My Afternoon Time ~ When I Work

My days are lived in six parts. Early morning, morning, lunch, afternoon, supper and evening. I have certain activities I do in each. Usually, not always.

Sometimes I change the schedule on purpose or I'm required by circumstance to be spontaneous. A morning walk for example because if I don't "leave the scene" I might just go crazy. Generally though I prefer to schedule my spontaneity. Go ahead and laugh.

In the early morning - which doesn't start as early these dark days of December - I read, pray, plan, drink my coffee, start laundry and breakfast, and then write.

My morning block, which starts after 9:30, are for homeschool and miscellaneous homemaking. If it's a full homeschool morning I don't do any big homemaking tasks, just things I can do in-between helping with math, reading lessons, and science discussions.

Or sometimes I don't do any homeschool and I just attend to home things - like the unending bureaucracy that has accompanied the last year and half of our life, having moved four times and started over in a new country.

Even though we've been "settled" for five months at our home in the woods where we plan to live for a couple years, and have been back in Canada for eighteen months, I'm still attending to moving paperwork.

Lunch is a production, of sorts. The menu is the same every day. Salad mostly, stir fry sometimes. The kids help me prepare it. And while we're in the kitchen I do other kitchen work. There is always kitchen work.

We don't eat till 1:30 or sometimes later. While we eat we might listen to the Bible, read our own books or listen to an audio book.

When we finally sit down to eat, after a full morning, there is a pause, an inflection point. The day's direction takes a shift.

First, we slow down, come to the table, eat together. (We don't eat family breakfast, people eat their oatmeal, baked potato or leftover supper on their own terms - in the midst of their other work.)

If I'm in a good book, after lunch is when I will sit on the couch or on the little red chair by the fire and read. Just stop and read. The kids chill too. Usually someone is playing their allotted video game time and the siblings gather round for the action.

At this point, depending on the day (if there is Taekwondo at 6:30 or not) the afternoon appears to stretch out before me, full of possibility. I love that feeling.

Though my productive hours are approximately the same morning and afternoon - roughly 3 hours each, my mornings are committed to homeschool and homemaking. The afternoons feel like "my time". (This is a reversal of Damien's schedule, his personal project and exercise time being mid-morning and into lunch prep.)

My afternoon often includes a walk with the kids. They always want to come along - go figure. River play and hiding in the woods to freak me out has something to do with it I'm sure. Soon we will start ski season and this will no doubt change our afternoon walk routine.

A couple times a week I study French with Celine. This is a discipline. Neither of us wants to sit down and exercise our brains but once we get past the initial, "oh, do we have to do this?", it's ok. There is often a lot of laughter that accompanies this time. You'd laugh too at my pronunciation.

Once every couple weeks I run errands. In our latest schedule iteration Damien does most of the errand running and grocery shopping. To say I'm thrilled with this arrangement is an understatement.

On Tuesday I prepare a rough menu for the week (this part is easy, we pretty much eat the same things on repeat) and a grocery list for Damien's weekly grocery run. I've been menu making/grocery list preparing for so many years I've got it down to a science. 

Late afternoon I might make a snack, or teach a child or two to make a snack, or more likely I will say "fend for yourself" which means rice cakes and peanut butter. Easy, raw vegetable snacks is something I want to work on.

A couple days a week I work for a bit in the afternoon, squeezed in there after reading, walking and French and before I have to start supper. It's not many hours, maybe three hours total all week. My income earning work is still a small part of my days.

The big question is will I work at the table? Where the antics of the chickadees and nuthatches at the bird feeder are a constant distraction. (It's so much fun to watch the birds.) Or will I take my computer downstairs by the wood stove?

It really depends on my mood but working with chickadees or by the wood stove is a luxury I try not to take for granted.

Two days a week I have to cut my afternoons short to start supper early because of Taekwondo.

Something totally new to our family this season was weekly lessons for the kids. Twice weekly lessons for the kids. The good thing is they do it all together. The other good thing is that Damien takes them and does the grocery shopping at the same time. This block of time, approximately 1.5 hours, twice a week, is my other main block of work time.

You can do the math. I have approximately 6 hours of non-writing work time during the week, not including a maximum of 2 hours on Saturday. This is for coaching, coaching prep, preparing teaching materials, marketing related stuff, focused e-mail, work on our store, etc.

