A Day in the Life (warning: this is a REALLY long post)

I always get a good chuckle when I get comments and e-mails referring to the idea that I make things look easy, or that I am able to balance so many things. :) Let the record show that my house has been a complete disaster most of this week. And if I am being totally honest, when I focus on a project, something else takes the back burner—laundry, the dishes, the cleanliness of my toothbrush holder. So it's more like I am juggling things, not actually balancing them. I admit I have a bit of a disorder. I cannot NOT have a project. Even if I were to cut the strings on every creative project I have in my queue right now (which actually sounds insanely great on a superficial level), I would soon start to, well, kind of lose it. It's a funny thing, because when I am working too much I start to get a little wackadoo. And I know it's time to slow things down. On days when Wes comes home and takes one look at me with "that" expression, I know I need to scale back. But if I have NO projects going on, I start to, well, kind of lose it. Even when faced with a totally incapacitated computer, I somehow found creative projects that HAD to be done. So there is a part of me that I cannot turn off. I will always be a little stressed (sometimes a LOT stressed) over the amount of work I am doing, and maniacally enjoying it at the same time.

I'm sounding delusional, I know. I am in a bit of a different situation than I have ever been in in my life. I am basically enduring the equivalent of single parenthood, thanks the miracle of Higher Education. But I am like a single mom who also works at home (yeah, it's self-inflicted work, but still). I don't know any other work-at-home single moms. But if you are one, let's be friends, because I am sure we can share some stories! Granted, I do get to actually see my husband at the tail end (or very early beginning) of most days. And when he is home, we are usually distilling our conversation down to the essentials (which are usually Wes's thesis, and the fact that Finn has whittled his already picky palette down to breadish items). Sometimes we get to make out. If we're lucky. ;)

On top of the usual things I'm already doing, my schedule would normally be spent doing entire-family related activities like eating meals together, and going places/hanging out together. Also, since we're on a crazy budget, I am not getting my hair done, or going out to the gym, or to lunch, or to the movies that often. This will resume in the future. But for now I am left with unusual pockets of time in which to start an insane number of personal projects. And Wes isn't really around to complain about it! If I decide I would rather lose my mind at the hand of the blogosphere instead of the laundry basket, he just lets me go with it. He understands when I'm too tired to do the dishes, or vacuum for 8 days. Every once in a while he comes in and says, "Wow, this house really is a disaster." But he's just stating the obvious, not passing judgment (usually it's something I texted him that morning, anyway). And then he goes and does the dishes that are starting to take on a life of their own. After 14 hours at class and on set, working equally as hard as I have been all day. He helps when he can, and he doesn't complain. And sometimes he does nothing around the house because he has personal projects, too. And he affords me the same respect. Sure it means sometimes I'm in my PJs all day. But for all he knows, maybe I JUST put them on before he came home.... heeeheee. We're a wild bunch over here at the Johnson household. Crazy—every last one of us.

So how DO I keep from slipping into insanity? I have a few things that I try to do on a regular basis. They work for me, and help keep some semblance of order in our lives:

#1. I try to do 1 load of laundry a day (thanks to my good friend Mel's advice). That is WASH and DRY one load. I don't fold, or iron, or put away. I throw it in a basket right out of the dryer. Then Sunday evening I sit and fold and iron and watch a movie or two. Which leads me right to #2.

#2. I TAKE SUNDAY OFF. It's the one day I don't work. I go to church, sometimes I take a NAP (sweet bliss), I read, I watch movies. I make dinner. I relax. I call my Mom. And sometimes I do a little laundry (the folding, and ironing part). Yeah, I know it's kind of like doing work. But I sit and watch my favorite girly movies, and actually feel pretty good about domesticity. But really, other than my good friend Lybi (who I greatly admire for doing so), I can't go a single day without doing something around the house (even if it's small) because then the scale would tilt into a deep abyss. And we'd all go with it.

#3. I multi-task like NONE OTHER. I will load the dishwasher while I feed Maya lunch or dinner in her highchair in the kitchen, and sort through the mail. I eat lunch on the couch and check e-mail while watching last night's episode of The Office on Apple TV. Tonight I gave the kids a bath, and gave myself a pedicure at the same time. Try it! Soak your feet in their bubble bath. Then opt for nail polish brands that are quick-drying. I'm now sporting a plum pedicure.

#4. Sometimes I have groceries delivered. Did you know they only charge a $5 delivery fee, and they aren't allowed to accept tips? SCORE. (www.vons.com for those of you in SoCal)

#5. In fact, much of my shopping is delivered. I order diapers from diapers.com (free delivery). If any personal shopping is going on, it's usually online. And Amazon.com has great deals on books in the "new and used" section. They are from sellers other than Amazon, and you can often find brand new books for a fraction of the cost.

