Although I finished reading the Happiness Project long ago, I still keep it near me and flip through it at random a few times a week. I find this really helpful, because the book is SO GOOD and SO FULL of fabulous information that it’s difficult to digest when you read it all at once.
So, the part I flipped to a couple of weeks ago was where she talks about her “personal truths” or principles she lives by- mantras she repeats to herself, both good and bad, that define how she behaves. For instance, Gretchen’s truths are “My husband comes first. My kids come first. My work comes first.” But after writing them down, she realized that was impossible! All three couldn’t be true, and the tension between the competing truths was leading to unhappiness.
She also realized one of her personal truths was “I am in a hurry.” It’s something she said to herself all the time that led to frustration.
And THAT like so many things in the book totally holds true for me. What she did was simply change the truth in her mind. When she heard herself saying, “I’m in a hurry,” she would just say to herself, “No, I have plenty of time,” and her attitude totally changed- happiness ensued.
This is all well and good, but not terribly useful as far as I’m concerned because I personally am always in a hurry because I’m always late.
Like, ALWAYS. Always, always, always.
My time management is TERRIBLE.
I was talking to some friends about it, and they were so wonderfully sympathetic. ”I know, with kids it’s so difficult.”
But sadly, I can’t blame my kids. I know how long it takes to get my kids ready. I know they need more than 10 minutes to get out the door. And yet, AND YET, each and every day I pretend like today it’s only going to take 10 minutes, and when it takes more and we get completely behind, we end up rushing, I forget things (keys, wallet, phone), I snap at my kids, I’m not polite to strangers, I’m sweaty and running and in pain and it’s a nightmare.
A few days after I read about personal truths again, I had an epiphany.
I had to be at work at 10:05. It was my turn to take the kids to daycare.
Getting the kids up and out the door and to daycare by 9:30 is really not difficult. I had TWO SOLID HOURS to get them fed and dressed.
But then I decided, “I have so much time. I’ll clean the house and make a pie.”
Yeah, you heard me- MAKE A PIE.
Which is how I found myself hopelessly late, missing the bus to the daycare, and therefore running the 700 meters through snow and slush, pushing the stroller with 1 hand and dragging Benjy with the other all the while saying, “We have to hurry! I’m late!”
And this is when I had my epiphany. It sounds so simple, but it was seriously profound.
It’s my fault I’m late.
It’s my fault I’m late.
It wasn’t Benjy’s or Henry’s fault. It wasn’t the bus’s fault. It wasn’t the snow’s fault. It wasn’t daycare’s fault. I knew I’d have to take the kids to daycare. I knew that it was snowy and slushy. I knew that it was a real possibility we would have just missed the bus (the buses are on a theoretical timetable, but they NEVER EVER adhere to them. One thing I’ve learned living in this neighborhood is “The bus will come when it will come.”) and need to walk. I hoped daycare would be playing outside already, thus sparing me the need to remove all the kids’ winter clothing, escorting them inside, washing their hands, and dropping them off properly- but I needed to be prepared in case they were still inside.
It was my fault.
But everyone around me was suffering- particularly my little boy who was shouting, “Mom!! I’m so tired!! I need to rest!”
I thought about this more and more on the way to work. As I groaned with every traffic light, as I cursed the person who paid for her bus ticket in cash, as I rolled my eyes with every bus stop.
I was in a terrible, anxious mood and it was MY FAULT.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
It was time to end the insanity. I needed to improve my time management. I needed to change something. Actually, I needed to change a lot of somethings.
1.) The first thing I did was set an alarm. 2 alarms, in fact.
On daycare mornings, the wake up clock is set for 7:15 and the out the door clock is set for 7:45.
