Two weeks of not-walking husband has left me with the responsibility of a single parent. This shouldn’t be something new, because for a year we practically lived apart between Paris and Utrecht – my husband in Paris and me and kids here at home. But I guess one sick man makes a great difference. I’ve been trying to do my best, but still there are so many things falling behind the schedules.
Our laundry is now a great misery. It’s either everything is dirty or everything is clean but not yet folded. My dear husband told me, ‘just fold the important ones first.’ Yeah yeah, looking for the important ones is already a dreadful task for me. I’d rather fold everything at once and get it done.
But ‘done’ never happens. Before I even got the chance to touch one batch, there were more dry clothes coming. Basically all the clothes we possess are now outside the wardrobes! We’re absolutely hopeless.
I kept thinking that I will do it when I have enough time. You know, like 2 0r 3 hours free so I can start ironing and folding. But 2 hours of free time never comes. Between the hectic morning and taking the kids to school and picking them up again, and then we go for dinner and bring them to bed, I was never able to make 2 hours of time.
Desperate, I tried to negotiate with myself. Let’s do it in 15 minutes. Whatever you can do in that 15 minutes, let’s live with that. It’s too short to do all these things but at least it’s something. Much better than nothing at all. And so I started…
I often postpone many things and get crazy after that just because I want to make an unrealistic time slot for that. If I had one hour of free time, I would walk. If I had one hour, I would write. But then I watched the clock and I realized I didn’t have that long, I dropped them all at once. And then went to bed having nightmares because I haven’t done this, this, and that.
Dividing tasks into little chunks is much easier than doing them all at once. Chunking gives us the ability to grasp the task, because it’s smaller. Just like we can’t put a whole loaf of bread into our mouth and eat it, we need to slice it into smaller pieces – smaller pieces that we can handle.
Chunking gives us the feeling of hope because we know this small portion is doable. When I was young I didn’t like to have my board filled with food. The minute I saw how much I had to eat (my mother decided what was the good portion I needed as a child), that same minute I felt overwhelmed and thought I would never survive the dinner. When I grew up and was a little bit older, I had another smaller board in front of me. I put several spoons of rice on the smaller board and ate, when it was finished I added several spoons more from my bord, and on and on until I finished all. Seeing that I ‘didn’t’ have to finish everything at once gave me hope and willpower to actually finish the meal.
Chunking gives us the power to manage our time. Being a housewife requires me to do so many little things in one day. It’s different from sitting in front of my computer doing a drawing from morning until late afternoon, back in the days of office life. Now, everytime I land my eyes on any corner of the room, I will see something has to be done. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, in a never ending cycle of my everyday life. When I do the chunking, I feel like I’m able to do more things compared to if I do one or two things the whole morning.
Of course chunking house chores means nothing gets really done. Yeah but house chores are never done! Even if I finish all the dirty dishes now, I will have another batch of dirty plates in another 3 hours. By the time I finish cleaning the living room, my daughter has started another mess in the other room of the house. So by chunking my tasks into smaller bits, I manage to touch more things within the short and odd hours in my day.
No, it’s not perfect. And no it’s not satisfying. I often wished I had more time so I can just finish my walk and call it a day. But sometimes after all the chores, there’s only 20 minutes left for me to take a walk before I had to fetch the kids. If I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t do any sport at all today. It will be less than half of my daily target. I wish I had more time! But I didn’t. So at the end I put on my shoes and went out of the house. Even when it’s only 15 minutes, at least I walked.
Chunking allows me to write everyday. Instead of fooling myself about this one ideal time to write – a time long enough, a room empty enough, a mind full enough with ideas… I force myself to admit such time to write is almost too non-existent. If I don’t chunk, I would never start to write.
Chunking makes me hate myself less. At the end of the day I would be able to tick off a few things out of my mental list and this makes it easier for me to sleep. I know those things are not perfectly done, but I know I make progress.
“Little by little, a little becomes a lot”. It’s not much. But it’s OK.