Reclaiming My Time!
"I had to open myself up to learn, my life was not over once I became a parent. I had just begun to tap into my unlimited creativity." - Khadeejah Smith, @edgapcloser
If you are also a parent who changed your course from career-marriage-kids, you can relate to an invisible mist of disappointment that fills the air around your family when you utter the words, “I am pregnant.” Taking on the looks from peers of, “She will never have the career she spoke of now,” or the touch on your arm from a colleague of, “it's okay, being a mother is enough.” You can also relate to the determined self-talk of, “I am not going to allow being a parent delay my goals!” Naive of parenting my life transformed after giving birth to my son, Elijah. No longer could I return home from work, take a nap at 5:00 pm, wake up at 10:00 pm, make dinner and complete lesson plans. My after-school naps had been replaced with diaper changes, my son’s nap, and preparing dinner. Then there was bath time, a bottle, and rocking him to sleep. After he was sleep, I tried to keep my eyes open long enough to complete lesson plans, phone calls, and emails. This cycle lasted for years. My prayer every night was, “God grant me more time.” Now that sounds weird; everyone is given the same amount of time in a day, but God showed me how I could be creative with the time that I am given by utilizing my teacher training to create 'more' time to do the things that would grant me financial freedom.
One night, as I lie in bed in my one bedroom apartment eyes swelled from tears, I began thinking: How can I be a good teacher and suck at home? I am always drowning. I never feel like I am ahead. I have no time to think of the goals I had for myself. I wanted to lead a school one day. I wanted to lead a district one day. I felt as if becoming a parent made those goals more like dreams deferred. I lived in DC with no babysitter, no grandparents to call, and no immediate family near us. Stuck between work and home responsibilities, I had to open myself up to learning Khadeejah the parent. Who is she? I spent 25 years getting to know Khadeejah without a child. Now, who is Khadeejah the parent, with a family? I realized that I always felt drained because I was trying to be Khadeejah without a child while being Khadeejah the parent. I couldn't reconcile the two. I couldn’t entirely let the old me go to embrace my new role. For example, I remember being apprehensive to share with my principal that I would be leaving early to pick-up my son from daycare and not stay for the Wednesday staff meetings as I would usually because it was another reality check that Khadeejah without a child was gone.
In my process, I learned that utilizing both roles allowed me to tap into my unlimited creativity. It was only when Elijah was 18 months, and I decided to leave my job to homeschool him that I began to see the benefits of unifying this internal divide. When I had to create learning experiences for Elijah, I immediately tapped into my teacher tools by lesson planning for his day. This was just the beginning; homeschooling showed me how both roles were beneficial and could be capitalized if in congruence.
As if my life was not interesting enough, I got pregnant with my daughter Ayan. By this time, we were forced because of space to move into a house, which meant I had to get back to work and go back to school. Yes, I was pregnant in graduate school. I know what you are thinking - I must be a crazy person. I figured if I was going back to work a graduate degree would put me in a better position financially, and academically with learning the new teaching strategies. [F1] This decision although overwhelming brought me the greatest growth and birthed “G.R.I.T” Mom. G- Grit, R- Real-world, I- Independent, T- Tenacity. In order to be successful with all my commitments, I had to utilize my teacher strategies at home.
Few teachers would disagree that routines and procedures are essential to being a highly effective teacher. Most people would also agree that you have arrived at highly effective when the students own the process and responsibility. Why? Having a well-organized system classroom allows for less interruption and disruption giving teachers “more time” for instruction. “More time” was exactly what I needed at home. During that time, if you were to enter my classroom on the first day, I would be reviewing routines and procedures to emulate a well-choreographed dance eventually, but my home looked like an amateur basketball scrimmage. I began working on alignment. I initially started out as I do with teachers as an instructional coach, by looking at how time is being spent and create systems to do it more efficiently. I separated my responsibilities into three buckets.
1. Things that “I ONLY” can do. (worked related stuff or household task I wanted no one else to do.)
2. Things the “ADULTS” can do. (cooking, food shopping, cleaners, etc. )
3. Things “EVERYONE” can do. (cleaning rooms, making beds, putting away clothes, etc.
Yes, my almost-four-year-old at the time had a role. Now I am NOT saying that I love all the routines and procedures, and that sometimes things don’t come up that are outside of what we planned, but I had achieved “more time.”
One of the task at home I dislike is folding laundry. Folding clothes is that one thing that I will do only if ABSOLUTELY necessary. (Absolutely necessary means, my child can’t find her uniform shirt, and it would be helpful it were organized in her draw instead of digging through clean clothes in the laundry room.) Here is routine that I use to reconcile.
1. Find your clock killer.
Identify the house chore that takes up most of your time. I always put off folding laundry. I despised it. I didn’t mind washing clothes but to then fold them was too much in my mind. It had become a separate chore to me. I would have to sift through the laundry basket filled with clean clothes because I just refuse to fold in a timely manner. It was a punishment for me because I felt that doing it would take too much time. However, to not do it took up time during the week when I needed to locate a shirt, kid’s uniforms, pants, etc. It was the bottleneck that would hold up the rest of my effective systems.
2. Negotiate with yourself.
Ask yourself what would make me happy while or after I complete this task. At first, I thought well nothing makes me happy about “sitting” and folding four individuals’ clothes. Sitting. Now on the weekend I would cozy up and sit and binge, watch a show on Netflix like it was earning me money. I didn’t like folding laundry, but I loved Netflix. If I had to sit down and fold clothes, I would do it in the company of Netflix. I know people who put on their headphones and rock out to a playlist or catch on a podcast or audiobook. Whichever you choose, make it something enjoyable for you.
3. Celebrate yourself.
Every time you complete the task you dislike or takes up most of your time, celebrate. What are you celebrating for? Because you pushed past your emotions to accomplish a task. That is HUGE. Those dishes could have stayed in the sink. That laundry could have stayed dirty or unfolded. The dinner could have stayed uncooked. BUT you didn’t. I celebrate by saying a small affirmation to myself. Or I will deprive myself that glass of wine, a slice of pie/cake, ice cream, etc. until I get it done.
Written By: Khadeejah Smith