The last time I looked there were still 24 hours in a day. To my knowledge no-one has reduced it to nine. Yet talk to people and they all agree, time seems to be shrinking. It’s becoming rationed. No time for this, no time for that. I find myself struggling to find the time to be:
A competent teacher,
A kind and loving mother, who can be taken out in public.
A calm and not too frantic wife
A good friend who doesn’t blog about her besties.
A dog poo picker upper.
The scrubber of all things dirty.
The sergeant major of all orders and jobs.
The taxi driver (an unpaid one)
These past few months have found me particularly time starved. Probably due to both kids being at Mary Poppins rehearsals which opens in July, Brian getting busy at work, and me, trying to do everything and be everywhere.
We all need more time.
A tired and haggard mummy is not a nice mummy.
No one likes a mummy who doesn’t say nice things, do they?
No, they don’t.
Over the past few weeks, I have taken action. Waging my war against the time thief, and because sharing is caring, I’m revealing my secret tips. They’ve saved me time. They will save you time too.
Batch the washing.It seemed to be that my washing machine was on the go every day, if not twice. The time gobbler. It suddenly dawned on me that all of us have enough clothes, socks, and tea towels, to last us at least week or so. Why not do two massive piles of washing two days a week (I’m working up to one) instead of the piddly bits and pieces every day? Bingo. Nobody has gone without a pair of undies, I haven’t had to resort to drying the glasses with the corner of my shirt and apart from Mondays and Thursdays I don’t have to think about that time-consuming chore anymore.
Buy the same wine for the week. (If you don’t drink wine just skip this point and then write to me later and tell me why not.) My weekly grocery shop sees me standing at the wine section of the supermarket, doing the same thing every week. I look to the top shelf. No, too expensive, I look at the bottom shelf- for cooking maybe but I’m not that desperate, yet. To the middle then. Yes, but which one in the middle? The one that doesn’t go over $14. The one that you always sodding buy. If you find a wine that fits the bill, get a load of the stuff. That way you can be in and out of the wine section in three minutes. In France, you’ll gladly order ‘the house red’ with your meal. What’s the difference? Stick it in a carafe and ooh la la, job done.
Make up a selection of sandwich fillings that will keep in the fridge for a few days. Just because my kids are homeschooled, it doesn’t mean that I’m spared the time-consuming decision of “what can we have for lunch?” A little tip from a former cafe owner. Mix together some tuna mayonnaise, egg and salad cream, grated cheese or whatever you like on a sarnie, stick them into some tubs, put in the fridge. Simple and quick.
Make double dinners and freeze. I recently started to enjoy the benefits of not having to cook on a Tuesday night, by putting this into practice. Lasagne, Cottage Pie, mash, curry, (no low carb diets for me). Peel a few extra spuds, throw in an extra pack of mince, and you’ve made double. Portion up and freeze. I promise, come Tuesday night, you’ll thank me for it.
Write a list of five things you want to achieve in the day. I’ve started doing this and I love it. The rule is, it can’t be more than five tasks and four of them must be small. As in, ‘phone the vets about the dogs sore ear’, small. The big one must be achievable. Don’t go and write ‘sort out my wardrobe’ if you know that you’re only going to have half an hour between swimming lessons and karate training. Be realistic. Perhaps try, ‘throw all my old knickers away’ (not until you’ve bought new ones though). When you’ve ticked those five things off, relax…you’re done. And don’t you dare add a couple more things to that list.
Choose your outfit the night before. You may have to ignore the looks from your other half on this one. My husband lays in bed, peering over his book, eyeing me with suspicion. Praying that I haven’t developed OCD. I choose my outfit along with knickers and bra the night before and lay them out on the bedroom chair ready for the next day. It saves me a massive amount of time and effort in the morning. It also reminds me of when I had to wear school uniform and so makes me feel young. An added bonus not to be sniffed at.
