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Kelly: Love Is Time

Partially cross-posted from my personal blog

In my SLS class last night, we talked about values and time management and how our value structure plays a huge part in managing our time.  I show an inspirational video in each class, and the one I showed last night struck a chord with just about everyone in the room. Click here for the video. I showed it at the close of the class and at the end of it, I heard “awwww”s erupt from the room and then saw a few tears as they quietly filed out of the class.  It has the same effect on me every time I watch it, so I thought I’d share it with you here. It’s a good reminder that time is precious and you may never know the effect you have on another person, simply because you took an extra moment to connect. I think this rings so true to the message Brittany shared in her Creative Journey post.  Those boys will remember that day forever.

timeIt seems that we’ve all been traveling along similar paths and experiencing some of the same frustrations here lately, as evidenced by some of our posts. We all come at this combining motherhood and creativity challenge from a little different perspective, i.e. writers vs. visual artists vs. stay-at-home-moms vs. work-outside-the home moms, but as I mentioned in my rant to Cathy recently, the percentage of  stay-at-home-moms in the blogosphere seems to be very high. I’d wager that at least 80% of those who regularly subscribe to the Mom Blogger’s Club are stay-at-home-moms.

I was telling a friend of mine about my recent rant on Cathy’s post and she had an interesting perspective. She’s divorced, has no children, and is definitely not a creative type, but she most definitely never hesitates in speaking her mind. Her thoughts were that maybe instead of spending so much time on the computer blogging about how little time they have, they could be using that time to actually do something a little more productive. I know that suggestion may ruffle some feathers here, but I also know that the lesson didn’t escape me either. Regardless of where we work — in an actual office away from home or right there at home — maybe we all spend a little too much time complaining about how little time we have when we could be using that time more productively, like in my case anyway, spending more quality time with my girls. A bit reminiscent of our Someday is Today discussion, don’t you think?

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. your friend has a good point, but the whole reason i blog as a sahm and a writer is two-fold.

    it is my connection to the world outside my walls and it keeps me writing when the quality and amount of creative time is at a minimum. by doing a *small* blog daily, i keep in the habit of writing and photography, when i cannot devote the brainspace to deeper work while managing a toddler and special needs kid and a teen on very inconsistent sleep because of the toddler. i check in on others’ blogs in the catch as catch can minutes when i take a ‘breather’ from my mayhem. thewriting is not great nor is the photographer, but this allows me to remain creatively connected to the world when i am losing my mind in the minutia of the day.

    October 15, 2009
  2. understood, cathy. i think the contributors to and readers of this blog do a fairly good job of balancing this concept. though i’ve seen so much lately in the blogsophere and on FB in general about it. i understand the need for sahm’s to find an outlet to connect to the world beyond home (though let me tell ya, as someone who is out there, i’m wanting to disconnect from that world more and more lately). what “twists my knickers”, as you said in your comment to a previous post, are those who constantly complain about having no time to themselves yet apparently have endless time to spend playing around online. liz’s and kristine’s comments in the mom blogger’s post i think summed that up well.

    October 15, 2009
  3. i first posted a comment on the fly earlier, and now that your friend’s comment has sunk in a bit more, the ‘so much time complaining about no time’ blogs. i really started to get irked.

    being a sahm is not sitting around eating bon-bons and bemoaning our existence. there is much in the family management dept we are taking care of and if we don’t manage and supervise, not only our kids, but our significant others, nothing happens without our doing it. (take for instance the online bill paying dh does that somehow skipped this month’s phone payment and we now have no phone service on landline or cells because of it being bundled because, even when i did remind him, it didn’t get ‘clicked’ from his account on time).

    i think the ‘complain about time’ comment is off base, and sometimes our discussions of time management are off-base, too. i don’t think we are complaining so much as commiserating to find solutions to time management issues, etc.

    i think the major infraction(sorry, not the best word, but the one coming to mind) on our creativity, isn’t so much about having the time, as having the wherewithal. how do we compartmentalize so that creativity takes precedence, when little children are climbing our laps and computers and art supplies or when older children’s days are measured in school and activities and necessary downtime with a present parent. i also happen to be managing my special needs son’s educational plan with his school, which is honestly a fulltime job in and of itself. and then him when he gets home.

    now, i will say that i have my managment down to a minimum in the sense that my kids are not overscheduled hither and yon like many kids are, but being the family manager, leaves little room for anything else to happen in my brain. no matter the lists and calendars, etc, i have to keep it all in my head, so that things flow smoothly. sure lists and calendars help, but really it’s ‘all up here’ because that’s where all the necessary info is most readily available. and the lists originate there.

