Help with Overscheduling, time management and taking on too much!
May 28, 2015 9:52 PM   Subscribe

I am drowning in my todo list and it is making me anxious and unable to focus on the things I need to do. I am looking for help implementing a system for dealing with all the daily tasks and responsibilities currently on my list. I make lists and schedules and cannot seem to fulfill them. I don't know if I am lazy, hiding from reality or have an unrealistic view of what one person can accomplish in a day.

This is my current schedule I created which I never seem to live up to!

5:20 AM - 6:30 AM (two days a week I wake up at 4:30 AM to run with a friend in order to get back home before my husband leaves for work at 6:30 AM) cook breakfast for my husband and pack his lunch

6:30-7:00 AM - drink coffee and browse facebook,email - get dressed etc...stretch and do strength exercises if it is a running day.

7:00 AM - 9:00 AM go upstairs to my office and work until I can no longer stave off hunger - lately instead of working on a specific project - I spend this time triaging my overdue task list - some work and some personal - I need to get in at least 3 billable hours a day M-F. I have 4 clients right now and I am not sure 15 hours is enough to get it all done but if I work any more than that I tend to have a stress freak out because I don't take care of my nutritional and sleep needs.

9:00-9:30 AM - make and eat breakfast - take care of chickens and cats, greet 12yo son who wakes around this time

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM - frantically try to work or accomplish something that is overdue - son usually get fruit or cereal for himself

10:30 AM - 11: 00 AM - feed son 2nd breakfast with protein and fat so he can concentrate on school

11:00 - 11:30 AM - frantic household chores or errands

11:30 - 3 PM - homeschooling with son and lunch / driving son to activities and classes -

3 - 4 PM: more frantic inefficient work

4 - 7 PM: more household stuff, dinner prep, meal planning - talk to husband! dinner clean up

7 - 9 PM: exercise if I did not run in the morning / attempt to keep up with friends, tv or read

I try to be in bed asleep by 10:00 PM or before!

I do 90-95% of the household chores - inside and out (laundry, bill paying, budget analysis, animal care, errands, food planning, purchase, prep and cleanup, driving son to activities, planning and delivering homeschool lessons etc. ) - I have recently started exercising which helps with my stress levels so I want to prioritize that as well.

Weekends end up looking the same sadly...

There are days when I can follow this schedule but I lack the stamina? discipline? to keep with up everyday. I am at the point now where I feel like hiding under the covers all day!

Any advice for someone who feels like she is about to go off the rails? Is this schedule unrealistic? Is there a tool to help me manage my work time better?
posted by absences to Work & Money (42 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, lady, you just have too much to do. If you're spending half your working hours triaging your to do list instead of attacking it then there's too many things on there. Some part of this equation has got to go, and you have to decide what it will be. One or more clients? The animals? Hiring help? Son's homeschooling?
posted by bleep at 9:59 PM on May 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

Your schedule is completely unrealistic. You're not allowing yourself enough time to sleep. You're not allowing yourself enough time to relax. You're not allowing yourself to work in appropriate chunks of time on anything.

You're constantly task-switching, which is probably why you describe everything as "frantic" -- you're not leaving yourself enough time to get into a task.

Additionally, you are taking the entirety of your household duties on yourself. This is insane.

Your son is 12. He can feed himself second breakfast, help with the animals, help with the housework, help with the cooking. At 12, I walked and fed the dog, cleaned my room, did the dishes, helped with laundry, did yard work, and picked up after myself. I also got up at 7AM, because I had school at 8. I did activities after school, did my homework, and helped around the house. Why is your son not required to help?

Where is your husband? Why is he not contributing at all to the household tasks? Why can't he do any housework or run any errands?
posted by erst at 10:04 PM on May 28, 2015 [41 favorites]

If your son were in school you would be able to accomplish everything else you need to do quite easily. How committed are you to the homeschooling thing - is this necessary for your son/your family?
posted by hazyjane at 10:25 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would be on the verge of a mental breakdown after a week on this schedule (a week, who are we kidding, 3 days). You're basically trying to run run run for about 14 hours with no breaks? And you don't even recover on weekends? You have too many things to do. You can outsource some of it, and your family can contribute around the house.
posted by ktkt at 10:48 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

There are way too many interruptions/switches in your days. Your husband can get his own breakfast and his lunch can be packed the night before. You could breakfast with him/before you try to do any work. You then work without interruptions for several hrs - your son can get his own breakfast incl. 2nd b'fast. Is there a real need why the household chores need to happen in the morning? Can they not be tagged on to the dinner stretch and the errands onto the driving son to wherever he needs to go?
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:06 PM on May 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

Generally, in households with two people working full time, household duties end up split with the remainder being outsourced (maids) or cut (granola bars for breakfast, buying lunch at work). True household management, especially when you incorporate homeschooling a kid, is a full time job. Add in 4 clients and you have stress.

It's not that you have too many responsibilities, it's that you have too many tasks that you assume you can handle them all by yourself. You either need to outsource or cut some of these tasks. Your priorities will determine which.
posted by samthemander at 11:25 PM on May 28, 2015 [16 favorites]

And yeah. Eat breakfast with your husband. Then you'll have from 7-9:30 to work.

Finally, some of this does seem anxiety/perfectionist related. I encourage you to read the book The Now Habit, which helps people fight those demons and still find time for enjoyment and play.
posted by samthemander at 11:28 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

It seems like your son could perhaps take over some of the household chores so they aren't so frantic? Perhaps consider assigning the animals to him - my 10 year old takes care of our pets and she seems to enjoy it. I don't make her scoop poop, but she gives them food and water and cleans up after them otherwise. I also expect my kids to clear the table after dinner and sweep up crumbs.

Your husband should be able to make his own breakfast and lunch, unless he is disabled. If my husband expected me to cook him a hot breakfast from scratch every morning I would say "Ha!" and then I would hand him either a box of frosted mini wheats or microwaveable breakfast sandwiches.

