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Posts Tagged ‘life hacks’

imageDuring my years in the advertising industry (and yes it was exactly like Mad Men, suckers!) I picked up the phrase “pay yourself first.” I’ve adopted it as one of my Mama mantras, though in my world the payments are made in time and energy instead of money.

Case in point: I just quit one of the best bands I’ve ever been in. It was the perfect setup for me: someone else running it, two rehearsals or so a month, gigs 3 or 4 times a year. But even with that low level of involvement, I felt like I was scrambling to find the time to learn my parts. Shows were stressful because I never felt as prepared as I wanted to be. And since little kids don’t sleep in, I spent two days recovering from staying up past my bedtime.

So when the first “let’s rehearse” email of the year came through, I spent a few days pondering what to do. I loved rehearsing with the guys. All interesting, great musicians and lovely people. But that, I realized, was all I really loved about it. And meanwhile, projects I’ve been meaning to start have gone untouched. So I called the band leader, explained my reasons, and quit.

I pay myself first in small ways, too. One morning when the Boo woke me up at 5, I was feeling particularly harried. I set a ten-minute timer and told my kid I needed some privacy until the timer rang. And then I locked myself in the bathroom.

After my three-minute makeup routine, I set about filing my nails. Seriously, they were ragged. A couple of times, I heard him call for me from his room. I went on filing my nails. He came and knocked on the door, saying he needed me. I said I would be out soon. He went away, came back, knocked again. I repeated myself.

The timer went off soon after that, and it turns out my son had knocked because he wanted me to play a new, particularly silly game with him. So I did, wholeheartedly, which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not paid myself first.

It’s impossible to say whether quitting the band will lead to me publishing my first book. But I know that taking even small bits of time for myself gives me the energy reserves I need to be a better mom. And obviously I can’t always pay myself first — no one can/that’s just life/suck it up.

But that’s why there are cartoons, darlings! And venting sessions with other┬áparents! And wine!

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There are so many long stretches of parenting a small child that are absolutely mind-numbing in their repetitiveness that when you occasionally come up with a genius childrearing idea on the fly, it’s both a shock and cause for celebration.

I had one of those moments a few months ago when I asked the Boo to take me upstairs instead of telling him we had to go up. I have no idea why I did it, but he appeal to his budding independence was instant and dramatic — he seized my finger and practically dragged me up behind him. A couple of weeks ago, though, I came up with an even better trick, though once again I couldn’t tell you where the idea came from.

The Boo was being particularly disinclined to be happy about delaying his desires, which is to say, it was close to nap time on yet another butt-cold day in February and I needed to do a few more things before I could grant his wish to help him play at the sink. I pulled out my phone and opened the clock app.

“I tell you what. I’ll set the timer. When you hear the bells, it’s time for water play.”

He looked a little unsure about this timer thing, but he was pleased that I let him push the start button. Then I made a huge deal about the bells ringing and let him push the cancel button. Then I set it again to signal the end of water play, because he will seriously spend as much time as we let him “washing” dishes.

So now, instead of whining at me (my least favorite thing about my kid) when he needs to wait or stop doing something he likes, he submits to the will of the phone. Because, see, the command is coming from the phone — the provider of videos and games and general fun — not from me. And he doesn’t have it in him to whine at the phone.

Yet.

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