Productivity and the SAHM


Found this while cleaning out my grandparents’ house. As soon as the rush is over…

Tomorrow will mark The Baby’s 20th week on the planet, and my eighth week as a stay-at-home (trying to be a work-at-home) mom.

The “work-at-home” thing has been pretty challenging in the midst of everything else that’s going on right now. It took a lot of work to close on the house and project-manage moving into my grandparents’ house. We had a dumpster on site, filled twice. I rented a portable storage unit that is sitting in front of our garage, filled to capacity with stuff I hope to sell at a yard sale next week (because it is clocking a staggering monthly rental fee.) There is still so much stuff to go through, it feels like a Sisyphean version of that sliding tiles puzzle, except instead of producing a picture of Batgirl, I’m trying to put together a house that won’t kill our son when he starts crawling.  Yesterday we had 1,500 square feet of hardwood floors delivered, and they had to be put on the grass because the stupid POD is blocking our garage, so during naps I’m dragging wagon loads of boxes to the porch, which is littered with remnants of our last few trips to the old house to gather up the detritus from our garage.

Feel free to cut me off here and mock me. Wahhh, you have so much work to do in your ancestral house on a big patch of bucolic land. You can literally see bluebirds out your window from where you are sitting. Shut. Up.

I know. I’m complaining about stuff I should be endlessly grateful for. And I am endlessly grateful. But I’m also tired.

And being tired while I’m trying to nurture my baby’s development, to stay on top of the laundry, to blog, to work and to drag shit from one room in the house to another, is a lot to keep track of.

So even though it might be crazy-making to other people, I have carried my most ingrained work habit to my now SAHM/WAHM life: List-keeping.

I haven’t been at this SAHM thing long, but I’ve been doing this daily list keeping as a habit at my job for my entire career. This habit has been immensely helpful to me at home, so I thought I’d share some tips, adapted to this new mom role.

Take charge of your SAHM day with a well-planned to-do list

Home with the baby? Take charge of your day with a well-planned to-do listStart your list the night before.

Every evening, I start a list for the following morning of what I hope to accomplish. With the 1,000 unfinished things I have to do, this helps me sleep easier, because I know I won’t forget what I need to do when morning rolls around.

Include everything on your list.

I add to the list I started the night before during The Baby’s morning tummy time. And it encompasses almost everything I do during the day, from the most basic self-care (“eat breakfast”) to the house management and errand reminders, to the stuff that feels like I’m not being productive but that is so vital for The Baby’s well-being and our relationship (yes, I write “giggle time” on my list every day to remind me that making my baby laugh is an important duty. In fact, it’s why I quit my  job. It’s been tough adjusting to the reality that time earning money does not equal time wasted… which is another reason the list is so helpful. It puts value on the things I need to do.)

Go low-tech.

I use a three-subject, spiral-bound notebook I found in my grandparents’ pile of unused office supplies. Sure, I could use an app on my phone, but I’ve been trying my damnedest to keep my baby’s eyes off screens, so having a notebook makes it easy to keep up with my day without staring into the glowing screen of my phone (which is another issue altogether that I’ll save for another post). I use the first section for my daily to-do lists, the second section for various project plans (for example, my yard sale plans) and the third section for weekly grocery lists and meal planning. Again, there are tons of ways to do this electronically, but I like having the ability to look at my list without picking up my phone.

Go beyond the check mark.

I’ve started using my to-do list as a daily log in addition to a planner. I’ve been trying for the past few weeks to get The Baby on some semblance of a nap schedule, and I’ve been tracking when he falls asleep, when he wakes up halfway through and how long I hold him (yes, another post topic: my stupid nap training), and when he finally wakes up at the end. I also make little notes about the results of phone calls I have to make to utility companies, etc. Being able to flip back through this not only serves as a helpful resource, but is also a nice way for me to appreciate the progress we’re making.

Be specific and realistic.

Never, never put “finish laundry” as a list item. Because guess what: You will never “finish” your laundry. Instead, put, “do two loads of laundry,” or “put laundry away.” Is your kitchen trashed from one end to the next? You may not be able to “clean kitchen” all the way, but you can probably empty the dishwasher, reload the dishwasher, sweep the floor or wipe down the counters. It feels good to check things off a list, so give yourself plenty of opportunities to do so.

I also find this helps keep me from getting overwhelmed, giving up and sitting on the couch with a carton of ice cream.

Being specific and listing out discrete tasks also makes it easy to pick and choose things that don’t take a lot of time when you have 15 minutes left before naptime is up.

Don’t despair if your day goes off the rails.

Yesterday’s flooring delivery ended up being such a huge cluster that it ate up about two hours of my day, or an entire span between two naps. Other days, I overestimate how much time I have for errands and the baby’s middle nap is screwed. I almost never get everything checked off my list. But after several weeks of list-making, I am very much okay with this, because I…

Appreciate how much work goes into SAHM-hood.

Another reason having a list is helpful is it helps me realize I’ve been productive even on those many occasions when I look around me at the end of the day, to the sink full of dishes and the boxes and the scattered baby clothes. Yeah, I didn’t get around to cleaning, but I paid bills. I fed the baby. I went to the grocery store. I took a SHOWER.

Two months in, this has been a really helpful tool for me for getting shit done and for also not panicking at the existential crisis that is the transition to SAHM-hood. Maybe it will help you, too!

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Productivity and the SAHM

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