Everyone is busy and everyone has trouble keeping up. While I don’t claim any special level of industriousness for myself, I can say that, in the phrase people often use, I have a lot on my plate.
I’m divorced, and I live in Israel, where I have no family, other than my children, to help me out with life’s occasional emergencies. My sons are 16 and 12, and my older boy was diagnosed with autism (PDD/NOS) at age 3. He goes to a number of afterschool therapy appointments every week and sometimes I fill in for his aide at school during the day. My younger son has his own afterschool activities, some of which he cannot get to on his own. I work as the movie critic for the Jerusalem Post, reviewing films, covering the Israeli movie industry, and interviewing Israeli and foreign filmmakers.
I’ve also written a novel, If I Could Tell You, about four mothers raising children with autism in New York. It was just published in the US, and I am involved with a lot of online promotion. I’m about 150 pages into my next novel, and I contributed two stories to the anthology Israel Short Stories, published by Ang.-Lit press. I have part-time jobs teaching at NYU’s Tel Aviv campus, in the software industry here, and as a freelance editor. Without all these jobs, I couldn’t pay the bills.
I also aim to have some semblance of a social life, which is especially important when you live far from your family. And it’s not easy. But here are a few things I do to make it easier.
1. Speed reading. Of course I read the newspaper, but I don’t read it cover-to-cover. I glance through the news headlines and read arts stories that relate to my work. I never read editorials or op-ed pieces. Years ago, I had a job where I edited such pieces and developed an aversion to them. They tend to be quite repetitive. If anyone has any great, world-changing ideas, I’ll find out about them, because they’ll move from the editorial page to the news headlines.
2. Consolidate errands. This may sound basic, but I’m surprised at how few people do it. If I go to a shopping center, I pick a place where I can do at least three errands at once. I may go to a store that is not a rock-bottom discount place, if going there allows me to get a few other chores done, without driving and parking again. Time may not always be money, but it does have value.
3. Multi-task. If I have to chat with education bureaucrats or other people who love to blather on, I always have my computer on and do something else in the meanwhile, such as deleting spam and answering email. Never get stuck talking to a bureaucrat when your computer is not nearby.
4. I delegate. Everyone does, but I delegate a lot of “mom” tasks that many people feel they must do on their own. Obviously, I could not do what I do without a great babysitter. I hate grocery shopping, and the online grocery options here are expensive and limited. But my 16-year-old son and his babysitter enjoy shopping together. It is a great activity for him, as he learns a lot of skills and is responsible for picking out his own snacks. Once in a while, she may buy something I’m not crazy about, but that is a small price to pay for skipping the whole shopping experience. I also have her prepare their school snacks and lunches. I’m surprised at how many moms think it is wrong not to do this task on their own. If my son is eating an apple on his break, he really doesn’t care who packed it. She will never take them to the doctor or dentist, but I will let her bring them to get their hair cut, for example.
5. Assign tasks for kids. My kids have to do a lot on their own, including my autistic son. I bought plastic plates and utensils when he was younger and started making him fix his own snacks. He clears his plate, too. Sometimes he forgets, but it is his responsibility. Ditto for my younger son, of course. And as soon as a kid can be trusted to carry a mug filled with a hot liquid, they should make coffee for their parents and bring it to them in bed.
6. Stay focused. I skip things I don’t want to do, and stay very focused. When I go out, I go to the movies, because it’s my work. I don’t go to theater, concerts, etc. with very rare exceptions.
7. Make use of down time. When my son is in a therapy session I don’t need to participate in, I work on my laptop in the waiting room.
9. Accept help. When someone offers to help me, I always accept their help.
10. Work. When I have a chance to work, even if it’s only for five minutes, I take it. I used to have a radio show and I learned that you can say a lot in one minute. You can also do a lot in one minute.
11. Rest. When I have a chance to rest, even if it’s only for five minutes, I take it.
12. Enjoy. When I have a chance to enjoy myself, even if it’s only for five minutes, I take it.
The essential components that make my life livable are: a babysitter, a laptop, Wireless internet, and a cell phone. Oh, and, once in a while, meditation and deep-breathing.
But if you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.