For as long as I can remember, I’ve been late for everything. Late for class. Late for the surprise party. Late for my own rehearsal dinner. (Fortunately, that last one couldn’t start without me.) I used to just accept my lack of punctuality as a character flaw. But then I had kids, and there was no denying the truth: I suddenly lived in a world with clocks, and if I wanted to get by, I had to abide by them.
I’m not sure when exactly I discovered this phenomenon called “time.” Perhaps it was when I burst into the bounce-house birthday party, toddler in hand, just as the castles were deflating and the guests were moving on to pizza. Perhaps it was when I had to shell out cash for picking up my daughter five minutes late from daycare. Suddenly, I found myself constantly rushing to beat the clock.
And that’s when I discovered a sad truth: small children, as it turns out, do not understand the meaning of the word hurry. They do not do anything quickly, unless it involves chasing after the ice cream truck (at which point they suddenly go from extreme couch surfing to training for the Olympics). And so, every time I had to rush from the house, I found myself desperately trying to convince my kids that their coats were as interesting as the pots and pans they had scattered across the floor, attempting to grab their attention with that dreaded two-word command incessantly droned throughout the day: “HURRY UP!”
Hurry up, as in:
- Hurry up, Mommy spent ten minutes looking for her wallet and now you’re late for school!
- Hurry up, I forgot about your doctor’s appointment, and it started five minutes ago!
- Hurry up, we need to squeeze in a trip to the grocery store, the bank, and the Himalayas before dinner!
- Hurry up, we’re late for Mommy and Me Pinterest lessons!
- Hurry up, we’re late for . . . something. . . right?
Gradually, I started to realize that it wasn’t my kids who had a problem with time. Their time was pretty much always spent the same way: stripping down Barbie dolls, eating everything in sight, dumping toy trucks on the floor, sleeping, dumping more toy trucks on the floor . . . Like gamblers at a casino, they had little clue what time it was, or even if was day or night; provided their drinks were constantly replenished, they would continue playing until stopped. Rather, I was the one with the problem. I was the one trying to squeeze thirty hours of activities into a twenty-four-hour day. I was the one checking my iPhone instead of the clock. I was the one who was overcommitted, overstretched, and overwhelmed.
As such, I decided to make some changes. And so, here are some time-management tips I’ve learned over the years, designed to restore sanity and banish the words “Hurry up!” from my vocabulary — for at least an hour or two.
- Embrace the void. You may feel you have to fill every moment of your day that you’re not working or feeding children with activities — whether that means doing laundry or rushing to playdates. You don’t. Your kids will be just fine building a fort out of sofa cushions while you sit down and zone out (or even eat something from time to time). Loosening up your schedule doesn’t just create free time, it creates quality time, because you’re present, relaxed, and in the moment . . . instead of mentally folding the laundry. Live in the moment — especially if that moment is on your nice, comfortable couch.
- Turn off your phone. I guarantee your smartphone is making you late at least 50 percent of the time — whether it’s because you absolutely must tweet that your baby just wiggled his left toe or you desperately have to check your score in Candy Crush. And yes, I know, you need your phone to see what time it is, making this quite the conundrum. However, clocks are also good for telling time — and they don’t buzz when someone urgently texts you “What’s up?”
- You’re late. So what? OK, you can’t be late to pick up your child from the bus stop. But the world won’t end if you arrive at a party ten minutes late, even if the limbo contest is well underway. The reality is that last-minute diaper changes happen. Toddlers throw tantrums just as it’s time to leave. The soccer practice you thought started at 9:30 actually begins at 9. Stressing about being late will only add to your madness, and if you have kids, you already have enough things to drive you crazy. Take a deep breath. It’s all going to work out.
What I’ve discovered is that it’s really about being present. When I’m focused on the moment at hand, I’m more likely to get things done in a reasonable manner — and less likely to rush out the door without one or both of my children. And when I am late, I try not to be too hard on myself. After all, somewhere in the world, I’m actually early.