I don't know if you've read The Four Hour Work Week. For most of the book, I thought the author was an egoistical freeloader with a limited sense of both social responsibility and depth of character who'd been fired from most employee positions he'd ever held. The last part is true - he has been fired from most employee positions he's ever held. Having read the last chapter, I'm not as sure of the first part as I used to be. Are you thinking of reading the book? Well, let me ask you a question he asks half way through to help you decide.

If you won a fortune in the lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your life after that? If the answer is, as with many people, "Turn up at the office, same as always," then you need not pick this book up. There. I saved you hours of your time. If the answer is (as with many people) that you would change everything, or at least a lot, then it may be worth a read.

I read it, not because I felt I would change a lot, but because I am feeling pushed for time lately. As such, I'm not sure I gained much. Yes, there is a chapter on efficiency, but much of it does not apply to parenting. Save time by limiting interruptions, he says? My entire purpose at present is to respond to interruptions. Ooh, there's another one - hang on.

Solved. Now. Where was I? Yes.

Here's a non-secret about parenthood I'll tell you for free: parents aren't busy because they have a lot to do. Parents are busy because it takes for-freaking-ever to do everything. And here's another non-secret, a kind of two-for-one deal: even if I do manage to skate through my errands and chores in record time, it doesn't free me to do whatever I want. It frees me to spend time hanging out with my children. And I have to pause here to emphasise that hanging out with my children is not something I consider an eternal punishment, but at the same time it doesn't get me any closer to completing my plans for world domination saving the dolphins. My reading list is getting longer, not shorter, and there's only so much to be done by batching or going on a low-information diet. Clearly, I have too many dreams for one day. Lately it is occurring to me that I have, really, too many for a lifetime, but that's a whole 'nother barrel of posts.

Right now, I want to focus on the fact that even a small gain is still a gain. Perhaps, at least, I can find a way back to semi-regular blogging, or commenting, or some such. Or reading Life From Scratch (hi Mel!) which is just one of the books on my ever-growing list. So here we go, and this is what I'm hoping you can help me with.

Focussing On Important Tasks
There is this whole bit about discarding unimportant tasks. I find that I am often sucked in to performing unimportant parenting tasks, and I want you to help me illuminate unimportance where I may have missed it so that I can deploy my energies more effectively.

For example, who dresses their children twice a day? Oh, uh, me too. I mean, yes, I dress The Prata Baby at least twice a day, because things would probably go awry if I tried to put him to bed in his kindy uniform, at least in the short term. In the long term, I'm sure he'd learn to rely less on pyjamas and more on other sleep cues to settle himself down, and there's really no other reason apart from social protocol that he can't sleep in what is, essentially, a T-shirt and pair of shorts, just like his pyjamas. As it is, I don't tend to go through pyjamas-then-day-clothes-then-kindy-uniform-then-day-clothes-again. On kindy days, he wears his kindy uniform ALL DAY. Do I dress the baby twice a day? Only if the first outfit gets ruined with some sort of bodily waste. She gets bathed and dressed, and that's it until the next bath. As for me, I sleep in my underwear. Saves dressing time, saves laundry time, just by eliminating a change of clothes each from our day.

What parenting stuff do you NOT do, that everyone else seems to, or that you are sometimes tempted to do?

Who cooks seven days a week? Yeah, um, me too. To be honest, I aim for three, double batches every time, with one takeaway night (courtesy of Mr Bea). In practice, I often find myself cooking more often than that, due to lack of forethought. I should forethink more, it could save me a bundle.

I have also started batching my paperwork. I was in the habit of paying bills the moment they arrived in my letterbox, then filing them immediately. I have recently started putting them away in a folder and sorting everything out together on Saturday. Overall, it's faster.

Then there's the laundry. I have to put a load on every day, otherwise I run out of drying space, not to mention children's attention spans. But whereas I was folding it three or four times a week, I am now experimenting with twice (once is not enough).

I have also started batching the dishes. Once a day now. The Prata Baby never would have stood for it, but it turns out Surprise Baby will. This may fluctuate with age.

Which domestic or parenting tasks do you batch - save up to do all at once - to improve efficiency?


I continually fail to outsource. It's a common problem, and a common complaint, that nobody else seems to be up to scratch. On the other hand, Mr Bea's not actually incapable of looking after the kids for a while even without my micromanagement. What's the worst that could happen? (Don't answer that, especially not with anecdotes.)

