Relentless

I’ve been back at work for over four weeks and the pace of things feels… relentless.

Relentless.

It’s the perfect word.

From the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed, every minute is scheduled, every minute is required for something, or someone.

I’m having a REALLY hard time carving out a space for myself. It’s obvious that I’m going to have to rearrange my expectations. Significantly. I want to do more than I have time for, and I’m trying to determine what is going to fall by the wayside.

Last year I felt like I’d found a decent balance, but I was kidding myself. The only reason I had time for what I wanted to do was because I was only sleeping five hours most nights. By the end of the year I was losing myself to sleep deprivation.

My schedule this year allows me to wake up an hour later, so I’m getting six hours of sleep most night. I know I need about an hour more than that, but I can get by on six hours a lot better than I can on five. I’m thankful to have that extra hour of rest, but I’m realizing that in gaining that sleep I’ve lost time for other things.

My schedule is very different this year. I get to work late, losing most of my prep period, and I can’t stay for very long after school because I have to pick up my kids. This means I can’t make time to get my work done and it’s very stressful when the obligations start to pile up and I realize I can’t come in early, or leave late to get things done. I told my husband that I will need an entire weekend day every few weeks to keep my head above water, there just isn’t any way for me to stay on top of everything without more time.

Of course it feels like I never have enough hours with my kids. It helps that I get to see them in the mornings and in the evenings, but time with them is always rushed by a need to accomplish something. Every one of the minutes I spend with them needs to be productive or the whole operation goes off the rails. There are only about fifteen minutes before bedtime when we can run around or wrastle or tickle or play around. It’s such a pitiful amount of time to actually enjoy being together.

In the evenings, after bed time, my time feels even more limited. There are chores to get done, quality time to squeeze in with my husband, and attempts at filling my own cup. I could never manage all three in one night, so it inevitably feels like I’m shirking my obligations around the house, or ignoring my husband, or not meeting my own needs. I have yet to figure out how to find any time to see my friends (more on that later).

Honestly, at this point, if I make time for one thing, I’m taking time away from another, equally, if not more important, thing. I’m constantly rearranging my priorities, determining what, on any given day, feels necessary. The problem is sometimes that rearranging comes back to bite me on the ass.

Like today, I ran after work and before picking up my kids, but I had to sneak off campus fifteen minutes early and pick up my daughter 15 minutes late to make it work. I did that so I could write here at night, instead of go on the elliptical, but when I chose to run I also chose not to stop by the supermarket which means I had fewer options for dinner.

Last night I was exhausted and passed out at 9pm, right after I put my daughter to bed, which means I didn’t get to spend any time with my husband, who I haven’t really talked to in three days. I also didn’t pick up around the house, which is reaching a level of chaos that really stresses me out.

I feel like I’m trying to fit four hours worth of responsibility into two hours of time every night, and that time is being interrupted by my daughter who still takes 90 minutes to actually fall asleep.

It’s just hard, and stressful, and when I constantly feel like I’m avoiding one thing to accomplish another, none of it feels very satisfying. Exercising loses a little of its ability to relieve stress when I know it’s keeping me from being with my kids and/or my husband. Folding the laundry can’t be a mindless task to be enjoyed in front of the TV when I know it’s causing me to lose precious sleep. I want the time with my husband to feel extra meaningful when it’s keeping me from writing. I feel like everything I do is at the expense of something else, and my cup is becoming a sieve.

When there isn’t enough time, there is no right way to spend it.

I’m feeling so haggard from it, and it’s only the first month of the school year. How can I make this sustainable?

How do you manage everything when there aren’t enough hours in the day? How did you determine your priorities?

12 Comments

  1. You cannot do all of that everyday. You just can’t. I don’t really spend more than 5-15 minutes talking with my husband on weeknights these days. I just need to go to bed, or read/decompress on my own. We hang out on weekend evenings when I stay up later. I exercise Tuesday/Thursday and Saturday mornings. T/Th I get up super early to work out but I sleep later the other days. Some days I rarely see my kids, some days I see them for hours. I don’t see friends on a regular basis, but try to work it in when I can. It all happens in the week/month but not in the day.
    YES take the weekend day to catch up on work. You have to. Just go somewhere and do it.

    1. I definitely know I can’t do everything every day, but I’m finding that I can’t really do what I want to do in an entire week either. Like, it’s important to me (for my emotional health) to exercise at least three times a week, but it’s also important to me (for my emotional health) to see a friend once a week, and I can’t do that with this schedule, because now both happen in the evenings and my husband isn’t home enough of the week to accommodate both (if I work out when my husband isn’t home I have to do it so late that I don’t get to bed until midnight and fall asleep even later than that). And while it’s okay with me to only have real, serious QT with my husband on Friday nights, it is hard on our marriage if the other days we don’t even exchange two meaningful words. Even trying to see things as happening weekly or monthly, there doesn’t seem to be enough time.

