Time Management for Parents

The Next Family

By: Marian Belgray

Time Management for the Modern Family

I chose to write an article –my first for this site — on the topic of time management, so it’s only fitting that my first thought was, “holy f—, I don’t have time to write this!”  (The “holy” part because it’s the holiday season.)  I tend to add things to my already over-stuffed plate before realizing I don’t have room.  Of course, if we all did things only when we had extra time, when would we ever have children?  I picked to write on time management not because I’m an expert, but because it’s something I struggle with every day.

My husband Rob and I are both freelancers.  I used to think freelancing meant your time was your own.  That’s not so true.  Our time belongs to whoever is hiring us, or worse, whoever is tempting us with the possibility of being hired.  (I’m an actor-comedienne, so I spend a lot of time being tempted.)

And now, a big chunk of our time belongs to our thirteen-month-old boy, Samson.  Rob and I share parenting duties.  We often face the stress of last-minute meetings and auditions requiring schedule and baby juggling (almost literally).    We consider ourselves decent parents. (If I have to bring Samson with me to a commercial audition I try to build it around fun activities, like a stop at a playground on the way home.) But we are building our careers and raising a baby at the same time.  Both are important, and time-consuming.  Hence the need for time management, in whatever form it takes.

So…I turn to some memorable advice from my dad.  He has done work with companies in the area of time management.  He also likes clichéd catch phrases, but don’t worry, he gives them a new twist.

Hurry up and wait.

My dad uses this one on airplanes, when everyone rushes to get out of their seats, only to stand in the aisle waiting for the flight crew to open the doors so they can begin the snail trail off the plane and over to baggage claim, where they will wait again.  Meanwhile, my dad sits comfortably in his seat reading his newspaper and says, quietly but smugly, “Oh, these people are exhibiting a case of hurry up and wait.”

Baby-raising also brings many instances of hurry up and wait.  From Day One, we hurried to the hospital, only to wait countless hours for the baby to come.  I would hurry to get my shirt undone and my boob out, and then wait for my impatient-but-distractible son to take his time nursing.  As parents, we’re often trying to save, or kill, time.  One minute I’m hoping Samson naps longer so I can get work done.  The next I’m waiting for him to wake up so I can be on time for a play date.  Then I wait in traffic to get there.  (L.A. driving offers many instances of hurry up and wait.)

Being an actor, I’m no stranger to hurry up and wait.  I often rush to an audition and then have to wait once I get there.  When I was breastfeeding, I had to couple the rush with pumping, waiting for the milk to come while hurrying through doing my makeup, and then rushing to get the bottles in the fridge so I could get out the door (and then, of course, wait in traffic).

Truth is, the waiting wouldn’t be painful if we weren’t hurrying.  It wouldn’t even be waiting.  I only feel like I’m waiting for Samson to finish eating when I’m in a rush to get somewhere.  And it feels so shitty to be rushing a baby.  His moods will let me know when I’m rushing!  When I’d be in a hurry for him to finish nursing, he could sense it and wail.  Someone clued me in that nursing could be enjoyable if I made it into a relaxing process, and not an obligation.

This realization is crucial to enjoying parenthood.  It all comes down to acceptance. (Doesn’t it always?)  When I accept Samson’s timetable, I can relax and enjoy the time we spend together.  I guess this is what my dad figured out when he decided to sit and read his newspaper at the end of the flight.

If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.

This is another one of my dad’s go-tos.  It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.  Parents are among the busiest people I know.  And they miraculously get everything done.  I used to think I needed a huge block of time in order to accomplish a task.  If someone asked me to write a toast for their wedding, I would cancel my plans for the week.  I’d resent the fact that I “had to” put my life on hold in order to do them a favor.  (But I was honored that they chose me.)  And it would take me forever to write that toast.

Nowadays, I say yes when I know I have no time (like for this article).  I assume I’ll get it done somehow.  And things get done quicker.  Busy people don’t have time to think before they do.  They just do.

I’m a recovering perfectionist.  I used to see the free hour that I had as a burden, because it wasn’t enough time to complete the zillion errands and work tasks that I had to get done…perfectly, mind you.   My goal now is to appreciate the little droplets of time that I have, and do my best with them.   I try to cherish a five-minute window, even if it’s barely enough time to send an imperfect email.  Could I be more efficient with my time? Probably.  But nobody ever had kids to become more efficient (except maybe the folks who needed extra farm hands).

Man plans; God laughs. (I think this rhymes in Yiddish.)

I’ve heard my dad say it once or twice, and I try to remember it often.  Rob and I are both east-coasters, so we like plans and schedules.  Yet we moved out west to pursue careers in the arts.   We’ve had to adapt.  Between traffic and flaky people, Hollywood is tough for planners.

Having a child makes it necessary to become more responsible and more laid back at the same time. Schedules need to be made and then often thrown in the trash with the Diaper Genie bags.  (If you use cloth diapers, think instead of homemade organic baby food that is left on the tray after lunch.)  I try to stay away from parent-and-me classes that require sign-ups with no refund if you miss a class.  Nap times are too unpredictable.

I know there are parents out there who make schedules and stick to them.  There are lots of people who have full-time jobs and full-time baby care, or one person who works, etc.  I don’t know any two families who do it the same way — everyone finds their groove eventually.  For Rob and me, we plan as much as we can but try to be open to last-minute changes.  Sometimes we make it to baby-and-me music class on time, and sometimes Samson poops as we’re about to head out the door.

I have a lot of room to grow in the time-management area.  For a freelancer, time is money.  But for a parent, time is baby care.  When we equate time with money, we think of it as something to save, or fear wasting it. “Spending” has become such a dirty word.  But when it comes to time with a child, spending time is much more fun than saving.  And what is wasting time in Baby Care Land?  Watching him eat blueberries?  That can be so much fun (especially if you’re not rushing).

If my grandmother had wheels, she would have been a trolly car.

This one might be my favorite.  Since it’s irrelevant, I’ll discuss it in another article…even if I have no time to write it.

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You can read more of Marian Belgrayon her site Marianbelgray.com

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