In case you are new to the party, let me give you a little background information. I have a lot of children. Not a lot of children in a Duggar sense, but still, five kids tells you a little something about my sanity. Mostly that I have none.
Most women who have a lot of children are highly organized. They have a very impressive calendar system complete with charts and graphs. They may even have pie charts which are, in my opinion, the tastiest of all charts. They also keep their homes highly organized. There is a place for everything and everything in its place. Everything they touch comes into perfect order and they do it all with a sparkling smile on their faces.
I am not most women.
My organizational skills are minimal at best. Up until recently I kept my calendar in my head which resulted in my family missing out on all activities that didn’t involve food. For whatever odd reason, I am more likely to remember things that involve food. The closest I come to making pie charts is making pie, which nobody in my family is really complaining about, so at least I’ve got that going for me. My house is highly disorganized. Nothing has a place and the few things that do have a place, never seem to stay there. Everything I touch is a chaotic mess and I do it all with the grin of a lunatic on my face.
I am getting better, though.
One way that I have learned to actually get things done is to use the hat system. As a person who is not only organizationally impaired but also easily distracted (Oh! Is that chocolate?!) I realized that a big part of my problem was that I would start a task and then get distracted by another task. I would start making cookies for the bake sale but then remember that the dog needed to be fed. When feeding the dog I would notice that we were out of toilet paper, but on the way to add toilet paper to the grocery list I would see the library books that needed to be returned. This would continue for a while until suddenly I found myself standing in the living room with a scoop of dog food in one hand, a pencil in the other and an armload of books, wondering why the house smelled like burnt snickerdoodles.
It got to be a bit overwhelming.
The only thing I really seemed to do at a level I was satisfied with was parenting. My kids were relatively clean, smart, kind (most of the time),and pretty well balanced. How could I be doing this at a level that I was happy with but get absolutely nothing else done?
Then it hit me. The key was focus. When I was parenting I would be completely focused on my children. This is a good thing. The problem was that I never ever focused on anything else. Even when I was sleeping I wasn’t really sleeping. I was just preparing for someone to wake up at 2am in need of some comforting or water. When I thought about it, this explained why I was never getting anything done. It also explained why I was so exhausted.
This is when I decided to develop my hat system. There are no actual hats involved in the hat system, which is good because I have a ginormous square head and look terrible in hats. Instead the hats are figurative. I took a look at all of the jobs that I was expecting myself to do and sorted them into groups. I called these groups hats. When I was wearing my farmer hat, I didn’t let myself get distracted by the laundry. When I was wearing my chef hat, I didn’t let myself get distracted by anything that didn’t have to do with cooking.
Yes, I understand that this is probably a concept that most people master by age four. Some of us are special.
These are the hats that I chose for myself: Wife, Mother, Teacher, Farmer, Laundress, Chef, Chauffeur, Writer and Friend.
You might notice that housekeeper is missing from the list. This is not an oversight. I just decided to stick with my gifting. I am hoping that one of my kids suddenly acquires the gift of housekeeping. Just keep reading while I hold my breath in anticipation.
This actually started to go pretty well. I was getting things done. Every single person in the house actually had clean underwear at the same time and most meals were actually healthy.
Then things started to slip. I noticed that I was starting to feel a bit panicked most of the time and at the end of the day I couldn’t really list too many things that I had accomplished. Then, this morning, I found myself standing in the bunny barn, still in my pajamas, holding a half corrected history assignment in one hand and a pair of my son’s clean socks in the other. I was feeling hungry and confused and also on the verge of having an epiphany.
Wait a moment, I thought, what is going on? What was I doing? What hat am I wearing? I thought back and remembered that I had woken up with my hats lined up. I was going to fold a load of laundry, get the kids started on school work, do some farm chores, and then eat breakfast. Laundress, teacher, farmer, chef. How had I ended up here?
I’ll tell you how I ended up there.
I was sabotaged, that’s how. Somebody had taken my hats and scattered them everywhere.
Remember that part where I said that my children were all pretty smart? Yeah. Not just book smart. One of my children has been manipulating me for her entertainment. I think she had also been feeling like she wasn’t quite getting enough attention. Being a child, she doesn’t really have the skills to ask for the additional attention she needs so instead she decided to turn me into her own personal puppet. She is a master puppeteer, by the way.
Here is how my day started.
I woke up and figured out which hats I would be wearing for the next few hours. I went downstairs and started to fold some laundry. Then…
“Mom! I’m super confused by my history assignment and it’s just making me hate school!!! I need your help RIGHT NOW!!!!”
Obviously this was an emergency. The thought of one of my children hating education is enough to make me drop everything. Everything but one pair of socks, apparently. I grabbed the history assignment and started to focus on it. She offered to do some farm chores while I read it. I nodded absently. Thirty seconds later…
“MOM!! MOM!!! Three of the rabbits are missing! They are baby ones and I’m pretty sure SOMETHING ATE THEM!!”
I ran through the kitchen into the bunny barn were I stood confused for a second. The missing bunnies were just hiding in their little house. Everything was normal. Everything but the crazed lady in her pajamas with a pair of socks in one hand and a history assignment in the other. That lady was the opposite of normal.
That lady’s hats had been scattered all over the place and there was a grinning little girl standing in front of her. That lady handed the history assignment and the socks to her daughter, clenched her teeth, and said, in her super scary overly calm voice
“I am going to take a shower now while you finish this assignment. Then you will finish folding the clothes I started. I don’t really care what you do after that, but you WILL NOT interrupt me. I don’t care if the house is burning down, you will wait until I am out of the bathroom before telling me about any more emergencies.”
I then walked with glazed eyes back into the house and climbed into the shower because it is where I do all of my best thinking. I needed to find a non violent solution that would let me start wearing my hats again.
When my head cleared, I realized that this child has probably not been getting all of the attention that she needs. I decided to set aside a time, first thing in the morning where she can have my undivided attention and tell me all of the things she needs to tell me. This should create a calmer atmosphere in her world and allow me to wear my hats, in order, without scattering them all over the place.
It should also keep me out of the asylum.