! They make little bitty stepladders.....

I'm just sayin... (grin)

Okay seriously, I don't know how moms take showers. I feel this way--pecked to death by ducks--or as though every time I head in one direction to get something done, there's a roadblock and I have to turn around and go another direction or put out another fire or two, and at the end of the day, that one thing I started out to do...yeah, it's still there, waiting.

And as far as the small stuff, I have tried to not sweat it. But it can get out of control to the point that it kind of poisons the creativity I think. It's not so much guilt for me, although I understand that, and when people make surprise visits to my house, the southern woman in me just cringes. That said, guilt is not my main concern. It's my own sanity.

Piles of stuff around don't help my muse. I know some muses are happiest with the piles, but mine isn't. It likes a more zen environment. It likes beauty, and piles aren't beautiful to me. I CAN work in it, but it's not the greatest work. So in that way, I'm shortchanging myself, and I guess for THAT I feel guilty--like, "I don't have kids, WHY can't I get this cleaned up and straightened--WHY can't I get this project actually FINISHED?"

If I had children, forget it. No way would I attempt any kind of career with kids in tow. And there's a period of time where they're just too little and they need almost full-time attention. Nothing can be done to change that short of outside help. I admire you who do it. I don't understand you, but I admire you.

Pecked to death by ducks....

I've been bitten by a duck. They pinch like the devil. We're talking serious danger here.....

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

My sister in law is an amazing housekeeper. She cleans things like...her baseboards. When was the last time I even SAW my baseboards, you know?

AHAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Me too! And I want to see my baseboards. I really do. At the holidays I got only one day off for Thanksgiving, one for christmas, and one for New Year's Day. My mom came for two of those days. Some friends came for another one. I scrubbed the bathroom and the thing that was bugging me most was the layer of grime that builds up on the baseboards. The laundry closet is in there, and the steam combined with the lint from the laundry equals extra grime ya know? Grime in a bathroom is just DISGUSTING. That's the one area of the house I've actually scrubbed recently. Except...well...behind the clawfoot tub and the armoire in the bathroom and.....Well, I DID scrub the parts that were visible. The rest of the house I just barely tidied and vacuumed. I shut the bedroom door and nobody was allowed in there. I just couldn't get it done. I shoved the piles into neater stacks and there they sit right now.

But those parts of the baseboards in the bathroom that didn't get scrubbed? They are pecking at my conscience...like ducks. Ducks that like a TRULY clean bathroom.....*sigh*

Susan Sey said...

Treethyme, my gosh! What a schedule you keep! But well said--you'd rather be busy than bored. As much as I complain about my life, I know I'm way healthier & happier when I don't have the leisure to brood. Given unlimited time to myself, I slide into depressive, broody habits. I'm much, much better when my time to navel gaze is limited. :-)

Susan Sey said...

P226 wrote: Waitaminute here. If you've prioritized, and you've done what you can in a day, and you've let go of the rest, what is there to feel guilty about?

You make a great deal of sense, here, P226. What's sad is that I, like a lot of people probably, know exactly where there's room for guilt in a simple, tidy equation like that one:

I should have been faster/smarter/more skilled/etc.etc.etc. and then I could have accomplished my priorities faster/sooner/better/etcetcetc. Then I would have room to do MORE.

I realize this is impossible. I realize this is crazy-making. But this is where the guilt hides. I do my best to recognize this & yank it out by the roots when I find it, because this kind of guilt has self-hatred written all over it.

My best is good enough. (deep breath) My best is good enough. Everybody now! My best is good enough....

p226 said...

Well Susan, what people are talking about with the phrase "let go" is letting go of that guilt.

A good way to do it might be to ask yourself "what purpose does this guilt serve?" We think it serves us as a self-motivating tool. The reality is that it's just the opposite. It serves to discourage.

If you do what you can in your allotted slot in our 24 hour rotational cycle, what purpose does that guilt serve? What good does it do you? What value does it have?

None. That's what.

Susan Sey said...

Anna C wrote: The problem about working from home is that there's ALWAYS something to do, isn't there?

