Thursday, November 29, 2012

Staying busy (with a little help from my friends)

Over the past few days, I've had a lot of free time, but also a lot of things to do. File for unemployment, call my retirement planner about rolling my work 401k into my non-work retirement portfolio (that sounds more glamorous that it is, trust me), buy cat food, go the gym as usual, let people with whom I want to keep in touch know I'm no longer with my company, and so forth. I've also made dinner every night, cleaned up, did some dishes and laundry, and today I even did a little outside work on our firewood pile since it was sunny and not too raw.

I feel like I should be doing MORE though, like the days are slipping by. As Anne said to me today on Facebook: "The days are slipping away but it's only Thursday and you've only been at this since Monday afternoon. ;) I say go easy and be proud of what you DO get done." Ah, my friend, easier said than done! I feel like the house should be cleaner already, that I should be jumping into the projects that I've been putting off, that I should be applying for jobs as I see them pop up in my email.

Then, I thought about Jessica's post, written back in August, about being a happy housewife. I remember reading that and thinking "man, would I like to have some time off, without any pressure or stress to immediately find work." Actually, I've been thinking about that for years. I just wanted a break. I didn't want to be terminated. (And for the record, I was not laid off. Yeah. I have more to say about that, later.) Right now, our financial situation is strong enough that I don't have to run out and get the first job I can find. Plus, Chris knows how much stress I was under with my job and dealing with his health issues (often at the same time). I was getting very depressed and not myself; Chris wants me to feel better, all around, before I jump into another job. Like Jessica, I am very fortunate that our situation can allow for a break. 

I then thought of another post by Jessica, one about her three months of unemployment. As she says in that post:
"Because it has taken me so long to land a job here, I wanted to take the time to remind myself of all that I have accomplished in the past three months. This is part record for myself, to look back when I say, "What did I do those first few months after moving to Whoville?", and part to inspire those of you who might be feeling stuck and need a push to see how far you've come -- or remind you what you're capable of."
She goes on to make a huge list (click the above link, you'll see!) of what she did with her time off.

I think I need to do this, as well. I am hard on myself naturally, and to not have a place to go every day or any real accountability (well, Chris does think it fair that I should cook dinner if I'm home all day) makes it hard to remember that I am doing things that are helping this household, this family. Even if it's just the two of us (and the three cats). Kendra's most recent post about effective to-do lists made a lot of sense when I read it, even though I was still employed. In fact, I started tracking what I'd done each day at work so I wouldn't feel so badly about the bigger to-do list that loomed with unfinished tasks. This week, during dinner, I have told Chris what I've been doing all day--not because he's checking up on me (although he is curious to know what I do!), but also as a way of reminding myself, "Hey, you're NOT screwing around all day or just watching bad TV and eating snacks."

I want this time off, for however long it might be, to be productive. I want to use it to my advantage. So I've done some thinking about how I can make it work best for myself. I'm only 3.5 days into this, and I've already realized that it's not helpful to get up when Chris gets up. It only takes him half an hour to get ready for work, and when he leaves (around 8:30), I've been spending that time puttering around, not doing anything really. Then I've been lounging around, reading things online, eating breakfast, and drinking tea. Today it was 11 o'clock when I finally got in the shower

So here are some things that I believe I need to implement:
  • Wake up before Chris, and get myself ready for the day so that after he leaves, I can just get on with my day. I've been thinking about going to daily Mass (I have three Roman rite parishes within 4 miles of my house, and all Masses are 9 am or earlier), as a way to start my day and to ask God to help me in discerning what my next steps should be. I have a lot of ideas about where I should be going next, but I want to include Him in my search. After that, my day can begin!
  • Limit my online time. I've realized how much I do need human interaction; it's been a quiet, lonely few days. I love the girls in the CathSorority Facebook group and everyone on Twitter, but I need to get stuff done and not rely on those media for social interaction. Yes, job searching and networking is mostly done online, but I need better boundaries so that a quick email check doesn't turn into an hour of bantering with someone. 
  • Make a list of things that must/should be done daily. And then do them. Everything from cleaning the litter box to making dinner. Just so nothing gets overlooked or forgotten.
  • Have another list of things to be done during the week or soon-ish. These could be as mundane as taking the recycling bin to the curb, or as exciting as finishing the restoration of this old hutch my dad found at an estate sale. Again, this is so I don't get bogged down in the everyday and then I find myself back to work and miserable because I didn't do ALL THE THINGS. When I took a week off in July, I wasn't as productive as I wanted to be (although I did get to talk to Jessica on the phone and that was cool!). 
Thank you Anne, Jessica, and Kendra, for your words of wisdom. I think I'll get through these feelings of inadequacy and slackerdom because of your tips and advice.

So, for those of you staying at home--temporarily or permanently--what do you do to make sure you accomplish what you need to, and to make sure you FEEL accomplished? I look forward to your replies!


  1. Getting dressed! Seems ridiculous, but for a while we had a lot of lazy jammies days and it didn't feel relaxing, but depressing. On twitter I told you I feel better when we've gone to Mass, so I think that'll help your day!

  2. I agree that daily Mass really helps me get the day started off right. The other thing I do if I have a day that I need to be productive is I figure out the one thing that needs to happen that day (besides the daily things like making food), and make sure that gets done. Usually something else ends up getting done, too, but I usually feel pretty good even if only the one thing gets done.

  3. In terms of setting boundaries online, last month I listed a few tools I use to help me manage my time, specifically RescueTime for showing me how I spend my computer time and StayFocusd for setting limits on time-wasting sites. They've been helpful in making me mindful of where my time goes.

    One thing I would say, after this period of unemployment I had, is not to be too hard on yourself. You will feel like you could have done more, no matter how much you get done. Being unemployed doesn't magically make you into a superwoman. (For good perspective on this, I recommend Rachel Held Evans' recently published book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, particularly the chapter in which she tries to be the Proverbs 31 woman.) Yes, there's a lot to be said for being productive and having time to tackle things you've been wanting to do for a while, but there's also value in rest. There's a big difference between sleeping until noon every so often and sleeping until noon every day, between taking some time to watch TV and spending all day watching TV. Try not to beat yourself up too much if every day isn't crazy productive.

  4. Sounds like a plan!

    I don't have any advice on how to *feel* accomplished. I still haven't figured that one out. I really admire people like Jessica who can make lists like that, because I have issues with feeling like those are the sorts of things that I would accomplish even if I were employed. So, yeah... no good emotional advice from me.

    But in terms of objective accomplishments, starting your day at the same time or before your husband is brilliant, as is making Mass a part of your morning. Also, if you can get a short-term volunteer gig to keep at least a little outside structure that can be huge.

    I'm sure that you'll rock this, and hopefully even be able to enjoy it as something of a break!

  5. How's it going??? I'm thinking of you!


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