Does your time feel fragmented and scattered into little scraps? Perhaps you are plagued with “Time Confetti.”
Just ask Brigid Schulte, a longtime Washington Post reporter who coined the term while writing her bestseller: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. “At the end of the day, you know you’ve been busy, but you don’t know what the heck you’ve done,” Schulte says. “You get so busy, you get on this treadmill and you don’t realize you are running so fast, you are running in the same place and it feels like the wheels are coming off.”
Overwhelmed? Take A Deep Breath
One thing you know when caught in a frenetic parental time crunch: You’ve got to get out. Schulte comes to the rescue with strategies such as: “Take a deep breath. Think, I’m alive, I’m safe and things are good. Think, what’s meaningful, what’s really important and how do I focus on that?”
No question, life for working parents in a high achieving society can be overwhelming with endless choices and to-do lists. But remember, Schulte says, “You don’t have to do it all today.” When it comes to time management, she recommends “chunking” your time by gathering “like-minded tasks in certain buckets.” Each day, identify the most important thing on that to-do list, “do it first and the rest of the day feels like a win.” She also suggests you help your teens identify what’s most important to them.
Working Moms Shouldn’t Give in to “Mom-petition”
Before writing the book, Schulte admits she was “caught up in cultural pressure,” and “mom-petition,” as opposed to competition, because she was a working mom feeling she was always falling short.
“I was trying to be a crazy ideal worker,” she says, “I was trying to be a crazy ideal mother. I’d go to the park and I’d see at-home moms say I’d never let anyone else raise my child and I’d feel so guilty. I was always soaked in guilt and unsure I was doing the right thing.” There was no work-life balance. But Schulte says she didn’t see any way out as she and her journalist husband earned about the same amount of money and needed her salary.
She recalls the issue coming to a head when her high school babysitter called last-minute one day to say she wasn’t available to drive to ballet class. Seized with guilt, Schulte put down her front-page story for the Washington Post, raced home, picked up her daughter from school, “threw a snack at her,” and commanded her to get into her pink ballet tights. It was clear the girl didn’t want to go, but Schulte was determined she should learn to stick with things. As Schulte drove frantically, scribbled notes and communicated on her phone to finish her deadline story, her daughter moved in slow motion, noting that her teacher required her hair be in a bun. “I don’t have time to put your hair in a bun,” Schulte screamed. “We’ve got three minutes.”
When You Appear Overwhelmed, What Are You Modeling for Your Kids?
Schulte raced to the car, “driving like a maniac, talking on phone” and basically “modeling terrible behavior,” she says. While she figured her daughter would be grateful for “totally moving my life around her” and jeopardizing her front-page story to drive to ballet class, the child sat in the back seat “shooting daggers at me.”
With anger rising, Schulte admited she “lost it,” reminding her daughter that she was “taking time out of my busy schedule to drive you to ballet class” and that she worked for “one of the best newspapers in the country.”
Schulte’s daughter was unimpressed, responding: “What about the New York Times?”
Over time, Schulte says, the story made her sad. “It was more about me,” she says. “What I was showing her was that to be a working mother meant to be a crazy, screaming harpy” who couldn’t get it together. “I was showing her that it was more important to get to ballet class then to have a good relationship,” Schulte says, admitting that her working-mother guilt prompted her at times to behave at times as if her daughter were the center of the universe.
Schulte cautions against getting caught up in meeting societal expectations regarding what it takes to be a good mother. Caught up in cultural pressures, Schulte says, “We often are not the best mothers, or the best we can be.”