Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Work Before You Slack

This was actually one of the things my Father told me to do. He was talking about school-work, of course. (He died at the beginning of my third year of University, so he didn't really get a chance to give me a whole lot of advice!)

What is work?
1. Teaching the kids
2. Preparing to teach the kids.
3. Planning curriculum (though it's fun work).
4. Scheduling schoolwork and correlating readings. (Spreadsheet work!)
5. Making dinner, lunch and supper
6. Washing dishes
7. Doing laundry
8. Cleaning
9. Straightening and tidying
10. Putting things away, etc.
11. Going to the library.
12. Running errands
13. Meal planning, shopping.
14. Is going onto the computer to look for information/ideas about homeschooling on message boards slacking?

What is slack?
1. Self-care, including showering, getting dressed.
2. Blogging
3. Reading
4. Decorating and thinking about decorating (and computer time related to it).
5. Scrapping and thinking about scrapping (and computer time related to it). Except--what about gifts? Is that slacking?
6. Bible study and reading.

The problem?
Work before you slack assumes at least two things:

1) you have a big chunk of time to devote to either one or the other. When you are at home, this is not the case. My husband has it easy. He gets up, goes to work. That's "work." Then, he comes home, and that's "slack." He does what he feels like, not what *has* to be done (unless I tell him).

OK--that's not entirely right, because since the fall Cure he'll do things like a plumbing project without my having even noticed the drain was running a bit slow.

As for myself, I have a bit of time right now...but I'm no where near done "my work"--there's still supper to get (and all that goes with it...). So, I have little chunks of time, here and there, where I can choose either to slack or to work. The trick is making sure I make the choice to "work" just often enough to keep things functioning and not so much I feel like a drudge.

2) It also assumes the ability to sustain the energy required to work without "slacking." I don't have it. I noticed--and Lorijo will too, soon enough--that when I had uninterrupted time, I couldn't focus longer than 10 minutes on one task, I was so acclimatized to being interrupted by a little person (or two) needing my attention. Fortunately, the ability to sustain concentration has returned, the capability isn't always there!

But, generally, I give the kids a "break" between tasks, just because it does help focus on the next one. And when they are on "break" (or "recess"), I have to figure out what to do--mark the math or go throw a load of laundry around?

However, I am taking a lesson from the restrictions I've imposed on the kids. They can have a break, but they aren't allowed to 1) go on the computer unless it is to do their typing, Latin vocabulary, a math game, or their spelling. (All of those are, of course, related to school work.) As well, they aren't permitted to turn on the T.V. As for myself, I've noticed I have to stay off the computer as well (unless it's to run something off or set something up for the next immediate lesson). No blogs, no forums.

But I have two jobs, really: Housekeeping and Teaching. And when the tasks are completed for those things, then, I suppose, I can slack, guilt-free.
As this is HT--what are the tasks that must be done every day before I can "slack?"

I love Towner's daily minimum list. Here it is (modified to reflect our needs):

Living room,

  • Take any dirty dishes to the kitchen
  • Put all CDs, DVDs, videos and tapes back in their cases or away where you keep them.
  • Stack magazines and newspapers. If you are finished with them toss into the recycle bin.
  • If you smoke, empty and clean the ashtrays.
  • Pick up the toys.
  • Plump the pillows and cushions. Fold blankets.


  • Sort mail
  • Hang up coats
  • Put away shoes


  • Swish the toilet.
  • Wipe out the sink after each use.
  • Rinse out the bath right after using it.
  • Put away the toiletries.
  • And toys.
  • Rehang the towels.


  • Make the beds.
  • Hang up or put away the clothes.
  • Take any dishes to the kitchen.
  • Pick up toys.


  • Daily Wash the dishes! Everyday! Always!
  • Wipe up spills and drips as they happen.
  • Take bottles and cans to basement.
  • Clear off and wash the working and cooking surfaces.
  • Clear off and wash table top (and chairs).
  • Wipe the refrigerator handles.
  • Put trash into the trash bin, recycling into the recycling bins.
  • Fold and hang the towels.
  • Sweep floor.
  • Do one load of laundry all the way through.

Other rooms,

  • Daily repeat any of the above steps that fit the room.

Perhaps, while I'm making up the chore chart for the kids, I should do one for myself, too?

Nonetheless, though it seems "reasonable" to insist that all the teaching tasks and all the housekeeping task be completed before I blog or surf or scrap, it isn't realistic. To take a silly example, I can't re-hang the towels until after the kids have had their bath--yet bath-time is my usual computer time because it's relatively quiet and I can concentrate. Perhaps "work before you slack" should be modified to "do all you can that you have to before you do all you want to." It's like Lorijo's "Today's dirt." idea. Do something about what needs to be done at this moment, then go off and do what you want. Something like that.

And I think I have to go fold laundry and start supper now.


drwende said...

This should be pretty much the canonical statement about Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom, right down to the question of whether work is ever really done.

Alana in Canada said...

The work is never really done. Question answered.

scb said...

My post about "Work first, then slack" was NOT in any way intended to mean that you have to get everything all done before you can take a break!!!! Good grief, no!

I was addressing my own dilemma of wanting to slack when I get home from my job, and never getting around to the housework. I was not in the least meaning that you have to get every everything done before taking a break! As I was reading your post I keep saying to the computer, and therefore to you, "But you have two full-time jobs that coincide with each other, in the same space, in the same time! it's not the same as my situation!!"

I gotta copy this comment and post it to clarify my yesterday's post.

Mella DP said...

No, the work is never done - there's always more work to be found. Most jobs are that way, with keeping a house and caring for a family outpacing the rest by orders of magnitude.

However: I'm concerned that you list Self care, down to the level of getting dressed, in the "slacking" column. The word "slacking" to me says "very inessential". No, showering and dressing don't directly contribute to your (or anyone's) work objectives - they're not work, not play, but still important. I'm not giving you the "but you must take time to pamper yourself!" line that gets shoved at mothers; I know that's not realistic. But a certain baseline of self care ought to be perceived as essential - in fact I think it may even be the perception, rather than the actions themselves, that makes the difference.

(I hope this doesn't sound critical or pushy. I do speak out of concern, and that just jumped out of the screen as belonging to the "oh, dear," category.)

scb said...

Please see my post that I just put up.

Alana in Canada said...

Mella, it's OK. When I put that there it was in realization that WT sort of failed me. I was good at getting dressed and so on while I was "involved"...but now? Just a measure of my distractedness, I think. One night, I looked down at what I was wearing at dinner and realised with surprise that, hey, I was still in my pj's! I hadn't had a chance to go back upstairs and change.

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