Tuesdays at The Variegated Life: a look at how I’m making this working-at-home-while-mothering thing work. Or how I’m trying to make it work, anyway …
Somewhat more than a year ago, Beckett and I hired a babysitter and went to a local bar for some beers and a meeting. The idea was to step back and take a look at what we were doing, see what was working and what wasn’t, and decide what adjustments to make to put our lives as partners, parents, artists, workers, and homemakers in better balance. We didn’t take any notes at that meeting, but I remember deciding that we needed to find a part-time spot for the Critter at a suitable day care, which we did, and a new studio for Beckett, which turned out to be impractical for the time being.
Recently, we decided to have these meetings more often, and so last week we hired a babysitter and headed back to the same local bar. On the agenda: time, money, space, and energy.
There are 168 hours in one week: how are we using those hours? Because we’ve settled into a familiar routine in the weeks since the Critter started going to a new school, Beckett and I didn’t have much to say about how we are using our time. Our routine is mostly working for us, and we’re both aware of what we’re struggling to fit in.
The less time I have to spend earning money, the more time I will have for the Critter, my writing, and sleep. Therefore, I want Beckett and me to find ways to spend less money.
I should probably explain why I see the need to earn less money as primarily benefiting me — after all, why shouldn’t Beckett also be relieved of some of the burden of supporting our household? There are several reasons: as a freelancer, I have more flexibility than he; I also earn somewhat more; and, in addition, I give many more hours each week to taking care of the Critter on my own.
If this area of our lives were better organized, we would be able to look at the data on how we are spending our money and see how we could spend less. But we don’t have the data. Therefore, at our meeting we discussed how we would could use our personal budgeting software more efficiently. Which really meant, of course, finding the few minutes each day to work on the data-gathering project — much easier said than done. Ten to fifteen minutes in the evenings, after the Critter has gone to bed, when we’re both exhausted ourselves, and I’m about to begin my last shift of paid work for the day? We’ll see how it goes.
Though much improved from what it was two years ago, our home is filthy and cluttered. And though Beckett does far more than I do to take care of it, I am far more unhappy than he about the state of our home. So, on the one hand, there’s the psychological toll of living in the midst of filth and clutter. But, on the other hand, do I really want to be scrounging up extra time to vacuum? Instead of, say, working on a poem or taking the Critter to the park?
Though I brought along a copy of Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook (who am I kidding?), we didn’t get too far in discussing any sort of routine housekeeping. I think I mentioned that I’d like us to have such a routine, but that was about it. What did happen, though, actually rather terrified me: Beckett came up with a plan for getting rid of the bulk of the clutter. And then, three days later, we did it. That alone made the entire meeting worthwhile.
So that we could better support each other in pursuing our artistic goals, we planned talk about those goals. But we didn’t have the energy to do justice to this part of our meeting. At our next meeting, I think we should begin by discussing our goals — and reflecting on our family life. After all, isn’t the purpose of getting the rest of it organized (time, money, space) so that we can bring more energy to what matters to us most?
The way that Beckett and I ran our meeting is hardly the only way to do it, and the questions we asked hardly the only ones. For example, instead of asking how we could spend less money, we could ask how we could earn money in ways that fit better with our other goals. A question for our next meeting, perhaps?
Here are a couple other ideas about how to hold partner — or family — meetings:
- At The Attached Family, Kelly Bartlett explains how to use family meetings.
- At Work. Life. Balance., Chrysula Winegar describes her Sunday Night Family Council.
Eventually, I’d like to include the Critter in some of our meetings. And it would be great to be able to meet every Sunday night. For now, though, I’m glad that Beckett and I met last week, and I hope to do so again in January. We’re certainly not going to wait another year or so for the next one!
Do you and your partner have regular meetings? How often do you meet? What do you talk about? Does someone take notes? I’d love to hear how other families are doing it….