    now i will add that i started my middle reader novel once both boys were in school for at least half day kinderegarten, while i was working three jobs and had primary custody as a single mother. and how did I do that? i had 30min in my apartment by myself after rushing from job number one before s’s kindergarten bus came home. 30 mins of uninterrupted time to myself 5 days a week. if there wasn’t a school holiday, which there often was, so that was a 4 day week of 30mins a day.

    right now, i do not have 30mins by myself ever. even in the shower, there’s usually someone knocking on the door about something urgent that i have to deal with. or if c is napping, k is getting off the bus and my mil is sitting across the room from me, doing whatever. not to undermine what she’s doing, but it is a real distraction for me to have anyone present. just so i can get this longwinded thought out, she is playing noisily with c. novels do not finish themselves amidst this. one of these days, i am going to grab my husband’s laptop and leave for a while to fill in that hole in the middle of it, but then i feel guilty for leaving her with the baby, and the teen coming home, and then the preteen, because, I WANT TO BE HERE FOR MY KIDS, as much as i want to write.

    and therein lies the crux. i think we’re all communing about this online because it’s nice to know we are not alone, and sometimes, someone of us inspires, or has a momentary solution or a reminder of peace in the midst of it all, to this on going dilemma of the virginia woolf proposal of the non-existent room of one’s own for mothers.

    sorry this is so long, but i really needed to ‘talk it out’ this question of complaining about a lack of time. for me, it isn’t about the time itself, as the wherewithal to write cohesively from start to finish, to be able to edit it in what needs editing, to be consistent in verb tense, sub characters’ plotlines, etc.

    i blog because i have to stay fresh in writing and communication about writing and family. sometimes i really wish i were more craftily proficient and inclined, and could slap together an image and be done. but that’s not how a longer piece is written, nor a larger canvas, etc. i don’t think we’re complaining so much as communing. since we don’t live in matriarchal tribes anymore, we do it on the internet.

    October 15, 2009
  4. sorry i hit a nerve. i was simply trying to make a point that maybe ALL of us, not just sahm mom’s, could probably spend a little less time on the stuff that really doesn’t matter and a little more time on the stuff that really does. sahm moms and work outside the home moms will probably never ever see the world the same way. i could easily say take all that you just described you have to do at home and add a full-time job on top of it. i know sahm moms don’t sit around eating bon bons all day. and i also know that many working moms would kill for the time you have with your kids……backing out of the room now.

    October 15, 2009
  5. kelly, we emailed back and forthed about the above. but i think my point, for everyone to see is

    i think we all need to look at how we communicate with each other and how it relates to how women have always been in commune with each other rather than putting it down to just whining on the internet about how we don’t have time to do what we want. i think the momblogger thing and much of the media puts this bad onus on us.

    i have been on both sides of the working parent and sahm, i’ve been the single mom with three jobs, etc etc, for me it is the same no matter my position. we want to be with our families and we want to create. we want to provide for our families, too. we are here having this conversation because it is important to make the time and the priority for self and creativity amidst the mayhem of the day to day existence.

    we have the conversation to find solutions, temporary and permanent to the driving force behind why we have kids in the first place and why we are artists. personally, it makes no matter whether we are sahms or working, it’s a constant negotiation of prioritizing and reprioritizing what is important to us and some of that negotiation is when.

    October 15, 2009
  6. Brittany Vandeputte #

    NBC is devoting a lot of time this month to the idea that the world is now a woman’s world.

    I’m interested to see their findings. I’ve seen it written in many places that older generations of women observe that at no time in history has motherhood been more difficult.

    I think this has a lot to do with the limitations life places on our choices, as well as the breakdown of the nuclear family, and close extended family ties. I imagine my life would be very different if I lived in the same city as my family.

    I think back to my childhood, when my mom was a single mother who worked full time (she was a teacher, so her work day was somewhat shorter than most). My grandmother and great-grandmother took turns caring for me throughout preschool/early elementary school, and then in late elementary school, she’d drop me off at a cousin’s and I’d catch the bus in the morning with her two daughters, and stay at their house after school until mom picked me up. The fact that I had family to care for me meant that I didn’t have to go to a potentially frightening daycare (we checked out a few at one point and they terrified me) and meant she was able to get a leg up financially without the drain of childcare on her meager teacher’s salary.