Network with other parents in activities to see if you can share in drop offs and pick ups. Just say "Hey, if I drop off my kid and your kid, would you be willing to do the pick up?" It's a mutually beneficial situation!

Here's the bottom line: YOU are carrying far more weight than you need to be. Your husband needs to help out with the chores and household maintenance/upkeep. Your son needs to help, too! They need to be independent individuals. You deserve to be happy too!
posted by Ostara at 11:29 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Second breakfast items that would let your son feed himself without any help from you at all, heavy on the fat+protein:

* Premade hard-boiled eggs (make a big batch on Sunday night and you're good for the week)
* Peanut butter and real-fruit jelly sandwich on whole grain bread
* Microwave sausage
* Greek yogurt (he can add fruit, granola, chia seeds, whatever)
* Cheese cubes and grapes/strawberries/melon/whatever

There, you have 30 minutes back in your day. You now have 9:30-11AM to work.
posted by erst at 11:59 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your schedule is insane. I also work from home and homeschool my twelve year old, and you're going to run yourself right into the ground with this.

Stop making your husband's lunch--he can make his own. Stop making breakfast(s) for your child--he can make his own. (Seriously, he's plenty old enough to learn to fry an egg, to get yoghurt and granola, whatever.) It's summer, so you're about to have the perfect time to teach your kid life-skills stuff instead of school stuff. Take advantage of it. Same, frankly, for supper--one night a week, your son makes supper. At first it'll be dreadful, but after a year of inconsistent "ok, you make supper" to my daughter, she can now produce oven-roasted chicken and veg on command, as well as various pastas and desserts. (And, of course, the obligatory hot dogs, mac and cheese, and ramen. Gross.)

Stop doing all the chores. You live with (at least) two other people--they can do chores, too. Your son is old enough to do basically any indoor household chore--dishes, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, etc. He's not going to do it perfectly, but in a few months, he'll be doing it passably, at least. If you want to be nice about it, let him try everything, and then let him do (usually) the one that he hates least or is the best at. For my kid, it's loading and unloading the dishwasher, which she's great at and I no longer think about.

If you're actually teaching your son from 11:30 to 3, stop. (Obvious exception: if there's some sort of developmental issue that makes this inappropriate.) Give him an assignment, and encourage him to work through it. Sit in the same room and do your work. This won't be solid, uninterrupted work time, but, for example, if you say, ok, go research [thing] and find out [whatever], then write it down for me. If something is really problematic, you're happy to help, and you're right there, don't have to You're probably too late in the school year to really change this right now, but consider it for next year, because seriously, unless it's the only thing you're doing, the kind of homeschool where you sit there and handhold and actively teach the whole time is insane. You don't need to be that person. Schooling got a lot better for us when I realised that what my daughter really has to learn is how to work through things, even when they're hard, and how to think critically. No one's going to hold her hand if she goes back to a regular school, or to college, or when she gets a job. Learning to work through things on her own now can only help.

Your schedule--and I say this affectionately, because I also desire to be supermom, and I also have found myself trying desperately to do all the things and falling further and further behind--but your schedule is terrible. It's unsustainable, and it sets you up to fail. You deserve better than this. You're not doing anyone any favors by trying to be everything to everyone. Cut yourself some slack.
posted by MeghanC at 12:00 AM on May 29, 2015 [22 favorites]

What is your kid doing all day? And your husband? Your kid should be doing his "job" of studying and household chores at 12 for like 4-6 hours a day intensively, then being a kid the rest of the day. Your husband should have his work day plus 2-3 hours outside of that doing intensive parent/household stuff, if you are also working full-time, maybe cut to less if you are working part-time and can shoulder more. But you should be aiming to work intensively (and I include homeschooling and doing household management) about 8-10 hours MAXIMUM each day. The rest of the day is off the clock doing stuff you like, sleeping, exercising or whatever. You will be way more productive if you restrict your working hours because you won't be so frazzled and you will be able to defend those marked out 20-30 hours a week against the rest of the household stuff.

Another trick is to assign an off day for kiddo to have off homeschool where you get a 4-hour block of uninterrupted time to focus on making serious headway through your todo list or those jobs that require focussed concentration.

Cut stuff like crazy for a month - tell your kid and your husband that you need a month to get through your backlog and it's temporary, and then at the end of the month, seriously reconsider whether you really needed to do laundry every second day, whether your kid was fine on cold cereal and boiled eggs, etc.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:05 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry - I mean an off day as in you do an extra big homeschool day like a field trip or something, and then give them some stand-alone quiet activities to do independently the next day in a very short day, so you get the day off from actively managing their homeschool that day.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:07 AM on May 29, 2015

You're taking care of everyone in this household except yourself. New policy: everyone makes their own breakfast; you scrap your 4:30 a.m. (!) runs, and wake up in time to kiss your husband goodbye, if that. Sleep is critical to your physical and mental health -- prioritize it.

You should be doing 1/2 to 1/3 of the household chores, at most. Delegate animal care.

Move at a more organic pace. Nothing will fall apart. Take care!
posted by delight at 12:24 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is my current schedule I created which I never seem to live up to!

5:20 AM - 6:30 AM (two days a week I wake up at 4:30 AM


Don't get up in the middle of the night.

to run with a friend in order to get back home before my husband leaves for work at 6:30 AM) cook breakfast for my husband and pack his lunch

You know, if your husband leaves for work at 6:30 am, it's very nice of you to cook his breakfast. If you want to do that, do it. But how about you get up at 6, and cook the breakfast from a mise en place you did the night before? He could either buy or pack his own lunch. I know money-management books talk fire and brimstone about buying your lunch, but this kind of scheduling hell is exactly why I'm skeptical of that.

6:30-7:00 AM - drink coffee and browse facebook,email - get dressed etc...stretch and do strength exercises if it is a running day.

