In 2001, stay-at-home mom Mary Kay Russell of Lisle, Ill. (pop. 21,182), had reached the depths of despair. At 42, she was tired, irritable and feeling like she’d lost her identity in the midst of caring for everyone else.
Before motherhood, Russell took pride in keeping her home spotless and organized. As her family grew, she became dedicated to caring for and nurturing four sons ranging in age from an infant to an 8-year-olda handful for any mom. Then she noticed that her once cheery personality had gradually disappeared. She didn’t like who she was becoming and doubted her family did, either.
“I never dreamed things could get this bad,” she said at the time. “Just 10 minutes of solitude sounds like a vacation to me.”
Russell was ready to do whatever it took to find some “me” time. With a goal of freeing an hour every day for self-care and personal development, she began to identify time-robbing habits, lowered her housecleaning standards, and devised ways her boys could help with housework.
With the time saved, she was able to recharge her own batteries by exercising; giving herself a few occasional minutes to rest and reflect; and brainstorming and researching to create an interactive and educational game.
Nine years later, she credits the transition with changing her personal and professional life. Her award-winning line of children’s games, Kubit2me, which encourage communication and self-expression, is sold in stores nationwide.
Like Russell, many moms do so much for others that they have little time for themselves. If Russell’s experience sounds all too familiar, consider how she approached the dilemma.
Problem: Russell did two loads of laundry every day. Gathering and sorting clothes, loading the washer, moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, hanging non-dryer items, and folding and putting away each load took 42 minutes each day-not counting ironing.
Solution: Put a small laundry basket in each child’s closet. Teach kids to bring their dirty clothes to the laundry area twice weekly. Have them fold towels, socks and underwear while watching television; later, they can help put their clothes away. Time reaped for Mom: 10 to 15 minutes a day.
Problem: Russell spent too much time picking up after her children. She made their beds and picked up clutter in their rooms every morning when they left for school. She spent eight to 10 minutes in each of three bedrooms, or 24 to 30 minutes a day.
Solution: Teach children to pick up their rooms before bedtime and to make their beds each morning. Purchase comforters instead of bedspreads to simplify bed-making, and don’t use a top sheet.
Problem: Russell’s clothes didn’t fit. She hadn’t exercised since her fourth child was born. Searching for something to wear every morning took 10 to 15 minutes.
Solution: Purchase a few workout-friendly items to put on in the morning. Adopt an “attitude of exercise” while doing housework-bend, stretch and make every move count. Spend a few minutes each day walking in the neighborhood or exercising on the treadmill, even if toys and stray socks are cluttering the floor.
Problem: Russell spent at least an hour a day talking on the phone.
Solution: Break the “I have to answer the phone” habit. Let an answering machine screen calls. At designated times, use a portable phone to chat while taking care of light tasks such as loading dishes into the dishwasher or folding laundry.
Problem: Russell was an over-cleaner. She vacuumed every day and when she had a spare minute, she looked for something to clean. With children in the family, there will always be something to clean.
Solution: Lower cleaning standards. Vacuum twice a week, or three times tops.