My past fall was nuts. To summarize, it was a season packed with packing lunches, drop-offs, pick-ups, working, toddler activities, trying to cook healthy dinners (but many nights dishing up a frozen pizza and a bag salad), bedtime stories, tuck-ins (and re-tuck-ins) and packing our weekends full of holiday events, festivals and playdates. By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, we were all in bed by 8:30 p.m.!
Yes, our family has been busy—and busy having a lot of fun together. But I found myself doing most of the work day in and day out. On top of all the work involved with taking care of a one year old, my older daughter was getting ready to turn 5 years old—and yet I was still getting her dressed, brushing her hair and cleaning up after her meals. I guess I felt it was quicker to just do it, but I was beyond exhausted leaving no time for myself, since I crashed as soon as the girls were in bed.
I didn’t make just a New Year’s resolution—instead, I made a plan: 2018 will be THE year to get more accomplished, have a little time to do things for myself and recruit my almost five-year-old to participate in our daily tasks. Making a few upgrades to our daily life will hopefully make me feel more productive not just in raising our kids, but my own adult life, too!
Here are seven ways to be a more productive parent, with a focus on delegation to the little ones.
I love to cook and my daughter also shows a love of cooking. We’ve started to meal plan together. On Sunday before we grocery shop, we write the list of what we want to eat for the week. I think the routine of preparing foods ahead of time is helpful to a four-year-old, so she knows what to look forward to for dinner. She helps prep and set the table. We also added a stool by the kitchen sink, so she can rinse her plate and put it in the dishwasher.
She is also now in charge of packing her own lunch. We do this the night before to avoid hectic and unpredictable mornings. My daughter sets out her Trolls lunchbox and packs foods such as a sandwich, fruits, veggies, hummus, crackers, cheese or yogurt.
Chore Routines for Everyone
It makes me feel better when every toy, every pile of paper, every dish and jacket are all put away at the end of the day. The house can be in full destruction mode with every toy on the floor, blanket forts over the couch and stuffed animal tea parties in the kitchen. But by bedtime, when everything is put away, I feel like I can sleep better at night.
Plan, Plan, Plan!
Instead of just relying on Google Calendar, get your kids involved to create a family calendar that everyone can see and participate with. You can use a calendar template or make one with chart or construction paper. (Glitter. Lots of glitter and stickers, of course.)
Sometimes I feel like I run late places because I have to pack snacks, water bottles, diapers, wipes and pouches. I bought a snack box to go in the car: it has two water bottle holders and plenty of room for on-the-go munchies. Along with meal planning and prepping on Sundays, my toddler and I load up the snack box. I put in two fresh water bottles and plenty of snacks to prevent car ride meltdowns. I’ve even started keeping a large jug of water in the car in case we need a refill throughout the week. My toddler is our official “Snack Manager.” She will definitely let me know if we are running low on snacks.
Get Up Earlier
Since the first of the year, I have been setting my alarm an hour earlier. This has been magical. (Well, except for the nights when the baby wakes up for no reason, and you have that lovely “trainwreck”feeling when the alarm starts to ring.) But when the night is smooth, getting an hour in the morning to myself is so rewarding. I can have a cup of coffee in peace, make any lists of things to do for the day, watch a little news, just sit and enjoy the quiet.
Stay Off Social Media
I had a bad habit of waking up in the morning and going straight to my phone to check Facebook and Instagram. Sure, someone might have posted a stunning vacation photo in Fiji, or an interesting news article—but it wasn’t bringing any real satisfaction to my life. It certainly wasn’t making me productive. Twenty, sometimes 30 minutes later, I’d put my phone down, feeling guilty I had just wasted all of that precious time.
The same goes for bedtime. I was finding myself getting into bed, and going straight to my phone. By the time I finished, I was too tired to read my book that I’ve been stuck on the same page for weeks. I haven’t deleted the apps off my phone yet, but my phone is no longer allowed in my bed. We’ll see how it goes. I did finally finish the book I was reading!
Instead of always planning so many playdates and kid-friendly entertainment every weekend, it’s important to carve out time for yourself. Plan ahead with your partner or spouse. One of you gets Saturday morning while the other gets Sunday. Getting back into the routines of working out gives me the energy to be more productive during the rest of the day. Joining a gym with a childcare option is also beneficial. Just getting one hour to do a yoga or cardio class makes a huge difference in my day.
My 2018 is already off to a more productive start: our fridge has a kid-made, bright, sparkly calendar to keep us all on track. Both girls feel empowered to help out at home, my gym membership isn’t a mere credit card charge any longer… and I finally picked up the dry cleaning!