When you’re short on time, it’s not like you can magically make new time. Or can you? Here are 3 intuitive life hacks to help time-starved parents!
by Anneliese Knop | Anneliese Knop MS. ALC is a mental health counselor whose early career revolved around work with children and adolescents. Growing up blind, however, gave her a passion for working with parents of children with disabilities, and parents who have disabilities themselves.
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“Being blind takes longer.”
You can really fit in any disability there, but as usual I prefer to write from my own experience. Basic tasks like locating matching clothes without vision, vacuuming a room that you have to go over twice because you can’t tell if you missed a spot, and arranging transportation for yourself and kids to and from activities because you can’t drive elongate already jam-packed days with extra steps most people don’t have to think about.
Life takes longer, and parents with disabilities find that lack of time has a manifold impact on their lives..and their kids’ lives, and partner(s)’ lives, and their kids’ friends lives, and those kids’ parents’ lives, and teachers and doctors and coaches…
And all those tiny extra time expenditures nibble away at career-building efforts, self-care, time for chores, and sleep.
It’s one thing to be frustrated with your own limitations, but when calculating how they inconvenience others it’s almost impossible not to come to the conclusion that you’re costing the family more in time and effort than you’re able to give. And, of course, the depression and anxiety that like to come along with this conclusion take up even more of your time.
So, today I’d like to share with you three life-hacks that will allow you to turn your time-debt into a superpower.
1. Capture Moments of Rest
Turn-of-the-century inventor Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
Clearly this man never rested beneath the flowing streams of a nice hot shower, giving himself a cleansing massage with a loofah and shampoo.
It was an inside joke in my family that my mom always came up with her best ideas in the shower. In college, I learned this was a world-wide phenomenon, courtesy of R/showerthoughts. Time spent in a comfortable environment attending to a physical task that is familiar enough to let the mind wander has been a foundational principle of meditation for a millennia, though.
Yes, meditation, that wonderful panacea of self-care that everyone raves about and you clearly do not have time for!
I defined meditation in a post on my own blog as:
Meditate: to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
Every parent has a never-ending list of mindless chores like washing those pesky few dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher, picking up toys, folding laundry, packing lunches, waiting in car lines or sitting around during piano lessons and soccer practice. Time when the mind can dwell on the fact that you take extra long spreading jam and peanut butter because your unsteady hands make an unnecessary mess, or time the mind can be fixed on the breath or a favorite memory or image.
The jam still has to be wiped up, but does it really deserve that much of your attention when you could be forging neuron connections and increasing white matter, loosening knots in your shoulders and enjoying the fragrance of crushed and sweetened raspberries?
Rest is there for the taking. If you can make a habit of relinquishing your anguished thoughts about how your struggles cause others to suffer, you can find a little relief, a little recovery, maybe even a little raw genius to inspire your next move.
2. Speak Well of Yourself
“You are not the best person to talk to you about you right now.”
Therapist, editor, and author Lori Gotleib offers this sage advice to people trapped in singular, negative narratives about themselves in her TedTalk, Change Your Story, Change Your Life. Her point is that perpetuating negative self-talk is damaging and limiting. She’s not wrong.
Your child went to school with a chocolate milk stain on his white t-shirt because you were physically unable to hold the little rascal still while simultaneously wiping at the stain with a Tide pen. You avoid having other moms over during play-dates because the state of your house surely tells the story of a disabled parent, simply incapable of maintaining “basic” cleanliness and organization, because there are a handful of cheerios under the table and last week’s dishes on the counters and either a kid’s science project or a leftover lasagna on a TV tray in the living room.
Your wife must resent you so much because, after working part-time at your job, you come home too exhausted to take out the trash or play catch in the backyard, you can’t hold a pan steady to serve the kids’ dinner, and need help getting in and out of the shower.
Great stories… told from other peoples’ points of view. You’re sure these narratives weave all around you in the minds and hearts of your little village of acquaintances. But if you didn’t recite those stories to yourself, what story would you tell about yourself?
Can you become the best person to talk to you about you right now?
And…what does this have to do with saving time?
Follow me down this little logic trail and let’s see where we end up.
IF Negative self-talk has a negative impact on one’s overall health, perception of pain, and energy levels, THEN negative self-talk reduces available energy to put toward tasks.
