Being a busy working mum with 4 kids I am often asked how I get everything done and keep all the balls in the air. I am in no way saying I have it all worked out or that I don’t ever drop some of the balls, I do, it’s more like a work in progress! But I thought it might be helpful to pass on some of the best tips that I have picked up along the way which I have shaped to fit my own work/family life, hopefully they will be useful to you!?
1.Time management scheduling
Just like managing a project in an office, organization is vital to handling your family’s schedule. First, purchase a large calendar and put it in a prominent place in your home. For added accessibility, some Web sites offer free calendars that your family members can access online or there are apps like Cozi that are very useful for busy families.
Start by adding information about school holidays, birthdays, sports games, doctor appointments etc. Then, when a new activity comes up, jot it down immediately. When dealing with multiple schedules, it may be a good idea to organize the calendar by name as well. Be sure to include the following five essential facts when recording each event: who, what, when, where and how.
As a busy parent, sometimes you have to ask for help. When you’re organizing the family calendar, look at who’s responsible for accomplishing what. Is someone doing all of the transporting, while another has ample free time? Does one person have a large project coming up and might not be able to complete routine household duties?
Children spell love T-I-M-E. Spending time with your children provides them with opportunities to learn and to be heard. Most of all, it provides you and your children with time to connect. It’s these connections that make your children feel loved. So leave the beds unstripped for another few minutes and put the coffee on an automatic timer. Take those extra moments to spend with your children. When you look back, you will be thankful for the memories.
2. A Strict bedtime routine
This rule is the cornerstone of our family life, it gives the kids some boundaries while giving us parents time to ourselves in the evenings to either work or relax together. There have been many studies into the benefits of sticking to a bed time routine, a sense of safety and security for the children is one big one. If there is a special occasion we do bend the rules, like if there is an eclipse or something we feel would benefit the kids in the long run, it’s all about weighing it up and going with your instincts.
3. Spend time with good friends
It’s so important to remember who you are as an individual and who you were before you had kids. Having a quick coffee with a good friend or going out for a meal or a dance with them will give you a boost in so many ways. Laughing and listening to other people’s achievements and worries is a great way of stepping out of your own life for a little while. It’s so easy to get caught up in family life, but be aware that it’s a never ending conveyor belt of things to do and you literally have to ‘step off’ and make a decision to take time out for yourself. This part of the balance can be so easily be overlooked as we can often take friends for granted but cultivating different areas of your life will benefit your family, so get those dates in the diary and really try to stick to them, you will be glad you did!
4. Put a limit on cleaning and the tidying
If you define being a super mum and super wife by keeping a neat and sanitised house, make sure you put a limit on how much time you actually devote to this domestic duty. I’m not saying don’t clean – but I am saying don’t sacrifice cuddling time with your partner or an extra bedtime story with your children because you can’t stand the dirty dishes sitting in the sink. Let go of the little things and remember to focus on what’s important.
5. Invest in yourself, rest, sleep, eat
According to research, mothers have on average 17 minutes of ‘me time’ a day, if you’re lucky! Using this time wisely will give you a sense of self-worth that is invaluable to be able to keep going. Even little things like taking five and sitting down for a cup of tea in the sun will make you feel better.
It is really important to get a good night’s sleep, try and do a bit of regular exercise each week and eat well, you will go a lot further and be a lot more productive in the long run, the last thing anyone wants is a mum who has run herself into the ground on account of caring for everyone but herself! If you are happy and healthy, it will ultimately benefit your family, so the key here is by showing yourself some love you are loving your whole family!
6. A Versatile wardrobe
It might sound boring and obvious but start with neutral colours as your base (black, grey, navy, or tans). This will not only ensure all your clothes will go together, it also can be a huge time saver (President Obama only wears grey or navy suits, eliminating that small decision he’d have to make every morning!). The key is to keep it simple and dress outfits up or down with different accessories depending on the occasion
My essentials include:
A couple of crisp white shirts/blouses
Ballet flats, for running between the office and school gates!
A few very simple smart dresses
A dark blazer
A statement bag and good briefcase
A selection of silk scarves and simple good quality jewellery
Good quality heels, if you are on your feet all day it’s important to have good footwear
I always keep a change of clothes and shoes in the car for emergencies
7. Plan the night before
The morning rush; us working mums know it well. Getting yourself and the kids ready in the mornings can be a struggle, but you can speed up the process by doing as much as you can the night before. Wash up/empty the dishwasher, make packed lunches, lay out clothes for the morning, set the table for breakfast and load up backpacks to avoid any last minute chaos. It may seem a pain at the time, but you’ll be relieved (and nicely smug) in the morning! Also make your ‘to do’ or daily plan the night before, this will give you a bit of peace of mind and hopefully give you an easier nights sleep.
8. Utilise the internet, shopping etc
Order your groceries online to save the hassle of having to drag your screaming children through the supermarket aisle after you’ve had a long day at work. If you have family or friends’ birthdays coming up, order their gifts online and send to them directly. But beware of apps like Pinterest and Instagram, they are wonderful for doing a spot of research but they are highly addictive and you can end up on there for hours if your not careful, believe me I know from experience!
9. Cook ahead for the week
When you’ve had a long day, it can be easy to dig out the takeaway menus or stick a meal in the microwave. Take time out on a Sunday afternoon to prepare dinners for the week ahead. You can make it fun for the kids too by giving them small tasks like measuring out pasta and rice. If you cook and freeze meals for your family ahead of the week, you’ll not only save time, but avoid any unhealthy eating habits.
10.Stop watching so much TV
People spend anywhere from 3-7+ hours a day in front of the TV. Choose two programs right now that you can live without and plan something fun to do in that time-slot instead. The extra hours spent in front of the TV is the first place to look when regaining balance in your life and schedule.