At 7:15, I wake up, pee, and head into the boys’ room where I turn on the lights and spend 10 minutes cuddling and snuggling with the boys, slowly waking them up. This sets the tone for the morning. I don’t start shouting, “Quick! You’ve got to get up! We’re going to be late!” at 7:40. They have a full 30 minutes to get up, shake off the grogginess of a dark morning (waking up is considerably easier in summer), get dressed and brush their teeth. If they want to eat or play before heading to daycare, they can- but when the second alarm rings at 7:45, they have to stop whatever it is that they’re doing and get their winter gear on.
This is honestly more for me than for them. I’m terrible at judging time. ”Five minutes until (fill in the blank- bedtime, shower time, brushing our teeth time),” and before I know it, 30 minutes has passed. So now, at 7:45 a little alarm goes off, and I too drop everything to get the kids bundled for the day.
Setting the alarms has been SO HELPFUL.
2.) I’ve stopped telling the kids “We’ve got to hurry! We’re late!”
I remember this interview I did for my master’s thesis. I was interviewing someone in the government about immigration policy and the interviewee must have said twenty times in the course of his 15 minute interview, “I’m very busy. I don’t have much time.” Telling me this 20 times did little to make the interview go smoothly- it just made me feel rushed and out of sorts.
Likewise getting frustrated with my kids and lamenting, “We’re late! We’re late!” (which was inaccurate in the first place- I was late, as it was my fault) never made them get dressed faster or walk quicker. It didn’t make the snow disappear or make the bus come. It just made everything more stressful. If I’m late, I’m late. I’m not going to punish them for my bad time management.
3.) I’ve stopped checking the clock after I’ve left the house.
Checking my mobile phone every 30 seconds does not make anything move faster. It just works me up and gets me in a tizzy. I remember a friend went to driving school and her instructor said, “When you leave the house late, just accept you’re going to be late. Don’t try to make up the time by driving like an idiot. You might arrive a whole 2 minutes earlier, but you’ll be a danger on the road for your entire commute.” Now, I’m not a danger to anyone as a passenger on the bus, but I can be a silent, muttering jerk. Huffing and puffing and completely on edge. Planning my route, making sure I’m the first off the bus- and for what? An extra 10 seconds?
My destiny is set when I walk out of the house. I need to make sure my destiny is set by being early enough when that happens.
4.) I need to make sure that everything I need to do is done before I do anything I want to do. Like the boys with their 7:45 alarm, I need to be able to stop whatever I’m doing and go as soon as it’s time.
5.) I’m trying to be realistic about time expectations.
No, Sarah. You’re not going to be able to bake a pie and clean the house and get the kids ready and to daycare by yourself and still make it to work on time. Make the pie the night before.
Pack the gym bag the night before.
Clean the kitchen the night before.
Get your purse ready while the kids are eating breakfast.
Have boiled eggs ready for an on-the-go breakfast.
Understand where you have spare time and use it wisely. Stop waiting until the last minute!!
I’m still struggling with this one. On Sunday, I thought between Olli and me, we’d be able to get the house cleaned and lunch ready in the 90 minutes we had before church. Not true. We were 45 minutes late. I should have made the dessert the night before. And vacuumed Saturday morning.
I’m still late- this morning I didn’t use the alarms, because I thought I’d have the day off. Not so- I got called into work at 7:30 and so had to shower, dress the kids, feed the kids, make my own breakfast, bundle the kids, get them to daycare by myself (Olli left for work at 7:00 this morning), and be at work by 8:45. It was a rush. But I tried my best not to feel rushed. Or at least not to make my kids feel rushed.
And in that I succeeded.
I’ve thought about Lent- which starts in 2.5 hours- and I thought about giving up tardiness for the season. I thought about not being late for anything at all- never late to pick up my kids (Oh, it’s just 5, 10, 15 minutes late I tell myself EVERYDAY), never late to work, never late to church (particularly difficult. We are regularly 20 minutes late). It would be the hardest thing I’ve ever given up- it would mean a total lifestyle change. It would mean necessary failure time and again- but it might also lead to a huge boost in happiness. I’ll let you know how it works out.
Posted by sarah