  2. I find it really helps to have a routine. It’s a lot easier than figuring out each day every single day. For example, I used to always work late Monday evenings, and somehow it was easier that way because I knew it was coming and could plan for it, eat a real dinner, avoid other obligations, etc. Similarly, Friday nights are Marriage Time, and if the week gets out of control I still know I’ll have two solid hours on Friday.

  3. At once I sat and wrote a list of 5 things you could do to fix things. Then I got a cup of tea, came back, looked at my list and realized each item translated to: Take a stack of $20’s and..’. Of course this disqualified all of them as you are not looking to expand your outflows. Briefly considered job change ideas, but you looked at doing that and did not find more money (especially when outflows would also increase). So, your husband… Well. I know better, he loves living in and working for the city and that isn’t going to change, and he cannot take a second job because his time is already too limited. It briefly crossed my mind that he could “step up more”, but I believe he already has increased his ‘stepping up’. Might he still be on summer level when you were unpaid and off, or is he back to the level of ‘school is in session’? (But I believe he is back to that level).
    I was running out of ideas. Which is where you are. Back to: 2 employed adults working at good jobs with 2 young children living in San Francisco. RIGHT. “No money, lots of stress.” I mumbled some more.
    What about having a seven day menu preplanned with shopping list and husband does grocery shopping on his way home from work on day 6 (not day 7)! He also does all small store pickups if list is in his hands before 4:30 on any work day. When I was single mom-ing, I found grocery shopping after 9 at night was really really fast and easy and very few people in store other than clerks. SO it was faster and easier for full week shopping than it would be for you going with children on board when you get off work. Not sure how that works in your neighborhood or if husband is always using muni and on foot so limited in quantity he can buy and carry in one trip. Might make minor stress reduction for you and minor time savings for you.
    My cheapest idea of ‘throw money at it’ was hire a local high school age helper for one hour every day after you return from work with children to entertain them while you do the daily house clearing/food/clothing stuff. OR, maybe plan on using the tv/ipad/computer babysitter in SPANISH ONLY for an hour IF that sort of babysitter is adequate to organize and entertain both your children at the same time.
    But bottom line is: your life and the demands on your time are insane right now. The horizon however is shorter than you think for improvement… not decades away. But yes, still some years… third grade for daughter should be really improved, and if the diet stuff works that could be sooner. And, with heaven’s grace, your son will be a different temperament and less challenging.
    You really are amazing and doing super well, even if it doesn’t feel like that to you.
    Please note: I was totally selfish and never once suggested you reduce blogging, because I should personally hate that. But, if you decide that is your correct answer, please tell us so we can send you off with stacks of love and support. I HOPE THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER!

    1. Maybe to really simplify everything, you can have a meal schedule where you eat the same thing every Monday, etc. This may automate grocery shopping which you or your husband can do one night for the whole week. And that way you don’t have to meal plan on Sundays when you are exhausted and anxious.

      But yeah, your situation sounds tough. I don’t know how you survive on so little sleep.

  4. Relentless is the right word. And the constant feeling that something needs to be happening or else it will all go off the rails – ugh. It’s so hard. It’s not sustainable. I had the same feeling as purple and rose – what could you throw a bit of money at to make things a bit easier. But I know that isn’t the ideal solution. But a mother’s helper perhaps, 2 or 3 days a week after school for 1 hour? House cleaner once every 2 weeks? Or, for a few months, think about your denominator in terms of a what you need to do over a month instead of over a week – spread it out a bit more. It’s really rough when even things that you need to do to keep sane feel like they are pushing something else equally important off the agenda. I don’t have any other useful advice – just admiration.

  5. The house is chaotic and messy, I just had popcorn for dinner, and I worked 11.5 hours yesterday when we are open 8.5 hours a day. So I am right there with you, not having enough hours to get things done. And my spouse isn’t working right now.

    We plan 2 dinners a week to be crock pot meals that we either prepped and froze during the weekend or cooked on the weekend and reheat. That helps some. I plan the month’s meals with an elementary-school-style calendar with ingredients on the back of the cards so to grocery shop for the week, you just pull the cards and the list is on the back. I hope to do online grocery ordering soon so we can easily reorder and avoid shopping with children. Maybe that’s an option where you live, even if it costs a touch more?

    1. I have popcorn for dinner more days than I’d like to admit. I have not considered online grocery shopping, but maybe that would help. I’ll look into it.

  6. Maybe this will help with grocery shopping: I have a free app on my phone called our grocceries, it links to my husbands phone. All needed items are put into that list and on the weekend we make a big shopping trip from the menu I plan for the week. During the week I usually call me husband on the way home and decide who is stopping for the stuff we run out of, milk and bread etc.

    Since school has started I feel like I do not see my boys enough, I try to make the most of the few hours we have in the evening, we go for a walk every night after dinner and I end up cleaning, cooking, laundry, grading after they go to bed. My husband is a huge help at night so I am not doing it by myself. We usually talk while working around the house. We do not get everything done during the week the rest we work on during the weekend.

    I really do not know how you go without your prep hour, those 50 minutes I jam as much as I can in and my work to do list is never done.
    I hope as the school year continues it gets easier.

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