What to do? What to do?

Yesterday I saw an article about the traditional eight-hour workday and for some reason I was drawn to read it despite the fact that I haven’t had an eight hour workday in years; depending on how you look at it I’ve had either a twenty-four hour workday or I haven’t worked at all, except for a few violin lessons on the side and a children’s fiddle group that’s really more like a glorified hobby.

Here’s the article:


For twenty seven years, six days a week from pre-dawn till late evening, I was tightly bound by the non negotiable demands of up to four overlapping schedules, all of which were subject to major change without any notice whatsoever.  I felt like a hero for managing it all and did not welcome comments from the Patient Man about how with only a little effort on my part it could easily be streamlined: “Just make sure all the music lessons and sports all start right after school and end at the same time every day, right before dinner. You could get them all on two days a week and then you’d have three days free. Wouldn’t that save you a lot of time? No? I guess you just like driving down there seventeen separate times every day. It seems to me that you’re making yourself an awful lot of extra work but if that’s the way you want to spend your time I guess that’s your problem.”

For as many moms know, to impose your own structure upon the children’s schedules is very stressful and unless you are Iron Mom  it doesn’t work anyway. So you cease to try. That can be an easy decision for someone like myself, who as a youngest child was conditioned from birth to fall in with the plans of others anyway. Nevertheless, this accommodating spirit exacts a price when after twenty-seven straight years of on-call taxi driving and short-order cooking and putting out everyone else’s fires your own organizational mental skills are just … gone.  When after the children abandon you and you suddenly find you have both time available and tasks you need to do, you just can’t put them together. Without the constant prompts of the emergencies of others you find you cannot initiate anything. Those connections in your brain are just not there any more.

And so here I am cast up useless, weak and shivering on the far shore of motherhood, no longer capable of self-direction, with only the last retreating wavelets of the youngest child’s senior year lapping at my toes before I must pull myself to my feet and trudge off into the wasteland of not being needed at all for anything and not being able to think of anything to do on my own once I get there.

And that is why I have been looking for suggestions on how to structure my day. Well, that’s not phrased quite correctly; the Patient Man would very rightly laugh at that one (see above). I have been looking for any suggestions that might enable me to be able to once again create my own structure.  Yes, Patient Man, I did once upon a time have the ability to organize my own day. Briefly, twenty eight years ago.

The article pasted above is written for the office workplace, not the homemaker, but it looked to me as if the ninety minutes at one task followed by twenty minutes of rest, then ninety minutes at another task followed by another twenty minutes of rest, etc., would probably work well for me at home.  I thought I’d give it a go.

For the first day’s schedule I decided not to choose tasks which have their own rhythm anyway such as laundry, cooking or workout videos. Instead I chose a few of those small, one-time tasks which you really want to do but somehow can never seem to fit in between the many important things you have to do (such as laundry, cooking and workout videos).  I glanced around the house and chose a few such tasks at random:


  • Reprint the Albright Family Tree (my fictional people) and tape it on the wall in a secure and level manner, replacing the crooked one that curled inward about six months ago. It has to be printed in six separate sheets and spliced together, so it’s not as simple as it sounds.
  • Go to Lowes and buy herbs and tomatoes and plant them in the garden I have already prepared.
  • Put away the plastic bins of cookie cutters that have been stacked behind the kitchen table since February.  Also wash everything that was in the open top bin, because I think a raccoon came into the house and rummaged around in there.
  • Make a start in the dumpster that until lately was our basement.  This will have to be a timed task rather than a itemized task because there is no place to begin and no end in sight and really no way to measure progress.
  • Finish the ironing and put away the ironing board.
  • Write a short sixteen measure fiddle thing I promised someone about ten weeks ago.

And here is my proposed schedule in bold, annotated in italics with what really happened:

Starting at 11:00 because I’m too excited to wait until tomorrow. This schedule doesn’t look like so much! I am ready with plenty of energy and determination and with so much coffee in my system that I have to clench my jaw to keep my teeth from chattering. I shouldn’t reward myself with the fun tasks right away, so I think I’d better start with the cookie bins and the ironing. If I finish early I’ll straighten the laundry room too.

11:00 to 12:30 – work period (cookie bins and ironing)

11:11 – Okay, that was embarrassing.  The cookie bin project took eleven minutes, including replacing all the plastic bags and sterilizing anything the raccoon might have touched.  It conveniently ended right at 11:11 so I could make my wish (yes, I’m a thirteen-year-old at heart) which is “Health and Happiness, Wealth and Success, and Love, for all my children.*” Honesty compels me to remind everyone that the bins have been sitting on the floor for FOUR MONTHS.  It took ELEVEN MINUTES to clean them, reorganized them and put them away.

Now the ironing.

It’s summer, so I’m putting the school button downs to the bottom of the pile and starting with the odd stuff.  First an apron inherited from my mother, a vintage piece in a colour of green that has not existed since the 1970s. The ‘vintage’ imitations that are becoming popular now are not even close.  The apron is printed in a rather loud pattern of skunks and posies and the shape is somewhere between that of a maternity smock and very large scrubs. Odd to think how oversized and matronly I once thought this apron was. Actually it is very chic and retro and I love wearing it.

Next a tiny white apron of battenburg lace, the kind of perky little thing that springs to mind when you hear the word “apron.” It was left here by Young Maria Callas, who wore it as part of her costume when she sang Marzelline in Fidelio last  year.  I remember she had to wrap it around her waist twice so the tails of the sash wouldn’t drag on the floor.  I hold it up and look at it.  I’m not sure it would even fit around my neck.  Ugh.  I starch it thoroughly and hang it next to the skunk smock.  Isn’t that just a metaphor for my life: feeling so good about myself and then something perky comes and stands next to me and after all I’m just a big green skunk smock. Upon consideration I take the little apron straight upstairs and hang it in YMC’s closet.

