A few months ago, things were really rough around here. Sam was struggling with balancing his full-time job, his freelance art work, and his part time tattooing job and feeling like he had time to relax with the family. I am extremely blessed to have a very forward thinking husband…. he also feels that when he is home the childcare and chores should be divided 50/50. So there’s no real “leaving everything to mom.” He cleans, cares for Atticus, hangs out with Hope, cooks dinner, does laundry ….THE WORKS. I was feeling the pinch from working full-time, mommy duties, cooking, handling the bill paying, and doing all the childcare while Sam works 500 million hours a week (okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic).
All of this led to our free time and our family time being sucked away. We spent the few minutes in the evening discussing bills or debating who would clean the kitchen and who would bathe the baby. We argued over bills not being paid on time and spent most of our communication time via texting while at work. As introverts and creative types we were also stressed about being unable to have any time to create things. Essentially — any time for paying bills, catching up on chores, folding laundry, having creative introvert time, talking, showering, prepping for the next day, and making love was completely crammed into the hours of 8pm – 11pm on Sunday or during the 12:30pm – 2:30pm nap time on Saturdays. We desperately needed a change.
So here is what we did:
First, I emailed a super-star blogger to ask her advice. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, a mother, and has her own business. And they’re family seems pretty rad with plenty of together time and creative time. Sam had asked me to name one tattoo artist family that hasn’t seen divorce and that was the family I thought of immediately. The one thing this blogger really stressed is how her family has had to think creatively about the concept of weekend or family time to make things work for they’re family. This family has more of a focus on early morning family time and a weekday weekend and it works for them because they had heart, put forth effort, and changed the way they think about their family’s structure and needs.
Secondly, Sam really analyzed what he wants most and ultimately it is the art that he is passionate about. Tattooing is important, but it is more of a medium (like watercolors or pen and ink) than his number one passion in life. He wants to do all sorts of art and not limit himself. This meant that going 100% at tattooing wasn’t going to be a high priority and would occupy about 50% of his “art” as opposed to being the end ultimate goal. This allowed Sam to change his tattoo schedule. Previously he was working Friday night, Saturday night, Monday night, and Tuesday night with one Sunday afternoon a month. Now he is off on Friday nights and works Saturday afternoons instead of Saturday evenings. It is a nice change.
Third, I put my organizational skills to work and came up with three things that will help our family work better:
- I let go. The laundry isn’t always folded. Our yard looks like a hot mess. The garden has increased our bunny population and sustained the deer but hasn’t yielded much else. I don’t make all of our bread by hand. I shelved the idea of sewing for awhile. Basically I just decided that I was going to cease attempting my purty-perfect-pintrest idealized life and just live a little. Atticus goes to bed by 8pm and any other “chores” must be done by 8:30. After that time I leave the sink or laundry pile or mess of bills and talk to my husband or read or take a shower and simply relax before going to bed between 10:30 and 11.
- I made a chore chart. Sam and I spent most of the time we had together talking about what needed to be done. Often we went behind each other doing chores (we’d both be doing laundry while the dishes piled, for example). The chore chart is just a basic excel sheet. I have everything on there: daily chores, weekly tasks , meals, Atticus’s bathtime, bill paying, etc…. I divided the tasks 50/50 taking into consideration work schedules. For example, on the nights when I cook dinner, Sam does the dishes and vice versa. We also have a set time to do the bills. By Thursday our weekly bills and budget are set and by Monday afternoon everything is paid or put into the appropriate account (erm… envelope).
- I flipped the house.
Now this is where the title of this post comes originates. I was homeschooled for most of my life and it was very common for my mom to appropriate a room of the house as the “school room.” Sometimes this was the end of our long, rectangular livingroom, sometimes it was a bedroom, and sometimes it was the dining room in the middle of the house. The area would completely become the school area. This meant that sometimes all three of the kids shared a room to free up a bedroom for a school room or the dining room table lived in the kitchen or laundry room. In the school room would be books, desks, posters, a globe, everything we needed to study. This seemed normal to me. Of course people must have at the very least a “library” where the family got together to learn things and create projects, right?
Okay now you guys are going to have to make up before pictures in your head because I accidentally deleted the pictures from my phone. I’ll describe the FORMER room and why it didn’t work for us:
- The sunroom was my “craft” area. This didn’t work because I can’t see into the rest of the house. If I am in the sunroom I can’t see Atticus playing in the living room or monitor Hope on the computer. So I ended up toting things to the dining room table and the craft table became a place to pile stuff.
- The dining area had a desk which was piled with papers and the dining room table piled with Sam’s art, the computer, and crafts. Obviously, it was a pain in the butt to have our meals like civilized folks.
- The living room is the largest room in the house. It contained bookshelves, the couch, the TV and Atticus’s toys. It is set up to center around the TV. This is bizarre because not only do we not have cable we don’t even have streaming anything set up to go to our TV. We basically just watch one DVD a week. Why the hell is the idiot box the center of everything when it means NOTHING to my family?
Alright… here is the big switcharoo:
The sunroom is now our dining area. This is a super plus because Atticus makes a ginormous mess and it is easier to swiffer the linoleum after every meal than to constantly clean the already worn out hardwood floors.
Our former dining area is now the “living room”. Please ignore the overly smooshed couch. I really need to restuff those cushions.
Another view of our new living room. The TV is there, but it is actually more conducive to our cuddly movie times. We can actually turn up the volume a bit because the kids’ rooms are on the other end of the house.
Our family room… aka the art room aka the craft room aka the playroom… computer room… yup… a schoolroom. Atticus can play, Sam can draw, I can blog, and Hope can work on her tween collection of poster cutouts all in the same room. We can spend time together and do our own thing at the same time!
My little crafty shelf. Bills, embroidery patterns, and sharp objects that need to stay away from the wee one are tucked in here all willy nilly.
The mantel area laden with owls and yarn underneath That desk keeps Atticus from crawling in the fire place (which we don’t use) and keeps him from pulling that heavy iron grate over.
Books and the toy corner.
The entry way we don’t use is now a baby-gated art closet. Sam’s paints, my sewing machine, fabric, and yes, random lamps are stored here.
Bookshelves and Sam’s drawing table in the spot with the best light.
So how are things working so far? Well I could go on and on about how I wasn’t able to increase the QUANTITY of time we all have together but that I’ve enhanced the QUALITY of time we have together as an entire family, as a couple, and as a pair of nerds with individual interests… but I’ll let some more pictures do the talking: