My sister is a very special lady. She’s got six children and works six days a week delivering milk and selling Phoenix greetings cards. Her only day off at Christmas is Christmas Day itself and she’s not had a holiday since 1995. She’s not got a cleaner or a nanny (although our mum is really helpful) and she’s not got time for whiners. She’s always optimistic, never flaps or moans and has a firm grip on perspective. She’s one of the most contented people I know.
Read on for down-to-earth, sound advice from someone who’s truly happy being busy.
What are you juggling in your life right now?
I never feel like I’m juggling. I just do what I have to do. I’m lucky that I can be a fulltime mum to six and have more than a fulltime job and fit it in.
What’s a typical day like for you?
My week is very much the same from day to day. Usually I get up 5.30am and am out of house at 6am to start delivering milk. I’m back home for 7.45am and make school pack-ups and breakfast, although a lot of the time one of the kids has already done it. I’m then out of the house at 8am to go and get more milk and drop the older kids off at school at 8.15am. Then it’s more deliveries before dropping Daniel off at his school at 8.45am. I then do deliveries till 1.30/2pm.
After that it’s back home to cash up and do paperwork, open post, pay bills, empty the washer etc. I’m out again at 2.40pm to pick the older kids up. We shoot home so William can get changed and we drop him off at the garage where he works after school and then pick Daniel up at 3.30pm. Next it’s a trip to the bank or after school stuff such as swimming lessons etc. Then I get tea ready and pick William up at 6.30pm. We’re then home for homework and bed.
On Sundays I might not get up till 6.30am and then it’s housework, paperwork, milk bills, shoes cleaned, beds changed and whatever the kids want to do. It’s sometimes my busiest day of the week.
Do you ever feel stressed and overwhelmed by it all?
I feel stressed in an under pressure way to get everything done in its time slot, but not in a way it makes me feel I can’t cope and am going to crumble. I enjoy the challenge of getting it all done. If it doesn’t get done because of one thing or another, so what? I’ll slot it in another time. I prioritise – ie the kids and the business. If it’s getting on my nerves that I haven’t dusted when I wanted to, I’ll get up half an hour earlier and do it if it makes me feel better that I’ve done it. I put everything in perspective and think how lucky I am.
How do you make sure you don’t forget anything?
I do everything as I get it. For bills, eg credit card bills, I’ve my online banking app, which I use to set up payments before the due date so I don’t have to remember. For insurance renewals I always get lots of quotes straight away to find the cheapest. School trip letters etc I fill in and put back in the bags as soon as I get them.
The only thing I fail on is doing the business accounts! I usually have a couple of weeks of solid graft till really late at night around March time and every year I say I’m not doing it again. Oh and I have forgotten one of the kids the odd time at school and at the swimming baths.
What are your favourite time savers?
I’ve packed in spending hours ironing as I can’t fit it in. I spend one and a half hours on a Sunday ironing the school uniforms for the week and then I’ll iron what we wear when we need it. Luckily, for what we do we don’t need to be dressed up in workwear. My biggest time saver is being organised and three steps in front of myself all the time. Don’t whine – get on with it!
What’s your favourite part of the day?
Picking the kids up from school and gathering everyone in. Then we all go upstairs about 7.30/8pm and settle down doing our own thing shouting to each other from one room to another.
Do you have any tips for splitting yourself between all your children and your husband so everyone gets a share?
We have quite a unique life I think. We are a team and I’ve always taken the kids everywhere with me, even when working, so we spend a lot of time together. Now they are older and have their own interests they book their time slots and days for their friends coming and taxi services – first come, first served. They accept this and it’s very rare that one of them can’t do what they want. If I can’t manage to fit a request in, whatever it may be, we’ll book it in ASAP. Sometimes we have a queue on for homework help but it all gets done. I do get time with them individually too so no one gets left out.
I’ve always been happy with the idea that if the kids ask to go somewhere with someone then I’m happy to go along with that, but, otherwise, it’s my job to be with them and that’s what I enjoy doing. There’s plenty of time to do my things when they’ve all left home.
My husband works very hard too but as we work together we’re in contact throughout the day, even though we don’t see each other much. He’s not a modern man though, he’s a worker and that’s all he does, but it works. At least he doesn’t interfere. I see to the kids, house and really when I think about it now bloody everything. I must be really stupid – he owes me big time!
The only tip I have is to be totally committed to what you’re doing.
How do you manage to create time for yourself?
It annoys me greatly the phrase me-time and whingey, whiny women moaning they don’t have any. In the next breath they’re going to the gym after dropping the kids off at school, then for a coffee and their nails doing followed by dropping the kids off at their parents because they’re away for weekend. What more do they want? I don’t crave me-time. If I ever want to do something I could but I’m happy doing what I do. I had six kids because I wanted this life I’ve got. I’m very lucky and grateful.
What don’t you worry about now that you used to?
There’s no point in worrying about something if it’s out of your control. It’s a waste of energy and time. If you’re worried about something you can change then get on with it and change it so you’re not worried anymore. Having said that, since my husband had a nasty accident, I worry about accidents happening all the time and when I hear a siren I freak out. I think that might be post-traumatic stress though as I have random flash backs. I know what it is so I just get on with it, but I worry just the same when the kids aren’t with me. Maybe that’s just a mum thing though.
What do you do to relax?
I’m relaxing now actually doing this. I’m in bed, my husband’s snoring, the kids are settled and all is quiet. Is this what you call me-time? Yeah I’m having me-time. Sometimes I just browse the internet looking at nice dresses as I don’t have time to go shopping. I like doing that but if I get too tired that’s when I start clicking and buying things I regret in the morning. Then it’s another job to do sending it back.
I never go out without doing my makeup and hair and I find that relaxing. Although with working outside all day in all weathers sometimes it’s a huge waste of time and at 6am when it’s pitch black no one sees my effort anyway.
Just be happy with what you’ve got and think about others who are in much worse situations than you. Don’t be selfish. Don’t keep wishing and wishing and not do anything about it. Take responsibility for your own life. Stop whining that you’re too busy and get on with it. A lot of people would love to be in your shoes. If all else fails eat lots of chocolate.
Can you recommend a product for busy women?
I couldn’t be without my iPhone – it makes my life so much easier – and online shopping!! I’ve done a lot of my Christmas shopping whilst waiting for the kids to come out of school.
If you had a day with nothing on your to do list and no one to look after what would you do?
I’d seriously hate it. I wouldn’t know what to do. That’s not good is it? I’m never on my own for long. We haven’t had a holiday since our honeymoon in 1995 and we’ve never been able to have a day off never mind a holiday with the kids, so that’s what I really would like to do.
The last two years we have managed to take them to London and stay for a night after we finished the milk deliveries on Saturday. We loved it but I think my friend went on holiday abroad for a week cheaper than what it cost us for a night in London with all our brood! I’ll keep buying the lottery tickets and delivering those milk bottles.
See? I told you she was special.
If you’d like to buy greetings cards from my sister (they’re lovely and a great price), you can visit her site here. And if you’d like to set up a milk delivery from Airstone & Co (they cover the Barnsley, Huddersfield and Sheffield areas in the UK and deliver to schools, nurseries, homes and businesses), please email my sister, Claire Airstone at firstname.lastname@example.org
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