Thoughtful Thursday: Domains

March 18, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayRelated to last week’s discussion of how many is too many in terms of children, there are of course other aspects of life in which we can be overwhelmed.


How many domains can you handle in your life at one time?

I discovered years ago that I can successfully manage three domains at a time. It’s true of tasks in any one day, and it’s also true of domains of life in general. Pre-babies, in a single day I could run errands and go to work and clean up the house, but that’s it — no blog posts would get written or hobbies would be enjoyed. If I went to the pottery studio, that was one of my three items for the day, and I had to figure out what else would be cut. It’s not like I set this limit of three things; that just seems to be the natural order of my life.

Since the babies were born, three hasn’t been enough for each day. The babies are always one of the three, leaving only two optional activities remaining. Typically, I pump on a regular schedule and care for them part of the day (with help the rest of the day) and do one other thing — but the problem is that there are many things demanding to be done. Work, household stuff, blogging, other hobbies, spending time with my husband: I keep trying to cram them in, and they just don’t fit. If I have to go to a doctor’s appointment, it probably means that my pumping schedule will be compromised and I also won’t get any work done.

That’s within one day. In life, I constantly try to juggle more than three domains, but I never feel like I can master more than three at once. If on top of caring for the babies I am pumping on a good schedule and work is under control, it probably means that the bills haven’t been paid and I haven’t done anything for myself in a while.

The only solution I’ve found is outsourcing. DH’s plate is even fuller than mine right now, so I can’t outsource to him. I’ve tried delegating work tasks to other people, which is effective on a limited basis. What I’ve had to outsource the most are household tasks and child care. We now have a full-time nanny who does everything in the house that wasn’t getting done and spends most of the babies’ waking hours with them. Sometimes it breaks my heart not to be able to see them more, especially after I wanted them so badly and worked so hard to bring them into being. It does not break my heart in the least to let someone else do the laundry or take out the trash. Even with a full-time nanny, I still don’t get nearly as much work done as I need to be doing. I usually sleep half of the time the nanny is here, and after pumping at least twice while she’s here, it only leaves a couple of hours to do anything else. Something like a doctor’s appointment eats up the entire rest of my “free” time, and work must be squeezed into a couple of hours in the evening after the babies have gone to bed — then it must be set aside if either baby decides to wake up again after going to bed, which happens more often than not.

My other solution has been multitasking, especially while pumping. Because it’s something that I used to find so bothersome, I had to make it pleasant in other ways, so pumping is my time to read and write blogs. By combining them, they become one “thing” instead of two. I also do certain computer tasks when I’m feeding a zoned-out baby. I try hard to be fully present when they’re fully awake and want to be engaged, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to stare at a baby with his eyes half-closed while he eats for 25 minutes. And then of course I feel guilty about that too, but until the number of hours in a day exceeds 24, I’ve got to do whatever I can.


How many domains can you handle in your life at one time?

Short answer: 3 well, 4 or 5 semi-passably.

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19 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Domains”

  1. a Says:

    Hmmm…I worked as a quality assurance chemist at a pharmaceutical company in the in-process lab. On a busy night, I could get samples from 5 or 6 different steps in processes and would have to analyze them all as quickly as possible. So, I am a pro at multi-tasking, as long as I have a plan. However, I don’t like to operate at that level. It’s good for crisis mode, but I prefer to handle fewer things at once. I can, in the course of a day, get all of the errands done, do laundry, fix meals, do all of the child care, and still relax at the end of the day. But I’d rather not.

    My typical day, when my husband was not at home would be work, child wrangling, meal prep, spot cleaning, and me-time. So I guess I would say I handle 4 well, but try to squeeze in the 5th (which, in case you might assume otherwise, would be the cleaning stuff).

  2. Elana Kahn Says:

    I can do 3 things at once, I think. Watch TV, be on facebook and do my homework all at the same time!!! 🙂 But I can’t watch the twins and do anything else because they just need constant attention.

  3. Michele Says:

    I dont know… I can feed two babies, watch TV, and blog… It’s not fun but I can do it!