6:30 - 7:30 you could be exercising now.

7:00 AM - 9:00 AM go upstairs to my office and work until I can no longer stave off hunger -

What is so great about staving off hunger? It's as if you're actually trying to cause yourself a "stress freakout" by neglecting your nutritional needs. Why didn't you eat breakfast with your husband earlier? Anyway, now that you're exercising between 6:30 and 7:30 you won't want to be eating breakfast with your husband because it's before your workout. But you can eat breakfast between 7:30 and 8:00, then dress between 8:00 and 8:30. I'm impressed that you can dress in only half an hour, BTW.

lately instead of working on a specific project - I spend this time triaging my overdue task list - some work and some personal -

So even the small scraps of time you dole out to your paid work, are spent switching between that and personal projects.

I need to get in at least 3 billable hours a day M-F. I have 4 clients right now and I am not sure 15 hours is enough to get it all done but if I work any more than that I tend to have a stress freak out because I don't take care of my nutritional and sleep needs.

You'll have to do this work later in the day. You're not getting it done now anyway.

9:00-9:30 AM - make and eat breakfast - take care of chickens and cats, greet 12yo son who wakes around this time

8:30-9:30 - you know, I allocate half an hour each morning to daily cleaning, and it's often not enough, and the reason is often cleaning, feeding and litter-changing for my three cats. That's just three cats, only one of whom uses a litter box. If you have chickens to take care of too, I really think an hour each morning is cutting it fine. At least you already had breakfast. Nthing others' suggestions to train your son to take over either the chickens or the cats.

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM - frantically try to work or accomplish something that is overdue - son usually get fruit or cereal for himself

10:30 AM - 11: 00 AM - feed son 2nd breakfast with protein and fat so he can concentrate on school

11:00 - 11:30 AM - frantic household chores or errands

So for you it's work-cooking-chores around in a circle, and for your son it's breakfast-2nd breakfast over those two hours. You're truly just running around in circles here. At 9:30 you can cook the proper breakfast for your son, if you insist that the fruit and cereal aren't enough. He'll have earned it by taking care of at least one set of animals. Or maybe he's fine with the fruit and cereal.

Why are your household chores "frantic", other than that you're constantly task switching between that and everything else? Why aren't you doing these chores as you go along? I suggest instituting a new regime whereby you explain to your husband and son that the household chores are really getting on top of you and you are now going to clean as you go, and you need them to do the same. Ask them to keep the sinks clean and the hand towels fresh, to put their stuff away, to put dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher, to unload the dishwasher if they walk into the kitchen and find that it's finished its cycle, and to stack non-machine-washable dishes neatly by the sink for batch washing by hand.

It's good to have a designated time each day for running errands, but if you're just running in circles each day until 11:30 then something is wrong. How many of these errands really need to be done? How can you run any one errand in half an hour or less - that seems impossible?

11:30 - 3 PM - homeschooling with son and lunch / driving son to activities and classes -

So you're providing your son with three and a half hours of schooling each day, minus lunch and driving time? Seems like not a whole lot? May I respectfully suggest that he might go to school instead?

3 - 4 PM: more frantic inefficient work

It does seem like you can't homeschool your son AND do your job. I suggest that either the homeschooling or the job has to go.

4 - 7 PM: more household stuff, dinner prep, meal planning - talk to husband! dinner clean up

Where is all this household stuff coming from?

You are spending 6 hours 20 minutes a day - on an ideal day - on household chores.

7 - 9 PM: exercise if I did not run in the morning / attempt to keep up with friends, tv or read

You're blocking out 2 hours 50 minutes in which you might exercise, but not all of that is actually spent on exercise. You also slot it into your optional/recreational time, which is actually making it your joint last priority along with your paid work.

You've allocated 4 hours per day, in 3 intermittent blocks, to do your 15 hours' billable work per week, and 7 days a week - 28 hours allocated to doing 15 hours' billable work - isn't enough for you, which is not surprising because of the constant task switching and the low priority you give to it.

Your biggest priority seems to be housework. Your second priority is your son's homeschooling, to which you allocate about half the amount of time you do to housework. Your last priority is your paid employment, which you fit in when you can, followed by your exercise regime.

I try to be in bed asleep by 10:00 PM or before!

If you are getting up at night to go running, that leaves you six and a half hours' sleep, which probably isn't enough to motivate you through the day.

I do 90-95% of the household chores - inside and out (laundry, bill paying, budget analysis, animal care, errands, food planning, purchase, prep and cleanup, driving son to activities, planning and delivering homeschool lessons etc. ) -

I have recently started exercising which helps with my stress levels so I want to prioritize that as well.

You do, but you're making it your last priority.

Weekends end up looking the same sadly...

Not surprising, since your workflow seems to be almost designed to stop you from being effective by switching between tasks, by iterating multiple times over the same task, and by dedicating the lion's share of your time to things that don't need to be done by you.

There are days when I can follow this schedule but I lack the stamina? discipline? to keep with up everyday.

Yeah, because when you don't get enough sleep, you lose your motivation to do well.

I am at the point now where I feel like hiding under the covers all day!

Any advice for someone who feels like she is about to go off the rails? Is this schedule unrealistic? Is there a tool to help me manage my work time better?

You are trying to do everything at once. Literally, at once. You are constantly switching tasks, and literally only pretending to do your paid work for your clients. Unless you can block out some continuous uninterrupted time to do this work, you shouldn't be selling your services to paying customers.

You are spending a lot of time doing things that two other people in your household can probably do for themselves. So I think you probably can find and block out some time to do your paid work. I don't know why you are homeschooling your son, but if there's no extrinsic reason for it you should probably reconsider that.

Maybe you're using housework as a form of procrastination? Because that is a good one, my friend. Evil comes in many fair disguises.

I think you should ask yourself if you are playing a game of Harried here.