    Then I look at my situation now. My husband makes a six figure income. We try hard to be frugal. Our mortage is less than a thousand dollars a month, I buy clothes on clearance and at consignment sales, we have no debt, but we can’t afford luxuries. We struggle to put anything in savings and have no college fund for the boys. I am un-able to get a part time job to supplement our income because I would spend every cent I made on childcare. If I got a full-time job, I would come away with very little extra because the cost of childcare would eat away nearly all my full time income too. My closest family members are 1.5 hrs away, so are really only available to help me in an emergency. The rest of our family is literally across the country–in Idaho and New York, respectively. I am stuck. There is literally no way for us to get ahead. No better choice for us to make.

    Throw my desire to have a creative life into the mix and my choices grow even bleaker. I can’t afford any more childcare than I’m affording now–which means I get 2 mornings to myself a week–2 mornings where cleaning and playing catch-up take precidence over whatever creative pursuit I might wish to focus on. The only choice is to cast it aside and leave it for sometime in the future when I have more time… only I have a feeling that with economic pressures on us being what they are (looming college tuitions and more expenses every day), the minute I find myself with some time to kill, I’ll find myself transferring those hours into a paying gig.

    And no matter how I stare down the future, no matter what path we take or where life leads us, the outlook is the same. No money. No nearby family. No help. No change in our situation.

    And I don’t imagine it’s a much different scenario for most other women either.

    Crying in the frozen food aisle indeed…

    October 15, 2009
  7. i’m preparing for backlash as i say this but….

    what brittany says here is so very true: “And no matter how I stare down the future, no matter what path we take or where life leads us, the outlook is the same. No money. No nearby family. No help. No change in our situation.
    And I don’t imagine it’s a much different scenario for most other women either.”

    pure fact. at times, it sucks being a grown up. we all know that. (income be damned–heck, brittany, by that six figure income, your husband brings home more than benny and i do combined.) so to me, whether it’s called complaining, communing or commisserating… none of it changes that basic fact…that sometimes it does just suck to be a grown up. that’s why i feel it’s just more important to simply try to focus on the positive. cathy directed me to liz’s post today. I LOVED IT because it focused on the positive. on her FB status today, one of my former students quoted one of the major lessons i try to impress upon my students…basically that you may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again… happiness is a choice.

    October 15, 2009
  8. thanks for the nbc link, brittany and salient points on economic and familial realities.

    kelly, that is another of the reasons i have my blog: to find the positive in my small way/life and share it, and maybe someone else won’t feel so alone in the wilderness, or crying in the frozen food aisle.

    no backlash.

    October 15, 2009
  9. I don’t want to get my head bitten off, but I have to play devil’s advocate here on the part of Kelly’s friend.

    A couple of months ago, when I was feeling especially frustrated by the lack of time for myself, I created a spreadsheet that details how much time I have to spend on every single regular “obligation” and predictable activity in my life — domestics, kids, work, etc. (I estimated how much time it takes me to unload the dishwasher, pay the bills, drive to school, take a shower, eat dinner — everything). Then I added in the “extras” like running a couple of times a week, blogging, and spending time on facebook. I figured in time for sleeping, too. After that, no surprise, there was pretty much NO time left over, and that didn’t leave any margin for all the little surprises that crop up on a regular basis. While I couldn’t see many areas where I could eliminate specific tasks, I did realize that time spent on the computer (paid work time not included) was eating up a lot more of my life than I thought it was.

    I found that I tended to hit facebook at transitions during my workday, as well as early morning and late evening. Because I don’t spend extended periods of time on facebook at one sitting, I figured that the time spent there was pretty inconsequential. But when I started tracking it with a site tracker — well, it REALLY adds up. Think about it. Do you spend “just” 15 minutes a day, in total, on facebook? (For many readers of this blog, the total is a lot more than that, if you’re being honest.) Well, 15 minutes a day turns into an hour and 45 minutes a week. If you spend 30 minutes on facebook a day, now you’re talking about 3.5 hours a week. Do I really want to devote that kind of time to social networking? Do I really want to have that kind of distraction — and interference with my productivity and my family life — all day long? The answer is no.

    I like feeling connected via facebook, but with 245 “friends,” I end up reading minutiae about people I’m not that invested in. And even among those that I *am* invested in, so many of them seem to post status updates about how they’re coughing up a bucket full of phlegm or that they stink and need to take a shower or that they’re hungry. I’m sure that my own status updates are not of interest to many in my circle, but COME ON. I don’t need the gory details about folk’s bodily functions or olfactory status. Really. And the quizes? I hide every single one that shows up in my newsfeed so that I don’t have to see it again. Do I really need to know what color toenail polish Cousin Alice wore on her left big toe in a past life? OMG.

