Boundaries on time 2


A clock with a 24-hour dial.

I’m “just” home with the kids all day.

“Just.”

You may remember that I have 4 small kids, B”H, and they are all homeschooled. So that “just” encompasses a LOT of things. But I also need time to do things, like cooking, reading, and exercising. And being on call all the time is exhausting!

I’ve been asked how I manage it. Here is my answer:

First, I am ALWAYS on duty for emergencies and urgent issues. I’d think this is obvious, but just in case, I’m writing it out. :)

Second, I am ready and waiting for school questions, lessons, and help in the mornings. That’s the time that I set aside with my first priority being the kids’ work. Now if no one is around or interested in me working with them, then I have all sorts of things I can do, even if it’s watching the younger kids build a pillow fort. But if any of the kids has questions, is ready to work through a lesson, or needs help, that’s what I’m doing before lunch. I’m available and waiting then. (You may remember that we have the kids choose when to do their work for the week.)

After lunch, it’s a break from being actively “on call” for me. I put my baby down for a nap and then my older kids have free time. I’m always nearby, but this partial break is good for my sanity and my checklist. I likely have something to do, and one of the kids may choose to do some work then and want my help. And if it’s convenient, I may help right away. But if I’m busy working on something, I will tell them to do something else until I’m available. My priority is a little different after lunch.

And then I’m definitely engaged with them from dinner until they go to bed – as all parents know, that routine takes a while. ;)

Some afternoons we do crafts or other things together. Some mornings, too. Or field trips, or library trips, or something else fun.

But for regular days – most days- that’s the schedule. It’s an artificial separation of time. And sometimes it’s inconvenient for them, and sometimes for me.

So why do I bother?

It boils down to two separate lessons for everyone – that does include me!:

  1. Manage time wisely. The kids learn that I’m readily available in the morning, and that they may have to wait other times. They tend to get things that they need me for done in the morning. They can schedule their work to make use of that time. But if they don’t, they have to work it out somehow. We might make an appointment for a little later, or a lot later, or decide to wait until tomorrow. But I can’t drop everything all the time to be available on a whim, and they need to know that. How does the saying go? “Your failure to plan isn’t my emergency,” or something like that.
  2. Respect other people’s time (You mean the world doesn’t revolve around the kids?! My time is valuable, too?) The kids know that I have other things to do and that sometimes I’m not immediately available for them. And I get a bit of a break and the time to do the household tasks and other things I need to accomplish.

I’ve set up boundaries that are flexible, but that work for us.

How could this be applied in other ways?

  • Maybe you’re only available to sit and help with/check homework at a certain time, or by a certain time. I know that this can kind of get away from parents sometimes, but maybe a limit would make it better.
  • Maybe you can drive only certain times, or do something else that is difficult or troublesome for you only within boundaries that maximize the benefits for both sides of the issue.

Boundaries can be hard to set, but feeling like a doormat who can’t get anything done is harder!

Do you set any boundaries in your house or on your time? How does it work for you?


About Amital

A die-hard listmaker and observant Jewish mommy of 5, managing the challenges of life bit by bit with the help of a Shalom Bayit book and lists. And chocolate, of course. Lots of chocolate.


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