According to Berne "The logical antithesis is simple: Mrs. White can fill each of her roles in succession during the week, but she must refuse to play two or more of them simultaneously." If you're actually playing Harried, though, it's more complicated. Full text is here.
posted by tel3path at 3:03 AM on May 29, 2015 [25 favorites]

I am assuming that your son does not have any significant developmental handicaps, and that he is expected to be able to function as an independent adult in the future. Given those assumptions (and if he does have developmental delays then apologies and ignore this), I am pretty horrified by this.

Looking at your son's day, he gets up at 9.30, and then requires two breakfasts before he can cope with at best 2hrs actual tuition (once lunch and transport have been excluded).

That might be ok for a five year old, but it is not enough for a teenager. How are you possibly covering maths, english, science, foreign languages, history, geography, art, music, sports and everything else? And how are you expecting him to transition to college or a full-time job in a couple of years?

Either give up your job and actually teach him for a full six hours a day like he would get in school (he can get up at 7.30 like a normal schoolchild, and nobody needs two breakfasts plus lunch in the space of four hours), or just send him back to school and focus on your job. You cannot do both - you have tried and it isn't working. You are doing him no favours whatsoever with the current set up.
posted by tinkletown at 3:54 AM on May 29, 2015 [18 favorites]

Frankly, I just don't understand your schedule at all. Why are you doing 95 % of the household chores? Why is your husband incapable of getting his own breakfast and lunch (at least on days when you run)? Why are you working yourself to the bone under the assumption that the other two people in your household shouldn't have to lift a finger to help run it? What would happen if you told your husband and son to get their own breakfast and lunch?
posted by peacheater at 3:56 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

You are spending the time between 5.30 and 11.30 basically not doing much beyond making four separate breakfasts.

If your son needs a cooked breakfast, wake him up at 6 and he can eat with you and your husband, then get dressed and help you with the animals at 7, and hit the books by 8.

Before you say that is too early for him, many many schools start at 8am. He will adjust.
posted by tinkletown at 4:16 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

And make lunch for you and your son at the same time as you are making your husband's, then you are not cooking for a fifth time at midday. You can eat packed lunch at home.
posted by tinkletown at 4:19 AM on May 29, 2015

Theses responses have been really validating and empowering.

Husband works fulltime+ as an arborist and then comes home and sits and watches TV/plays XBOX. Household chore help has been a constant struggle since I started working 3 years ago. I have tried white boards, lists, grab bag, pick a chore, google docs, crying, asking politely and nothing ever sticks. I have pretty much given up at this point. If I ask him he will do things but I have to ask every time and that gets old.

Son mows the yard and unloads the dishwasher - we recently bought a toaster oven so he can have more food independence but I need to get that ball rolling.

The homeschooling is important to me but does feel unsustainable at times. I need to do some soul searching this summer.
posted by absences at 4:20 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

So first, assuming that this is the schedule you want to continue, there are some big inefficiencies. For example, you are making four breakfasts, every day -- of course you don't have time. People above have made great suggestions -- just by eating with your husband you would save considerable time, and the food you make then could double for your son when he gets up.

But second, the biggest issue here is that you are taking on three full-time jobs. To hit fifteen billable hours means probably double that in real time (with billing, prep, etc). Being a teacher is a full-time job (and as noted above, it is hard to see how your current schedule provides enough instruction time to cover enough). And being an old-school "household engineer" is itself a full-time job. Now, on top of those three, you have overlaid an ambitious exercise schedule? No wonder you feel frantic.

You aren't superwoman, and you aren't going to be able to do everything. Which of these three things (career, homeschooling, and household perfection) is the priority? Pick one, and then the other two can be dialed down or quit totally.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:42 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Your kid can do more and will be happier and healthier for both the skills and learning to handle responsibilities appropriate to his age.

Your husband is getting a free ride. You can do only your half and he will wait you out to see if you will give in and pick up after him. Or you can have a deal where he pays a third party to do his share. But you have to draw a line if you're both working full time and your son is 12, and you have homeschooling to handle. Frankly, he should be totally handling the household then.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:03 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'd look hard at preparing separate meals for everyone, at the level of housework (though with the mention of animals, I'm wondering if housework means you also have a working farm? Because THAT is a fourth half-to-full-time job you have), and at your son's contributions. My kid is four and does about 5% of the housework, supervised, while we both clean the house. I'll expect more at 12. He could take care of the chickens, or make dinner once per week. Stuff that I do, or would do in your position:

-Make extra dinner. That is your husband's lunch. He and your son can make their own breakfast, or have leftovers, or you can boil some eggs at dinner time.
-Teach your son to make a simple dinner or two. He picks one night per week to practice. This will take more time short term but that's okay.
-After dinner time is Everyone Does Household Chores time for a half hour, or Sundays are Two Hours of Cleaning Day. Being manager is annoying, but that takes less time, which is what you need right now.
-Alternate longer, more-supervised school days with less-supervised days where he does an assignment. Or do a homeschool share with someone and get him out of the house for 5 hours one day per week in exchange for another kid one day per week. It seems like a long uninterrupted block of time spent working on one client would help a lot.
-Show the schedule to your husband and decide together what can be trimmed or changed. I know what I would trim but I'm sure your family has different needs.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:21 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am not going to sit here and tell you "OMG, your spouse should be doing half the chores!" because I assume you know that and take you at your word that you have tried and can't get traction without the kind of nagging you are unwilling to engage in. That is an utterly valid choice to make.

I am also not going to tell you on what schedule you should be home-schooling your kid, because that usually doesn't match the classroom model and there are about a million ways that successfully rolls. I am certainly not going to tell you you can either work or home-school; that's bullshit. But if you are going to do both things, you need to make working work better for you. That whole 7 - 11 block can work for you after you've eaten breakfast with your husband.

