In last month's post, I described how I had to take a hiatus from blogging during 2014-2015 around the birth of my first child. I simply couldn't figure out how to get enough time to work on the blog. As I learned over the years, the good news is that you can still manage your time well once you have children, you just have to become much more strategic about it, and that is what Time to Parent is about. The book, by professional organizer and productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern, is a blessing for parents, and I highly recommend it.
Time to Parent is unlike anything I have read before, as Morgenstern organizes life as a parent into two main categories, "Raising a Human Being," and "Being a Human Being," each with four essential quadrants which represent how we should be spending our time. Parents are often stressed about the busyness in their lives and how to meet their child’s needs along with all the other demands of life. I honestly think this book helps to take much of that stress away. Read on for my full review:
Why Parent's Feel Stretched Thin
This time-crunch is especially hard on perfectionist personality types. Morgenstern suggests that 1) A shift in attitude is necessary, and 2) Parents apply what she calls "selective perfectionism."
Time management for parents means shifting your view to accept that your relationship with time has changed. Morgenstern writes: “We get into such an all or nothing mindset, and parents feel guilty of taking time for themselves or away from their kids,” she shares. “But once you become a parent you really don’t have big chunks of time anymore.” To counter this, Morgenstern recommends taking smaller chunks of time to really be present and focused on what you are doing - whether spending time with your child, spouse, or on fulfilling hobbies, you should not always be multitasking, advice that is similar to some of that in Laura Markham's Peaceful Parent, Happy Kid's course that I took and recommend.
She also recommends not expecting everything you do to be perfect. Things don’t need to be perfect in order for your life to be good. She recommends that you apply "selective perfectionism," in one or two very limited areas of your life that are the most important. Important areas require your maximum effort, other things in your life will only require medium or minimal effort, or maybe even none at all.
Raising a Human Being - Provide, Arrange, Relate, Teach (P.A.R.T.)
Provide. Provide takes up an enormous amount of time for many parents. It’s the time you spend providing the basic needs for your kids: food, clothing, shelter, safety and education. Time spent providing is in the adult world (at work) and largely invisible to your children.
Arrange. Arrange means all the things you do to keep the logistical trains running in your life, including managing schedules, transportation, paperwork and activities. These activities take place in your child’s world. Your children will certainly notice if you neglect these things, but the amount of time and effort it takes to make their lives run smoothly, is largely invisible to them.
Relate. Relate is what most people think of when they think about being a parent. It’s the time spent listening, soothing, reflecting, talking, enjoying and playing with our kids. Lots of parents would love more time in this quadrant – it’s the joyful, connected time kids and parents crave. Relate takes place in your child’s world and is very visible to them.
The good news about the relate category is that it doesn't need to be as time consuming as people think. She writes:
“Children thrive on short bursts of five to 15 minutes at a time, maybe 20 tops, of truly undivided attention,” Morgenstern explains. “Not half on your phone, cooking dinner and glancing over, but truly undivided attention delivered consistently versus big blocks of time delivered occasionally.”
The most important time spent on children, are five “transition points” in each day when kids need the most attention: wake-up time, when they leave for school, when they get home from school and reunite with their families, dinner and bedtime.
Teach. Teach is helping your children learn how to be a person in the world. It’s the values, life skills, self-control and social habits you impart to your kids. It also covers discipline, and how you help your children learn to set and respect people’s boundaries and their own. Teach is visible to your kids, and it's probably what I have written the most about in my parenting resources over the years.
Being a Human Being - Sleep, Exercise, Love, Fun (S.E.L.F.)
Sleep. Ah, sleep. It can seem so elusive in the years when our children are young. This is probably the most difficult category to reconcile, since sleep deprivation just comes with the territory of being a parent. Morgenstern offers advice on how to get the most sleep possible, and how to energize yourself if you are sleep deprived.
Exercise. Many parents can't seem to find the time to exercise at all once kids arrive, which is unfortunate given all of the benefits. Morgenstern notes that you don't need to work out for an hour five days a week - short bursts (high intensity interval training) are perhaps even more effective than long cardio sessions and can be incorporated into your routine for 10 minutes or so a day, which is fortunate for time-strapped parents.
Love. Here, Morgenstern lays out the importance of keeping up your relationships with other adults in your life - your spouse, extended family and friends. Some people focus so much on kids and work and don't have much energy left over even for their spouse. Morgenstern emphasizes that date nights and time spent away from kids keep marriages strong. It is also easy to let friendships slide after kids come along, and the book offers tips for how to mitigate this and work in time for friends.
Fun. This last quadrant encompass hobbies and recreation. This can be the easiest thing to neglect once kids come along. While you won't have as much time to pursue hobbies as you once did, it isn't a good idea to put all of your hobbies aside until your children are grown either, as some of Morgenstern's clients did. Even a short time per week spent on hobbies adds extra joy and meaning to our lives that we can't get elsewhere.
Overall, Time to Parent is a very hopeful and helpful book for parents that takes away much of the stress of daily parenting, always being pressed for time, and feeling like you aren't doing anything well. Organizing frees us up as to focus on what really matters as parents and people. I wish I had read this book sooner - highly recommend.
* This post contains Amazon Associate links. I may earn a small commission if you buy the book.
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