Sometimes, the most obvious answers to our problems are those which we ignore. Most of us believe that the solution to the lack of time can only be solved by employing big changes. Quit your job, Move to the city where there’s public transport. Get rid of the dog. Get rid of the kids. Tempting.
It’s not true. Small changes add up. Put all of those small and seemingly insignificant changes together, and you’ll notice a major difference.
Now. Stop reading this and go and put your knickers on the back of the chair. Not those ones… the elastic has gone in those… throw those ones away. And, cross number three off your list.
Do you have any tips on saving time that you could share with me? Let me know in the comments.
I know you’re going to say no, but…”
There stands my 12-year-old. Trying to look as doey eyed as she did when she was seven but, with the tween years almost behind her, cuteness has taken second place to a determination. Omit the image of baby Bambi, and think the kangaroo out of Horton hears a who.
There. Now you get the picture.
“I know you’re going to say no, but…”
I didn’t hear the rest. I pretended to have urgent business to attend. The carrots were boiling over; I think I put the milk carton in the non-recycle bin or, I’d forgotten to put the bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge, and it was nearly ten past five.
I retreated to my office.
My life it seems is full of affirmations. Trumpeted to me regularly by those beautiful children of mine. Unfortunately, though, they’re not the affirmations that you wish to have written on your headstone. As much as I do all the mantras, have my little post-it notes on the fridge, listen to the soothing tones of my meditation app, as soon as I take the headphones off and step into the life that is mine, I am met by my two beauties. Reminding me that,“ hey. You. You don’t do this, you never do that AND you always say NO!”
When I was a kid-I, can’t believe I just said that, but, when I was a kid, and it wasn’t that long ago, Ok, Maggie was in power, but it wasn’t that far back, I didn’t hear the word “yes” that often. Apart from the times when I asked,
“so I have to do all the dusting, and the hoovering and Jamie only needs to put the cushions straight?”(middle child favouritism).
“What? You want me to walk 2 miles back down the same hill that I’ve just trudged up from school, to go and get you a pint of milk from the village shop because you can’t drive and are too lazy to go yourself? And by the way. I’m 9”. (and by the way, I didn’t tell her she was lazy)
Now. I don’t wish to be all- woe is me I had a horrid childhood, far from it. Walking up that hill with the milk sparked future creativity. Breaking up twigs and pretending they were ciggies was surely the beginning of my passion for drama. But, compared to the privileged life that my two lovelies have. Frig, yes. The two resemble chalk and cheese.
Even my idol who owned the local post office and corner shop, the one who was allowed to have a pie from the hot cabinet for her lunch, that one. Even she didn’t have what my children have, and in my eyes, she had everything. She even got a tin of condensed milk in her stocking for Christmas once. And she was allowed to eat it straight out of the tin.
Yet despite the fact that I didn’t get whatever I wanted, driven here, taken there, enrolled into the next best thing club. I was happy. Damn… sorry. That sounds so bloody cliched, but I was.
And I don’t think it did me any harm. To be told no more often than, yes. In fact, if anything, it made me a more determined, creative, productive and a more resilient human being. ( Apart from when I sit in the toilet crying because… well because it’s Tuesday.)
Let me reveal to you what I did when my I asked my parents for a pony and got a, “No”.
I know you’ll think I’m exaggerating when I tell you this, but it’s the truth.
When I was 9 we lived next door to a pig farm. After school each day, (’cause this was the 80s, and we didn’t have fencing, drama club, flute lessons or ballet class in the olden days) I would go to the farm. I’d spend at least an hour hosing down pig shite and then when the farmer went in for his tea; I’d try and ride one of the pigs.
That’s how desperate I was for a pony.
Trying to mount a pig. Now that’s determination. I’ve told my kids this story. They think I’m a chronic liar. I just look back and think… Wow. What a freak.
