What I Learned From Tracking My Time For A Week

This post has been a couple of days in the making- primarily because I am sick, but also because I really needed to read over my week’s worth of tracking posts a couple of times to make sure my own impressions are correct.

Before I get into what I learned, let me start by saying that this was a pretty typical week.  I had the entire weekend off, which is a bit unusual, but aside from that, it was pretty average.  I do work primarily night shifts.  The amount of sleep I got was pretty average.  The way I spent my time was pretty average.  My levels of happiness/gratitude/frustration/exasperation and anger were all pretty average.

So, in no particular order, for better or worse, here’s what I learned from tracking how I spend my time for a week.

  1. I’m getting by reasonably well, all things considered.  My life does seem to be a bit hurried, but nobody died, and nothing serious was forgotten.  Somehow, I am managing to keep my shit together, and keep things moving forward, even when I’m overwhelmed and overtired.
  2. Night shifts are killing me.  I’m not exaggerating here.  I drive home from work on a very busy highway so exhausted that I feel like I’m drunk.  It’s actually a little bit scary.  One of these days, my luck is going to run out, and I’m going to get in an accident.  This has been a concern of mine for a while.  Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can do about this, other than getting a job with better hours- something I have been trying to do for YEARS.
  3. Even when I’m not on nights, I’m tired.  A LOT.  Now this week was particularly bad for fatigue, probably because I have been fighting this bug (that has now taken me DOWN- can’t seem to get off the couch), but feeling tired all the time is definitely the norm for me.  I am working on this- my doctor has prescribed iron supplements (my ferratin is on the very low end of normal), and high dose vitamin D.  And with respect to the hot flashes- I started transdermal estrogen last week.  Not sure if it’s helping yet, because I haven’t been able to sleep these last two nights due to fever, headache, sore throat and coughing, but I am very hopeful.
  4. I probably don’t delegate enough of the day to day stuff to hubby.  My husband is wonderful, and he deals with a lot of crap that I just don’t want to- like the tree guy, and shoveling snow, and mowing the lawn and so on.  But I do tend to take on ALL the day to day stuff myself, and it probably isn’t necessary.  I think I keep hoping that he will just SEE when bills need to be paid, or laundry needs to be put away, but he often just doesn’t notice this stuff.  Rather than getting frustrated about these issues, I really need to just start asking for help when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  I honestly don’t know why I don’t.
  5. I don’t cope very well when things aren’t going according to plan.  I feel like I’m stretched pretty thin most days, and when something unexpected happens to throw me off course, I lose it.  Sometimes I cry, sometimes I get angry, but however I’m feeling, it’s not overly productive, and I waste a lot of time dealing with emotional crap rather than finding solutions.  I need to learn to take a deep breath and chill.  The world isn’t going to end because I run a little bit late now and then.
  6. Guilt rules my life.  I mentioned feeling guilty several times this week, about a wide variety of things- not being more patient with my daughter, eating crappy food, spending money on eating out, and so on.  The thing is, for every time I mentioned it this week, I probably felt it another ten times.  As a shift working mom and wife, it’s hard not to feel guilty- I feel like my work schedule doesn’t just dictate my life- it dictates theirs, too.  But feeling guilty is not serving me very well, and I need to find some way to let it go.
  7. I love to work out and stay fit, but it makes me tired.  Staying fit is very important to me- not only for the physical benefits, but for the mental ones, too.  I have suffered from severe depression for most of my life, and physical fitness is an important part of my battle against it.  But these days, every workout seems to result in me needing a two hour nap, and when I don’t get it (I never do), I don’t cope well with anything else.  Maybe I need to ease lower my expectations for the duration or intensity of my workouts while I’m getting my iron and vitamin D levels back up, and sorting out the hot flashes.  Once I’m sleeping better, I can ramp up my workout schedule again.
  8. I may need to emphasize sleep a little bit more for a while.  At least once in a while, I think I need to go to bed at the same time as my daughter.  I know you can’t really ‘catch up’ on sleep, but I think getting an adequate amount of sleep once in a while- even if it’s a bit broken by hot flashes- might help hit the reset button, and make me able to cope with the insanity a little bit better for a few days.  More on this to come.
  9. I don’t emphasize my friendships enough.  Aside from chatting with my friend at the door when she came to pick up her son from our house after a playdate, I didn’t even touch base with a single friend this week.  I am an introvert, and thrive on my alone time, but this is unacceptable.  I need to make more of an effort to stay in touch with friends.  Having a support system is important when life is stressful.
  10. I don’t laugh much.  I think I mentioned laughing, or finding something funny, twice all week.  And sadly, this is pretty standard.  Hubby loves to hear me laugh, and I just don’t do it much anymore.  My mind is always on a million things, and making time for levity almost seems wasteful… but I know in my head that it’s not.  I need to figure out a way to lighten up a bit.
  11. Hubby and I don’t get much alone time together.  This saddens me.  All week long, we enjoyed only about five hours together without A (not including sleeping time, of course).  And we didn’t exactly spend many of those five hours connecting and talking and enjoying each other’s company- we spent four of those hours watching TV.  Now, we do have our TV shows that we LOVE to watch, and I don’t want to give that up, but we really need to focus more on keeping our marriage alive.
  12. On the positive side, I do feel a great deal of gratitude for the good stuff.  I do often feel frustrated and rushed and exhausted, but somehow, I do still manage to find joy in a beautiful spring morning, the cute things A. does, or a good meal.  I do appreciate what my husband does for me.  I do notice the good stuff, but I think I could do a better job of focusing on it, rather than being dragged down so much by the challenges we face.
  13. This is very hard to admit, but these days, A. is often a source of frustration rather than a source of joy.  I really do feel like an awful parent sometimes.  I am impatient and yell alot.  The thing is, I know I’m doing it, and there’s always a little voice in my head reminding me to be careful… to think before I speak, and not squash her spirit.  She’s a wonderfully imaginitive kid.  She’s challenging, but she’s also smart, caring, curious, sweet and kind.  And I am terrified every, single day that I am going to drive that right out of her.  But somehow, in my perpetually fatigued state, I just can’t seem to bust out of the cycle.  Fixing this is a very high priority, but I think that this is probably the end result of all the other stuff that I’m dealing with.  I’ve been telling hubby for a while that something’s gotta give soon, and this exercise has shown me that it’s true- this pace can’t last forever.

