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Thursday, 13 September 2012

How I Survive, Really: Grand Larceny

It's a trick my mother taught me. You "steal" resources from one area of your life in order to fill a gap in another. Colloquially, it's called "robbing Peter to pay Paul." Not wise to apply it to finances, but certainly very useful when it comes to domestic life.

For my mother --a single mother with a demanding full-time job and some severely limiting physical disabilities-- "robbing Peter" meant that on a weekly rotation she consciously neglected one area of her life: job, house or kid. Obviously her "neglect" of any of these responsibilities was a matter of degree. She still had work that needed to get done; somebody had to do laundry and grocery shop; and she was always a caring mother.

But on a week-by-week basis, something had to give. So, one week, she wasn't quite on top of her administrative paperwork. Another week, that leaky faucet kept leaking a little longer. And the next week, we skipped our usual after-dinner badminton games in the back yard.

Basically, my mother accepted the fact that she couldn't give 100% to everything all the time.

It's an example of "realistic mummying" that I did not fully comprehend until I, myself, became a mummy. Now, I try to keep my mother's practical approach in mind, like when we choose goofing off as a family instead of crossing jobs off the to-do list, or not going bike riding for once so I can finally vacuum up the heaps of pet fur.

And I try to cut myself a bit of slack about these choices and to feel okay about being a bit less than universally optimal (like when I completely forgot about not one, not two, but THREE appointments this week!). I guess somedays that's easier than others. :)

How about you? How do you walk the tightrope?


  1. i divide my "administrative paperwork" into three categories: one to do after the first reminder, another to do after the second reminder, and another that goes straight to the recycling bin.

    a colleague who is renowned for his efficiency has this approach: upon receiving an email, he decides whether he could solve the problem in 15 minutes (which he then does straightaway) and deletes the email if the answer is negative.

    of course this only applies to "administrative paperwork", not to personal relationships -- can your long-suffering partner hear my very (!!) belated birthday wishes?

    1. You're not the only one to wish him a belated happy birthday. Can you believe that with all the busyness, we still have not done a full-on birthday celebration for him??


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