I’m still trying to work out which one I am. (The freak ) A twisted mother, or someone who believes that children don’t benefit from being spoiled. I’ll go with the latter, which is why I’ve tried with my kids to say no. Not just for the sake of it, but so that they may become creative and think of an alternative. (And so they too can be little pig riding weirdo’s like me).
But as you know, and I guess there must be a fair few of you who agree with me on this, it’s not easy.
Its one of the hardest tasks in the world. Saying no to your kids. Especially when most of the time it would be easier just to say yes. And it’s not just the saying of no. But saying no and then sticking to it. Even when they sidle up to you on the couch after dinner, hoping that your brick wall decision might possibly have been softened by a few grape juices. Go away. The answer’s still no.
One of my favourite films is, ‘ For the boys’ with Clive Owen. A beautiful tale of a newly widowed Dad, raising his boys in Australia. When he finds himself struggling, he sticks a sign to his fridge. It says. “just say yes to everything’
But that’s Hollywood, and maybe if I was married to Clive Owen or I was Clive Owens, dead wife, then I would agree. But I’m not.
Instead I just try to keep my kids pretty grounded. Try to not give them a yes to every single request. And in their defence, they’re actually pretty good.
Ive had to battle not to cave into the pressure of saying yes, simply because if I don’t, I might be considered mean, or be seen as depriving my children of something that may give them acute satisfaction for all of about 17 minutes.
Ok. Wait. Contary to what you may be thinking, Im not the wicked witch of the west. My poor homeschooled children locked at home in their pyjamas with no friends, and the only thing the tight cow of a mother will spend money on is a dictionary, a pair of crocs (replicas, not the real thing) and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. They do alright. More than alright. Honest.
Although had you asked my daughter last night? No. My Little kangaroo would have said they never get anything. Nothing. Rien. Jack sh*t.
Alright Liz, don’t get excited.
Now, because it seems, I have far too much time on my hands, rather than doing the things I should be doing; teaching my children. Picking through the garden with a poo bag, I am writing this blog. To share with you a few of the ‘wants’ that I have received this past year from my teen and tween.
What follows are my somewhat artistic reasons as to why the answer was a definite…No.
• “Can I have a pony”.
This is a beauty. And one that I think every 12 year old girl must ask for. Remember the pig? I do. Vividly. Find a pony to exercise for free . Other than that stick a halter on Patrick, our pet sheep, and go for a canter ‘round the paddock.
• “Can I have $10 ? to get a snack while I’m waiting for you to come out of the supermarket with a glut of food that I will devour as soon as I get home”.
The reincarnated seagull that goes by the disguise of my 15 year old son. Get your pocket money out and go and buy your own chips. Even better, come into the supermarket with me and help to carry the shopping. Oh god no. On second thoughts… Just wait here and be hungry.
• “Can I dye my hair pink? Permanently”.
ER…No love. You can not dye your hair pink. We are not Stephanie from Lazy Town. We are homeschoolers, and its hard enough explaining to folks why you’re ‘not in school today?’ without saying “oh, and by the way. That pink hair? Its permanent.”
• “Can I get a motorbike?”.
No. I’ve witnessed what you’re like with the lawn mower. Pushing it like a mad man. Headphones in, laughing manically to your Ricky Gervais podcast. No. The scooter’s there, ride that. It may not be cool but its bloody zippy when you get that leg swinging.
• “Can I get Facebook?”
You’ve got that lip syncing app that keeps you in your bedroom with the hairbrush for hours already. You really don’t need to see dead cats, big lips and plates of spagetti bolognese. Anyway. If you get FB you’ll be able to read all the things I write about you…No.
• “Can I get these expensive trainers with the tick on them ?”.
You know, heres me. I can’t remember the last time I went and bought myself expensive stuff. The Elastic has gone in my knickers… and I can’t seem to find the time to go and buy new ones. Its sad. So, No. Wear the crocs I bought you last month. Until your feet stop growing at a rate of knots, the answer is, NO.
