Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The "To Do List" and the "Mom Bomb"

Speaking of "To Do Lists" ... (see previous post)

This year, for the first time in more than six years, I have a few daytime hours to myself while all three of my kids are in school. (Thank God for full-day kindergarten!) Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom turned self-employed-from-home-mom, I spent my weekdays commuting and working in an office. I now have the freedom to tackle the many mundane items on my years-in-the making "household" To Do List. (Not to be confused with my "life" To Do List.)

Like many people do, I spent years fantasizing about all I would get done around the house ... if I could just have some time to myself to focus ... if I had just a few days, or an even an afternoon, without the kids under foot. (And now that I do have those few hours, I'm realizing it would be so much easier to focus if I didn't have to stop what I'm doing to meet the school bus, make snacks, help with homework, cook dinner, drive to karate, etc.) I'm getting to the tasks, and more are being added, but last week my list almost had to be back-burnered, and the priorities dealt with ASAP.

For about two days I was being actively recruited for an editing job in Washington D.C. The recruiter was thrilled with my credentials, I was more than qualified, etc. The job would start within two weeks. Then, reality dictated I drop the "Mom Bomb."

"Yes, I'm interested in the job," I told the recruiter. "But at this moment I can't go into D.C. five days a week. I could do three in the office, and two working from home."

You would have thought I had asked to be paid $1 million. While the recruiter agreed that I could do what I do (writing, editing) as a telecommuter, and that I had proven my ability to be productive from home (due to having written a book and accomplished other work-related projects while caring for little kids), the client wanted the new editor to be in the office full-time, five full days a week. (Oh, by the way, this was a not-great-paying consulting position with no staff benefits.) Once I really thought about the costs involved (child care, commuting, etc.) and the logistical nightmare of me spending 12+ hours a day away from home, I stood my ground and said I'd have to pass on the opportunity. I'd left a senior-level editing job at People magazine eight years ago because of the hours and unfamily-friendly demands of the job. Telecommuting technology is even better now than it was then, and we all know the environmental consequences of having folks sit in rush hour traffic jams. Grr.

Aside from making me mad (at such employer short-sightedness) and sad (an opportunity lost), I became a bit panicked about my To Do List. I started thinking about how, if I only had two weeks until moving back into the traditional, full-time workforce, what would I need to get done on that household To Do List ... ASAP!

I had already purged 80 percent of all the crappy stuff my husband and I had stored in the basement while being too overwhelmed by three small children to actually think and sort and discard. But that 20 percent—of boxes filled with college papers and the like—remains.

My neighbor, who still has one small child at home all day, was recently fantasizing about having a day in which she would organize a bunch of stuff in her house into the many storage bins she has been purchasing for that purpose. The other moms at the bus stop nodded in agreement. We could all relate.

So, my question to you, which I'm asking of myself, too:

If you did have a full 5 days to yourself to tackle your To Do List (household or otherwise), what would you do?

If that's too expansive a question, think of it in terms of what 5 items would you work to accomplish on that list?

Here are my five:

1) Finish sorting through the aforementioned 20 percent of remaining stuff in my basement (and attic), including unopened boxes from three house moves.

2) Download all my photos, now stored on my computer, onto CDs for safekeeping, and organize the printed snapshots I have scattered in boxes throughout the house.

3) Organize all of our financials, accounts, etc., into a format or binder so the information would be handy and ready to access in case of an emergency.

Try on all of my clothes and pack up and/or donate everything that will never fit me again, or is really just too awful for me or my girls to ever wear.

5) Organize my article clips and papers from throughout my career, as well as my personal keepsakes.

And if I still had time:
I'd make the 1st Year Baby Scrapbooks I never created for my twins. (Their older brother has one. Shh. Don't tell them.) And if I finished all that and had more time, I'd paint two of my dining room walls green.

How about you?


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