I think I got everything… what do you think?  Did anyone else notice any patterns that I missed?  Any suggestions?  Please go easy on me- it’s not easy to put your life on display like this, but I truly do want things to get better, and I am open to suggestions.  I really don’t have a lot of solutions at the moment, but this exercise definitely made me more aware of the problems.

Have a great day, everybody!

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17 comments
  1. I found these posts really interesting, and I agree that you are holding down the fort rather well, especially given the craziness of shift work and the stress of your job. That said, it’s also obvious from your posts that you don’t feel like you’re under control and that you feel like you’re running from one thing to the next, which suggests that even though you’re functioning, it would definitely be a good idea to try to streamline a few things.

    I agree with a lot of what has been already said, especially sleep. I like the idea of prioritizing day sleep when you are on nights and looking into some after-school care for A. to buy you some extra time.

    For food, I have a couple of ideas. Q. and I (before E. was born) used to plan a weekly dinner out/takeaway night. Putting it on the menu (we always meal plan for the week) meant that on other nights when we were exhausted we still stuck to our plan because we knew we had the night out coming. This wasn’t a great choice financially, and we don’t do it now for that reason, but it could be an option even just for a month or so while you are getting other areas more under control.

    Two other things we do are we have a few weeks’ worth of “busy week menus” that are on the computer with matching shopping lists, so if we’re too tired and out of control to meal plan we just grab one and then cross off the shopping list anything we already have. We have been meaning to do this for months but only just did it recently and it is a life saver. The second thing is we have a couple of really fast emergency meals (like tuna pasta) that can be made in 20 minutes with ingredients that we always, always have in the house. (The tuna pasta is canned tuna, penne, some sort of leafy green like spinach or rocket, lemon zest and juice, a dried chili, and garlic.) I am so exhausted and emotionally drained right now that cooking defeats me, but even I can manage tuna pasta. It’s a good option because it doesn’t rely on us having things in the freezer and we don’t have to wait for something to defrost. So if things run late, or we have a terrible day, we can adjust the menu easily.

    I also think you are right to want to delegate more to DH, but you will have to watch yourself that you don’t act as a gatekeeper (which you are currently doing by checking A’s lunch in the morning). This is SO HARD for me too, but I have learned that I just have to step back and let Q. do things his way, and he has now finally stopped checking with me about everything that goes in E’s lunch and he just talks to E. instead. I have also found that some things Q. sees and recognizes they need doing (emptying garbage cans, etc.) but other things he will never think of and I have to either ask him or accept that I will do it myself.