One day I will write a list of all the Yes things Ive agreed to. To make myself feel better.. Until then, I will persist in trying to keep my little darlings from resembling Harper and Brooklyn Beckham, although, lets face it. Riding a scooter in crocs with their mother tailing behind in knickers with no elastic. Theres not much chance of that is there? No Liz, No.
Yesterday, whilst groaning, (it’s obligatory) my teenage son accused me of “Never saying what you really mean..”
Ohhhh, my boy. Don’t go there. Not today. Not when my meditation app has just told me to smile. From my eyes and my heart. Don’t give me conflict today. Pllleeaasse.
But, as usual, we continue. Along our jolly little ‘nearly 16-year-old’ way. Me, the shouldn’t get drawn in Mother, and him, the Son. The lovely young, but also you understand, sagacious, (16 in June) Son. And so, I attempt to answer. To justify this outrageous accusation. But before I do, I explain that I have to get a splinter out of my finger and rush to the sanctuary of the bathroom, at which point I sit on the bath and have a good long think.
Can you imagine It? If we Mothers, wives, daughters, friends, spent our whole lives saying exactly what we wanted to say. It would either be complete bliss or; we would find ourselves rocking in the corner. No friends, greasy hair, muttering the words over again, “I only told the truth. I just told the truth…”
You see, it’s not that we lie to our children per se, is it? No, we just …a little bit don’t tell the truth to them. Say words. Those words that don’t really count as lies. Those untruths. There. Untruths. That sounds more literate and therefore far more intelligent and kinder than lies, much more justifiable. Little Untruths.
What I really wanted to say when ‘Mr. Clever Clogs I’m nearly 16 and so know-e-v-e-r-y-thing-there-is-to-know-about-e-v-e-r-y-thing ‘ was,
No… grow up, Liz. Your 46, not 9. I wanted to say
Shaddap was what I really wanted to say, but…I didn’t. I couldn’t.
“You never say what you really mean.”
My God. He’s right. I’m a compulsive chronic liar. I’m one of those who doesn’t even know that they’re doing it.
Tell me. Enlighten me. Is it just me because I’m a homeschool mum with far too much teenage company on my hands, and therefore feel an obligation to spice things up a little in the trust department? Or do we all tell our children these glorious little-coded untruths?
What we really mean when we say to our kids…
‘Look in the middle drawer in the kitchen’ (I’ve thrown it in the bin)
‘I can’t remember’ (I’m not telling you)
‘Have you used that new shower gel I bought you yet?’ (Get washed. You smell)
‘I’m going for a walk with Dad’ (I need someone to moan to. About you.)
‘Why don’t you all go and pick blackberries?’ (Go away. I want to surf the internet on my phone for half an hour)
‘I’m just going to the toilet.’ (See above)
‘I think so …Yes’ (I haven’t got a clue who or what you’re talking about)
‘What was Y’s Mum doing when you went over to his house last night?’(Tell me she was sloshed on the couch with an empty bottle of wine)
‘Why don’t you have an apple if you’re hungry’ (Those crisps will make your spots worse)
‘It’s been lovely these past few days without any distractions’ (I’m ecstatic that your computer’s broken)
How do I add a tag to this photo? (I do actually know how to do this. I just want you to feel sorry for me. For once)
‘Do you prefer me with long hair or short?’ (I’m a hormonal wreck going through perimenopause, just say I look gorgeous with both.)
Want to come for a walk with the dog? ( I love talking to you)
‘It’s 11 pm! I don’t want to hear about your drama rehearsal’(lay down and let me stroke your hair)
‘You’re driving me mad’… (I love you).
Our little world of cryptographic language.
Maybe we do hide behind our words. Never saying what we really mean. Making life more complicated than it needs to be with all our untruths.
Right then. Time for a change. I’m turning over a new leaf. As from now, I’m telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. No more underlying – excuse the pun – interpretations. No more, ‘guess what I mean what I really really mean .’
But maybe I’ll just leave out the bit about the spots.