Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Be A Stay-At-Home-Dad: Step 3

Get Organized!

Fatherhood Friday at Dad BlogsGuys, I don't know about you, but when it comes to household management, I was never very intentional or organized about it as a young man.  In college we didn't clean anything until the smell became unbearable or our female friends and acquaintances stopped visiting.  After college, I only vacuumed and dusted to keep my roommate/landlord just happy enough not to throw me and my dog out on our asses.  Even when my spouse an I moved in together, I was not what one would call "pro-active" about my responsibilities around the apartment. (I vacuumed and mopped pretty regularly, but you absolutely must do that when you, the love of your life and your English bulldog are living, sleeping, and eating all in the same room.)  When you are a SAHD, however, there is no question: you must have a system.  This system must incorporate every responsibility you and your partner decide is yours.  Whatever system you use must be effective.

It took me way too long to learn this.  During the first 5 months of our daughter's life, I should have been practicing.  My spouse and I were both at home while she was studying and there was time to figure it out.  But, being the knuckle-head that I am, I didn't realize how much more difficult it was going to be once my spouse was going to work every day and I was basically stuck at home with an infant, a bulldog, and a lot to get done one way or another.

So I started with a list.  "Things to do EVERY DAY."  It included stuff like, "empty the diaper pail," "walk the dog," and "feed the baby."  Was it a little ridiculous?  Of course.  But I kept adding to it as I discovered there were other things I had to do as the homemaker.  "Make dinner," "do one load of laundry," and "vacuum" for example.  There was a problem, though.  The list was never quite right.  Some of the things on the list actually didn't need to be done every day.  Other things needed to be done more frequently.  My self-made system wasn't very flexible.  I had even listed tasks according to when I should do them each day.  The inflexibility in my system drove me nuts.  But I stuck with it until recently.

I should say, that when you are organized, and you get everything done that you were supposed to do life is good.  You feel great about yourself.  Your partner feels great about you.  You can look everyone in the eye with confidence and self-respect because you know you are awesome.  When you abandon organization; when you miss something or forget something, even something as simple as picking up the dry-cleaning so your partner has her/his favorite shirt for the meeting on Tuesday, you feel miserable.  You start doubting yourself as a father and as a partner.  That doubt infects your relationships with your partner and your children.  Simply put: it's not good.

I recently posted about the Get-it-done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More.  This is the system I use these days (more or less).  It has helped a lot.  It is flexible, realistic, and purpose-driven.  The application of "productivity tools" from a business perspective into my "job" as a SAHD has been a real help. 

If you are going to be a SAHD, you need to start getting organized now.  Don't leave it until you are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless responsibilities of being the primary care-giver for one or more children.  Get it under control now, and learn to leave room for things to go crazy if they need to.  Learn to be organized enough that you can deal with the unexpected when it happens.

So what do you think?  Do you use a system to stay organized?  Are you naturally organized?  Or are you someone who is more laid back about what gets done and when?  Are there any good books or podcasts about personal organization you might recommend?  Let's help each other out and share whatever tips we have for what works for us.  

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