This is my third installment of things I have noticed and learned by being the at-home caregiver. These are mostly things that float beneath our radar, but which are still significant.
This next one I've evolved into through much frustration and angst. It's the question of how productive does your day have to be in order to be "productive"? And it is an issue that being an at-home caregiver has changed my mind on.
In my single days, and in my early married-with-no-children days, having a productive day included accomplishing a lot of different tasks. In those days the to-do list included stops at department stores, maybe the grocery store, little errands here and there, possibly the post office, and then checking off a few things that needed done around the house. Before I was married I still remember having one day off a week and cramming that day so full of what I wanted to accomplish that I usually ended up frustrated at the end that I only got seven of the ten items done.
Then, when our oldest daughter Caroline was a 1-year-old, I transitioned to being an at-home dad. Now, the problem here was that I made this shift totally unaware that my old mindset of how much I could accomplish in a day was now totally unrealistic. I spent many days, and I mean m-a-n-y days, not only physically exhausted but emotionally frustrated and how little I was able to get done. What makes this such an animal is that the things needing accomplished do not go away. After all, you still need to go to the mall from time to time, you still need to go to the grocery store, and you still need to go to the post office on occasion. The problem became the time it now took to do these tasks.
There were now interruptions, delays, and aborted attempts. There were breakdowns (emotional and mechanical), attitudes, and prep work. Going to the grocery store used to be an easy and quick 45 minute task, but it now involved pre-planning (a grocery prep list and a child prep list), travel strategies, and possibly even backup help.
This all changed for me one day when, after yet another frustrating day of accomplishing less than I had hoped, my wife asked me what was wrong.
After I explained the problem yet again she simply said, "Maybe you just need to redefine what a productive day looks like."
She was right. And I began to do so. One major thing has to change in this at-home role: adopt the Rule of 2. What's the Rule of 2? It's this: if you accomplish just 2 things you wanted done…you've had a productive day! Along with that comes another realization: everything will now take longer. You've got to get yourself to be okay with that, you really do. It's just a fact.
And finally, there is no shame in bragging on what your one or two things accomplished were. From only doing two loads of laundry, to finally getting outside for a walk, to simply moping the floor, to just getting the grocery list completed - with young kids you must redefine "productive" and adjust your expectations or you'll be the one going to timeout!