    I would also embrace caring less about A’s lunch. We have struggled so much with E. this year with him not eating at school and we’ve cut down significantly how much we send with him. And yes, he eats a cheese quesadilla probably four days out of five, but he loves them, they’re not unhealthy, and he will eat them. And his parents are creatures of routine too, so I respect his desire for predictability. I also no longer read any blogs that feature bento boxes and mothers with too much time on their hands…

    Lastly, I wonder if you could try an earlier bedtime for A. I’m not saying she has to go to sleep at that time, but could you get her in bed 30 minutes (eventually an hour) before lights out and she could read or play a quiet game (no technology) and then you’d be back at lights out for a final kiss and snuggle? That would a) give you some more free time for you or b) give you some more alone time with hubby, and might also help with the frustration and quality/quantity issue with time with A. This was something my parents did with the three of us, and it’s something we intend to do once E. is old enough to stay up past his current 7:30 bedtime, because I would lose my mind if he was up with us until 9 p.m.- I need alone time!

    Total assvice, I know, but maybe some of it will be helpful.

    You are doing a great job, hun, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Hang in there!
    xoxo

    • Thanks Turia. I love the idea of the earlier bed time for A, but it would never fly. She is just such an extroverted kid, time alone in her bedroom is torture for her. We could certainly try it, but knowing her as I do, I can imagine that she would constantly be coming out, asking for this, that, and the other thing, and pouting that she’s lonely, or nobody will play with her. Sigh… hubby and I are both introverts, so I think she inherited this tendency from my mother. The world is an easier place for extoverts, so I don’t view it as a bad thing, but it’s tough for someone like me to know how to parent one!

      A. eats pretty much the same lunch every day as well. There used to be more variety, but I found the same items would always come home in the afternoon, so I just started packing what I know she will eat. As obsessed as I am about nutrition, though, it’s really tough for me to let go of the idea of making sure all her meals are balanced. I am trying though. 🙂

  2. if she’s more extroverted than you to start with, and more energetic than you because you’re so fatigued and stressed, then the suggestion to get her into an after school activity of some sort so you can sleep more would be a win on all sides, it sounds like. If you have the cash to make that happen at all, it would probably be worth it for both of you (all three of you, really – your husband has to feel the strain too)

    • After school care is VERY cheap at her school. I had just never really considered using it, since I am home. But you’re absolutely right- it might be worth it to put her in to the program a couple of evenings a week so I can sleep longer. Thank you for the suggestion!

  3. The low iron/vitamin D thing sounds VERY familiar. I was rock bottom on both a year or so back, and I was exhausted all the time. I think it was about a month or so after supplementing that I started to feel human again, so don’t give up hope if you don’t get results right away. Also, do you know the trick of taking Vitamin C at the same time as the iron, to increase the absorption?

    Oh, and kudos to you for doing this experiment! I don’t think I would’ve made it past day two before forgetting to keep a record. Hope you feel better soon!

  4. The thing I noticed most is kind of a corollary on the guilt thing: the only time you really allow yourself to take time for you… it’s to work out. The rest of the time you are trying to catch up and schedule fun things for everyone and clean up and cook, etc. I probably noticed this because I have let a lot of that stuff slide over the past few months, I’ll be honest. You just can’t do it all. But I think you are not just sleep deprived, but also stretched thin. It’s probably about delegating more to your husband, yes, but I think it’s letting go and prioritizing yourself, too. Like a bath, or early bed (that can be a luxury!) or a coffee shop pastry – without guilt.
    You don’t need to “earn” your joy, I promise!

    I do love that you are doing this, too. What a great way to really see the themes going on in a given week.

    • Thanks Karen- you are right, the only time I take for myself is to work out. And guess what? If it’s a weekend, I feel guilty about that, too! It’s not healthy, and I know it needs to change. Letting things slide is not something I am good at, particularly with my history of anxiety and depression. I need a tidy, quiet environment to relax in if I want to stay mentally healthy. Perhaps I can prioritize this in one or two rooms in the house, and learn to let go a bit in others in order to allow me a little more time for me?

      I am going to keep repeating to myself that I don’t need to earn my joy. I love a good mantra. Thank you!

  5. I don’t have any additional observations for you but I did just want to say I admire your commitment to this process. It takes a lot to be as honestly introspective as you have been.

  6. If I had known about the sleep thing I would have said to definitely take the other job opportunity. In fact, could you hurry the end of night work by dropping part time at all (closer to retirement) and then working longer? Sleep is so precious.

  7. Hi! I’ve been reading for a bit but haven’t commented before though I really enjoy your blog!

    To echo some of the other commenters – I’m super impressed with how you are managing everything! Especially with the night shifts and sleep challenges, and I’m so glad you did mention this in your run down up top!

