It is the basic law of economics that those which are the scarcest of commodities are deemed to have the higher value. Thus, it is that time, with its endless demand and ever-dwindling supply, is, for the average mother, as water is to the desert-dweller (well, at least, for this average mother whose organizational abilities are still at the developmental stage!).
Gone, for me, are the days of clockwatching in front of a meticulously well-ordered (and under-utilised) public servant’s desk. These days, my attempts to create order are aimed at saving time, not merely passing it.
Unlike the supermums of the seventies, my efforts at household efficiency are not motivated by an intrinsic dislike of anything domestic. I actually quite enjoy looking after my little nest and often find household chores somewhat relaxing and even therapeutic. In this house, cleaning is no mad dash against the clock in order to fly the nest in search of more exciting horizons. No, this mother is more often to be found rushing back to the perch after the errands are done (except, of course, when the darling, little chicks have all but destroyed the family nest; in which case, a shopping trip, followed by a cenacle, a trip to the park and a scenic drive home will be more than tolerated…).
The problem isn’t so much one of avoiding the mundane as finding time for the truly exciting – and, with 5.30am starts and 10.30pm bedtimes already the norm, the possibilities for creating new time seem particularly limited. So, we prioritise. And the priorities go something like this – Mass, food, schoolwork, play and housework, with time for prayer fitted somewhere in between. Ideally, it would make sense to reverse the last two on the list but my little people are still revolting over that issue.
The weekly shop, being an out-of nest activity with limited scope for creative input, doesn’t make it to the list in anybody’s estimation – except when it’s pocket-money day (in which case, it rises to the rank of special excursion). Until recently, shopping managed to fit itself rather snugly in between food and schoolwork (unless the cupboard was completely bare when it would shift its position to somewhere in between Mass and food) but this all changed when the list of priorities expanded to fit in certain extracurricular activities.
Faced with the prospect of eventual starvation, the problem of finding time to do the all-important shop assumed vital proportions. The solution, however, was incredibly simple – the greatest consumers of my time would be the very ones who would spend the time doing that which I didn’t have time to do. Thus, the little shoppers’ shopping lists came into being.
Nowadays, five shopping lists are stored on the computer and updated throughout the week. On shopping day, they are printed out and each little shopper parades the aisles, armed with a shopping basket which is periodically emptied into the master shopping trolley (manned by the captain, Mum, and her trusty sidekick, Little Bub). So far, this arrangement is going great, having also provided some added benefits along the way. The kids are learning technology (the lists are, after all, produced on the computer), maths (finding the best buy is naturally expected), personal development (sometimes, one has to ask for directions to a certain item…) and sports (racing around with heavy baskets and scaling the heights of adult-sized grocery shelves are physically challenging for any youngster intent on beating his siblings to the cash register). What home-schooling mother could resist the opportunity to combine a necessary chore with an educational experience!
Now the shopping is under control, we have only the washing, the dishes, the weeding and the unfathomable chaos of the pre-teen bedroom (aka ‘The Abyss’) to master before we can truly claim to be efficient users of our most precious resource!