Some homemakers seek adventure. They thrive on taking chances - such as possibly forgetting a child's orthodontist appointment. They would never carry a day planner.
Gayle Crook spent years teaching time management to homemakers. She met dozens of homemakers who like chaos. She also met hundreds who didn't.It was more than 20 years ago when she started teaching. Back then all the homemakers who signed up for her classes were women. Crook was living in Canada at the time, in the early '70s, when the time-management trend began. Most of the women in her classes had husbands who were out in the business world - taking their own time-management classes and carrying planners.
Some of Crook's students tried little books like the ones their husbands carried. "But all the planners were business planners," Crook recalls. The calendars were divided into 15-minute time slots, beginning at 9 a.m. She laughs to think of it. As if family life is 9 to 5. As if anyone knows, within 15 minutes, when the baby will fall asleep or wake up from his nap.
Crook had her students bring a ruler and paper and a loose-leaf binder to class. They drew up their own daily calendars. Instead of breaking the day into time slots, they broke it into subjects to be attended to. They drew boxes.
One box was for appointments to be kept, Mom's and the children's. One was for calls to be placed. One box was for things to do today. There was a place to list menus, another for expenditures, and a place to jot down phone messages.
They even drew a small space for "journal entry" - an acknowledgment that a parent is not sitting home with a journal in hand when a child says something cute. A parent is more likely to be in the car or the doctor's waiting room when the memorable moment occurs.
In the back of their notebooks, Crook's students drew spaces for birthday lists and Christmas-card lists. They drew pages where they could enumerate allergies, immunizations, blood types, Social Security numbers and clothing sizes for each family member.
Making their own detailed calendars was thrifty but time-consuming. Crook's students begged her to have the pages printed professionally. So her business expanded from seminars into products. She began selling the Homemaker's Executive Day-Planner.
Crook and her husband and seven children moved to Utah in 1989. She was too busy to market her planners. But her Canadian customers tracked her down to order replacement pages. By word of mouth, she got new customers in Utah.
Now she has a mail-order business. Crook is surprised her organizers are still in demand. Certainly it was a unique idea 20 years ago - the idea that homemakers need their own planners - but Crook is sure that, by now, other, larger manufacturers must be making planners for home-makers.
Not yet, says Terrie Abbott.
Abbott designed her own planner just last year. She couldn't find anything appropriate for a parent who was also running a small business out of her home.
She and her mother, Marlene Matheson, call their planner "Crazy Lady." It's a great help for fathers and grandmothers, too, says Matheson.
"Mothers have to remember 1,001 things," says Matheson. Other family members don't even know where to begin to take over if Mom isn't home.
Many of the Crazy Lady pages are similar to the Homemaker's Executive - with places for birthday lists, journal entries and cute quotes from kids. Abbott also has pages to help track her home business: inventory lists, travel expenses and the like.
There are also pages to be filledout and given to a baby sitter, so the sitter will know the children's schedule and where the parents are. The sitter can make notes and take phone messages right on the same sheet.
As a grandmother, Matheson finds the family information pages especially helpful. Each child has a page that includes health information and a list of his or her friends and the friends' phone numbers. Says Matheson, "You know where to start calling when someone doesn't come home after school."
Matheson said she and her daughter know dozens of businesswomen who started designing their own day-planner pages after they had children. There just wasn't much on the market to help them keep track of a family and a home.
Keeping track of a home is the reason Julie Zimmerman designed her own little vinyl-covered notebook. She was getting frustrated by colors. What a sheet manufacturer calls "dusty rose" is what a carpetmaker calls "mauve."
So Zimmerman came up with "The MatchMaker," which has pockets for samples of wallpaper, paint and carpet as well as pages for listing dimensions of floors and windows. (She had also noticed that she always found the kitchen curtains when she was least expecting to run across them - and she never knew what size she needed.)
She markets The MatchMaker for people who are building or remodeling. Zimmerman isn't remodeling, but she carries the little book in her purse, anyway. "I hate returning things. And I hate keeping something that isn't right and then selling it in a garage sale."
Being organized means not having to take time to make returns. It also means not having the frustration of rescheduling missed appointments. But the most important thing about having a plan, says Crook, is that it allows you to define your goals and meet them.
Before she taught time-management, Crook taught elementary school. She thinks every homemaker should make time with the children her primary goal. These are sample sentences for homemaker's daily to-do list:
Take the kids to swing in the park. Read a bedtime story. Turn off the TV.
Help with a hobby after school. Take 20 minutes with Janie if she seems to need it; take an hour or two if she seems to need more.
Refrain from criticizing for just today. Put on a tape of classical music after you turn out the lights.
This is what Crook used to tell her students: "When they grow up, your children will never remember how clean the bathroom was. They will remember the time you spent with them."