Do you find it impossible to make time for yourself now that you’re working from home with your kids doing home-based learning? One mother explores how to best use those 1440 minutes in a day
It’s while standing in front of the mirror, electric toothbrush in hand, that I begin to consider whether or not it might be possible to wash my face at the same time. A minute into my toothbrushing, I come to the conclusion that it’s not going to happen, the brush can’t manage to balance quite right without support and I’m not able to squeeze out the soap and get in a good scrub with just one hand. Is it time for parents to grow a third hand, or perhaps is it just time for me to slow down?
Although it is recommended to brush after each meal, many of us see that as an unrealistic goal and make an effort to stick to the twice-a-day routine. This means that four out of my 1440 minutes are focused on sweeping away plaque. While I’m not suggesting that this is unneeded, I’m just trying to better introduce the topic of time management– something that is often focused on in the office – into my home life. Sadly the 480 minutes that I dedicate to my desk each weekday far outweigh the mere 220 that I can spend with my children.
Pre-pandemic, mornings needed to incorporate nursing, breakfast, getting dressed (both myself and the little ones) and packing up for the day. In the evening, it was playtime, dinner, a bath, milk and bedtime stories. It would be generous to estimate 420 minutes for sleep, as nightmares can lead to a screaming child and hunger pains can often do the same for babies, but even so, that would still put me at just 320 spare minutes in a day.
During those times I found myself claiming back a substantial amount of minutes by using Grab for my daily commute. This would buy me 40 minutes that I would have spent on the MRT. Avoiding social lunches at work also helped. I would find a cosy corner at a nearby food court instead and catch up on some reading. OK, fine, I would occasionally skip out on oral hygiene as well.
How do you use your ‘spare’ minutes?
Now, in a completely different world. We need to make sure we are still finding time for ourselves. In some ways, working from home has given us a chance to be more present. Drop-offs and pick-ups that would have been delegated to a helper, are something that can replace the office coffee breaks in a working parent’s schedule. Having parents around can make home-schooling easier for the kids, but in reality this is one more full-time job that we’ve just been handed over.
So how do you make sure you’re blocking enough minutes for yourself? Here are a few tips:
1. Set up a routine and stick to it
Whether it’s yoga, meditation, or a more ambitious HIIT workout, set a time for this every day. Working parents can block this time (start with 20 minutes if you’re stretched for time) on their calendars, assuring that other meetings don’t overlap. Think of it as a replacement for the 20 minutes you used to spend schlepping to the office.
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2. Think beyond screentime
No need to delete Netflix — an idea I have played around with but never followed through on — but just try cutting down your watchlist to a few key shows you really enjoy watching. When the kids are sleeping and your home is in a much calmer state, try working on a new craft. This doesn’t need to be limited to just the artsy parents either. The “Paint by Numbers” kits at Typo come in beautiful prints that can even contribute to some new home décor. If adult interaction sounds appealing, try sitting down for a board game – something beyond just Candyland and Monopoly – and spend some time with your partner. A backgammon board or a deck of cards are always good options.
3. Use your ears
Multitasking is something that we’re doing already. This doesn’t have to be limited to your work or family life, but use it for me-time as well. Both audiobooks and Podcasts make multitasking much more effective. Feel like you don’t have the time to pull off a school pickup as well as finish anything on The New York Times Best Sellers list? Audiobooks have made this possible. There’s even an opportunity for some two-in-one me time. Try going for a foot massage while listening to your favourite Podcast.
4. Spend a bit more time in the kitchen
Many of us are lucky to have helpers contributing to the weekly in-house menu and even see the idea of preparing the family dinner as an extra task that we just don’t have time for. But the rhythmic motions of cooking – kneading, stirring, sifting, slicing – can be incredibly soothing. The need to follow a recipe can help shift your attention to something else and put any work or home worries aside. Perhaps try thinking of your helper as a sous chef. Someone who can have the ingredients prepared, so that 60-minute meal prep is reduced down to just 15 minutes.