This is so true! It's a double-edged sword, this working at home business. On one hand, we get to go to work in our jammies. On the other hand, work is sitting there, staring us in the face, even when we're in a our jammies.

My grand dream is to some day have an office--a place in the house devoted solely to my writing. And while I would dearly love the quiet place to write & think my thoughts, I would also cherish the ability to close the door & leave the work at the office, guilt free.

p226 said...

My grand dream is to some day have an office--a place in the house devoted solely to my writing.

I have to make this happen post-haste. I've returned to school, effective two weeks from now. I will have an office as a place to study. As will my wife. It's GOING to happen. Mark my words.

Susan Sey said...

Cassondra wrote: And as far as the small stuff, I have tried to not sweat it. But it can get out of control to the point that it kind of poisons the creativity I think. ... Piles of stuff around don't help my muse.

Amen, sister! I think that sometimes the small stuff bands together & snowballs down the hill until it's not small stuff anymore. It's an emergency. Which is why I like to take care of it when it's small stuff. But there are other snowballs to manage, & roadblocks to overcome & ...

No. No. Breathe. Only 24 hours in a day. My best is good enough. If I'm going to be flattened by a snowball eventually, why not get flattened on my front porch with a nice cold beer in my hand rather than folding a mountain of laundry?

Susan Sey said...

P226 wrote: A good way to do it might be to ask yourself "what purpose does this guilt serve?" We think it serves us as a self-motivating tool. The reality is that it's just the opposite. It serves to discourage.

Amen.

And lord knows there's enough discouragement in this world without my generating more.

Susan Sey said...

P226 wrote: I've returned to school, effective two weeks from now. I will have an office as a place to study. As will my wife. It's GOING to happen. Mark my words.

Congrats on going back to school! Be sure to keep us posted on the progress of your office. I think we could all use some inspiration when it comes to carving out personal space...

Pat Cochran said...

Susan,

The six I mentioned included Honey and I, but I guess we could be counted as children. Our children have suggested several times that
we might consider growing up. We
just say: "never gonna grow up!"

I did have experience in caring
for large numbers of children, I
was the eldest of nine. I helped
mother with raising our crew!

Pat Cochran

Christine Wells said...

Susan, 5 hours, what bliss! They say when the kids are older you still have oodles to do, but I can't believe it's the same as getting bugged for a drink or food or a nappy change every 5 minutes. Please don't shatter my illusion, anyone. I want to believe that!

The trick will be not to volunteer too much. People will always say how do you find the time to write and then in the same breath they'll pressure you to be on some committee or other because you're at home, aren't you, with all the free time in the world? I always think that at least someone with a job outside the home doesn't have to juggle their job and children at the same time, as writers do. But I do think it's been good training. It's going to be absolute luxury when the boys are both at school/kindy, although I'll miss the little blighters:)

Pat Cochran said...

Jeanne,

It was only four! My awkward phrasing threw you off! You can
tell I'm not a writer!

Three were ours and the fourth was
the daughter of my younger sister.
We raised Shannon after Audry was
taken from us by breast cancer.

Pat Cochran

Leslie said...

Wow ~ I got him. I'm usually not that quick! lol

There is some awesome advice on here. I think it's just a matter of realizing you can't get it all done. So much of everyday life is just a cycle that we have to repeat.

Susan Sey said...

Pat Cochran wrote: Our children have suggested several times that
we might consider growing up.


What?? Never. You were an adult plenty when they were little, I assume. You go right ahead & be juvenile now that they're old enough to roll their eyes at you. :-)

flchen1 said...

Great post, Susan! And clever timing! ;) And yeah, what p226 said! Ignore the guilt--eventually it'll get bored and go away :) (Too bad the dust on the baseboards doesn't do that too...)

Congrats on the GR, Leslie! Excellent attitude--reading and hanging out with the kids is definitely way more fun than cleaning... ;)

Susan Sey said...

Christine wrote: I always think that at least someone with a job outside the home doesn't have to juggle their job and children at the same time, as writers do.