Your husband is a grown-ass man and it is totally valid to not just magically do things for him. You don't have to make his breakfast, or his lunch, or do his laundry or ironing. On the other hand, if that means he will be driving through McDonald's and throwing your household finances into a pit, that doesn't leave you great options either.

But I still think this is a schedule that puts everyone else's needs in the middle and tacks yours onto the fringes. Your son is 12. Unless there is a diagnostic issue there, he can learn to fry an egg and manage his own breakfasts. He is well beyond toaster oven age, so maybe put cooking into your summer school curriculum.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:41 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Does your husband know this schedule? If I knew that my partner was living like this, there is I way that I would come home and couch out. Can you show him this list and tell him how worn out you are? You're doing the work of two people! But you're only one person! This is not sustainable.

The men in your life need to step up a bit here. You are a family. This setup is basically just a free ride for your husband and son while you run yourself into the ground. You deserve to have someone make you a hot meal once in awhile, too. You deserve to wake up late and to hang out on the couch or to have friends (I am shocked that you can maintain even a sliver of a social life here). I can't help but feel like you are being taken advantage of for your willingness to help and smooth things over and your desire to be a good mom and wife.

Were I you I would delegate food to my husband and son. Your husband can make his own breakfast. I know of no one who makes breakfast on the regular for their spouse. Ditto with your son. Man. Hot breakfasts are a treat, not a routine! Husband does dinner at least two or three times a week. He makes his own breakfast and lunch.

Your kid should get up at 8 and he is now responsible for the chickens and for keeping one major thing in the house clean - vacuuming, scrubbing the bathroom, dishes. He can do his own laundry. It will be good for him to learn that moms and wives aren't just chore machines and that helping out is important.

You matter and I feel like the people in your family aren't remembering that. Your need to sleep and to rest trumps their desire for three or four homemade meals a day. I think your husband needs to participate in a serious sit down talk with you about how something has to change. He is not treating your needs as if they matter right now - perhaps from willful ignorance, but that is still unacceptable.

The other thing I might do: come up with your ideal schedule. Write that down. How would you like your life to be arranged? In a perfect world, what would you drop or delegate to others? You might not want to stop making breakfasts for everyone but yourself. I don't know. So write down your ideal schedule - what you want your days to look like in a perfect world - and work backwards from there.

Best of luck. And you know what? I think you deserve a break. Try to figure out one small pocket of time this coming weekend for you to take a hot bath with candles or some time with a good book or something. Or get your husband to take you out to dinner. You deserve it.
posted by sockermom at 5:46 AM on May 29, 2015 [25 favorites]

The thing is, you can't make your husband do anything. Any plan that involves changing other people's behaviour is going to mean you just carry on as you are.

You can't make him do any housework, but you can limit yourself to doing the housework that you need to get done and leave him to fend for himself.

Whatever you do, it can't involve the number-one priority being getting your husband to change. You're already acting almost like they're making you do this stuff, but the thing is that THEY can't make YOU do anything either.

The fact is that you do not have time to do nearly six and a half hours' housework every day, hold down a job, and homeschool your son. You really don't. You have to choose between these things. If you focus on ways to make your husband cooperate, you will be yet again choosing the housework over those other things, and not saving any time, because you already know that's going to fail and you will be screaming for years about how he has to do this or that while still not getting anything else done.

I personally would recommend that you: Take care of you (i.e. Clean up what you need cleaned, exercise, and feed yourself and get your paid job done), train your kid to fetch and carry a bit, make sure your son gets proper schooling whether that's at home or in a classroom, and let your husband figure out how to use his adposable thumbs. Heck, maybe the problem is he doesn't want to do the chores the same way you do, but if he has to, he'll find a way that suits him without batting an eye. Or maybe he'll just be a slob, but it won't be your problem.
posted by tel3path at 6:11 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

It sounds like your son is picking up on your anxiety and stress with regards to "getting it all done." Take a hard look at the great responses you've gotten here -- if not for yourself, then for your son.
posted by _Mona_ at 6:36 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Things you might try in order to do it all but not burn out:

Start your son on a course of life skills. No matter what he does in life it will be useful/essential for him to know how to do laundry, to cook, to shop and to pay bills. Regular schools offer a course in these things too. Teach him these things in the time you would regularly use to do them yourself and subtract an equal amount of time from academics. Remember to be laid back and teach him to enjoy these things and don't expect him to do a perfect job at them.

Consider putting your son on a three weeks out of four schedule. For three weeks he gets the regular lessons you do with him, but the fourth week he gets an assignment to do without any input from you. Help him pick a topic for that week - say "Chickens" and then he gets to write a paper or amass as much knowledge as he can on that subject, ranging from the how to of chicken care, a spread sheet on eggs collected and time spent on chicken care, the history of chicken domestication, the biology of a chicken, the use of the word chicken as an idiom, proverbs about chickens and literary references around chickens, create a web page and make chicken web page links on it... While he works on his project unsupervised you get some uninterrupted time to work on your clients. In the long run he needs to become self directed and self motivated - you won't be able to home school him through university - so consider this fourth week project as an important part of his education. You will probably want to start with one day a week instead of one week a month, but work towards the monthly structure.

Schedule several five minute meditation- de-stress times in your schedule, where not only do you not multitask but you stop the task you have been doing and remain either motionless or doing gentle stretches while you do whatever works to calm you down, quiet your mind and help you transition to the next set of assignments on your list.

Create a to-do list. Do eighty percent of it only. Always leave twenty percent of your day's tasks completely undone. Eighty percent is a passing grade. In order to get a perfect grade you need structure to support you and you don't have it. So deliberately don't do twenty-percent of the work you want to do. When eighty percent is done stop working and go back to bed or read a trashy novel or sit out in the yard and smile vaguely at the sunshine.

When I say above that you need structure to support you, I mean you need a parent or partner or employee who covers some of your current responsibilities for you and considers them responsibilities of their own.

