Do Productivity Tools Work in a Stay-At-Home Parent Context?

Monday February 29, 2016

A few weeks ago, I sat around a table while friends discussed their work-life balance. The four of them all work full-time, demanding careers that require many different hats. They’re also very social women with lives full of family, friends, and community. Two of them are mothers, one has a baby on the way. I sat and listened mostly as an empathetic and proud friend. Look at what smart, busy businesswomen my friends had become, coaching each other on how to manage subordinates and how to say “no” in the workplace. But, yes, they also felt slammed with work and life duties; how could they fit all of this into their lives?

At this point, one of them turned to me and asked how do I manage the work-life balance? Raising a kid and all I do, taking photos and writing for this here site. Oh, what a sweet friend, who thought I had a dog in this fight. Or at least noticed my silence and thought to include me in this conversation that had absolutely no relevance to my current life.

I laughed her off in the moment, thanking her for thinking Far Out City is worthy of a work-life balance discussion on my part, and said honestly, “I stay at home. I’m busy, sure, but at any given time, Bean and I are doing exactly what we want to do. I have the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I mean, I don’t really sit down between 7am and 6pm, but our days are totally flexible. I could decide today is a beach day and 10 minutes later, we’ll be at the beach.”

I’ve been wondering about this since then. The reality is, if you saw it in there, that I actually am quite busy. Not like a resident-at-SF-General busy, and no, I won’t ever refer to myself as the “CEO of the household!” But I don’t really sit. At all. I feel harried all the time. I stare down the clock nearly all day long, checking in before my next scheduled task. Right now: It’s 2:08pm; I need to finish writing this and find a photo to attach before 2:30pm when Bean will be “awake” from her “nap.” (Naps still aren’t happening; we’re not talking about it.) My day is allotted in minutes, and I don’t have much wiggle-room.

And there is the Far Out City work. It smudges the line between hobby and work. I like to do all the things I write about, and I compulsively take photos anyway. But, I spend most of my free time taking photos that I could use for Far Out City. If Dave’s around, I have a camera strapped to my back. Weekends are when I do much of the preliminary work for what ends up here during the week and I write during naps; I don’t have much mental down time, or even time to work on Far Out City outside of the daily work. I publish and then race off to the next thing.

So, can work-life productivity tools mean anything to a stay-at-home parent? Could I optimize my time in this job, like I’ve optimized my time in previous jobs? With the goal of being more organized, produce better content, and having more family time for a better work-life balance? (Aha, could you see how the work of being a stay-at-home parent might interfere with my own ability to achieve the life part of a work-life balance, even though I’m surrounded by my kid 12 hours/day?)

It’s an interesting question, and not one that I’ve thought to ask myself in 3 years.

Stay tuned for work-hacks — how I used to apply them in a high-pressured job and how I implement them now in a TOTALLY different context.

Meta, Motherhood, Work

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