Monday, August 03, 2009

Overplanning and underplanning

As I was reading my old post about How Does Your Home Operate, I thought of a couple of potholes that, although on opposite ends of the spectrum, still seem to trip me up equally. It's that Home Management Schizophrenia kicking in again.

Overplanning. When I err on this side, it is usually because of my overly optimistic personality.

"Of course! Thursday will be a great day to do all the laundry, grocery shopping, yard work and bake 400 cookies for the bake sale!"

This frequently happens either because (1) something has happened earlier in the week (sick child, for example) that has pushed these to-do items farther and farther back on the agenda, and I feverishly intend to finish them or else. Or, (2) it's because I secretly know I won't get them all done anyway, but oh, how I love to wallow in the guilt that never-accomplishing tends to breed in my gentle soul.


(For those of you who do have the energy to accomplish those items all on the same day (and hey, why not paint the kitchen, too?), overplanning might not wear YOU out, but your family may not appreciate your slave-driving encouragement toward obsessiveness excellence.)

I know I'm getting into this mode when I begin to hear [insert pleading voice and/or pulling on my clothing to get my attention]: "Mom, just sit down with me," as I'm scurrying through the house. And I know I need to listen when my replies start sounding like this: "I can't. I have too much to do." My priorities get so whacked out sometimes.

Underplanning. Underplanning is much more of an issue with me, maybe because I'm a "lastborn" and I chafe under anything that might tie me down and make me accountable, even when it's self-imposed. It also has a remnant of the "lost" feeling I had fifteen years ago when I started staying home with kids and didn't know what to do to with a suddenly blank week. "Hey, no need to feel bad! I didn't really plan to get that laundry done, anyway. I have all week to do that."

I like to think it's that optimism again: "Hey, it's all gonna work out! I'll get it done eventually!" But Eventually rarely comes. Instead, the evil nemesis, Crisis, and her cousin, Emergency, arrive - unannounced, of course.

Both overplanning (whether I kill everyone in the process of accomplishing everything, or I habitually make promises I can't keep) and underplanning make my kids crazy. They make me crazy.

ACK. Where is the balance?

I suppose I am happiest when I have enough of a plan for the day and/or week that I can easily look at my calendar and know whether or not I am going to be able to say "yes" to watching my neighbor's kids when she has a meeting to go to. Or when I have enough of a plan to not get too bent out of shape when a child gets sick unexpectedly on a day I'd planned on getting a lot accomplished.

I guess I just can't get too hung up in the particulars. In other words, I want to plan with flexibility so that Crisis and Emergency are not the driving force of our family life. Although they may slow things down a bit, they do not make life come to a complete standstill.

For example: My work schedule. It drives us all crazy. It's different every week, and sometimes I don't know what days I'm going to work until - like today - in the morning. Yes, I got a call at 6:45 this morning, and I'm leaving in a few minutes.

But generally, I do know I will be working two days each week, so in my heart of hearts I know I can't loaf off on the other days, whichever ones they are. I just can't. When I am home, I MUST be pecking away at the laundry and maintaining a running list of items I need the kids to help me with. Here is where chore clips have been an absolute life saver.

This is the same when you are "working" at home with a newborn or a houseful of kids. Certain days and certain times of day need to be designated as work times.

I also need to communicate to my family when "work" has ended, and "downtime" has begun. In the last year or so, I have made it a goal not to check email in the evening, because my kids couldn't tell that I was "relaxing." To them, it ALL looks like Mom is working.



When I say down time, I even mean planning for some computer down time.

When it comes to the kids, they are really just happy when they know what's coming - whether that means that Saturday is going to be a work day so don't make plans, or that Saturday we are going to a movie. (I feel so smart when I tell them, "After we work on XYZ, let's go to the movies!"). Or when I tell them I am going to be working on the computer (laundry, making dinner, etc.) until 6 o'clock, and then I stick to my word, get OFF, look them in the eye, and maybe even feed them. Or when I tell them I'm going to read them a story or take them clothes shopping, and I don't let other, "more important" things (are they really more important, or are they just urgent?) get in the way.

So I guess this was just a rambling way of saying, remember why you are planning. We are homemakers not housekeepers.

Okay and now I am off to my "other work." I need to make lists for the kids and fold laundry before I go.


Faerylandmom said...

Can I just say I officially appreciate you mostest today? Besides my family, of course. And Jesus. Not as much as him. But're the mostest today...

You hit the nail on the head with this post, and a few others in my board over here.

Thank you..

Cassandra said...

You are one of my favorite bloggers because of posts like this...I really appreciate you taking the time to write. What a ministry to moms like me...I mean it...thank you :)

Jane said...

Really interesting post here. Thanks for always sharing your insights and sentiments. It must really be tough, with all the responsibilities you have there. You must be tough your self. I wish you well enough. By the way, there's a new social networking site dedicated to parents and kids, it's called - it's a place for Moms, Dads, and Kids! Now, there’s even a chance to win a free iPod Nano!. It would be so nice of you to join our parents’ forums and polls. Thanks a lot and have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I wrote a nice big comment but it didn't take. :( Humph!

Oh, well. I'm right here with you. Overloading my day is a problem I have.