Find ways to make your husband and son more self-reliant and lessen your housekeeping work load. For example you can store clothes in laundry baskets once they come off the line or out of the dryer instead of putting them away in drawers. You can pre-cook larger high protein meals and let the family eat them cold or heat them in the microwave as they prefer - slice up a large ham, or buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the grocery. If you are the sole person in charge of the dishes, reduce the dishes in circulation to one plate, one bowl, one mug each and get them to wash their own before they can eat. Getting them to learn to wash their own one mug is much easier than getting them in the habit of washing all their dishes because washing one mug is not intimidating to a trainee housekeeper compared to a sink load of stuff.

But basically keep in mind that you are trying to do three full time jobs at least and have not scheduled in any unstructured time - and unstructured time is like sleep, critical for your neurological health.

Eat breakfast with your husband. Or if you can't eat that early make up a breakfast that can be eaten cold and bring it to your desk so that during that time in the morning when you are trying to stave off hunger from 6:30 to about nine you can instead nibble on nuts or cold sliced ham.

Try to schedule a three or four hour block of time when there are no interruptions in which you do the work for your clients. It looks to me like your day is broken up by other people's and critter's schedules. The cats could be fed at the same time as you make your own coffee and the husband's breakfast, the son could be asked to bring in you both the cold prepared protein breakfast when he wakes up and you have a quality time sharing breakfast together. Better yet, can you tweak things so that all three of you eat at the same time, way early in the morning when your husband has to eat breakfast to get ready for work? Your son will almost certainly not want to get up that early, but to start with you could tie the early rising time to an activity he would really like to do that requires him and you to leave the house that early in the morning, such as taking him swimming, or during the summer when other kids don't have to be in school, to some social opportunity.

Consider going running with your son, later in the day as part of his activities and as your own health program. Then you wouldn't have to get up so early and could still go running. This assumes the heat will cooperate and the purpose of running isn't as much to spend time with other adults outside of the home as it is to get exercise. Other acitivities that would give you lots of exercise like playing with a ball or swimming could substitute for the running.

Figure out why housekeeping is taking so many hours. Is this because you all only wear clothes once so that you have to do laundry every day? Is this because your son strews his belongings? Is this because you have so much clutter that the cats inevitable cause landslides and cleaning surfaces mean moving stuff from one spot to another? Can you cut down on the housekeeping by closing off certain rooms in the house? For example you might be able to set your son up in the kitchen as his home schooling and hanging out areas so that you don't also have to keep a living room and a school room clean.

Watch out for martyr and perfectionist tendencies. Both can make you really unhappy and inefficient. If you are Christian Homeschooling mother remember the story of Mary and Martha.

Also during the summer you might be able to set up an arrangement where you and another parent or two alternate so that your son spends from two until six on a social activity which is sometimes at your place with you as the supervising adult, and at least as often at the other kid's home supervised by the other kids' caretaker leaving you with a three hour block of time to concentrate. It is important that your kid is not stuck at home alone bored distracting you while you are trying to work. You don't mention this as an issue but if you are frantic so much of the time it could be a component of your intensity.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:46 AM on May 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

Do you have any ideas for ways your husband and son can help each other? Your husband will continue to be a role model for your son. Any way you can think of to use that dynamic might help: ask your husband directly to model better behavior, get your husband working on your son's progress. The two of them can directly encourage each other, instead of that also being your job.
posted by Wilbefort at 7:14 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Getting your son to do chores should be considered part of schooling him for life so don't' feel guilty about it. at 12 years old doing a few extra jobs around the house to help out is entirely reasonable. Everyone should know how to do laundry, clean a house, cook a meal etc. He could be making his own breakfast/s doing the chickens & cats while you are working, that would get you an uninterrupted block of time from 7 - 11 am. With maybe a 10 minute break to say good morning to your son in there somewhere. A solid block of work time is also more efficent than bits here & there as you don't have to keep refocusing etc. If you worry about time with your son, you would then have an open stretch in the afternoon.

Don't let perfect be the enemy good.
posted by wwax at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know I am not supposed to keep commenting but you guys have really made me feel good - great even, better than I have felt in a long long time. I guess you gave me permission to let go of some things without guilt or something. I spoke to my son this morning and he is excited about doing his laundry and learning to cook so that is a start! Thank you!!!!!!
posted by absences at 7:39 AM on May 29, 2015 [33 favorites]

That's great!!

One more suggestion: you need to give your husband one recurring task to be in charge of to start.

I suggest animal care. Every day he feeds the chickens and cats.

Tell him you'd like to have a serious talk with him. Ask him if now would be a good time or later. Make it sound serious. Then tell him you really need his help. Would he feed the chickens and cats from now on? He'll probably be so relieved that it's not terribly serious that he'll agree.

Expect to have to ask him three times to do it every day for a week. Ask him in the same tone each time, as if it's just occurred to you ("Oh, honey, would you feed the chickens?"). Then at some point he'll do it. The bonus for making him in charge of animal care is that he's not going to let the animals go unfed (do not feed them, unless they are actually in danger of going hungry). Try to let him know every day how much his doing this is this is helping you, how much you appreciate it.

Wait until this is an established habit, maybe three months. Then pick another task for him, follow same strategy, expect to have to ask three times at first.

(I know this is only chipping away at the problem, and is a retro way to go about it (trust me, it works) but in a year you'll have serious results and everyone will be happier. In the meantime, your son needs to feed himself and he can make lunch for his dad every morning--I bet he'll be proud to do it)
posted by luckdragon at 7:42 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

The more I think about it, the more curious it seems that by the time you get around to having any breakfast yourself, you have already been up for four to four and a half hours, and prepared two meals, neither of them for you.

After that you prepare a second breakfast for your son "so he can concentrate" but this is AFTER you tried to do two hours' work while "staving off hunger". And you have a terrible time concentrating on that work. But you have to cook a very specific breakfast for your son so that HE can concentrate during a half-day of schooling. And then you fix lunch for your son a very short time after that.

