Here are some parenting hacks I’ve found helpful and in an effort to “raise all boats” I pass them on to you. They aren’t for everyone, but they help me. I do better as a parent (emotionally and practically) when my life is organized and things are written down. Having a schedule or list relieves stress and keeps life going at a sustainable pace. I get that for others, schedules and lists only adds stress. So this is only for people, like me, that thrive in formal organization.
I’ve written about this before in my old blog spot, but it bears repeating and I’m still learning how to do this well. Be liberal when it comes to estimating the time a task takes. Schedule your life with margins. I used to have my life scheduled in 15 minute chunks and the ripple effect when one task took longer or a crisis sprung up created a backlog for the rest of the day filled stress, speeding to the next appointment, texting, “I’m running behind 10 minutes”, and constantly barking at the kids, “Hurry up!!” When I plan my day with margins between each appointment it helps in so many ways: 1) Less stress; 2) I enjoy the task more; 3) I do a better job; 4) I am more present in the moment and with my kids (decreases their stress/anxiety too); 5) Spontaneous things (the good and bad kind) can be engaged in a healthy way; and 6) I am forced to live a prioritized life. Doing less in a day means some things have to go and that causes me to live a more prioritized and reflective life. Our kids don’t have to be in every sport and learn every instrument. I’m a firm believer that kids (young kids especially) need lots of down time – hours with lego, playing outside, drawing, painting (I don’t let me kids paint inside, but that’s my OCD), reading, building forts, putting on plays, doing chores, etc. Those things don’t happen when life is busy. I believe the Good Samaritan was able to help because he lived life with margins (time in his schedule, budgeted his money well, etc.). Just because you can fit it in to your schedule or can afford it, doesn’t mean you should.
I like to organize our family schedule in weekly rotations that adjust to school-year chunks/semesters (September-December; January-May, June-August). We’ve never lived each week perfectly, but it gives me some peace and pace.
- Here’s our summer rotation (Word doc) – our fall is much similar, but I’m still working out the kinks of my Sabbath and the kid’s family time.
I’m grateful for parents and in-laws that love to spend time with their grandkids and I often ship my kids off to help with my sanity and workload. I used to forget a few things each time I packed them, but having a pre-built list makes this happen much less. Now I just print off the list and give it to them. I used to use a Word document, but then I built a spreadsheet that auto updates the quantity based on the nights I enter at the top they are gone.
Super parents do monthly meal planning. I have yet to reach that level of awesome. I only do a weekly schedule 3 out of 4 weeks. The fourth week seems to have too much on the go and I fail to get it done (still working out the work-life balance). The weeks where it gets done are awesome! On those weeks: 1) we eat out less (cheaper and healthier); 2) I don’t get asked, “What’s for dinner?” a million times; 3) making school lunches is a dream; 4) I make less trips to the grocery store; and 5) We spend more time together as a family (meal prep, eating, and clean-up).
- Here’s the template that I use (Word doc). I also take a picture of my weekly meal plan on my phone so I have it with me wherever I go.
I love the gmail online calendar system for a million reasons, but if you prefer paper use paper. Whenever a notice or schedule is sent home, I put it in the calendar right away (along with all the details – i.e. I don’t just write down that there’s a field trip, but I record all the details in the notes of the event entry because I hate having paper laying around and looking for it on the morning of the field trip.). Remembering photo day, hot lunch days (and what they ordered), etc. becomes easy. Another tip is that when I decline an invitation I also add it to my calendar with the reason I declined it so that if someone is offended I can be reminded in the moment or after why I declined it (there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I looked at my calendar and for the sake of my sanity (or the health of our family) we can’t make your event.”). I also add my weekly rotation blocks to my calendar so I know when to schedule meetings and how to respond to event invites.
The 30 minutes after the kids get home from school used to be stressful for me. This year I learned to give it some margin – I’ve adjusted my expecations and schedule to allow for an hour after the bus drops the kids off. This gives us ample time to unpack backpacks, process notices, complete homework (while finishing what they didn’t eat in their lunch), and do a few quick chores. For my kids having them do work right when they get home is easier and better for them than letting them play right away and then calling them back to do homework. They go and play and then are usually bored enough at dinner time to help with some chores and hungry enough to eat dinner.
Wunderlist is an online to do list that you can access on any web browser or smartphone. You can share lists with other members of your family or colleagues. It’s great for shopping lists, daily tasks, keeping track of kid’s wishlists (I can send to grandparents and update it when someone has purchased something on the list), etc. I love online lists because it’s never lost, always with me, shareable, and editable (I can drag and drop my grocery list into proper order so I know how to navigate my way through the store instead of going from one end to the other and back again – that got old fast).
Add One Thing
If you like the idea of adding all of these ideas, pick one and adapt it to work for you. It’s taken me a while to figure out a system that is actually helpful and not just pinteresty. My “systems” were invented by others and I adapt them to my needs and personality. They way I do life is by no means prescriptive for your life, but if one or more ideas helps you then great!
Suggestions or Ideas?
If you have systems that work for you, let me know in the comments below or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I love hearing good ideas and considering if they are a good fit for our family.