IF there is less energy available to put toward a task, THEN doing the task will take longer, or be left incomplete, increasing the difficulty of all related tasks.
THEREFORE negative self-talk causes loss of time and energy.
IF positive self-talk (often called “Self-affirmation”) triggers the reward center of the brain, THEN positive self-talk is a healthy activity that produces more energy and reduces pain.
IF there is less pain and more energy, THEN tasks get done quickly, thoroughly, and sometimes in more inspired ways, thus freeing up more time and energy.
THEREFORE, changing your internal narrative is a time-related, life-hack.
Also therefore, learning to transform the heavy friction of your exhausting narrative of failure into a lighter, buoyant tale of unexpected triumphs and blessings can improve your home and office work-flows.
Bonus points if you let your children in on the narratives so they learn how to: 1) speak well of themselves, and 2) that people with disabilities are intrinsically valuable and worthy of respect and love.
3. Challenge the Morals of Time Management
Good food takes time. Family dinners are important. Early to bed, early to rise. Everything should be sparkling clean to make company feel welcome.
These are just a few moralistic statements about time management that we have adopted and cling to in our culture. They all sound very definite, clear, and indisputable. They appear to describe reality the way it is, but the image of reality they present is incredibly narrow.
“What constitutes good food?” One might ask. Good-tasting, good for the body, good for the brain, good for the environment…? Some of those take more time than others. Pouring a handful of frozen blueberries out of a bag and into a container of plain yogurt doesn’t take very long, but it’s arguably good food from almost every perspective.
Like narratives about ourselves, we tell ourselves and each other narratives about how life ought to be run, how we ought to use our time. But they are as limited, and limiting, as our negative self-talk. Life-Hacker Extraordinairee Laura Vanderkam wrote an entire book dedicated to discovering, dismantling, and replacing the moralistic myths of time management that prevent people, specifically women, from living the way they want, both at home and at work.
Vanderkam challenged the sacrosanct family dinner by suggesting that a family breakfast could be just as influential in fostering parental involvement and improving school matriculation. She suggests a flexibility of mind around time usage that parents with disabilities can use to make the most of “ten spoon days” while minimizing the guilt over “two spoon days.” To adapt a popular catch-phrase, “it’s not the weeks in our lives, but the life in our weeks that matters.”
While routine is often hailed as the holy grail of child rearing, it leaves little room for the adaptive needs of parents with disabilities, and thus can leave children vulnerable in their adult years because they never had the chance to gently learn lessons of flexibility growing up.
A child who sees his mom use force of personality, reflective listening skills, and empathy to make a guest feel welcome despite laundry on the living room floor learns that hospitality is more than swept floors and picture-perfect snack trays.
I bet you could come up with three time-use morals you learned from your parent(s) growing up. Have you ever challenged them?
In early adulthood, I struggled against my father’s maxim, “work done, then fun.” If I didn’t finish the day’s to-do list, I would lay in bed frustrated and exhausted but unwilling to let myself wind down by reading a book or watching an episode of Stargate SG-1 because the work simply wasn’t done. I stayed in a failed relationship, a failing club, and a toxic internship all at the same time because I hadn’t “finished” fixing each of those problems. The work wasn’t done.
Then a professor told me that I had permission not to make myself miserable for the sake of worshiping the idol of responsibility.
It was the first time I began to explore how I judged myself — and others — for how we used our time.
I am blind. It takes me longer to gather everything that goes in my “mom bag” in the morning, but I’m not limited to getting a daily walk in during daylight hours. I use time in a way unique to me, instead of striving for a modernized version of the fictional households that always run like clockwork, with perfectly staged rooms and revolve around a 24-hour to-do list cycle. Now, my dad’s mantra sounds a bit more like “work time is done, begins the fun!”
The households of parents with disabilities will never run like those of their able-bodied peers, and they shouldn’t. The kind of creativity bred by having to challenge conventional norms out of necessity can gently mold those norms into more practical standards that invite positive mental health instead of generating unnecessary stress and imposter syndrome.
Today, your favorite blindfluencer asks you to share how you discovered and adapted one time myth from your childhood, and appreciate how someone else has done the same.