Why is SO much time spent feeding other people while denying yourself food and sabotaging your ability to work?
posted by tel3path at 7:42 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh great!!! So glad your son is excited about doing his laundry and learning to cook! This will be fun for both of you.
posted by tel3path at 7:43 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

This post made me very sad, it was like something written by a woman in the pre-women's liberation movement, except much, much worse. In addition to being a housewife, you are also supposed to keep up a demanding exercise schedule, be your kid's teacher AND have a paying job!!! My god, women of that era at least maybe had their weekly bridge game and some quiet time when the kids were at school. Your current life is crazy! And tragic.

I personally think you need to raise your consciousness, the old-fashioned way, and it sounds like this thread is doing that. Women of that time period simply walked out or made serious ultimatums of their husbands that things were going to change. I think you need to just go on strike, and get a therapist. Rather than you going through all this work of fixing this problem, you just need to take care of yourself and just let your family see what their life would be like if you like, just stopped.
posted by nanook at 7:49 AM on May 29, 2015 [13 favorites]

Tell husband that you need him to do X, Y, and Z, and then stop doing things for him that don't directly affect you. First to go is making him food; if he's an arborist then he's not physically disabled and he can make his own damn food. He's not going to starve himself. I guess be a bit gentler with your son but at 12 years old he's certainly capable of breakfast at least. Teach him to cook and he can make dinner for everyone one or two nights per week!

Then stop doing your husband's laundry. Just let it pile up. He'll do it eventually; presumably his clothes get fairly dirty at his job.

Stop picking up after him and your son. Lower your expectations for the cleanliness level of your house because if they aren't used to cleaning up after themselves, they're not going to magically pick up the slack. But eventually they will unless they are literally hoarders. I seriously don't understand how you spend more than 2 hours on chores per day.
posted by desjardins at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Have you looked into support groups and curriculum materials for homeschooling? I assume you're not just making stuff up on your own, but you might be able to find more resources to lighten your load and keep the quality of your son's education.

I don't have any specific recommendations, but being in the academic field of education, I know there are many options for you to get homeschooling materials (not just the comprehensive websites, but also materials you can use). There's also a homeschooling group in my town that allows parents to share resources and organize events for their kids so they get some socialization and field-trip type events without the parents having to organize everything on their own. You might even consider hiring tutors to do intensive work some days and save you the time. Whatever your motivation for homeschooling, if you live near any kind of town/city, there should be some like-minded parents who are struggling with the same challenges and who could share the work.

As for your triaging and the to-do list, one thing that works well for me (when I can get myself to do it) is to make the lists at the end of my work day. If I try to make the to-do list in the morning, it feeds my procrastination and I feel overwhelmed. If I have a list already and I know where to start in the morning, it's much easier to dive in (especially if task #1 is something high priority, valuable, or fun). It's also a great idea to hold off on facebook, email, etc. until you've accomplished something. It really changes the tenor of the morning when you have a success first. (Again, this is my ideal, and not something I do often enough).
posted by parkerjackson at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Make a giant egg casserole on Sundays (use this casserole as your base recipe except that is an absurd amount of shredded cheese, half it and add the final 2 eggs from the carton, and I usually chop up and throw in whatever leftover meat and vegetables I have in the fridge or have tossed in the freezer for that purpose). It may not last through the whole week with three people and one of them a nearly teenaged boy, but it should get you most of the way. Buy a box of frozen breakfast sandwiches or burritos for Friday breakfast.

You can make another casserole at the same time, lasagna or chicken-rice or something, for lunches for everyone. Your son can help pick and make them, and can help make salad at lunchtime to go with. Your husband can also learn to cook at least one thing - maybe even two! - to contribute. You should be able to do two basic casseroles from start to cooling in about an hour and a quarter, then come back an hour later and spend 15 minutes portioning into containers. 90 minutes of work once a week has just bought you back 2 hours every day. Once or twice a week you can dump a bunch of chicken in the crock pot with a tub of salsa and have ready-to-go protein for assembling dinners - chicken spaghetti, chicken over rice and spinach, chicken tacos, boom.

And then you have to have a "this is a serious problem that I expect you to help fix" talk with your husband. Ask him flat out if he thinks you're his personal servant, and if so he should get a lawyer. If he says no, ask him if he cares that he treats you like one. I understand it takes two to tango and bad habits build over time and you have taken on his burdens as he has declined to deal with them, but why is that not embarrassing to him to take advantage of you and treat you like a sucker? That's not respect, so ask him to tell you what it is.

Have HIM determine what it's going to take to muster up the give-a-shit to help and the methodology that will best hold his little hand. If he needs to make himself a list to put on the fridge or the bathroom mirror (this is how my husband taught himself to do chores), fine. If he can enter it all into his phone as alerts and not ignore them, do that. If he's just so incompetent that he can't or won't do cooking and cleaning, start assigning all the errands to him to do on his way to and from work. Use Wunderlist to synchronize errand and shopping lists.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:21 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

This isn't the most relevant perspective, but maybe I can offer you something:

I grew up with an amazing mom. She was (and is) incredibly selfless and accommodating, generous, fun, and focused on my wellbeing. I didn't homeschool but my sibling did and most of our friends did too, so I saw her try to balance that with her career as an artist.

AT THE TIME - when I was a kid living at home - I knew my mom worked hard, but she was actually SO selfless that I didn't really understand how hard she worked. I wasn't by any means an insensitive kid. In fact I was quite an aware child and I had a great relationship with my mother all the way through my teens. But even so I just didn't really understand just HOW MUCH she did, and how trivial it would have been for me to take some of the burden from her. Part of this is obviously natural - it's not a child's job to be their parents' support system, and they aren't SUPPOSED to have an awareness of the burdens of adulthood. But at least in my case, part of it was definitely due to having a super-selfless, ultra-generous mother who never spoke about her needs. Here's the thing - I so, so wish she had told me. I have a few incredibly sad memories of days when she wasn't feeling well, or whatever, and was obviously still trying to do everything on her list, and it was suddenly obvious to me that she absolutely needed to sit down and take care of herself. On those occasions I naturally jumped in and helped, but a lot of the time it wasn't obvious to me how unfair the distribution of family/household work was. Some of her work went on in the background and I didn't realize how important it was - I wish I could go back in time and tell her to stand up for the hard work she did and make it VISIBLE to the family.

