Stay at home moms get all the breaks. Working moms do all of the everyday things a stay at home mom does AND manage to keep a full time job. Sound like a familiar sentiment?
Although I have the opportunity to stay at home with my children right now, I am a recovering at-work professional. While people call me busy now, I remember a time when I was a completely different type of busy. I was maintaining a 40+ hour work week, doing international social work with a team to start a non-profit organization, going to school to complete my Master’s degree on top of being a foster parent. It was during this time that I discovered some tips in how to get all of that “day-to-day” stuff done and still have enough time to enjoy my crazy life! I’m sure others have more on their plate and that many have their own magical formula in how they get it all done. That’s awesome. I remember a time when I hadn’t had all the kinks worked out and I so wished someone had shared their magical formula so that I could glean from it what worked for my situation. I don’t claim to have all the answers to any given situation, but I will say that regardless of what schedule came up for whatever kids I had in my home, the following is a routine that worked for me. If my experience can benefit even one reader that makes this blog post all the more worthwhile.
Our brood began each day with a frenzy like no other. I’d get myself up and ready-minus the hair while the kiddos still slept. I’d then get them completely ready to go, donning outfits they’d picked out the night before, and give them each a glass or sippie cup of milk. They’d drink their milk while I did my hair. Once we were all ready to go, it was time for breakfast. I would either cook or prepare breakfast the night before. Reheated scrambled eggs with toast were a favorite for awhile, but there were times when they also liked the basic dry cereal in a no-spill cup with a glass or sippie cup of orange juice. Other quick breakfast ideas that I used to mixed things up included reheated home-made pancakes, yogurt tubes, fruit in a no-spill cup, ham strips and bagels with cream cheese and sprinkles. I found quick, healthy meals to be a great solution to the morning time crunch. With the variety of foster kids I had in my home, I used different daycare solutions. Some daycares provide breakfast if children arrive before a certain time. Sometimes this plan worked out great, but other times I noticed the breakfast they provided was not exactly something I’d choose as fuel for growing bodies. In those instances, I’d just feed them at home and then tell the daycare that they already ate.
Note: I had a friend who once told me about some kids who would get fed once at home, once more at daycare and then a third time at school. I would inform the daycare that my kiddos had already eaten to avoid the same folly.
The second biggest time crunch for a working parent happens between the time everyone arrives home and dinnertime. Many things are juggled during this time and I commend everyone out there who has even attempted to develop a routine of any kind. For me, this is what worked… Upon arriving home, everyone would wash and put our things for the day in our designated spaces. For the kids, backpacks went on one counter in the kitchen and lunch bags went by the sink. We’d then go through book bags and work on homework items or learning activities while I cleaned lunch bags and warmed up the dinner I had cooked the night before. I would also take this time to disappear for a few minutes to quickly shift around loads of laundry.
After dinner, kids would work on homework, have free time to play a video game, do a craft, go on the computer, or play quietly. I would quickly do another load shift and then used the rest of this time to prep breakfast and dinner for the next day and pack lunches while the dinner cooked. This usually took about 30 to 45 minutes. I liked having the kids do their homework at the kitchen table during this time as I was completely accessible to them but also had my own tasks going, which allowed them to still work for the most part, independently.
Once homework and meal prep was over I would do another load shift while they put their things away and then we would have some time to read together or play some type of game. After this family time, it was time for the night-time routine. I would fold and put away laundry while the kids put toys away, chose their outfits for the following day and got ready for bed. I never transitioned from family time straight to bedtime with any of my kids. I found it too disruptive to make such a drastic shift from even the quietest play. Instead, the kids would get completely ready for bed and then do “silent reading” for half an hour. This allowed them a smoother transition while also, hopefully, fostering a love for reading that they could carry into adulthood.
Before I wised up and got a housekeeper, I would use “silent reading” time to do my housework. One night, I’d clean floors, the next night I’d scrub the kitchen, etc. Organizing housework into 30 minute tasks to complete each weeknight allowed me to reserve my weekends for fun while also keeping our home livable. By the end of the week, the house was once again ready for a weekend of entertaining.
With everything done, time after the kids went to bed was reserved just for me. Granted, during that point in my life, much of my spare time was spent studying, but I can’t stress how restful that time was, knowing I didn’t have any menial tasks hanging over my head.
To answer a question that may be burning in the minds of some readers, yes. I was married at this time, but given my husband’s line of work, he was often gone during the work week. So for the majority of the time I was doing it all on my own. I kept the above routine flexible enough to allow for extracurricular activities that every family enjoys, but the basic routine gave me the sanity and structure our household needed to get from one week to the next while still enjoying our home life.
To spare myself even more time and sanity, I would make a plan of meals one week at a time. I would add this to the running “shopping list” I had posted on the fridge every week. This allowed me to get all of the things I needed for the week in just one shopping trip. Planning ahead like this gave me reason to skip the drive-thru and saved me a bunch of hassle in answering the “what’s for dinner” question.
The list of tiny little strategies I used to save extra time is too lengthy for this post, but the major time savers are included above. Looking back, I realize just how busy I was during that period of my life. Thankfully, the above schedule gave me the peace to look back on this time with fondness. I don’t pretend to know the day-to-day lives of our readers but I can only hope that each reader is filling their days with their own blend of busy. If you feel that you have a time saving tip that could help the rest of us wherever we’re at in our lives, I’d love to hear it!