Like a lot of working moms, I rely on lists, everything from what I need at the store to phone messages to client requests, to what really bugs me about the unkempt family room that I can afford to take care of. And sometimes they can be a wonderful, helpful tool, not just in boosting my memory (which, I continue to claim, isn't fading, it's just that my 'hard drive' is too full), but in stress relief. (When I feel too agitated to go to sleep, I make a list of everything that I'm afraid I'll forget the next day, and it works!)
List-making is in my genes. My mother always had lists on the refrigerator, planning meals for the week and detailing what needed to be defrosted when. (It still amazes me that she worked full-time in the days before microwaves, and we always had a wholesome, Donna Reed-worthy dinner on the table by 6:30.) So I took to the habit as a child, itemizing my homework and even future goals. (I was way ahead of 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid', starting an autobiographical list in my diary at age 8 for the sake of future fans.)
But sometimes lists can create more problems than they solve, like overly ambitious New Year's resolutions (#1 - work at a soup kitchen, #2 - lose 25 lbs. this week, #3 - redecorate kitchen, organize closet and learn to weave). I thought I'd stopped, given that my only New Year's resolution for 2010 was to give myself permission to procrastinate. However, we just spent another a spring break at home, I was determined to make the most of it, and old habits die hard.
For whatever reason, many of our family friends were out of town on great trips - we're at the point where a trip to Fresno would seem exotic, so it was hard not to envy people going off to Florida or San Diego. So I made a list of all the ways in which I could take advantage of the free time - I was going to re-organize every room in the house, cook really nutritious meals and bake bread, record vocals for a children's musical, exercise for 2 hours a day, and have lots of meaningful bonding time with my kids.
Instead, the boys spent most of the vacation sleeping late, watching TV and being bored, and I didn't do much more - and it was lovely! I felt bad for a moment when I remembered the list, but on the other hand, the idle idyll must have done me good, because this morning was the first day back, which could have been really ugly (picture crabby, sleepy, slow-moving teenagers, crabby, sleepy, irritated parents, and a dog who kept barking because she wanted to play). But I made everyone breakfast, feeling very much like Donna Reed, and they both got out the door on time, without one fight all morning.
I still need occasional lists, for groceries and clients and such, but as far as 'what I hope to accomplish', I think those lists should be retroactive. So this past spring break, I caught up on sleep, loafed, watched a few old movies, played computer solitaire, spent some time with my kids, and ignored most of what I'd planned. That's a list I can be proud of!