Depending on the week I might not even do this much and I may use this the afternoon "work time" for other homemaking or homeschooling related tasks, like organizing an online book club (my latest venture).

And then supper. Turns out I only make supper four out of seven nights a week. Not bad. Celine cooks on Wednesdays, Damien and I cook together on Fridays when we eat a late supper and watch a movie with the kids, and Damien usually cooks supper once on the weekend.

These days it is dark long before I start making supper. While I cook, the kids do clean up - sweeping or vacuuming and end of the day tidying.

Lately we've been listening to a story together during this time. The sky is dark outside and the wood stove is going and it is a cozy time of day. Sometimes I listen to my own podcasts - On Being, Lisa's courses (I love her stuff and highly recommend it), or other interviews and teaching.

Two times a week supper is rushed. I barely get it on the table in time for my family to scarf it down and then off to town they go. When the front door shuts behind them I take a deep breath and enjoy the silence (and maybe a few chocolate chips) before starting my work.

I love my afternoons. Even though the late fall days are short in light-length these afternoons seem more expansive to me than at any other time of my life.

When my kids were wee ones I napped almost every afternoon, sometimes for an hour or more (my babies did not sleep well at night). Between napping, laundry, homemaking, meal prep, and occasional crafting, there wasn't a lot of time in my afternoons for much else. But now there is.

I loved my life then - dedicated as it was to my children and our home. But my babies grew up and my husband came home. And I love my life now - the same dedication but with more time for other things.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Kate

    Kate on Dec. 6, 2012, 3:14 p.m.

    The end of this piece spoke to me in particular. I appreciate that you share how your time and activity focus has changed as your children have grown. As I complete my doctorate, my work has been to show how my field's conceptualization of mothers' "leisure" is too limited. Their idea being that children prevent mothers from engaging in true leisure (defined as independent, non-obligated activity). What you have written captures what I want to share with scholars in my field.


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 6, 2012, 3:27 p.m.

      Kate, if you'd ever like to chat about this in person via Skype or something, I'd love to. My role as mother (I came to motherhood young, 23) and what that looks like, and how I be a fully engaged and alive version of myself in that role has been a topic of endless fascination for me. As my children grow and change, so to do I. And I honestly have loved all the different stages of motherhood and who I was at each stage. I would love to hear your thoughts and have a chat if you're ever interested.


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Dec. 6, 2012, 6:24 p.m.

    Wow. I really struggle with time for myself. It seems there is always so much to do. Maybe empty time slots scare me? I almost never go to the city.I don't know. I'll have to look into this and learn from you.


  • sara

    sara on Dec. 6, 2012, 6:42 p.m.

    I always love to hear how you manage your time. It is inspiring. I am getting better at managing mine, but I don't feel like it comes naturally for me. You said that you basically eat the same things for dinner on a rotation. I would love to hear what those are- either in a post or a quick reply here. I am always looking for inspiration in that area too!


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 6, 2012, 7:18 p.m.

      I will be blogging about that a bit more in my Q & A Tuesday responses but basically it looks like this: pasta with a bunch of veggies and tofu or beans, curry or stirfry, roasted roots &/or potatoes, bean something - chili or a sauce to eat on rice or grains, and frittata (yes with eggs, no cheese) for Friday night supper. We used to eat pizza, with real cheese for supper on Friday because it was tasty and easy and our at-home non-vegan splurge. This fall we switched to frittata because we think eggs are a healthier splurge than cheese and flours (for the crust). We eat the frittata with a rice base. The weekly menu is much the same as this one from last winter.  I used to spend way more time menu planning than I do now. 


      • sara

        sara on Dec. 6, 2012, 9:52 p.m.

        Thanks Renee :) That all sounds yummy. Do you make many sides or are they more "one-pot" meals. I sure can't wait to eat beans again- I have had to eliminate them b/c I am too sensitive to sugars right now- I miss them so :(.
        I saw a roasted veggie recipe yesterday that coats the veggies with curry spices before roasting. That sounds yummy and is something I have never tried. Oh, when we splurge on pizza we use Alta Dena cheddar style goat cheese. Have you ever tried that? My whole family tolerates that better than cow's milk cheese.


        • renee

          renee on Dec. 6, 2012, 9:55 p.m.

          I've never seen that goat cheese but then again I've never looked. The kids and I don't react gastrointestinally to the small amounts of dairy we eat (that I'm aware of), D. is more senstive. For years now I have been a one pot cook. Sides are for Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe birthdays (smile). I talk more about that in the post I linked to. 


