Well, its almost been a year. One whole magical year staying home with my beautiful baby girl. While the amount you learn about your child, yourself, your marriage, and the ways your life is forever changed seems never ending, another thing I’ve learned a lot about is how to make the most of my day. Mostly through trial and error. By nature I am a hard-working, need-to-be-productive, can’t-sit-down kind of person, so moving from the fast-paced job of elementary education to staying home was a big adjustment. I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated during those first few months as the housework piled up and I often felt like I went to bed with nothing to show for my day (which is insane because my growing, happy, and thriving daughter was all I needed “to show”). Over the months, however, things started to get a little easier. She wasn’t attached to my boob for the better portion of the day. She started napping in her crib better as opposed to only on me. As she slept through the night longer I was better rested to face the day. Her bedtime got pushed back from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. which gave me roughly 3 glorious hours before bedtime. She started sitting and playing independently which allowed me a little more freedom.
If you’re still in those first few months and feel like some days you’re drowning – it will get better. Embrace the chaos for the time being. Nap when she naps. Let some dishes pile up. Take some guilt-free “you time” when you can. Ask for help when you need it. And remember that for the this moment, that beautiful being you created IS your job – you were not hired to be a housekeeper.
As we start to come out of that initial stage of daily survival, however, getting a few things done becomes a little more feasible. I am by no means an expert or pro at time management or organization, trust me. But I have learned a thing or two about what works for us, and if it helps you in any small way – then I am one happy momma!
For me, the biggest way I am able to maximize time is through planning and preparation. Taking random stabs at tasks that need to be done is counterproductive – I’d start 5 tasks at once and never complete a single thing! So, I plan. Everything. On Sundays.
This picture above is my “command center”. My entire week is wrapped up in this nook. And here’s what I do. On Sunday.
- The Calendar. I actually lay out the whole month at the beginning of each month, but on Sundays I make sure everything is up to date and on the calendar. Every visitor, appointment, and activity. This comes first, and will dictate the rest of my planning.
- The Meal Plan. (Bottom Middle) Have your calendar up to date so you know how many nights you need to cook, and then plan your meals accordingly. I usually try and do some sort of mix between crockpot meals and those that are a little more labor intensive. Not only is a meal plan nice so you avoid the 5:00 panic of what to make, but it also helps tremendously with grocery budget as you are only getting what you absolutely need for the week. And if you have a man that’s handy in the kitchen, he can jump in and help without even having to ask!
- The Grocery List. (Bottom Left) You’ve got your meal plan, so now go through and decide what you already have and what you’ll need. Once dinners are covered, consider snacks, lunches, drinks, etc. (If you make your baby food, remember to plan for those extra fruits or veggies you’ll be pureeing!).
- The To-Do Lists. I am 110% a list person. I need them to function as an adult. Seriously. So I have two. My “General” (next to grocery list) is a list of things to do within the following month or so, so I can keep things near and far on my radar. My “Daily” list (bottom right) incorporates workouts, cleaning, laundry, and various household maintenance items from my General list (like paying bills, making appointments, DIY projects, etc for the week). Every day will have a few to-do’s under it. I also make sure to take a peek back at my meal plan so I know which nights I’ll have more time to tackle more time consuming tasks (crockpot nights give me more time!). How many times am I going to work out this week? When will laundry need to be done? Is there a certain day bills need to be paid? Make your to-do’s small, and specific. For example, “vacuum master & kids’ bedrooms” and “pay mortgage and auto” are much more doable and specific than “vacuum” and “pay bills”. Be specific!
By the end of planning this quick little map of our week, I’m able to see what the week ahead should (roughly) look like. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a week where a change of plans didn’t put a wrench in things, but at least I’m prepared and can roll with the punches, right?
*On a side note, there’s this sweet little free app called Cozi – its a grocery list, To-Do List, Calendar, and more all in one. Plus, it syncs all phones that are on it so your family stays on the same page! I blogged about it before here: https://estoebick.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/family-life-simplified-get-cozi-with-it-2/
(and for the love of god someone tell me what I’m doing wrong when trying to embed a link?!)
After the planning comes grocery shopping and food preparation. Once back from the grocery store, work as a team to try and prep as much food for the week as you can within reason. Grill up a few pounds of chicken to pull out for salads during the week. Clean, cut, and portion some of your favorite go-to fruits and veggies for snacking. If you can prepare any items for the upcoming week’s dinners, do it now and tuck it back in the fridge for later. All of this food prep will come in handy when you have 45 seconds to grab a healthy snack or 10 minutes to try and throw together a dinner. (Do I need to even mention prepping food can help immensely when trying to lose the baby weight? You’ll eat what’s available – so make those good foods ready to grab!). Depending on your baby’s age, this might also be a good time to prep baby’s snacks or whip up some baby food for the week! You will free up so much time during the week if your meals are able to be put together quickly – you’ve already laid all the ground work!
Whew! Kinda seems like your Sunday is over before it even began, huh? I promise it doesn’t take long, especially once you get a routine down. It just makes sense to do all the planning and preparation before the hustle and bustle of a week begins and your help is home with you!
Aside from Sunday planning and prep, there are a few other tips and tricks I’ve picked up that, again, work for us:
- If your baby enjoys it, wear your baby to get stuff done! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had her wrapped up on my chest in her K’Tan so I could unload the dishwasher, fold a load of laundry, or vacuum.
- Don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of a little independent play time. I used to feel like I needed to be playing with or engaging Tayler all day, when the truth is independent play is necessary and needed for social and cognitive development. While she is mumbling and putting blocks in and out of a bag on repeat, I don’t feel guilty doing a quick task or two!
- Be prepared in different areas of the house. If your baby isn’t big on being worn at the moment, have things ready to pull out in different areas of the house where you might need to quickly get something done. I used to have at least one bouncer/mat/toy/swing/etc ready to pull out all over the house. (Check out the “Go Pod!” for this!). If I needed to be in our bedroom putting away clothes, in the basement switching a load of laundry, or in the bathroom getting ready, I had something ready to help entertain and/or contain her for a second.
- Take advantage of the times of day baby is happiest!
- Take advantage of daddy and baby time. When my husband gets home from work and settled in, I usually have some time to get a few things done. While playing all together is important, they also need some alone time to bond. Go shower, read, blog, peruse Pinterest, or whatever it is you need to relax a little!
- Shower at night if its reasonable for you. I have very thick hair that takes forever to blow dry. Instead of using time during the day to shower and attempt to blow dry and style my hair, I shower once she goes to bed and all I have to do the following day is style, which is much quicker!
- Get into a routine with their naps. My daughter is currently napping twice a day. During those naps I know exactly what I’m going to do and waste zero time getting to it! Morning nap time is reserved for getting ready for the day (clothes/hair/makeup), and lunch. If I have time past those things, its a blessing! Afternoon nap is reserved for workouts and to-do list tackling. If I have time leftover, I love jumping ahead to to-do’s for later in the week!
- As they get older, involve them! Two of Tayler’s favorite things right now are helping me unload the dishwasher and handing me every piece of clean clothes from the basket for me to fold. Make some chores a game and make it fun!
- Full hands up/full hands down. Years of serving and bartending has ingrained this little multi-tasking motto into my brain’s functioning. Almost every time I go upstairs or downstairs, I’m taking something with me. I’m always scanning what needs to be moved to where to keep my trips efficient. Sounds a little crazy, but I promise it helps!
The final, and most important tip I have is this:
10. Realize and embrace the fact that you will never again be quite as productive as you once were. Don’t try to be Supermom and do it all. I’ve learned trying to be Supermom can lead to Supermom not ever taking care of herself, which, is never good for anyone. Just be a really great mom, and enjoy your insanely lovable little ones. In 20 years when your kids are off to college or starting families of their own – that’s when you can keep a perfectly clean house, and even then I’m sure you’ll just wish it was back to being messy with all the beautiful chaos that once filled your home.
*To moms with more than one child: I don’t know how you do it. Once I’m there, I’m sure I’ll look back at this post and laugh, but for now, this will have to do 🙂