Quitting Time

Before I became a mother, my favorite time of day was quitting time—that most beautiful of hours when I could put everything away, lock the doors, shuck the worries of the office, and head home. I miss that time now that I am a mother. This is a job that never ends. I can never put it completely away, and it’s rare to get any time off—certainly not two days every single week. But I have found that there are some frameworks I can use to organize my time and give myself and my family needed rest and relaxation.

One of the most difficult challenges I face as a mother is organizing my time and transitioning from one task to another. I am now theoretically in charge of the schedule for my family. But it’s a rare day indeed that my ideal day isn’t interrupted by dirty diapers, spilled food, screaming children, or other crises.

In order to bring structure to my day, I am beginning to establish my own “quitting time.”  Because of my husband’s late work schedule, it is best if I consolidate my housework, exercise, and big projects in the morning hours. I clean the house, guide the kids through their chores and practice, cook our big meals, help my husband prepare for work, and run errands as much as possible before lunch. Following lunch, we have a dedicated quiet time. This serves as my transition time. I finish up my projects, take a few minutes to decompress, and review the plan for the rest of the day. Then, by the time the kids are done with their quiet time, I have reached my quitting time and I am ready for them. I have quit one job, and I’m off to the next.

Realistically, my work is never done. There are always meals to make, dishes to wash, messes to clean, and crises to solve. But for the most part, once I reach quitting time, the work I planned for one day is done and I can focus on other things. My afternoons and evenings are for riding bikes, reading books, playing with art supplies, and really being present with my children.

I am always very irritated when my husband works overtime without checking with me first.  What if I had plans?  What if there were things I wanted to do with him, or show him, or tell him? I try to keep that in mind when I reach my own quitting time. My children have plans for me—things to do and tell me.

I’m not perfect at this. There are days when I can’t seem to put down my work, when I don’t want to quit what I am doing to look for bugs or build another blanket fort. But I’m trying to be more consistent with my quitting time.

As I work to establish this frame for our day, my children are beginning to recognize and respect it. They are getting better at playing by themselves for longer times in the morning because they know I will be fully involved with them after lunch. The more they can help me during “work hours,” the more enthusiastic I will be about quitting when it’s time to play.

I come away from every day with a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I can quit on time. I know I have worked hard, but I also know that I have given my best to my family—not just the leftover bits of time between jobs. The laundry and the dusting can wait until tomorrow. My family cannot.

QUESTION: What frameworks can you place on your day so that you have a quitting time to look forward to?

CHALLENGE: Divide your tasks for each day into larger categories (i.e. housework, job/career, play time, personal time, etc.). Decide where each of those categories will fit best for yourself and your family.  Establish a quitting time for each one in order to be fully present for the next one. Does that increase your feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction?  Are you able to resist working overtime during your play time?

Originally published September 21, 2011.

Photo by Photostock at www.freedigitalphotos.net

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