Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bits of Time

One of the funnier things about my recent asthma attack was its timing. I had decided to start tracking my time again, to help me with a project I'm working on. I decided to start last Wednesday, despite the fact that I had an eye doctor appointment in the middle of the day. I figured that doctor's appointments happen, and it would be interesting to track how I absorbed that into my schedule. My plan was to add up my weekly totals from Wednesday to Wednesday, which, by a strange coincidence, is what I did the last time I did a timetracking exercise.

But then the asthma attack hit, and my week went to hell. I considered going ahead as planned, because after all, illness happens, too, and you have to absorb that into your life just like anything else. But then I discovered that I'd made a mistake in how I set up my tracking spreadsheets, and decided it wasn't worth the effort to fix that retrospectively. So I'll consider these five days of timetracking to be a trial run of sorts, and start tracking "for real" tomorrow, in a newly fixed weekly spreadsheet.

The last five days' worth of data won't be completely wasted, though. They confirmed that I have my categories essentially correct. The non-work categories were still relevant, despite the fact that I made no changes from my previous exercise, and the new work categories seemed to capture my time well. I also noticed some interesting things, particularly about my weekends. As I tracked my time this weekend, two things jumped out at me:

1. My time is very fragmented- which explains why I have plenty of time to write short blog posts, but struggle to put together the time to tackle some of my larger projects.

2. I spend a lot of time doing things that could be put in multiple categories. Some I remembered from the last exercise. Watching TV with my husband could either be "watching TV" or "spending time with my husband." (I usually categorize it as "spending time with my husband," because left to my own devices I'd probably watch very little TV- I'm watching it because he likes to watch TV together.) Others took me by surprise. For instance, on Saturday, Petunia insisted on taking a walk for nap, so I put her in her stroller and decided to push her over to pick up the dry cleaning I'd dropped off a few weeks ago and then forgotten about. I was out walking for about an hour. Was that exercise (the walk), child care (the nap), or laundry (the dry cleaning)? I decided to call it exercise, even though the only reason I headed out for a walk during the hottest part of the day was that Petunia wanted it, and I didn't want her to throw a tantrum and disrupt Pumpkin's Chinese lesson.

I'm not sure what I think about these two observations. I'd certainly like my time to be less fragmented, but some of that is just a function of the age of my children. However, I've noticed that my husband's weekend time is less fragmented than mine, so perhaps I either need to emulate his methods or negotiate some time when he's the "go to" parent for the kids. (And all of you other parents of toddlers can start laughing now at the idea that Petunia might show the slightest bit of respect for who the adults think should be the "go to" parent at any given time.)

I'm less concerned about the multitasking, although I do want to keep any eye on that and make sure that I'm not multitasking too much when I spend time with my children. I don't think I am, but discovering the actual truth of how you spend your time is why you do timetracking exercises, so I think I'll just wait and see what the data show after a few weeks.

Also, I have an advance copy of Gretchen Rubin's new book Happier at Home, and I wonder if I might have some different insights into how I'm spending my time at home after I read that book. No doubt, I'll be back to write more about this subject later.


In other time-related news here at Chez Cloud, it appears that Petunia is now sleeping through the night. Or at least she's slept through the night for the past couple of weeks- which is about a week and a half longer than her previous record. If she is now going to sleep through the night more often than not, she arrived at this point just like her big sister did, namely, when she was ready, without any active encouragement from us, unless you count the wishes and sleepy thoughts I'd been sending her way.

She is, for the record, just two months shy of three years old. Pumpkin hit this milestone closer to two (an event I apparently failed to document at the time), but as I've mentioned before, Pumpkin's first year of sleep was far tougher on the adults in the house than Petunia's was, so I think we can consider them even in the sleep disruption department.

Now that we're here, with Petunia sleeping through the night in her own bed, I find that I'm glad we were able to wait and let her get to this place on her own terms. I remember having similar thoughts after Pumpkin finally started sleeping better, too. It fits with how I think about attachment and security in young children- another topic I think I'll come back to later, after I've had time to digest some of the stuff I've been reading in Mother Nature recently.

And of course, what I think on this is just my opinion, and is relevant mainly to my own choices, not anyone else's. I don't have a shred of judgment in me for people who decide they need to help their child learn to sleep through the night on his or her own far before three years have passed. In fact, up until Petunia just magically started sleeping through, I was frequently convinced that I should be doing just that. It is easy to be zen after the fact, and much harder to be so when you're struggling through another exhausted day thanks to a wakeful child.


I had thought that I'd find myself with a lot of extra time once Petunia started sleeping through the night. I don't. I find myself with a lot more energy, but having been through essentially non-optional sleep deprivation, I am in no hurry to volunteer for more, so I am still going to bed earlyish.

