Tuesday, February 13, 2007 8:27 AM

How we do it

The following is from a note I wrote to my Walking In This World group, which has a few mamas in it who are trying to make more time for their art in a schedule that's already jam-packed. I figured I would share what we do in the hopes that it helps someone out. Feel free to add your own advice in the comments. :)



Have you considered hiring a sitter for Sunday afternoons? We have sitters (High school girls) come in for 2 hours every night just to help me feed the kids and get them off to bed, b/c my husband teaches music classes every night until 10ish.(I can do it by myself, but it's difficult with the three under 4 and trying to be supermom has gotten me sick many times from exhaustion.)

Anyway, so my kids are familiar with the girls (not to mention Grandma!), so sometimes we have one of them come on a weekend afternoon for a few hours to play with the kiddos while we get our own work done without them around. I have painted, written letters, and just napped while they've come over. And then I'm refreshed when it's time to make dinner and see everyone again. Or sometimes, we just order a pizza so I don't have to cook. Or we have pancakes for dinner. :) We pay $8 an hour for the girls to be there for 3 small kids, and we're right there in the house in case they need us for any reason. This seems to work out well for everyone.

I also think that you need to make sure that your husband understands how important your art, and time to yourself, is. You can ALWAYS say, "His work is important!" but so are you. My husband was incredibly supportive while I was doing The Artist's Way (still is), but I still have to point out to him that we almost always get a sitter so he can work, not the other way around. :)

Not sure if financially this is possible, but since you are working, you might want to look into hiring cleaning help. I know this sounds extreme - it did to me when my husband suggested it, I thought, good lord! I can clean my own house! We don't have funds for that! But we wound up spending at least one day every weekend doing nothing but cleaning the house. And that just sucked. (Keep in mind also that my husband's studio is part of the house, and we have 75 people coming and going and using our bathroom each week. :) So we have a super-nice lady come every other week to clean the house and it is SO WORTH IT TO ME to not have to spend all my time scrubbing the stove top or cleaning the toilets and whatnot. Anyway, you might want to look into it - figure what your time is worth, what your sanity is worth, and see if this could possibly be an option for you.

Regarding bedtimes - this is the thing that saves me - we are incredibly regimented with our bedtime procedure. I have had other moms tell me, "My guys will never do that." Ours do becuase we MAKE them do it. And don't take no for an answer. I am so fiercely protective of my evening time (for my sanity) that bedtimes are strictly enforced. :) They also know the routine so well that I don't dare skip a step or do it out of order, or they call me on it.

My three all go to bed by 7:30, 8 at the very latest. By 6:30, I mention that we all need to start cleaning up. They all have to help put away their toys themselves, because I can't possibly do it all myself (the sitter helps too, but we mainly want the kids to do it themselves.) Then they have to try the potty, and everyone gets into diapers/pullups and into their PJs. Everyone should be dressed and everything put away by 7ish. Then they each get to choose a picture book and we all snuggle on the couch and we read to them, or what happens when a sitter is there is that she reads and I run upstairs and make sure everything's ready - make the bed that Peter's flung blankets all around the room, or fill their humidifiers, etc. Weekend nights when Daddy is there we get the laptop and watch 1/2 hour of something - the Muppet Show, vintage Sesame Street clips from YouTube, Classical Baby, Schoolhouse Rock.

By the time the books are read, we all go upstairs. They know they all have to walk up - not get carried - or they go straight to bed. We brush teeth, go into Peter and Angela's room and say (or sing) our prayers, and then do our "thank you God"s where they tell us things they're happy about, and we ask God to watch over our family members/friends who are sick. Everyone smooches each other, it's 7:30 and time for the sitter to go home. The twins hop in bed with threats from me of what will happen if they get out, :) and I close the door.

Sophie tries a last pee, then she hops in bed and tells me Three Nice Things about her day, which is kind of a gratitude list. We read one more story - very very short, like a poem or something, switch off her flashlight, smooch, and she's done. If she's not sleepy, she reads in bed - she has a flashlight that's easy for her to turn on and off. By then, it's 7:40. They mostly stay down for the evening, and I have until 10:30 when Paul is finished to do my own work. They also know that after they go to bed, Mama is painting. And they're interested in that too, especially if they know that they get to see it the next day.

Anyway, don't beat yourself up, and don't give up either - you're doing great things for yourself just by trying to work through the book and by trying to learn more about yourself and your art.

Hang in there!

love, Elena

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