The one place where I shine at outsourcing is with respect to cleaning floors and bathrooms. A year and a half ago I realised I was doing this myself on a Saturday morning whilst Mr Bea and The Prata Baby were at the park, and I was hating most of it. I told Mr Bea I would rather work Saturday mornings at my chosen profession whilst he went to the park with The Prata Baby, and use my earnings to pay someone to clean my house during the week, even if I made no financial gain by doing so. Turns out I was not only happier but financially better off. Nobody wants to work Saturday mornings, so I could hire myself out at a premium, then pay standard rates to my cleaner during the week. And damnit if they didn't do the job better than me. It's not that I can't clean floors or bathrooms as well as the next person, but I suffer from a severe lack of motivation. I really, really hate it.

Oh, and I have pretty much given up chopping my own meat.

Do you have any tips for avoiding household micromanagement and/or handing household tasks to outsiders?

They are my questions three. Even an extra hour a week would be welcome.


Serenity said...

Huh. Interesting.

Parenting-wise, we have started having O shower with us instead of doing his own bath. He prefers it, and it kills two birds with one stone - both of us are clean relatively quickly. I've thought about not bathing him daily, but after a long day at school, he really stinks. I just can't do it.

With cooking: I do cook 7 days a week. But. We have whittled down our recipes during the workweek to recipes that are completed in 20 minutes or less. (Thank you, Cooking Light!) We use our crockpot a LOT, especially during the winter, and freeze the leftovers for an easy meal later on.

And we're super Type-A about our menu - each week, we plan the menu for the week and shop to that menu. We do keep some essentials on hand in case we run out of time one night - veggie burgers, pasta and jarred sauce, frozen pizza, etc - but otherwise we cook what we say we're going to. Seems to work for us, and doesn't really take a lot of time every day.

We also batch the mail and bills - added most of our bills to online bill pay and/or set up automatic feeds to pay them without our intervention. We have maybe three or four bills per month which need to be paid manually, which we do every two weeks.

We also outsource our housekeeping. And I am more than happy to have O hang out with his father while I do my long run on a weekend. The key, I think, is to be out of the house. Mr. Bea will handle the kids, but you need to leave. If that means you go to a local coffeeshop to read once a week while Mr. Bea watches the kids, then so be it. Just get out of the house so you don't have the temptation to micromanage. :)

I have a friend who hired a mother's helper to come once a week so she can get out of the house and get some work done, too. Might be something that you may want to think about, maybe when PB is at kindy and it's just you and SB?


Lut C. said...

I found the book title very fishy.

What on earth is a kindy uniform? Google was unhelpful. A school uniform?

There is no obligation to bathe a child every day. Not even every other day. Really.

I buy deepfrozen vegetables to use in the kitchen. The veggies go straight from the fields into the freezer - they don't hang out in the supermarket for days, nor in your kitchen. Very convenient to use, but without questionable reputation of ready-made meals.
Soup (usually from said frozen veggies) + bread counts as a hot meal in our house when we're not in the mood to cook.
We bought a slightly bigger freezer, usually we have the necessary ingredients for an easy meal in there. Veggie burgers as a back-up here too.

I can't add to your batching examples.

We have a dishwasher.

Outsourcing? We have a cleaner too, and worth every penny!
My house is a school example of the law of entropy. Disorder comes all by itself. I only make the effort sort the clutter the evening before the cleaner comes, so she can concentrate on actual cleaning.

I no longer do my own grocery shopping. I order online and simply pick it up at the shop. It doesn't take less time per se (it would if I made better shopping lists) but you order on the couch, in front of the tv, and interruptions don't matter. And as a bonus, the marketeers can forget about 'nagging power', hehe. No Sponge Bob cookies here!

Not on Fire said...

I am big on planning ahead. I also got lots of useful tip from www.flylady.net

Geohde said...

"parents are busy because it takes for-freaking-ever to do anything"



Portia P said...

Amen indeed to your post.

Essentially I have no R&R time at all. We put them to bed, eat - not always together, especially when it's soup for dinner - and both sit down to our day(night?) jobs. A couple of hours work, then bed.

Time savers? Not sure I can add. I order groceries online and they are delivered to our door. I even resent the time spend unpacking!

I pay most bills by direct debit, so not time wasted there.

As the bath is part of the bedtime ritual and as my babies are not the greatest sleepers, i'm too scared to skip the bath. I do bath them together though.

I fold washing as I go. If I didn't i'd be drowning in it!

Oh, I have someone come and clean the house for 4 hrs a week. That makes a BIG difference. I also have someone come and look after both little ones one day a week so I can work/shop/get to the dr/dentist etc. If I didn't work, i couldn't pay for that. The income and the childcare are almost exactly the same.

I sound like lady muck or perhaps an old moaner. Maybe a cross between the two? This is a fantastic time that I'm sure i'll miss. When they're bigger, they'll be at school and then (if i'm still in work) the income can be used elsewhere.

Sorry it's been so long. Hard to find time to read blogs and comment!! xx

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