Every article you read on time management talks about the To Do list. Advice on what you put into the To Do list is varied, and sometimes contradictory, but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that if you want to add a few hours to your day, you need to have and stick to a To Do list.
But one thing remains unsaid – To Do lists are utterly meaningless for the one person who most needs extra time – a Mother.
If you put on the list any task that is likely to take over two minutes as the rules tell you to, your To Do list for the first 90 minutes of the day has just eight items on it-
- pack a snack for the kids
- wake the kids up
- make them brush their teeth
- feed them breakfast
- make a cup of tea for myself and the hubby
- get the kids into their clothes
- drop them off to the school bus
When the alarm rings, you stumble out of bed, throw on some half-way decent clothes, brush your teeth and head to the kitchen. The kids give less trouble eating cornflakes if they are well soaked, so you do. It shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds, but you know the younger one will eat faster if you break the cornflakes into smaller pieces, so you do.
The older one wants sandwiches with chocolate spread in his lunch-box, the younger one wants half an apple and a slice of cheese. The chocolate spread is not where you know you kept it. You spend precious seconds hunting for it, and finally find it in the most obvious place – the cardboard box in the kitchen where your younger son stores all his precious toys. Sandwich cut into triangular quarters, you snap the lid of the lunch box shut.
Where is that apple the younger one wants? It seems to have vanished, and your niggling suspicions are confirmed when you find a darkening apple core on the dinging table – the hubby’s eaten the fruit you had been saving for the kid. You bite back the retort that comes, and throw in a few salty biscuits to keep the cheese slice company – he just has to manage with what he gets, after all, so many kids go hungry!
Waking the kids up is a mammoth task. It starts on the afternoon of the previous day when you keep the kids awake so they go to bed early and so get their nine hours of sleep at night. Despite all those precautions, the kids will not budge – you have to bribe them with the promise of being allowed to watch Spiderman while having breakfast for them to even stir. And when they do wake up, one wants his diaper removed and the other wants to be picked up, and they both want it NOW!!! No wonder Goddess Durga has ten hands - every mother needs one pair of hands for each kid, and a spare pair, just to survive.
On the stool in the bathroom, calamity strikes – the older one spills water down his shirt front and sets up a huge wail. You grit your teeth and hold back the yelling he is begging you to give him – will accomplish precisely nothing. You pull off his soaking wet shirt, contemplate feeding him shirtless, but pull out his oldest shaplessest t-shirt when his tears show signs of going to the next level if you don’t cover his naked torso. Meanwhile, the younger one has squeezed half the toothpaste out of the tube, but since that doesn’t hold anything up, you just let it be.
Neither will open their mouth for the first spoonful of cornflakes. A couple of minutes of coaxing and cajoling later, the older one finally responds to your yell, and takes in two pieces of cornflakes. But the younger one will not budge – he doesn’t want strawberry cornflakes, even though he had clearly told me that he was not going to eat anything else. You try reasoning with him – tell him that he will get what he wants the following day, and can he please just have what you are giving him today. You try threatening him – if he doesn’t start eating, you will turn off the TV. Nothing works, and the only way you can make him eat anything is by giving in.
You push a spoonful into the older one’s mouth, and go back to the kitchen to make a fresh batch of cornflakes for the younger one. Since you are in the kitchen, you also put the water for the tea onto boil.
The younger one has got what he asked for, but he is still not eating. You contemplate throwing him out of the window, but know that it is not going to serve any purpose – you will just have to climb out and pick him up from the ledge and you do not have the luxury of that much time.
The older one refuses his food too – breakfast should not be interrupted is his motto – but he is easier to brow-beat than the younger one. Then miracle- both kids take in three mouthfuls of food. Things are coasting along, when you remember the milk. Dilemma – should you make the tea and hope things will continue to proceed as smoothly, or do you ignore the tea and hope the water does not all boil away.
The younger one makes the decision easier – he refuses the next mouthful. You go into the kitchen to prepare tea. Just as you are pouring it out, you hear a voice from the bathroom, “Mamma, clean up my potty.” Of all inopportune times!!!
You finally manage to shove all the food into their mouth, wipe their faces clean and squeeze them into their clothes, when the intercom rings – the school bus is waiting to pick the older one up. You don’t have time to comb his hair, so just smoothen it with your fingers. The lift takes an age to come, and the younger one is wailing at the top of his voice – he wants to be set down, but you can’t because you just grabbed him and he is not wearing his shoes.
With many tears, you wave the older one goodbye, gobble the cornflakes the younger one refused to eat then spend fifteen minutes chasing the younger one around the house first pulling off, then putting on one article of clothing every time you manage to catch him and before he wriggles out of your grasp.
The tea has gone cold, but you don’t have time to heat it – the school bus may come any minute now. You grab of your son, push his reluctant feet into shoes, pick up his school bag, check to make sure you have the house keys and go down. And wait. The bus is thirteen minutes late as usual, and you are exhausted by the time you see the little one in.
Less than two hours since the alarm clock went, but you are already exhausted.
To Do lists? What’s that? It is Time a mother needs. And Patience. And Fortitude.