how to make your kid-free time more productive

Most mothers I know are deeply in awe of any mother who gets anything done, ever,  besides raising her kids. I feel incredibly inferior to the friend I ran into at dropoff this morning, a mother of two young boys who ran her third New York City marathon two days ago. She was at school this morning, smiling, and, like, WALKING, and I just couldn’t believe it.
Whenever a mother asks me how I managed to write a book (and even blog once in a while) with three kids underfoot, I’m always happy they’re impressed, but I’m also determined to explain how productivity is possible for mothers, and GOOD for us. I believe it’s even good for our kids when we have something else that matters enough to us that we carve time out for it– because we’re happier mommies when we do.  Here’s the secret, whether it’s marathoning or writing: find that block of kid-free time, a stolen hour, a Friday afternoon babysitter, and make a date with whatever your passion is in the datebook for that time. Put your head down. Let nothing distract you.
And ay, there’s the rub, for any mother: our lives are full of adorable distractions. So for me, the only way I get any writing done at all is to LEAVE THE HOUSE. If I’m home, even if the kids aren’t around, I putter with the laundry and the dishwasher and the permission slips and oh my goodness, time for pickup. Days like that always make me cranky. I feel unaccomplished, and at loose ends, and unproductive.
Days like this make me feel very happy indeed:
I’m writing this post outside, at this outdoor coffee shop near my kids’ school. Is there anything better than a seventy-degree November day? Yes: free wireless and a grande decaf.
Even better: once I finish this post, I’ll log onto Freedom, the program that prevents you from accessing the internet for however long you specify. I quite literally could not have written my book without it. Motherese has a great essay about Freedom on Blogher this week; read it and become a believer. (This is not a sponsored post; I just feel that strongly about this $10 software.)
For me, leaving my apartment is my own, larger version of Freedom. There’s nothing on this table but my coffee and my laptop. Might as well get some sh*t done.
Okay, I’ll do one more thing online before logging off: I’m going to submit this photo to Microsoft’s “Out of Office” Office Photo Contest.  Submit a photo of yourself in your favorite “out of office” workspace, using your favorite technology (smartphones count).  Entries with the most votes can win a Samsung notebook, two-year Verizon Wi-Fi personal hotspot, or a  Nikon D3000 Digital SLR camera. Sounds like a great deal to me.

Get out of the house on this beautiful fall day. Do something that you love. Tell me what it was!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Bagley November 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Amy, you are so right!  When Kate’s not around, I can move much faster and more efficiently.  My problem is – GUILT!  I feel bad about using my kid-free time for my own pursuits.  Even though I know it’s good for me (and for her!) to have some space to do my own, non-mommy thing.  I would love to hear your take on that.

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Stephanie Precourt November 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Oh love it! Well, we got out and voted. I let Ivy splash in the rain puddles in the parking lot. Now we’re home but anyway. Also, I had never heard of Freedom before!

Steph

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Kristen @ Motherese November 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Amen!  It took me a long time to really believe these words, but now I know without a doubt that I am a better mother to my kids when I take time to pursue my own passions.  Right now that means sitting on my porch in the November sunshine with a giant Diet Coke and my laptop while my kids nap.

And Freedom is absolutely the bee’s knees.  I’m done judging myself for paying $10 to combat my Internet surfing addiction and am so glad to have found a way to sanctify my writing time.

Thanks so much for the mention in your post!

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