The New York Times published a story this week, called “Stressed Tired and Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family,” based on a Pew Research Center survey, that says working parents feel stressed and rushed and “short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies.”
One woman said she feels so rushed at home and work that she’s “doing a horrible job at everything.”
A lot of people posted the story on Facebook, saying, “This is me!”
Well, I am here to tell you that your life does not have to look this way if you don’t want it to.
You have the power to CHANGE the story. That woman who is doing everything badly — she made that up in her head.
People are addicted to busyness. They compete with others in it. Ask anyone how they’re doing, and they say, “Busy, busy, busy.” I’ve even heard retired folks say this.
I don’t feel this way because I have set up my life to live with ease. I have two children, and I own a business. My husband is a business owner, too. But we have a lot of down time, and we are not stressed and miserable.
First, let me establish that I am an expert in this. I am a professional organizer who helps people declutter their homes, but, really, my business is helping people live with an ease.
Second, let me say these are first-world problems. Low-income families really do have stress to pay the bills and keep food on the table. I am saying a two-income household that the NYT is talking about has options to not have stress.
Here are some steps to take:
This is huge. You have to CHOOSE that you want to live a life with ease. A dear friend says our job on Earth is to release and relax. Stop the addiction to busyness and step away from the competition. You have to be ready and open to change, and you have to sit down and declare out loud, “I am ready to live a life with ease.”
Involve Your Family
The NYT story says women are working outside the home, plus they feel they do more housework and childcare than their husbands. Just so you know, you are choosing to take all this on.
Involve your husband. Studies show men doing housework is a turn-on for women. You will be happier, and he will be definitely be happier!
Sit down and have a conversation about it. Declare — there is that word again! — you want more help and discuss jobs he could take over. Or could you hire out, like a maid service or a yard service? Figure out a plan. But this means getting uncomfortable and being vulnerable, which is why a lot of people just keep the status-quo. The alternative, however, is staying stressed and miserable.
When our children were born, I was a newspaper reporter with DAILY deadlines. I asked my husband to cook dinner and do the grocery shopping because he liked it, and I hated it. I vacuum and do the yard work because I love it. I’ve just always expected him to chip in, sometimes more than I! (I birthed those babies — one without drugs — and I am still tired from that, so he should do a little more.)
And, yes, I said husband, not partner or spouse. Studies show same-sex couples tend to split housework more evenly.
Involve your children. Studies show children are not doing as many chores as we used to. The Washington Post wrote about the harm that is doing to children.
A great way to create ease is to assign chores to your children. I’ve already written about this, but let me expand.
Chores teach a work ethic and time management. And children want to do purposeful work. You know this every time you have a spray bottle out, and they immediately want to spray! Let them! And show them how to wipe it up!
- Fold all the laundry, including my husband’s and mine.
- Load and empty the dishwasher. They empty their lunch boxes every afternoon.
- Dust their rooms and clean their bathrooms, including the toilets. I never clean their rooms, except to vacuum because the vacuum is a little hard for them to push at this age. But soon, they will!
- Set the table, and after dinner they wipe the table clean and use the small, hand-held vacuum on the floor. All I do is heat up whatever my husband has prepared.
- Put up an activity before getting another one. That way the house is not a disaster zone.
- Feed the dog.
My children are 6 and 7. They have been doing these jobs for about two years now. A 1-year-old can be taught to put forks and napkins on the table. Who cares if the napkins are on different sides? She did it, and you didn’t have to.
PS — Want less house work? Stay in your current house, and don’t upgrade to something bigger. Just more bathrooms to clean. Declutter the one you’ve got, and you instantly have more space.
Time Management and Children’s Activities
People don’t know how to manage their time at work because they are bombarded with emails, texts, water-cooler talk and meetings.
Once you have kids, it’s time to focus or get a nanny. When I was at the newspaper before I had children, I used to shoot the breeze with my colleagues. But the minute I became mom, I declared I’d go home at 4:30 p.m. every day. My husband took the kids to school, and I got to work early. I did my interviews and was the first to turn in my stories. If the editor had questions, he called me at home. Because I went home at 4:30, I ate dinner with my children and got to spend three hours with them before bedtime. It was not rushed.
You have to DECLARE what you want. Get your work done, and I bet a boss will be flexible.
If your child is younger than 5, she does NOT need after-school activities. When is the last time you saw pre-K activities on a resume? Never.
Let children get bored at home and watch the creative things they do. My daughter turns on the classical music station and “teaches” a ballet class. My son goes outside and “plays” a serious soccer game between Auburn and N.C. State and rushes in to tell me who won.
Creative play is how a child’s brain develops — not taking her to 2-year-old soccer, where she’ll just sit down on the field and play with her shoe. Save the money.
For children five and up, my rule is one activity per child. If my daughter wants to do gymnastics, she has to quit ballet. I am not spending every afternoon driving in Raleigh’s traffic to take my children to activities. Talk about creating stress!
I declared this was the rule, and so it is. (And I bet my kids still get into college!)
PS — If your young child does not like the activity YOU put him in, please don’t make him go. I watched a little boy sob every time before an activity, stressing everyone. If you want to teach “sticking it out,” give them chores to finish!
PPS — When children are ages 0-9 and have school vacations, stay home. You don’t have to travel every weekend or go to Disney every fall break, especially with young children. (That’s the “busy” competition in you!) My kids’ preschool teacher said novelty is currency. You can only use so much before a toddler loses his sh*t. Stay in your PJ’s all day and play. That’s what we do. And we save a ton of money.
You knew this was coming. Clearing out your house is truly the fastest way to live with ease. Clutter is stress-inducing.
All you have to do is read this blog for tips about decluttering.
Focus on Fun
It made me so sad to see these parents in the NYT sounding so miserable — and then to watch friends post on Facebook, saying, “This is me!”
How about changing our focus from the stress to having fun.
I love my job and the clients I work with. I have become friends with several. My husband and I have lots of date nights, and we travel without the kids. We also go out with friends. I do half-ironman relay weekends with my best girlfriends. I am in a book club. I am also in a group of women who get together just to see how we can support each other. And I take naps with my kids, where we snuggle for hours. That’s the best.
You deserve to live your best life. To do that, there must be an ease.