    It was time to do some editing. I pared down my friend list and hid a bunch of people altogether. That helped. But it wasn’t enough to kill the allure of facebook, even with all the bodily functions, lol.

    As a Firefox user, I installed leechblock, and set it up so that I can only get on facebook at certain times of the day, with a total limit of 20 minutes max per day. After that, the broser shuts facebook off. I set it up so that I do not have access to facebook during times when I might actually be writing or — god forbid — doing client work. If I don’t have the self-control to limit myself, then I have to set up secondary limits. You know what? It was a HUGE RELIEF. I felt like I got my life back in some small way. (I allowed myself a little more leeway during the past two weeks while I work on a reunion dinner that’s taking place this weekend, but after that, back to the Spartan facebook schedule.)

    What does all this have to do with Kelly’s friend’s comment? Well, I think she has a valid point. I know that connecting with other creative mothers — as well as a generally “friendly” network on facebook — is supportive and inspiring. I like that. I need that. I enjoy reading blogs. But at a certain point, all of that stuff just becomes something else that I am doing instead of writing. No, I can’t dig into my manuscript when my little guys are awake and climbing on me, but I can scribble a few notes on an index card. I can browse one of the many terrific books I have on writing and creativity. Or I can just forget about all of that and focus on the kids. Just because I can’t actually “write” when I’m with my kids doesn’t mean that I feel good about staring at my laptop when they’re around, doing something that supposedly doesn’t demand all of my attention. PLEASE. When I’m reading a blog or spending time on facebook I am at LEAST as engaged as I am reading a book or even — dare I say — writing one. The only difference is that I don’t feel crazed when I have to get up from the computer to remove my toddler from the bookshelf he’s scaling. Hopefully I actually noticed in time, but you can’t be sure, considering how fully I can get sucked into the computer during NON-writing activities. Basically, for me, the computer is best to be avoided when my kids are around. It’s so much better for all of us. Simply put, the computer sucks me away from real life and from feeling fully engaged with the kids.

    I’ve now taken to being on the laptop in the early morning while everyone is having cereal and a morning bottle and is generally happy to toddle around without interaction with Mom. But then, on the four days that I don’t work, the laptop gets put away until naptime. Sure, I have a few workarounds — like e-mail and facebook on my iPhone when I feel desperate (somehow I am able to get away with a couple of minutes staring at my phone when if it were my laptop, the kids would be climbing all over me instantly — and given my client load I can’t ignore e-mail all day on Mondays and Fridays) but I have to make sure I don’t let the phone take over, too.

    Back when I used to run a weekly and then bi-weekly Breakfast interview on this blog, I spent A LOT of time surfing the web and trawling for bloggers to feature. It was fun, but it took time away from whatever chance I had to write. I told myself that what I was doing was important because it was connected to creativity and supporting other creative mothers — and that was true — but at a certain point, when I was whining all the time about not having enough time to write, I had to admit that 2 + 2 still equals 4. There are only so many hours in a day. How am I going to spend those hours? Sure, 30 hours of my week are spent working. Then there is all that “stuff” that has to get done to keep the home fires burning. As for the remainder of my hours, if I can’t spend them following my creative bliss, I at LEAST want to spend them focused on my kids, not on my computer.

    Everyone has to find the balance that works for her. All I can say is that there are definitely times when I have been so caught up in the PROCESS of creativity and thinking ABOUT creativity that I have not actually been creative. Not that the other stuff doesn’t have any value, because it does. But I don’t want to go on and on about process forever. At a certain point, it’s time for action. Without question, I for one am at times guilty of taking the time to complain about not having time instead of just shutting up and USING that time. It happens. Like right now, for example, lol. Now that I’ve chosen to use 40 minutes of my evening to rant about this particular topic, I have to hit facebook before going to bed! lol……

    October 15, 2009
  10. excellent points, and i know i am an fb culprit. i also know at some point in the very near future, i am going to be breaking from both that and my blog to focus on the book editing. i needed the connection more than the deep writing time for the past couple of months since i ‘completed’ the first draft.

    in fact after all the discussion today, i was considering focussing on that phase next week. i think i’ve mentioned that i feel the hole is about to fill. i’ve digested the research, and finally the story is coming from it.

    there is something to considering how my ‘muse’ works in these larger focus blocks of a month of writing, a couple of months downtime, and seasonal arcs. i think i’ve touched on this here on cc long before i started my blog. and i think being here and sharing that has helped to figure that out about my methods of writing.

    i’m sure i sounded more ranty than my intentions today, too. i guess i get my feathers ruffled when i feel like it’s said that being a sahm is somehow lesser responsiblity or more luxury than being a working parent.

