While in a group coaching call for a course I’m taking, someone messaged me through the chat asking how I make time for my spouse. The question was in response to my discussing with our coach distractions and interruptions while we are trying to accomplish goals we set for ourselves.
This is what I couldn’t fit in the chat.
“You alone are responsible for what you do, don’t do, or how you respond to what is done to you.” — Darren Hardy
Time is a powerful commodity.
While not reviewed terribly well (hey, I liked it…¯\_(ツ)_/¯), the movie In Time with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried painted an incredible picture of time being an individual’s currency.
In it people have a clock on their arm and are paid in hours and minutes. When you need to buy something like clothes or food or a watch, you give your hours/minutes away. If your clock hits zero you drop dead.
As a husband, parent, and full-time employee I feel I’m constantly working to add time to my life while also spending it all over the place, and simultaneously trying to not let it get to zero. Though most nights when my head hits the pillow I might as well be dead.
This year I’ve been substantially more conscious of where my time is going. All the little things get added up in my head, and at the end of the day I have a halfway decent idea of how much time I’ve wasted or how much time was taken from the other things I wanted to do that day.
Things like games on my phone and social media have been almost completely eliminated. I’ll still poke around on Twitter or Facebook on my computer once in awhile when I purposefully feel like it. But I deleted apps from my phone so that I’m not tempted to distract myself.
While trying to be more efficient with my days, one thing I have not been able to do anything about is life’s interruptions — those things that blow our day up, or steal an hour from us that we are forced to address.
Here are just a few things that have interrupted me and required my attention over a recent three-day span. I’m sure most of you parents can relate.
Sunday — The dishwasher handle broke. Thus it wouldn’t close correctly and we couldn’t run the dishwasher. I took the front of it apart, figured out which piece was broke, and ordered it online. Then I rigged the handle so the dishwasher would believe it was closed so we could run a load of dishes.
Monday — My wife had to work in the evening, so I left work early to take over with the kiddos.
It’s been hot the last several days, so Azilee, our 1-year-old, is living in a onesie or just a diaper. Asher, our almost-6-year-old, was acting his age and required a little extra parenting. I walked him to his room and set him up with a book to just chill. Azilee met me in the hall as I walked out.
I picked her up, noticed she had poop, then noticed it was coming out the sides of her diaper. You can imagine my joy when I saw poop in the middle of the hallway.
She’s learning to walk, and obviously attempted to take a stroll down the hall. I could see where she got tripped up a bit and landed on her butt smearing poop on the carpet.
Things only got better when I went into the living room and found 6 more streaks to clean up, including one large goop that I assumed was where the scene of the crime began.
Tuesday — My wife calls me at work to let me know there’s no hot water. I had her examine the water heater and confirm the pilot light went out.
Some things I don’t mind jumping in and fixing, but I don’t know much about natural gas, and fire scares me. So I called the gas company to come re-light it for us. Well, it would be about 24 hours before anyone could make it. First world problems, right?
Later that day my wife called again. Azilee had her 1-year-old shots last week and was having a weird reaction. The doctor wanted to see her.
Since my wife was working again that evening I was already planning on going home early. Now I needed to be home even earlier to take over with the boys so she could get Azilee to the doctor.
She offered to bring the boys with her, but two super-high-energy little boys and a sick 1-year-old all in a tiny room seemed cruel to unleash upon a pediatrician and some nurses. Not to mention my wife as well.
So I took the additional interruption of work and went home to care for my family.
Before leaving work I asked a friend to help us out with the water heater, and he came over a bit later to get the pilot light re-lit and show me how to do it if it happened again. Which it did the next day.
Our dishwasher handle arrived that day too. When I got the kids in bed I took things apart again and installed the new handle and latch.
None of that was planned…
Not including the time I already planned to be home early so my wife could go to work, I estimated at least 5 hours was stolen from what I’d planned in those 3 days.
Projects I had at work got pushed back, dinner and bedtime got pushed back, and my time to relax in the evening was cut a bit shorter. I got some writing done, but it was done after 11pm.
