Monday, January 12, 2009 By Aaron Brown
The seven habit of highly stressed parents
By Aaron J. Brown
Normally when people talk to you about time management they do so from the standpoint of expertise. Hey everybody, look at how organized I am! Hey you, stop wasting time and be more like me! Countless books, TV shows and web sites are based on this premise. I offer no such simplicity.
The truth is that after years of priding myself on putting up Christmas lights I didn’t even put up my plastic electric penguin set on my porch this year. Too busy, I said. No time, I said. But I blogged this month. I Facebooked. I sat on the couch for about half an hour each morning as the toddlers crawled on me and I stared at the ceiling distantly. All of this time could have been devoted to putting up those Christmas lights, or working on my next book, or completing this essay – the one I am reading right now. See, I eventually finished it. Or … did I?
Dr. Stephen Covey wrote the popular organizational leadership book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” These habits are very effective, according to Covey. I agree. I checked out the “Seven Habits” book from the library and I’m pretty sure I remembered to return it. But just as is the case with diet, exercise, and caring about the environment, the plan put into effect doesn’t always resemble the original suggestion. Weight Watchers points are invariably spent on vodka and what gets buried in the woods stays in the woods. So in that spirit, and with great apologies to Dr. Covey, I have created the Seven Habits of Highly Stressed Parents.
1) Learn to justify your procrastination.
You’ve earned this. You work hard. Whatever it is can be done later. If it doesn’t get done, it probably didn’t need to get done. Rationalize, Rinse, Repeat.
2) Blame the children. They will later blame you.
You have small children. They are busy. They require attention and feeding. Nothing you do can prevent them for blaming you for their problems later in life. Use this time to blame them. After all, it’s their fault.
3) Plan to balance your physical, emotional and spiritual selves before abandoning all three.
I can go on a diet and prepare for the afterlife when I finish the novel and get the boys up from their nap. That is, I mean, you can. (sigh)
4) Adopt an organized day planner system and then twist it to suit your unorganized lifestyle.
My planner has reams of moderately important paper crammed into it. If I ever lost them, I’d be somewhat inconvenienced. But the material is centrally located and with me at all times, so long as I don’t drop the planner on a windy day or allow it to be eaten by an 18-month-old.
5) When all else fails, count bathing and eating as daily achievements.
Hey, that counts. No matter how bad it gets, just imagine how much worse it would be if you stopped bathing and eating.
6) Big problems come from ignoring small problems.
This is true, but giant problems often occur suddenly in the form of a toddler tantrum that ends only when said toddler collapses in exhaustion. Sometimes this all starts because someone spilled two microdrops of juice on his shirt. For this the only cure is patience (and/or pills).
7) Don’t stop believin’
What you’re doing probably isn’t perfect – or even especially good – but if you’re still trying that means you care. And caring about someone or something means there’s a future. As you look forward to the fresh New Year, remember that with hard work anyone can make better use of their time. But rationalizing what you’re currently doing until they go to school is temptingly easy. As The Who would say: “The kids are alright.”
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. His new book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” is out now.