  4. Heather Says:

    I don’t know the exact number but it’s interesting to think of it as three. I know I would be lost without my SIL at our house, taking care of the babies, laundry and cleaning! I still love when I get an opportunity to clean as I can then do it my way, but I won’t complain as it’s done! I have been having problems juggling it all, but I think my to-do list has been helping me. So I work hard to try to keep it up to date and make things happen. I do have a separate work and personal to-do list. I know some people say it’s a big no-no, but it’s my way of finding balance. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a work day and I’ll take a pause and look at what my personal important items are to get done.

  5. strongblonde Says:

    i have always been a multitasker. i’ve been known to brush my teeth while i go to the bathroom, get my shower ready, make the bed, etc. i guess i have just always thought that i want to make the most of my time? i hate being late, i hate the feeling of sitting around with the impending doom of something that i should be doing.

    i don’t think i have a daily cap. some days are better than others. thursdays, for example, b leaves for work at 6am. so…i’m with the babies for 2 hours before i drop them off to day care. during that time i play with them, put them down for a “nap” (if they woke up with us), put dinner in the crockpot, pick up the house, respond to some emails, and pack up the car. that’s several domains right there. once i’m at work it is the same way. i coordinate a program, teach a class, and have a full patient load.

    maybe i can’t put a number on it b/c i wear so many different hats in all of my domains (family, work, etc) that i can just switch back and forth easily? the bad thing? i’m not excellent at anything! everything gets done, but nothing is all that great right now.

  6. Jamie Says:

    Interesting topic, let’s see…

    Today I:
    1. Took care of my 3 children, ages 2 and 5 month twins
    2. Had a “nanny” on duty from 9 to 1
    3. Worked at Job #1
    4. Nursed and pumped (I read blogs during this time too) for all of the twins meals and cooked for everyone else
    5. Worked at Job #2 after everyone was in bed
    6. Did laundry and normal house maintenance (empty garbage, diaper pails, straightening, cleaning out the fridge, etc.)

    This is a normal day. So I guess on a normal day I have 6 domains. However, on other days it can reach up to 10.

    I’m envious of your sleep. But I’m headed to bed now — after I finish pumping.

  7. Carrie Says:

    GREAT question!

    I have my mom here 24/7, so keep that in mind. I am nursing the triplets most of the time- about 12 times/day/baby I think. I also care for our 3 year old, who is in school a few hours a week; play, prepare meals, bathe, etc. I make dinner almost every night, do some housework and attempt as much involvement in my daughter’s school as possible, so… four? Unfortunately, I have little time in front of my Mac now, since pumping has gone away, so I am behind on blogging and reading. I miss it terribly, but won’t trade an hour of sleep for it these days!

  8. Rebecca Says:

    One well. I’m useless at multitasking and moving on from one project to another.

  9. Jules Says:

    I’m another who can blog, Facebook & watch TV at the same time, but when it comes to other things these days, that flies out the window.

  10. Kristin Says:

    Hmmmm, I’ve never really thought of it in these terms. I just know I run perpetually behind on things because I long ago decided that since personal time was crucial to my sanity it ranks higher than housework on the to-do schedule.

  11. staciet Says:

    I had to learn how to multitask just because of the nature of what I do. If I wasn’t able to do a million things at once, my kids would have eaten me alive a long time ago! 🙂 I guess that means I can handle 36ish domains at one time. Now, please keep in mind that I lose my mind on some days, but still. At least I wait until after the kids have left.

    I am a list maker by nature, so that helps me feel like I am getting stuff done. If I don’t finish it one day (or on the next day), I keep moving it up the list until I eventually finish it.

  12. Ana Says:

    My answer to this question has changed in the past few months. I used to think I, too, could do 3 things well—work, quality time with husband, and exercise. If I wanted to have more social outings with friends, one of those would have to give (usually exercise), and other hobbies may eat into husband-time. Now that little monkey is here I can’t do anything else. Literally. He is very consuming of time/energy/love! Maybe I can catch up on laundry & email while he sleeps for those blessed few hours during the day. When we went to visit my mother-in-law, she watched him a lot of the time, and I was able to exercise, see friends, etc…
    I am going back to work next week—my mom is coming to watch the little guy. I’m hoping, in addition to work, I’ll be able to start exercising again. Once he gets a little older & less needy (?does this happen?) maybe I’ll read a book or cook a meal again 🙂

  13. jill Says:

    Ooh this is very interesting to think about and may even help me get my life more organized (something I’ve been trying and failing at for a long time).