I’ve learned to manage them well at work and direct people elsewhere (like Tim Feriss’ suggestion of saying, “I’m in the middle of something. Can you email me?”). But poop on the floor, sick kids, and broken appliances are not things you can address with email.
When these things are stealing our time in addition to our jobs and the normal insanity of caring well for small children, how do we find/make time for ourselves and our spouses?
There are two approaches and attitudes I’ve taken this year that have served me well.
Plan Ahead, Protect It At All Costs
Going out for dinner and a movie is an luxury my wife and I get to indulge in when the financial and time margins allow. Honestly, sometimes we screw the margins and it just goes on a credit card because we need it.
Paying for a babysitter always seems like an added expense we don’t want to take on. But for several years we were blessed to have my wife’s mom near us and she loved being with the grand-kids for free. :-)
Then she moved… :-(
My mom came to visit over Memorial Day weekend. It was Asher’s last day of kindergarten and the school had a big family celebration. Additionally it was Azilee’s first birthday. And on top of that was her brother-in-law’s retirement party. It was going to be a busy few days.
She also offered to watch the kids one night so we could go out. (YAY!!!)
Putting a date on the calendar where I knew I’d have uninterrupted time with my wife away from our home created excitement, and I started planning on how to ensure this date would actually happen.
Nothing else would rob our time that night no matter what. No work “emergencies” could steal me away. That evening was for me and my wife. Period.
The only thing out of the list above that I would have attended to had it happened the day of our date was the poop.
When the evening finally arrived we had the kids fed, bathed, the two younger ones in bed, and left Asher to hang with Grandma for a bit before she put him to bed.
Out the door we went to enjoy dinner and a movie. We even got home at a reasonable hour so we didn’t have to sacrifice sleep (more on that later).
That date night was a huge deposit into my emotional and time bank. I fed off that for a couple of weeks. My wife did too.
Life went back to normal, and the regular craziness resumed, and we started running low again.
Be Flexible, Stay Patient, Sacrifice When Needed
I was feeling depleted again and just needed some time with my wife. We had both been working a lot, the kids were approaching peak insanity with no more school and then a couple rainy days of being inside.
After getting the kids in bed we had a late dinner for ourselves and attempted to talk. My goal was to actually connect as if we were on a date, but then Asher came out of his room. I sent him back. Then it happened again and again.
While this is normal with our 5-year-old, it’s still frustrating. Or maybe it’s frustrating because it’s normal. Everything in me wanted to just freak out and lock him in his room so I could actually talk to my wife.
I decided to be the good and patient parent that night, walked him to his room, back into bed, and resumed trying to be a married adult. The jack-in-the-box syndrome ended about 10pm.
We talked about life and the kids, watched a little TV, did some reading, got ready for bed, read a little more and talked a little more, then turned out the light.
It was 1:30am.
Abel, our 4-year-old, is the early riser in the family. He got me up at 6am the next morning…
Later that morning I was doing dishes from breakfast when my wife asks, “Are you in a bad mood?” She did that wife thing where she can just tell by looking at you.
I lamented about how tired I was and that it was frustrating I had to sacrifice sleep in order to talk to her for longer than 15 minutes uninterrupted.
In that moment I realized it was worth it.
If once a month I needed to give up sleep to make room for uninterrupted connection with the woman I love and am building a life with, that was a sacrifice I could make. And I wouldn’t have a bad attitude and make others around me suffer for it.
I’d live my day with joy because the time we spent together was more life-giving than sleep-taking.
Interruptions steal our time, ruin our flow, and can exponentially increase the physical and emotional drain we feel in a day.
A lot of times we can’t do anything about them when it comes to taking care of our home. But what we can do is fight back by being husbands and fathers who continually put our families first. Find ways to prioritize them.
It’s up to us to make the plans and the sacrifices to put more time in our bank in an effort to stay connected to our spouse.
Want a New Perspective?
I’ve created a measuring guide to alter how you view your marriage and your spouse. Ask yourself these questions, your mindset will shift quickly.