#6. I try to pick up every night. Not all-out clean. Just pick up. And Finn is now old enough to help. Threatening to throw away his toys helps jump start things. And I am never above bribery. :) My pick-up secret: Use a small laundry basket while you go around picking everything up, then sort it all once the floor/table/counter is clutter-free. Instant gratification will start to set in. And if you have to, you can stash that laundry basket in your bedroom if someone's coming over eminently.

#7. I do something completely indulgent every day, even if it's for 15 minutes. (Note that "indulgent" is all relative to situation.) Lately it's been watching an episode of Glee every day. Sometimes it's just reading all of the new blog updates on my blog roll. Or eating 5 spoonfulls of Nutella. (Trust me, you'll burn it off with #8.)

#8. Clean the house "for reals" once a week. I recently tried the steps on THIS SITE. It seems like common sense, but I'm telling you—it works! It also helps that we have itty bitty living space right now. My cleaning secret: The Steam Shark Mop! OR an iRobot if you're elite.

#9. I try not to beat myself up about things. I use TV as a babysitter so I can take a shower. I don't worry that my kids are going to wither away if they eat mac n cheese or Wendy's some nights. It's hard to orchestrate real mealtimes for 2 kids at different eating stages and myself, and a husband that has a sporadic schedule. There's a lot of eating in stages. I'm OK with that right now. As long as they eat.

#10. I usually hire a sitter once a week for 3 hours (justified by my online work habits). It means I can run errands, or do secret "me" things. This is a recent addition. I live for Tuesday mornings. It makes the rest of the week a little more manageable.

Oh, and I don't sleep.

What are YOUR tips? I would LOVE to know!

POST EDIT: I am happy to report that for a few months now, I have been doing at least one load of laundry every day. Usually one light, one dark. I fold it right out of the dryer. And it means smaller loads, as well. Then I leave it to put away either on Sunday, or when I have a free moment, or the rare inclination to do laundry-ish things (like I said: RARE). I also love the new dryer "bars" that stick to the inside of the dryer (similar to a dryer sheet). My clothes are SO much easier to fold/wrinkle free now that I use that. It's even better than dryer sheets. Bounce makes them. Find them HERE.

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Lou said...

Lyndsay - I love this post - the honesty of it! I think I am going to print it out and stick it on my fridge!

That's what is great about blogging - that you stumble across a post that just resonates so much. I too am doing the pseudo single parenting while my husband climbs the corporate ladder. I too work at home alot. He leaves early, back late and all the time in between: it's me. I have my Mum help me alot but basically I am the engine behind everything. If I didn't do it/make it/see it then it wouldn't happen! And that is alot to take in sometimes.

Anyway - knowing there are others like you with an upbeat attitude is a help and your list!! I so get your list! I am gonna make a list - will get back to you! Louise x

Christy said...

I LOVE this post Lyndsay. I can't wait to have time to click those links. I've never done diapers.com, but may be a convert. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the tips and ideas! I NEED them!

christina said...

Like the two other commenters, I love this post, too.

For years while in high school and college I worked at Bed Bath & Beyond where I learned something called, P.I. -- Process Improvement. You know like, Plan the Work. Work the Plan. Touch things less. It was a way to be more efficient. I use P.I. everyday of my life! I'm constantly planning and making lists.

Like you, I'm always looking for ways to multi-task. I clean the bathroom or pluck my eyebrows while I bathe the girls.

And like you, I go crazy if I don't have a project. :)

Thank you for this post. It's always nice to feel normal.


P.S. LOVE the word WACKADOO.

dana said...

Hey Lyndsay,
I was on the conf call this week with the group and Andrew Bagley. Just wanted to say hi and check out your blog.
And I have feeling we run in some of the same circles. I lived in the LA for the past 10 years and worked in film at Bruckheimer and Universal. But we recently relocated to Austin. Anyway, just wondered what ward you guys were in and is your husband working with an agency or doing his own thing?
Nice to find your site! It's just lovely and inspiring.
Thanks for sharing!

- Dana

Anonymous said...

I am a working mom and have trouble getting all of my errands done so I can spend the weekend "guilt free" with the children. We love to cook and have family time, garden, bike and explore our city.

So I get my errand done and indulge in "me" time on my lunch hour. I choose to eat something at my desk and then off I go for an hour to my little pieces of heaven: Target or Williams Sonoma or Barnes and Noble or the upscale grocery. A lot of times I have a purpose or a much needed purchas but at the same time, I relax and browse. I'll purchase the upcoming birthday party or spend time looking for the perfect new bath matt.