We have gained some extra time in our evenings, though, due to a change in how we're doing bedtimes. We're reading the kids their stories together and then splitting up to get them both down at roughly the same time. We've told Pumpkin that this slightly earlier bedtime is in preparation for kindergarten, which is true. She doesn't need to know it is also a way to grab some time back for the grown ups in the house. The only downside is that we've had to put the chapter books we'd started reading to Pumpkin away for a little while, but that seems like a small price to pay for the extra 20 or so minutes one of us gains each night.

The new routine also makes soloing the bedtime routine a little easier. That will get even easier- and we'll grab back even more time- once Petunia starts going to sleep on her own. Based on the info in Bedtiming and our experience with Pumpkin, we'll probably start working on that not long after Petunia turns three.  And no, I can't explain why I am perfectly happy to "work on" teaching Petunia to go to sleep on her own and not on teaching her to sleep through the night- I'll have to think some more about that and see if I can come up with anything interesting.

But right now? It is time for bed.


  1. we put both kids to bed at the same time. Older one has always needed more sleep than youngest and is often asleep before her (and up earlier). I dread if/when he starts the "but I'm older, I sould get to stay up later" although my parents always put my sister and I to bed at the same time, despite our age differences.

  2. We've got ours about a half an hour apart, but the bedtime routine has been (for the most part - that excruciating six months or so that the "routine" was actually a 2.5 hr struggle) pretty easy. We've done lots of what I think of as sleep training light with both kids, although it was more necessary for Christopher Robin (eldest) because he's always needed more sleep than he's getting. And believe me, if he gets the "right" amount, he's a totally different kid. Pooh (typical #2?) is much more mellow and flexible in his routine, although that will change as we are going to potty train him in the next week or so, which means the dreaded move to the big boy "Hey I can get out of bed whenever I want" bed. Yikes.

    I completely agree with you, Cloud, about the attachment stuff. The biggest surprise for me as a parent has been when my attachment methods didn't work! I thought all babies would want to co-sleep - not my babies, neither one. I was so surprised with Christopher Robin, I didn't believe it. But alas, it is so. He likes to co-sleep now (once he was over the age of 2). The part of the attachment thing that I like best is the idea of working with kids, rather than imposing on them. Makes life so much easier! (And is also more respectful, etc).

    1. paola5:44 AM


      Here I was thinking that your typical no.2 is much more stubborn and determined than no.1, who is the mellow easy going one. Seems there is no rule, alas.

      We have been doing same bedtimes since Zoe turned 2. Noah, elder, has never really been fussed about wanting extra time up because he is older but tshen again, he gets up before 6 most days and so is more tired than Zoe when 8 rolls on. Frankly, if Zoe would actually comply, I'd have them in bed even earlier. No matter what time is bed time, she is never 'tired' enough to settle down straight away, according to her, that is.

    2. @Erin, I think that if I ever had any sign that either of my KIDS was not getting enough sleep, I'd have felt like I needed to try to fix the sleep situation. It was always just the grown ups who were sleep deprived, though! We had the two bedtimes 30 minutes apart up until this routine change. The change is made possible by the fact that once Pumpkin starts kindergarten, naps are completely gone. She hasn't taken a nap at home reliably since she was 3, but she still naps a bit a day care.

      @Paola- unless I am exhausted, it takes me a good 30 minutes to settle and go to sleep. I imagine that is really hard on a kid. I remember pestering my parents to put music on, etc., when I was a kid, probably because I was bored trying to go to sleep. Now I have a quote I'll repeat in my head, or I do some yoga breathing exercises or something, and that helps. For Pumpkin, who seems to have a similar problem, we use music. Petunia seems to take after her father more, and falls asleep quicker. Most times.

    3. @ Cloud - yes, for a while we were putting Christopher Robin to bed at 8, and then he wasn't getting to sleep until 8:30 or later. He does *not* sleep in if he goes to bed late; he always wakes up at the exact same time (within a minute, seriously). So we started putting him to bed earlier, to build in time for him to talk and sing to himself and play quietly in his bed, to settle into sleep.

  3. "And no, I can't explain why I am perfectly happy to "work on" teaching Petunia to go to sleep on her own and not on teaching her to sleep through the night"

    I think there are probably a ton of things going on here. Things you need to teach your kids because doing so will make you a much happier and saner parent. Things you need to teach them because they just aren't getting there on their own (they're just doing the thing they've always done and really can't imagine doing it differently). And then there's the age of the child, and their personality (how well do they cope with training, or bribery. Can they amuse themselves for any length of time? Do they actually *need* the time to themselves in order to relax?).

    I think I need to take a swing at your time tracking thing. I really have to get more efficient at spending my time. I'm far far too good at spending it doing the wrong things!

