Being a working parent these days is definitely a juggling act, keeping all the balls in the air and several plates spinning at the same time! There are many demands placed on working mums as well as dads and these vary depending on your family dynamics. This juggling act can be even more challenging if you are a single parent like myself. It’s Working Parents Day Wednesday 16th September so I thought I would jot down the tips I have learned over the years that help me fit more in and I hope they are helpful to you.
Ditch the to do list and time block instead
Being organised is key and for some people this comes naturally, for others it’s more difficult and a new habit that needs to be formed. One tip that I learned a year or so ago now from a fabulous book by Rob Moore called Routine = Results was to ditch your to do list and time block instead. What I mean by time block is plan out your day in blocks of time. I choose to do this on Google calendar and it’s easy to change on a laptop etc or your phone. You can even share your calendar with your partner, other family members or work colleagues for appointment purposes. I have even got my dad into this and he is 67 and loves Google calendar now! Blocking out your time really helps you fit more in. The first things to put in are things like getting the kids ready for school, school run, things that are the same every day. You can block out family time, time to help with homework, cooking, bath time etc. Then you can add in time for hobbies and which hours you will work etc.
Plan as much as you can but be flexible
Meal planning has been around since well, forever, but it really does help. I know on the occasions when I have said oh I’ll just wing it this week I don’t have time to sit and plan out meals, the week has been a bit chaotic and you stand there for 10 – 15 minutes wondering what to cook instead of just getting on with it! There is nothing wrong having your meals planned out and then something in your week changes so it’s better to swap say Tuesday’s meal with Saturday’s etc. At least you know you have all the ingredients you need, you just need to make a small change.
NET – no extra time
This is another skill I learned a while ago and it’s effectively multitasking but in a more efficient way. Some ways I do this are listen to a podcast while walking back from the school run, I am walking anyway but I am also learning as well or I will make a phone call instead of doing it when I get back home. I usually prep lunchboxes at the same time as getting the breakfast e.g. make a sandwich while the porridge is cooking in the microwave and so on. These are great ways to get two tasks done in the time it would normally take you to do one.
Don’t try to do everything yourself
I used to see asking for or accepting help as a weakness many years ago as if it was an indication that I or someone else didn’t think I was capable of doing that task and I couldn’t have been further from the truth! Many years ago my mum offered to help me by doing some washing and ironing for me as she knows I have a lot to juggle with two energetic boys on my own and a business to run. To begin with I thought she was offering because she thought I couldn’t do it all myself when actually it was nothing to do with that at all. My mum has more time on her hands than I do and this is a great way for her to help me. I realised after a while that it was a great help and made perfect sense as my mum gets joy from helping me and I get more time to spend with my boys and running the business so it’s a win win. What tasks could your partner or parents do to help you? Perhaps collect some shopping for you or do a couple of school runs each week. The other option you have is to hire a cleaner to help you with some of your house/personal tasks to free up your time to spend with your family, hobbies or work.
Involve the kids
Now this does depend on the age of your children but I am a big believer in encouraging your kids to help round the house. You may be met with some resistance but it does help prepare them for later in life. I have 10 and 12 year old boys who are not particularly excited by housework, I mean lets face it, who is! I asked them to choose some jobs so they are more willing to do them. My youngest chose dusting, which was an epic win as that’s my least favourite housework job! My eldest cleans the windows and likes to wash the kitchen floor. They also now put their clean clothes away, which is a big help. You may need to help and direct a lot in the beginning but they will soon get the hang of it and realise it needs to be done properly. It will take a bit of time to get it right and they may want to change jobs for something else and that’s fine too. I have put it to my boys that we are a team and we need to work together, which also gets them into a good habit for later life.
Hopefully these tips are helpful or have given you some ideas. At the end of the day, it is a juggle and we are all doing the best we can within our own family dynamics.