A couple of weeks ago I was asked to speak at a Moms and Tots group at my church on the topic of “Making Time for Mom.” Since I had the work done, I thought I might as well make this a blog post, too! I’ll do my best to keep it brief, but that isn’t my specialty, so bear with me.
One major point that I made was that there is no way you’re ever going to get time for yourself without being organized. I like my days/life to have some structure, but not rigid routine…alas, “Babywise” and I did not get along well. But, I think that kids do best when there’s predictability, and I know I do, too. Here are a few “structure” things that help me function better:
* I’m a big fan of early bedtimes. Our kids go to bed by around 7:30 most nights…there are exceptions, of course, but this is our goal. Obviously, you have to make this work with your husband’s schedule, but Matt’s home by 5:45/6 most nights, so there’s time to play after dinner while I clean up the kitchen.
*We make this work by having baths before dinner when possible or in the morning, so it doesn’t take away from playtime. Now, in the summer this goes out the window.
*On Saturdays, our kids are often in bed by 7 because we’ve had a crazy day and because we like to have fake date night, where we do carryout or cook together.
*Thankfully, I have a husband who is helpful and values my sanity, too…so we kind of trade nights away. It’s not one-for-one, but we both try to be conscious of the other’s need for some time with friends.
*Meal planning…I usually plan 7-10 days in advance. Some weeks go exactly as scheduled, and others get mixed up. But, because of my next point, that’s not really a problem…
*Once-a-week grocery shopping. I used to be the queen of stopping by the store on the way home for a few things for dinner. There was never a meal plan, and it was awful for the kids and for our budget. Now, I get what I need for all of the meals I’ve planned, so there are very few emergency trips to the store.
*Cooking in bulk when possible. Investing time in making a huge pot of spaghetti sauce (90+ minutes of work) is worth it when it equals 4 quick, healthy dinners.
*Doing as much meal prep work as possible when the kids are sleeping or in quiet time, so dinner isn’t so hectic. (I posted a quick crockpot recipe at Three More Bites…it was really good!)
*Teach the kids to play on their own. From very early on I had them sit and play by themselves whenever possible…I’d leave the room after we’d played for a bit and they were engrossed in a toy. If I heard them call out for me, I’d tell them where I was, and told them they could come find me, or I’d check in periodically. If you have older kids and are thinking that this can’t be done, start by setting a timer for 5 minutes, and gradually increase their alone time. If you have preschool and older kids, you can set a timer for them to have some quiet play time and tell them that they can only come get you if it’s an emergency (in our house, this means blood or vomit). You can use this time for laundry, reading, checking email/blogs, cooking, quick bathroom cleanup, etc.
My next point is about lowering your expectations…in a good way. Your house doesn’t always have to be company ready. I realize that everyone has their own level of tolerance for toys/junk/etc. Mine is high. The playroom is usually mildly to severely messy, but we only clean it up about 3 days a week. Why? Because there are three little people in the house and only one me. The toys stay in the playroom, so it doesn’t bother me. Things that get scattered outside of the playroom get picked up daily. But I don’t have the energy to spend my days constantly cleaning up after the kids or nagging them to clean everything up. They take care of it when they need to.
I think it’s also healthy to redefine “alone time” now that you’re a mom…while I’d much prefer spending an hour getting a pedicure (and do so every now and again), I cherish my trips to Target or the grocery store alone. This would not have been the case 6 years ago, and I would have thought someone saying this must have been incredibly dorky! But I love when I don’t have to drag kids along with me and the trip can be peaceful.
So, that’s what works for me…but I obviously don’t have all the answers! What works for you?
For more ideas, go to We Are THAT Family.