Now that I'm an adult and a mother myself, one thing I think about a lot is how I can aspire to the selflessness my mother showed me, without putting my own needs on the back burner so often that I end up... well, burnt. My mother was never bitter but sometimes she was incredibly exhausted and stressed. She continues to put everybody else in her life first even now, and I talk to her all the time about how important it is for her to take care of herself. My son is very young but I plan to be quite explicit with him about how everybody needs some time and space to just BE, and that being in a family can be more satisfying for everyone if we all contribute and feel proud of our contributions. Obviously this might end up being a load of bung since I haven't accomplished this goal yet, but it's on my mind.

One more thing - when I was a kid my parents had never heard of toilet brushes (just use your hand and a sponge and then wash up), they didn't use a dishwasher, just a dirty pan of dishwater and a rag, we didn't use paper towels, there were no cleaning gloves, and so on. This didn't bother them, but I found it viscerally disgusting and they had a really hard time grokking that. I preferred a gross toilet to sticking my hand in there and cleaning it, and it never occurred to them that that was a valid perspective. Also, my closet was full of random household stuff and I didn't have enough shelf space for the things I was supposed to clean up and put away. As a kid it wasn't really my business to buy furniture, so my room was just kind of chronically un-organizable. My point is, if your kid (or even your husband) seems unwilling to do certain tasks, ask WHY SPECIFICALLY and see if there are some practical solutions to those problems.

Just want to add my voice to the chorus, overall, saying that your schedule is too difficult and unsustainable. I know how hard it can be - I have a toddler and I'm finishing my PhD dissertation right now and my schedule is nuts. But you have to think of this as a rough time that will end, and you have to find a saner way to be.

I think it might be cool and helpful to symbolically present your son with a couple of his own cooking implements, a book about how to do all household repairs and chores, etc. You could write him a letter about how he's now old enough that you can really rely on his help. Because it's true - he's old enough to be a genuine, deep help to you and your wellbeing. I think that if you convey this to him, rather than assigning him chores in a more punitive/managerial context, he may be more likely to understand why they are so important, and not just something you like to nag about.
posted by Cygnet at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2015 [11 favorites]

Before we had our son, I made homemade muffins for my husband every week for his breakfast. He got used to it and would ask me on Sundays what I was making for the week. He loved it and was a little spoiled, but I didn't mind since I had time to do it and enjoyed baking. After kid was born, the muffins went away, because I couldn't deal with working from home, doing normal housework, taking care of a baby, and also make unnecessary baked goods. Husband got used to a piece of fruit and a Nutrigrain bar for breakfast and survived just fine. Your husband will either figure out how to cook his own breakfast or he'll learn how to forage in the pantry for something to sustain him. It's really okay.

If you want to be fancy and serve hot breakfast, you can throw some oatmeal and almond/coconut/whatever milk in the slow cooker and put it on a timer. It can just sit out all night and be ready to eat and delicious whenever people wake up, and they can serve themselves.
posted by gatorae at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

One thing that adds to my sense of frantic, out-of-control life is having a long jumbled list of things to do in my head. The goal is to have a system where you know what you need to do next (and can easily adjust based on the realities of the day) without having to constantly think about priorities.

The best planner I ever owned has two very different sections. The task planner let me list off the activities to do for a major task (like each client) with nested lists outlining more details including deadlines. In this part, there was also a general to-do list, a grocery list and a list of errands that needed doing.

Then, in a separate section, there is a daily calendar and a daily and weekly priority to-do list. These lists were very short and focused - the priority list was only the items that were essential to get done in the day. I might have a separate list of second tier priorities that I wanted to get to if I could so I finished the urgent stuff, I would know what do go onto next. Sometime the high priority of the day might be to knock-off a bunch of stuff from the general to-do list (after all that stuff needs to be done regularly so it doesn't turn into an emergency.)

The big thing, is to take a few minutes at the end of the day to look at weekly priorities and see what needs to be done the next day. Once a week, go through the whole task planner and see what needs to made priority (high priority or second tier priority) for the coming week. If you consistently aren't getting everything done in the day, then make your priority list even shorter until you learn to be realistic.

It also helps a lot to have certain days for certain chores. Tuesday is my big shopping day, Friday is supplemental food and small errands. Any other day, I try to avoid doing even quick errands since even a quick stop for milk on the way home takes time to the park the car, walk into the store, pick up the item, pay for it and walk back to the car, start the engine and get back on the road.

TL;DR: Write every thing down. From that list, pick your priorities for the day. During the day, use your lists so there there less having to remember and less having to decide what to do next.
posted by metahawk at 1:46 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

If it would help to have someone give a basic system to staying top of the housework, the Flylady has a system for building basic routines for housework. Her tone can be a little bossy but also very supportive and encouraging, not letting you beat yourself up for failing to have a perfect home. The idea is to have a simple routine for doing the quick daily stuff, and then spending a little time each day getting a different room basically clean so nothing ever gets really out of control. I followed her system in my own way - taking what was useful and ignoring the rest, for a few years until things calmed down enough in my life that I didn't need it anymore.
posted by metahawk at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2015

In my opinion, the most efficient mom is a happy one. Find what makes you more calm so you have a clearer mind on how to handle everyday projects. Delegate, delegate, delegate. You're an amazing person and cutting back on your chores will still make you amazing.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:53 PM on June 1, 2015

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