Eating out frequently, hiring a housekeeper and having a nanny are not for everyone. If you feel that way and you’re a working mom, how do you get it all done and maintain your sanity? From leftovers to lists, these tips may help.
When my husband and I first got married I thought it would be great to be a stay-at-home mom. I quickly learned it was not for me. So here I am — two young kids and working a 40+ hour week. As a family, we prefer to eat in so I’m a career woman, a part-time chef, a housekeeper, a wife and, most of all, a mom.
I know I’m not the only one out there when I say I struggle to get it all done. There are certain things in our house that just need to happen. People need to eat, bathrooms need to get cleaned and clothes need to get washed. It may not seem like a lot, but it can get overwhelming when you add in work, homework, after-school activities and birthday parties. Sure, my husband does his share, but I often say to myself, “Downtime? What is that?”
These tips help our household run relatively smoothly and occasionally even allow me a little downtime. Try them with your family:
1 – Schedule, schedule, schedule. The most important thing for us is having a schedule and sticking to it. That means laundry gets done on Monday night and Saturday morning. It gets folded on Tuesday (OK, sometimes Wednesday) and put away immediately. Grocery shopping is done first thing Saturday morning. Bathrooms are cleaned Saturday either before lunch if there is time or immediately after. You get the idea. If it is scheduled, it gets done.
“Many people find it a challenge to schedule, but it can be beneficial — especially for very busy families with kids,” said Bryan Carter, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist at Norton Children’s Hospital and U of L Physicians. “Despite their protests, kids really like some predictability and routine in the household schedule.”
2 – Kids must help. My kids have been sorting the laundry since they were 5 and 3. Yes, they needed a little supervision at first, but they quickly got the hang of it. Now, at 7 and 5, they can clean the bathrooms, empty trash and dust low furniture. They can also help their dad pick up sticks in the yard and hand him tools in the garage.
“Sharing responsibility in household chores can be a valuable developmental experience for even the youngest family member,” Dr. Carter said. “It can foster feelings of accomplishment and contributing to family — all of which enhance self-esteem and self-efficacy.”
3 – Go to the grocery store – once a week. Plan your menu for the week and buy everything you need at once. Make a list that you keep handy all week. When you run out of something, add it to the list immediately. At the top, list the days of the week and write down what you plan to eat, even if it’s a general as chicken, steak, pork, etc.
4 – Leftovers happen. I hear so many stories from family chefs who say that the others won’t eat leftovers. In my house, there are always leftovers. If you don’t eat leftovers, you don’t eat. Sometimes I will try to reinvent leftovers by turning chicken into chicken quesadillas or steak into beef and broccoli stir fry the second time around. The bottom line is, leftovers save precious time and money.
5 – Make breakfast and lunch the night before. In our house, we eat breakfast at home and take our lunch to school and work. To save time, we prepare what we can and set everything out the night before.
6 – If you make a mess, clean it up before doing something else. This is perhaps the hardest thing to teach kids. They tend to want to bounce from one thing to the next, but if you can start young with teaching them to pick up after themselves, it pays off in the long run.
7 – Keep a list or calendar. I have a list of critical things that need to happen during the week, such as what days my daughter is packing a lunch, the deadline for ordering school pictures or the date the electrician is coming to the house. Whether you use a to-do list or calendar, it’s all in one place so everyone can look and see what is happening, and nothing falls through the cracks.
8 – Leave one day for fun. We try to get our chores done through the week and on Saturdays so that Sundays can include a trip to the park or zoo, or even just a bike ride through the neighborhood.
“Having fun with your kids nurtures both the child and parent,” Dr. Carter said. “There is evidence that spending this kind of quality time as a family can strengthen family bonds while also reducing the amount of discipline needed and make discipline more effective. Quality time is like putting money in your parenting bank!”
My family may not be perfect, but by using these systems we eat well, aren’t stepping on clutter and are showering in a soap scum-free zone. And we even have fun.