    My only thought was to echo Ana on the food. Reading a few of those moments where you realized you were super hungry and didn’t know what to eat reminded me of too many of my own hangry/frustrated moments.
    Eating healthy home cooked food is awesome, but maybe worth giving yourself a break at the moment. Aside from meal planning/making things in advance etc, for me always keeping a few things in the house that we can make in 10 minutes and feel satisfied is totally key.
    In our case: veggie burgers and buns, indian packets, pasta and sauce. Throw on whatever veggies are in the fridge. Not the same as a made from scratch meal, but for us there are usually at least 2 nights a week were it just needs to be super simple. Maybe you wouldn’t feel the same guilt as with takeout – though that’s also totally fine 🙂

    Thanks for sharing… and hope the vitamin d/iron/estrogen help with the fatigue!

    • Thanks Canuck!

      For a while there, I was keeping crockpot freezer meals ready made in the freezer, which really helped with those crazy days. But I’ve gotten behind on that, and I think I need to get back to it. I always know in advance when our day is going to be particularly hectic, so it would be great on those days to be able to drop something in the crockpot in the morning, and have a great meal ready in the evening, with very little effort. We do often have pasta sauce and leftover soup in the freezer, but I’ve gotten behind on those things as well. It’s definitely worth the effort to do a bunch of prep work on my days off.

      Thank you for the feedback! And for the first comment… I love comments! 🙂

  8. Those are some really great observations! The one thing I noticed is that you really don’t protect your time for daytime sleep before/after your night shifts. I know you are working on saving $, but have you considered having someone pick A up from school on the days before your shifts so you can have an hour more of sleep (or even better, take her to an activity so you can have 2 hours of sleep!)—maybe trade off with one of her friends and make it a playdate?
    I think you CAN make up sleep—its not the best, but its better than nothing. YOu can’t “save up” sleep, but you can definitely reset when you’re at a deficit. Sometimes I get really lucky when I’m really exhausted after nights of poor sleep and have a night where I fall asleep before the kids do, and the next morning I feel amazing (and then it begins again).
    Also, you shouldn’t be making lunches when you come home from a 12 hour shift at 7 AM! Why doesn’t your husband do it the night before, while you are at work? Make him a list of what to make if he thinks he can’t do it (I’ve had to do this, many times, he’s got it now)
    I think having more sleep and having some time away from A might help with being more patient. I am finally starting to realize that quantity is not quality for me and my kids…having breaks, especially from the high-stress parts of the morning/evening routine, make me a better mother (yes, there is guilt involved here…)
    I agree, if your workouts are exhausting you, you need to back down or change it up. Exercise should be energizing. This is one reason I stopped doing long runs—I would be so exhausted and sort of useless afterwards! I’m sure not sleeping (and the anemia/vitamin deficiency) are part of the exhaustion, and hopefully it will improve when those are treated. Maybe try some gentle exercise that you can double with A time (again to free up more time to sleep/relax while she is at school)—like chasing her at the park, going for walks, taking her swimming, or doing yoga with an online class at home while she plays/watches tv.
    One more thing! I know you love to cook, but maybe you can simplify your dinners on the nights before shifts, and prep things ahead of time on the weekends or days off, so you can just throw something together in 15-20 minutes & conserve your pre-work energy. 12 hour shifts where you are on your feet the whole time are NO JOKE and I was a much younger woman when I last did that on a regular basis. You really need to respect that, and protect your energy/sleep.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with everything you are saying here. Absolutely. I think trading off pick ups from school with a friend is a great suggestion. Even an extra hour of sleep would make a difference to my energy levels.

      In defence of my husband- he does make her lunch when I’m on nights… but he occasionally forgets stuff, so I have always felt obligated to check it before sending her off to school. The thing is, I think I’m putting pressure on myself for her to have a perfectly balanced lunch with all the food groups represented, when really- who cares if she’s missing a serving of fruit? Maybe I need to just let go of the perfection, and let hubby do his thing without feeling the need to check up on him.

      I also really appreciate the comment that quantity is not quality when it comes to spending time with A. I need to keep that in mind when the guilty takes over every time I feel like I’m pawning her off on someone for my own personal needs. And yes, I do feel that way sometimes.

      Thanks for all the feedback Ana! I really do appreciate it.

  9. From what I’ve read, I think you’re doing really well given the interrupted sleep & night shifts. As much as it sucks, it’s probably worth priortising sleep over everything for a couple of weeks to see if it helps get on an even keel – especially with A. I know my ability to be good humoured with my spirited child is ALOT better when I’m well rested. And when I’m not – well, I yell. A lot.

    • A. is very spirited, and does test my patience a LOT. I think it’s even worse because our personalities are so different- it’s incredibly hard for me to be fun mommy when I’m running on empty, and A. is an extroverted kid with a ton of energy to burn. I definitely need to prioritize sleep above all else for a while- especially while my iron and Vitamin D are low. More to come on this plan…

      Thanks so much for the feedback! It really is helpful.

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