    October 15, 2009
  11. Kristine #

    Very lively conversations on here this week, indeed. I think all of us have valid points about the struggles we face in time management.

    When I decided to fully commit to finishing my novel, I knew I had to make some changes regarding how I structured my time in order to make that happen. And, as my daughter grew older and more needy, I had to revisit my time managment schedule yet again. Sometimes my schedule changes by the day or even by the hour. I accept it and do the best I can. It’s all any of us can do.

    I think we can all agree that a big chunk of our days are spent in our “jobs”–whether it’s outside the home or inside the home. That leaves us a limited amount of time for everything else, whether it’s writing blogs, writing novels, painting, watching TV, cleaning, cooking…whatever. What’s important is that we take the time we have–whether it’s ten minutes or two hours–and use it wisely. At the end of the day, we should feel good (or at least comfortable) with how we spent our day, even if it meant using our “time” to sit in front of the TV because we needed a break.

    I was reading an interview a long time ago by an author I admire who wrote that she works like mad during the hours her children are at school so that when they get home, she can feel good about turning off her computer and focusing all her time and attention to caring for them. I took that to heart. It taught me that there’s a time and place for everything.

    I don’t think any of us should feel any less than adequate because we write blogs, surf the Internet, or visit Facebook. The point I think Kelly’s friend was making (and which Miranda beautifully clarified) is that we need to ask ourselves if spending an hour on Facebook is helping us achieve our personal goals. Would that hour be better spent doing something else? For some of us, that answer is yes. For some of us, that answer is no. And that’s OK.

    October 15, 2009
  12. Liz #

    Miranda – how do you set that up (to limit fb)? I totally agree about that site. I like to have everyone there, JIC, but I HATE hearing “I voted NO to some complex moral issue that’s really not black and white” or “So and so took the ‘what vegetable are you’ quiz with the result: RUTABAGA!” I don’t want to hear about how my uncle hates Obama or that my sister in law is lying around the house wishing she were drunk at 1:00 in the afternoon. Or that someone sent someone some kind of f-ing HEART. Do I need to mention Farkle, Farmville or Mafia Wars?

    I log on because sometimes people post cool links. But no one has much to say & I end up thinking why do I check this every day? I should check it every week, if that.

    MY sin is screwing around on blogs I don’t like, after coming across some controversy on the net. I have to chime in (no, I don’t, but I can’t resist) and last week it hit me when I was anonymously trolling some 20 year old Marxist’s blog and chewing him out for his ‘opinion’ on the Roman Polanski thing. And I thought, Really? Am I really yelling at a brick wall on the internet instead of writing my novel or doing a craft with my kids? I am screwing around and picking fights with conservatives, raw moms, anti-vaxers and Atheists? FOR WHAT??? So I can be both cantankerous AND unproductive? Who cares what these people think? I need to stop letting negativity suck me in.

    My blog is creative and I print it out every year to serve as a yearbook for the family, so I feel that time spent blogging is important. But I need to limit the junk sites, controversial bs and lame social networking.

    From now on, I have to try to focus on being inspired instead of quagmired. Filter. Filter. Filter. This is the challenge of our time.

    *Disclaimer: this is how the internet relates to ME, I am not advising anyone else.*

    October 16, 2009
  13. I couldn’t agree more. Life is really all about perspective. It is a tough gig sometimes, being a SAHM, but I feel like one of the luckiest women in the world.

    October 16, 2009
  14. Liz, if you use Firefox for your browser, you can install this add-on: HIGHLY recommended!

    It’s so hard not to get sucked in the political stuff, isn’t it? I got WAY too invested in an argument with some guy on fb that I don’t even know — was someone who had commented on a friend’s post — and quickly ended up in the mud hole. I *try* not to write off everyone who doesn’t share my political views. I find I have become increasingly close-minded on that front, which probably isn’t healthy — but at every turn I feel like I’m confronted with utter lunacy, and then asked to respect “the other side.” When this guy on fb insisted that Obama is pretty much the same as Ahmadinejad and Kaddafi, you realize that you have engaged in an argument with an insane person — and wasted a lot of time and energy that could have been directed toward something of actual value, like your creative work. Although in this instance, compared to arguing with this particular guy (or his brethren) studying a kitty litter box for signs of world peace would have had been a more useful activity.

    Geez, now I’ve gotten myself all riled up again.

    Sorry to hijack this otherwise important comment thread!

    October 19, 2009

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