    I’d have to say my number is 3 as well, but not mastered, only half-assed most of the time. Mon through Fri, if I can work, do some house stuff (including making or figuring out what to do for dinner), and get some quality time in with DH (watching TV or otherwise spending time with him) that’s it for me. If I compromise on the amount of sleep I need, I can also fit in some “me time” like reading a book or blogging. Mon through Fri is tough.

    On the weekends I can usually “master” the 3 pretty well and even add in one or two. Today I’ve worked, done house-work, blogged, and spent time with R, and it’s only 7pm! 🙂

    I wish you luck with your domains! I can’t even imagine how difficult having twins would make the juggling!

  14. Wishing4One Says:

    Wow this is a great thought prevoking post as usual. I don’t know. When I was working I used to be able to multi-task and take care of our home as well. Now that I am at home, and have tons of free time I seem to be more lazy. I remember saying, when we had our business back in the US “wouldn’t it be nice to not work…” It is, but sometimes I miss the busy-ness that was once me. We’ll see what happens when oiur babies arrive, God Willing, I bet this post will be totally different then.


  15. Well, I only have time to comment on this post now that I finally have finished a small job that took way longer than I expected because I had to do it during my baby’s nap/play/sleep times, not easy… Things that didn’t get done while I was working on that job: blog posts and comments, cleaning the house, playing cello. Things I did manage: caring for baby, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry (oh, yeah, and playing travel agent for DH). But what I never seem to be able to do anymore since I’ve got my baby is read my New Yorkers… I’m so far behind (and I want to read everything) it’s not funny anymore (but of course I recently renewed my subscription).
    So I guess my number is somewhere between 3 and 5.

  16. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    Well it is usually 3. I can go to office, pick grocery for home and still yank my head on the thesis.

    I could attend a workshop and blog about it, but may not do anything needing too much of my intellect.

    I can read a book, enjoy cooking (rare) and catch a good movie.

    I am a Type B person mostly, and so always keep scope for downtime for me.

    Hey BabySmiling, w.r.t. last time’s TT, I would just like to get unambiguous and state that anything 3+ would be too much for me personally. When I quoted Mumtaz Mahal, it was what I would react, if I saw that many kids happening to somebody in my acquaintance.

  17. Photogrl Says:

    I am WAY late answering this, but here it goes…

    I think I can handle 3-4 things at one time only.

    I’m actually a little worried about this.

    I just can’t wrap my head around how I will get anything done except care for the twins once they are here. I remember the days when Miss O. was a newborn, and I know I functioned and managed to get through those months, but I don’t remember how!?!

  18. Mel Says:

    Hmmm…I never separate anything into separate domains. Everything is multitasking. So I’m cooking, but I’m also cleaning and reading a blog post and signing a permission form. When it’s going well, nothing falls through the cracks. But yes, when you work like this, things do tend to fall through the cracks or you always feel rushed.


  19. hahaha! I love the concept of domains, and I definitely, definitely feel you. I have never been a domestic goddess, and I’m perfectly fine with outsourcing absolutely every thing that doesn’t involve my career, my baby, my husband, or my friends. So I guess I can only handle three domains: career, family, friends — and that’s it.

    I used to feel guilty about — and worse make rather pathetic attempts at pulling off– the other stuff, but having a baby was a real game changer. It made me organize my time within and inch of its life and now I don’t give outsourcing cleaning, cooking, and laundry a second thought. And I find my life works better in this way — particularly with my MIL. She likes being completely “in charge” of her kitchen, and I love not having to cook. I’m finding that fully outsourcing and resisting the urge to micromanage has created happiness for both me and my loved ones.

    Oh, and I also stopped mulit-tasking. It’s difficult, but I find that I get more done if tackle one — and only one — thing at a time.


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