Uh-oh, next a favourite striped shirt belonging to the Patient Man, a shirt which very recently I swore my eyes out that “I have NOT seen, and why don’t you check your closet again?” Perhaps that one had better go straight upstairs too, and hide in the back of the closet between two shirts PM never wears.

Oh no.  Here’s my very favourite skirt ever.  I’m not sure it fits anymore.  Maybe I’d better add the exercise videos back in after all.

Two dress shirts. Why? Dress shirts are supposed to go to the cleaners.

A casual tartan button down of Yale Man’s, so new it’s still crackly. Marked Wrinkle-Resistant, but apparently not when it has been buried under a stack of laundry since Christmas which is when I think he left it here. I probably owe it to him to at least run the iron over it quickly.

It’s getting warm in the laundry room.  I should have done this yesterday when the high temp was only 45.  I open the screen door, but quietly, not in the way I deliberately bang it sometimes when the neighbors are outside with their tiny yappy dog, which I do that so the dog will bark and annoy them. Then I wait till they get it to stop and I bang it again.  This is justified because they are the kind of jerks who leave the dog outside when they are not home, which is most of the time, which means that I have to be very careful not to bang my doors or even go into the backyard because any noise at all activates the dog for the rest of the afternoon. I’m the kind of jerk who only cares about this because it annoys me, not because I feel sorry for the dog (I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying himself out there) and I like them to have to suffer their own damn dog’s yapping when they’re trying to relax on their day off.

Ah.  12:29. Time to turn off the iron.  Five shirts, two aprons and a skirt.  I did not get nearly as much done as I had thought I would; ironically this makes me feel better after the embarrassingly short eleven minutes it took me to deal with the cookie bins.


12:30 to 1:00 – rest period (30 minutes because it covers lunch)


At 12:31 on the dot one of the adult children, one of those who moved away and left me adrift and structureless, calls for a lengthy phone consultation which lasts until 12:43.  Bien sûr. Children do not outgrow their “mom-is-sitting-down” sensors.


1:00 to 2:30 – work period (buy garden plants and plant them in prepared beds)


1:02  – I catch the Pokerface Joker heading upstairs to take a break from his SAT math review.  I decide to drag him  back so I can do SAT vocab flashcards with him for fifteen minutes because I love words and I enjoy playing with the flashcards.

Then the remote adult child calls again for some further discussion.

1:29 – I’m able to think about heading to Home Depot for the plants.

I go there and buy plants, seeds, and stakes.

2:15 – I get home. The Patient Man is home early.  Oh, that’s not going to disrupt anything at all.

I carry the plants to the backyard.

Ugh.  The garden bed isn’t quite as prepared as I thought it was.

Totally forget about the scheduled 2:30 to 2:50 rest period.


Extract rototiller from garage and get it started with Patient Man’s help. Extract the Pokerface Joker from his video game break and cause him to rototill the garden boxes.

Plant garden consisting of:

  • 3 Roma tomatoes plant
  • 1 Beefsteak tomato plant
  • 40 Walla Walla onion sets
  • 3 basil plants
  • 2 rows of carrots

Reflect that this is actually quite a lot of work for a very small amount of food which I could easily buy fully formed as needed at the farmers’ market for very little money – and which, considering the vagaries of weather, travel, insects, and my own forgetfulness, may or may not ever come to fruition.

Skipped the 2:30 break so decide to go directly to a 15 minute rest period an hour late, at 3:30.

What are the odds the Patient Man will catch me resting, even though he is downstairs in the garage and I’m being very, very quiet?

Yup, 48 seconds into first game of Bejeweled Blitz, Patient Man strides purposefully into room and looks pointedly at the computer screen and says, “Oh.  I guess I didn’t realize we had stopped working.”


2:50 to 4:20 – (work in basement)


I think about going down there after my belated, disrupted, totally spoiled, cruelly truncated break. But if I go down there and start sorting things, Patient Man will want to know why I’ve changed plans and gone to work on something else when I had been right in the middle of working in the yard.  I would show him the 90-20 minute cycle plan, which clearly schedules both jobs, but he would either not get it or pretend to not get it – although he’s the one who always complains I never have a plan.

I go back to the backyard although I’m really finished there. I walk around doing nothing.


4:20 to 4:40 is scheduled for a rest period.

Not falling for that one this time.

Instead, I go directly to:

4:40 to 6:10 – work period (family tree and music writing)

This was earmarked for getting the family tree ready to reprint.  I scheduled it late in the day because I don’t know how to change the ink in my printer and the Patient Man would be home to do it for me.

But now Patient Man is setting out the sprinkler system for my garden, which I really do appreciate, so I don’t think I’ll bring up the ink this evening.

I’m also supposed to write the sixteen measure thing during this time, but what if I get caught wasting time writing more fiddle music when I already have over two hundred pieces of music that all sound exactly the same?   

I sit down in the porch swing to admire the sprinkler system.

6:10 to 6:20 – a beverage.

Yes.  I’ll have a beverage.

6:20 – dinner prep and serve

Sure.  I can’t imagine anyone will object to this.

Alrighty then, time to call it a day.

I think this schedule thing is really going to bring new meaning to my life.

See you soon,


*Love goes last, not because it’s the least important, but because the words flow best in this order. Also I know that second comma shouldn’t be there but that’s where I pause.


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