I know! I sometimes worry that without the crazy pressure of WRITE NOW BECAUSE YOU ONLY HAVE TWO MINUTES ends I won't be able to write because I'll be addicted to the pressure.

I would love to put that to the test. :-)

Susan Sey said...

flchen1 wrote: Ignore the guilt--eventually it'll get bored and go away :) (Too bad the dust on the baseboards doesn't do that too...)

I like your attitude, flchen1! I'll bore the guilt to tears & it'll leave me alone! And heck, what's the harm in trying it on the baseboards,too? I'll give it a go & let you all know if I have any luck...

Louisa Cornell said...

Congrats, Leslie! Keep an eye on the GR and see if you can get HIM to do the baseboards!!

Unfortunately along with guilt comes worry! They're a matched set most of the time.

Fortunately, my late DH taught me NOT to worry, especially at night. When I was worried about something and couldn't sleep he'd say :

"Honey, is there anything you can do about it right now, right this minute? No? Then go to sleep. You don't get points off for sleeping."

Sort of like my Mom who says "Give your worries to God and then go to sleep. He'll be up all night anyway."

I try to divide my life into "things" and "moments." Things sometimes have to be done - laundry, bills, feed the dogs, scoop poop (I do a lot of that!) So I make a prioritized lists of the "things" I should get done. Notice I didn't say need. Need is the stuff I have to do to live - eat, sleep, breathe, create, love. So I have a tiered list of things I SHOULD get done. I guess you can say I have lists of my lists. I celebrate every time I scratch something off my list. I don't worry about the things I don't get to. Doesn't help to worry, so I don't.


Now, here's the important part. "Things" should be done, when you can, if you can.

Moments - time with friends, watching a sunset, petting a dog, playing with a child, enjoying music - those things that touch your heart and soul (not your purse or your house) Moments MUST be done. They must be lived, savored and enjoyed. Treasured, memorized, and shared. Moments are as vital as air and just as fleeting. You can't get them back. So live the moments. The rest is just baggage. Adam and Eve didn't have baggage when they left the garden. They just had each other. And I have a feeling that is the only way we ever get back into Eden. Without baggage and together.

Kris Kennedy said...

Hey Susan,

Well, man was your post a timely one for me today!

You're doing it just right, I feel sure. :-) Your hubby sounds wonderful, your kids will be healthy, your book will be wonderful. :-)

And as you say, one day, *all* we'll have to do is whatever we want, and these days of having young kids will be distant memories.

So, we seize the days in front of us, right? And we always remember the highest priority in everything we do: raise kids who want to move out before they're 30.
:-)

Cassondra said...

Louisa said:

Notice I didn't say need. Need is the stuff I have to do to live - eat, sleep, breathe, create, love.

Louisa, I LOVE it that "create" and "love" are on the "need" list. Not the "should" list.

I have this friend who does presentations with her "nuts and rice" teaching tool. It's a quart jar, a bunch of walnuts in the shells, and a bunch of rice. The rice is the "shoulds". The nuts are the important stuff....loving your kids, family time, making love with your husband for real, cuz you want to, walking on the beach and looking at the sunset, reading a book. , time for yourself, painting.

In her workshop, if you put the rice--the "shoulds" in the jar first--then the nuts, it won't fit. YOu can't get everything in.

If you put the nuts in first--the important stuff, then pour the rice in after that--the "shoulds" work their way in and around the nuts--the important stuff--and ALL of it fits into the jar.

It's a brilliant illustration of priorities and how to manage them. Not so easily accomplished in real life, but relevant still.

Anna Sugden said...

I think P226 and my hubby have a lot in common - they both have the 'you can't fight gravity' thing going!

I also think the 'let go' thing is very male, because guys find it easier to compartmentalise. Women, I think, are brought up to feel guilty if they don't do it all (or is that just me?!)

Susan Sey said...

Louisa Cornell said: Need is the stuff I have to do to live - eat, sleep, breathe, create, love.

This is so wise. Include creating & loving on your list of needs. Because really, what would life be without them?

I'm writing that down somewhere.