          • Sara

            Sara on Dec. 9, 2012, 6:29 p.m.

            I just read the post you linked to for my comment- lots of good stuff there! Do you have a sauce for grains recipe or stir fry sauce recipe that are tomatoe free, sugar free (including all fruits, but lemon and lime), nut and tahini free (I can use all other seeds) and gluten, dairy, corn, and bean free. It is my challenge right now to find tasty things meeting these criteria. Dairy affects my sinuses way more than my stomach, same for the family, which is why we avoid it. The goat cheese is a lot better. Mt. Sterling is another good brand if you can't find Alta Dena.


            • renee

              renee on Dec. 9, 2012, 8:18 p.m.

              No sauce comes to mind. We eat lots of beans, tomato products, nuts and tahini. You might want to check out Good and Easy Eats by Kim Wilson. I have the book but I haven't used it much and I'm not sure that about recipes that would meet your criteria but I do know she has lots of common allergen free recipes.


  • Ruth

    Ruth on Dec. 6, 2012, 7:01 p.m.

    I had to laugh at your 'scheduled spontaneity' - sounds like an oxymorin to me.... you truly are your mother's daughter!! hugs.....


  • Johanna Hanson

    Johanna Hanson on Dec. 6, 2012, 7:05 p.m.

    Loved this, Renee. I'm in the stage where time is not my own. But I am finding ways to be fulfilled (creatively or otherwise) while still having my children right with me. It just looks different, right now. And my kids don't sleep well either, so I never have an over abundance of energy during the day!


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 6, 2012, 7:19 p.m.

      That will change someday. And when you're kids start sleeping through the night regularly you're going to feel like a new woman!


  • Kristin

    Kristin on Dec. 7, 2012, 1:34 p.m.

    Thanks Renee for sharing this. As the Mama of a wee one, I appreciate knowing and seeing that life and time deviations will change as she ages. I know this, but on those days with little sleep and a cranky two year old perspective is sometimes short to come by. Thanks for the encouragement, even if it's several years away! :-)


  • Jamie

    Jamie on Dec. 7, 2012, 4:20 p.m.

    Hi! I left a comment on last Tuesday's post and was curious when you were planning on answering those questions? I think I have the wrong idea that the following Tuesday would be a post with all your responses. I was so excited for the responses I've been anxiously checking everyday!


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 7, 2012, 4:30 p.m.

      Jamie, I was going to post those this Tuesday but I was a day late and then decided to wait till next week. Sorry to keep you waiting. That post is doozy I tell you.


    • on July 19, 2013, 6:07 a.m.

      Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am inspired! Very helpful information specifically the last section :) I deal with such information much. I used to be seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.


  • Anastasia @ eco-babyz

    Anastasia @ eco-babyz on Dec. 9, 2012, 7:28 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing your day, it's interesting to read! I spotted two things that I had to nod at since we do it pretty much the same. Where you said "we pretty much eat the same things on repeat" - same here!

    ... "the front door shuts behind them I take a deep breath and enjoy the silence (and maybe a few chocolate chips)". Exactly what I do when my mom comes over to take the kids (4 and 1 year old) outside twice a week - a little bit of chocolate is a must for me before getting down to some serious work! :)


  • Holly

    Holly on Dec. 9, 2012, 8:31 p.m.

    Renee, I love reading your blog; although we are very different (i have no children and work in busy Washington, DC), your words often capture my own sentiments so well.

    I notice you mention a new project of an online book club. This is something I would love to be a part of! Do you plan to offer it to your blog community, or is it focused on other communities in your life?


  • Jess

    Jess on Dec. 26, 2012, 1:30 a.m.

    Thanks for including the bit at the end- I have 3 kids (ages 4.5 years, 3 years, 4 months). It seems like my world is never ending diapers, food prep, cleaning, etc. We play every day. I enjoy my family and am grateful to be spending my days raising my kids, but my life distinctly lacks the balance of "me" time. It's a nice reminder that as the kids gain independence my life will regain balance. Cherish the moments...


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Jan. 17, 2013, 4:13 a.m.

    Loved this post, Renee. It always encourages me to see that things very well may quiet down in the future when my kids are a bit older and more independent. It helps me focus on enjoying the now when I remember how fleeting it really is. xo


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