I found two extra hours in my day, and it was surprisingly easy.
I took the two least productive hours of my day and made them count. The least productive part of my day was 7-9am. These two hours typically went something like this:
kids wake up, lots of whining ensues, milk and coffee are distributed; someone cries outside the shower door, small hands pull at my legs while I put on makeup, cuddles on the couch; the blender whirs with frozen fruit and kale, lunches are made, time-outs are threatened; Ryan and the kids shuffle out the door with loveys, raisins, and goodbye kisses; collect stray socks, sippy cups and legos; make beds, throw in a load of laundry, down another cup of coffee; head out the door and at work by 9am.
Now, I leave the house before 7am, before the kids wake up. This shift in our schedule is benefiting all of us. Here's why.
For Dad: Ryan now has to navigate the often grumpy morning time on his own, but this gives him two hours of alone time with the kids every day. And they aren't nearly as whiny when there is only one parent in the vicinity - it's like they know their options are limited. I usually change diapers, help them get dressed, and cuddle with them on the couch for a few minutes in the morning. If I'm not there, they are perfectly happy to let Ryan do all these things - and he's just as good at them as I am! A little alone time with Dad and we all feel more balanced.
For the Kids: Getting to work at 7 allows me to leave by 3. Picking the kids up at 3 as opposed to the typical 5 or later, is life changing. First, because the kids are at day care for 2 less hours a day, which makes all of us happy. And second, because we can actually do things with our time together in the afternoon. We've visited the library and joined the summer reading program. We've gone to the pool so often that Charlie figured out how to swim. We have time to play with toys together and I don't feel rushed to get dinner on the table. A block of quality time at the end of the day is so much more rewarding than the fragmented time that used to bookend our days.
For Mom: While I miss the morning snuggles and goodbye kisses, the early hours at work are worth the trade. Almost no one is at work at 7am and I can work quietly on those projects that take real thinking - the ones I never seemed to get to before. There are no interruptions. I eat breakfast at my desk and enjoy my coffee while I scan emails and organize my time for the day. Technically, I am still at work for the same amount of time as before - but I'm using the time so very differently and more effectively.
Those focused two hours in the morning add up to 10 quality hours per week! Even if I decide to indulge in morning cuddles once a week, I have added the equivalent of a full 8 hour work day of productivity to my week. And there is no guilt to leaving at 3 when I feel the accomplishment of those extra hours. I leave satisfied and happy, my mind clear and ready to focus on the kids.
I won't be able to do this schedule every day, many days I have meetings that go til 5 or beyond. But it's perfect for the summer when I have fewer meetings and no classes. I know how lucky I am to have the flexibility to make this decision for myself, and a supportive husband that is willing to make it happen.
The gift of time is one that keeps on giving...
Have you found a way to balance your time that works for you and your family? I would love to hear what works for you, what you've tried that hasn't worked, what you would like to try if you had the chance...