When I teach Economics, I often begin by discussing how the subject is the study of how people make decisions in the face of scarcity. I then go on to discuss what kinds of things are “scarce” in our lives. We begin with things like money, but eventually progress to the idea that the ultimate in scarce goods is “time.” This constraint is made all the more severe by the fact that we never know how much of it we really have. I was reminded of this when I read a blog posting recently about an academic who scheduled his life down to the minute.
As I read it, I got the same feeling I had a few weeks ago when someone at a family gathering spelled out in detail the times and places her children needed to be in the next week. Her children had just entered middle school, and the job of being “mom’s taxi” was new to her. With all due respect to that fellow mom, and to the author of that blog linked on Inside Higher Ed, I want to add a few more things that are not mentioned in post about scheduling, but which I assume the author participates in, to some degree. These are additional things that all parents need to consider as we go through our day.
We need to make time to assure that our children are clean, as are their clothes, adding about one scheduled hour a week, more if their dirty clothes need extra attention. Add another twenty to thirty minutes to your schedule if you need to set some boundaries about appropriate attire before they leave the house. And as far as leaving the house, we may well be responsible for making that happen. Add at least an hour a week if you need to drive them to school or activities.
We need time to help our children with homework. Add at least fifteen minutes to get one’s brain into focus on topics that you may have forgotten years ago. Sometimes this help includes looking things up on the web, which has its own way of eating up time. Yes, it is usually the case that a teenager can find information on the web faster than us faculty members.
We need time to buy and prepare food, lest our families go hungry. Time for shopping should be added, at least one hour a week, depending on how organized one is. And then, when the food is home, it needs to be prepared, adding at least ½ hour a day, on good days. This, however, is a task that can be “outsourced” to a spouse and children who can cook, so the amount of time spent on it each day may vary.
We need to clean the house, once in a while, or our children will be embarrassed to have friends visit. To do this, add a few hours each week. And we need to shop for clothes and other necessities required by the family, adding a few hours every few weeks, time that many (but not me) may consider to be “leisure.”
And, thinking of my relative at that recent family gathering, we need to bring our children and family to and from events. Some of this travel is interrupted with events at which parents are welcome, such as athletic games, where parents can stay and cheer (but, please remember, don’t cheer too loudly.)
And, finally, time must be spent eating with our families. While this is not always possible in our over-scheduled lives, research has shown that children in families that share a meal are healthier and do better in school and in life than those who do not. And so, amidst the shuffle among school and sports and activities, we try to find a few hours a week to sit down together and share a meal with each other. This is, after all, what I longed for so desperately in the years while we were waiting for my daughter to come home.
What additional duties would you add to the schedule of how you fill your week?
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