or, the juxtaposition of previously unrelated trajectories
I recently read Elizabeth Emen’s 2019 book The Art of Life Admin. Well, perhaps inhaled is a better verb to describe what I did with it. I got it out of the public library on OverDrive and read it while travelling with my four kids and husband during the Easter school holidays. This travel to visit family and friends in our respective North Island hometowns is a feat which requires a considerable amount of what Emens calls life admin. For example, how do I plan and organise to get a family of 6 to and from regional airports and bus stations that have no bookable maxi taxis or car rentals that seat more than 5? Or should we attempt driving, although the cost is considerably higher to take the car across on the ferry? How do you adequately pack enough clothes and baby gear but keep to carry on only for each child, within a weight range than can reasonably lug around themselves and could fit in the back of a 7 seater car, or on their laps? How do you negotiate diets and meal times for a family of six with various allergies in someone else’s house? These are the mundane admin jobs that have been occupying my mind of late.
And this is the point, really. These mundane admin jobs are jobs and they definitely take up mental energy and real time. Becoming a family of six has required a real ‘level up’ in terms of administration, partly because the country seems to be designed for smaller families. I knew this already — I have friends with 4 or 5 kids and I know I avoid family catchups because it’s too much work to think about keeping everyone entertained and fed! Having a family spread over 13 years also requires an insane level of life admin, since at one end I’m keeping track of menstrual supplies and the other end, nappies, with all the activities in between that occupy kids. After reading Emen’s book, I have tried to get through a few bits of life admin, and to recognise life admin as a thing that requires time and energy to do — it cannot just be pushed into the margins to do whenever.
Bullet journalling has been my go to strategy at work, and I have tried to incorporate more life admin into it. I recently created a habit tracker to track my baby’s sleep and feeds over several weeks, because I could not identify a pattern and was finding it hard to work out whether and when I could hand him over to stay at home dad for sleeps. I also have added daily life admin tasks to my to do list: calling to get quotes for windshield replacement; sorting out a box of baby clothes (or delegating this…); booking in a ropes course for my daughter’s birthday; sitting down with the family budget with my husband; picking blood test results; ordering the washing powder that doesn’t wreck the nappies; listing too-small baby items on trade me… the list is endless, but if I do one or two things a day maybe it will get less overwhelming?
Here’s some things I’ve learned so far:
It’s worth it though. Getting stuff done does make me feel good, and competent and adult. And exhausted. It really does never end. But trying to cultivate some enjoyment in crossing things off my to do list makes up for the energy required to actually think of a to do list. What I want to explore next is the ways that this kind of life admin is involved in everyday environmental activism.