It's so indulgent....and totally ME time:)

Jamie Lamb said...

I can relate! My husband is a surgical resident...need I say more?

The best thing I ever did to simplify my life was to outlaw picky eating. (And we had it in EXTREMES, believe me!) Some people don't understand how draining and frustrating picky eaters can be, but it sounds like you might have an idea. :)

My picky eaters were about 5 & 3 at the time I finally cracked the code. Start by bribing them with candy for 3 or 4 days...really. One bite = one skittle. It gets them over the fear. Day two, up it to 2 bites = 1 skittle, and so on. After those first few days, they know the food is not poison, and YOU know that they are capable of eating. Toss the skittles, and stick to a predictable menu plan...they'll cry, but they'll really get used to it in a few weeks!..actually months, but hey...

This has helped me ENORMOUSLY. I never thought I was the "menu planning type", but I guess anyone can be. It's been 6 months since I started the menu plan, and I love it with all my little heart! I cook, they eat. Try it! :) Good luck!

Beth said...

This is a fantastic post. Wow. You are working so hard. It's amazing all that you do, and I love that you are making sure you do things for yourself as well. Here are a couple things I do:

Exercise! Pilates is my savior b/c it's exercise meets meditation for me. And it's out of the house, b/c I go to a studio at 6am when my husband is home. Even if it's that early, I don't care. It saves me and motivates me - and I get to focus on ME, and only me.

Like you when husband is working a lot I get a babysitter and don't stress over the extra $$. It's worth it.

I also don't stress over kids watching Sesame Street while I shower, or the occasional drive-thru lunch for the kids.

We get treats. I make sure my kids don't expect them, and aren't spoiled about it - but when a day is long sometimes you need to go to Target and get a treat. For kids in the $3 range (like a toy car or something). For mom a tabloid magazine and a diet coke will do.

I eat healthy. I just love health food and cooking health food. It makes me happy.

I need to follow the steps for house cleaning, b/c I am very tidy, but not at all clean. If $$ is good I will splurge once a month for our cleaning lady. Again, worth every penny.

I'm sure there are more... but for now this is all I can think of. Thanks for this post!!!!

Ali said...

I too have become a multi-tasking fool. I empty the dishwasher while making and feeding the kids breakfast and checking my e-mail on my iTouch. I wash, dry, and FOLD one load of Laundry everyday. If I fold it right out of the dryer, I don't have to iron…much. I do my face cleansing/care ritual while the kids are in the tub (I opted for a pedicure last night ;) I use the TV as a babysitter while I shower and don't feel guilty about it. For a "deeper" clean while using my shark steam mop, I spray the sticky spots with Armstrong Once and Done floor cleaner, before using my mop. Then I don't have to "scrub"

Great post. I already knew you didn't sleep ;) I remember from grad school

Unknown said...

Oh good tip for the Steam Mop, Ali! I tried to wash, dry, fold one load a day, because it would mean less work later. But I inevitably would forget about the load in the dryer every single time. Ha! So that lead to my current system. I usually re "steam dry" the really wrinkly things with a wet washcloth later. I'm currently staring at 3 baskets of clothes to be put away. I swear I would rather clean my toilets than do laundry. Am I weird? Probably...

embot said...

who is your tuesday babysitter? that's such a great idea.

Unknown said...

Nice post! I don't know what you'd call me, I'm not single since me and my "baby daddy" are together but we don't live together. He lives with his parents because he's still trying to finish college and I live with mine because it's rent free. But I do most of the house work and cooking because I guess my parents figure if I don't pay them with money I should pay them in elbow grease. I love the Steam Shark, and not because I got it for $30 at Wal-Mart because they goofed on the pricing, the tip "Ali" had is awesome will have to give that a go in the kitchen. The area under Rowan's chair is pretty bad. Not as bad as it could be because we have a dog ;) I too have something against putting clothes up. I can wash and dry like nobody's business but if you ask me to fold and hang I would rather take a beating. I do Rowan's just because I feel guilty if I don't but my room is multiple stacks of clothes layed out on my dresser and on my chair...sigh, one day I'll stop living like a teenager. I still sit on the floor to do my hair and makeup! sad.

Tiffany M. said...

Two little items: steamer and fabric spray from Bath & Body Works.
Okay, undies need to be washed. But sometimes when it comes to dresses, I pull them right out of the dirty laundry basket, treat stains if any, spray an odor remover where it counts, and maybe give it a light steam.
Disgraceful, I know, but I am so sane.