    1. I think of timetracking like the first step of budgeting for your time. You can't spend your time (or money) more purposefully if you don't know where you're spending it now.

      One of my old posts has a link to the spreadsheet I use. I think you could also find an app to do it- just search for a timeCHARGING app that a contractor might use, and then make up your own charge codes. Maybe I'll do some searching for one once I get my smartphone.

    2. There are a ton of apps in both the Android and apple store for timetracking (free, even). You just have to find the one that works for you - some are way too detailed or difficult to enter and others, not enough.

    3. @Anandi- I figured there would be, since so many app developers work on contract! I'll probably poke around and see what I can find once my new phone arrives and I get it set up.

  4. Anonymous2:53 PM

    I don't think I'm going to want to talk about sleep any time in the near future. What is it with people around here being obsessed about asking about it? And with DC1 any time I answered in the affirmative on the "through the night" question he would, as our department secretary would say, "make me a liar every time."

    In other news, I checked out both Hrdy books (Mothers and Others and Mother Nature) from interlibrary loan because you've piqued my curiosity so much.

    1. I think the part of the questions about sleep that bothered me the most was the implication- and sometimes explicit statement- that "good baby" = a baby who sleeps through the night. And if my baby wasn't sleeping through the night, something must be wrong with either her or me. I'm glad to be past that (and on to whatever the next phase of judgment is)!

      I'm planning to start some posts sparked by Mother Nature soon. It will be interesting to see what you think.

    2. I think people who have more than one kid are generally clued in that you can only do so much to influence a kid to do anything, be it eat vegetables, sleep through the night, etc. Of course I am talking about normal, nonabusive parents and not fundamentalist nutcases -- sorry, I read a series of posts at Libby Anne's, for instance see the post about the Duggars and "blanket training" among other things... I still cannot recover.)

      Anyway, some people luck out having an easy first kid and think it's their parental awesomeness. It's generally not. I mean, you tip the scales in your favor -- give a soothing bath, read a story, play music, rock etc but if the kid won't sleep, s/he just won't!

      My 12-year-old is such a kind, easy-going person. He's very nice to be around. And it's all him, he's always been a sweetheart; we can't claim any credit for his awesomeness, he was awesome to start with. All you can do is love them, care for them, try to teach them some values, so they can hopefully grow up to be the happiest, best-loved version of themselves.

    3. Anonymous2:47 PM

      People where I live actually *do* blanket training. Makes arguments about whether or not time-outs are abusive seem pretty ridiculous.

      That may also explain why I'm having to teach graduate students how to ask questions... The village is full of blanket trainers.

    4. OMf&*kinggod, GMP, that link about blanket training is the most horrifying thing I've read in a long time. I finished an academic work on attachment theory in the 20th century and it's chilling to think of the long term emotional and behavioral consequences of parenting like that. Jesus! Just put the baby in an Ergo and be done with it, no slapping required.

    5. I think I'm going to choose to stay blissfully ignorant of the details of blanket training....

      But this discussion makes me think of a study I read several years ago, about how child-rearing practices are both good predictors of the political beliefs of the parents and strongly influence the mindset the kids end up with. I'll have to see if I can dredge that study up. It wasn't surprising, really (parents who insist on exerting absolute authority tend to be more comfortable with more rigid political beliefs, for instance) but it was interesting.

  5. We put the older two to bed at the same time. This started when they shared a bedroom in NYC. Now that we live in a suburban house, they're in separate bedrooms, but ones that are connected by a bathroom. They don't seem to mind staying in their adjoining rooms together -- they can play together, read, etc., as long as they stay in there. Bedtime is a bit less lonely.

  6. I'm looking forward to putting the boys to bed together. They actually share a room right now, but the baby has trouble falling asleep & needs to be OUT before the toddler gets in there or he gets riled up & keeps his older brother up with his squawking (and since my 2.5 year old dropped his nap, oh yes, he is in no mood for shenanigans at night). So now bedtime is stretched out forEVER, since they are done sequentially.

  7. I think I, too, will forego the blanket training link & just imagine that it references Linus teaching his blanket to reach things for him when Lucy is hassling him.

    I'm actually just popping in to say, as a member of an asthma-filled household & a parent of asthmatic kids, I feel for you. I had also composed a comment about the blowback & judgeyness (I know, its a made up word) I get from other parents about how we treat our kids for their asthma (we've found preventative medication to be quite helpful) & how the judgement seems so unnecessary--I'm not saying everyone should be on antihistamines! But the computer ate it, so I'm thinking that's a sign. The main point was just: I'm glad to hear you made it through without an ER visit, & I hope you don't have to go through a flareup again anytime soon. Asthma can be scary.


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.