This blog is about how "I" tweak things, to try and fill my life with the things that I feel are important. I will also talk a bit about mental health/anxiety and current pressures.
I would like to start off by saying that this is not about trying to have EVERYTHING 100% of the time, as we all have the same amount of hours in the day, the same amount of days in the week. It also is not a blog about overdoing it and taking too much on, it is about making the most of your hours.
I do have a large number of plates spinning at the moment. I am a mum of 4 young boys, I run 2 businesses from home and also 2 very large groups, I am a wife to an awesome man, I am a school governor, I’m on 2 PTAs, I like to cook from scratch and we do a LOT of outdoor activities.
I don't have some magical time capsule to fit it all in. I also do not have ALL of those plates spinning fast or perfectly all the time.
Some times a plate might start wobbling and almost stop spinning but it is given a little nudge just to keep it going while I concentrate on the others.
However what is possible is to reduce the wastage in your life, so that you can relax and enjoy it a bit more.
Where do we waste life? Well, it will be different for everyone. But for me my biggest life wasters were.
1. Cooking, then clearing up 3 times a day every.single.day.
2. Faffing in the mornings trying to get the kids out of the house while trying to make lunches / find lost socks / find random shoes while trying not to lose my cool.
3. Cleaning the house up, only for the kids to trash it 5mins later
4. Laundry. getting it into the washing machine.. and drying it.. and getting the kids to put their own stuff away.
5. Nagging... nagging the kids to get dressed/undressed/pick up after themselves / to "help" the family /brush their teeth. Nagging doesn’t help.
6. Having to remember things and then forgetting them. Then worrying about what I have forgotten!
7. Anxiety. How many hours to you waste worrying about things? worrying about the state of your house, about what to have for dinner, about what your friends are doing, about the state of the house, about those jobs you have to do that your putting off.
Society currently expects stay at home mothers to be happy isolated at home on their own. However, humans are not supposed to be solitary. This is why prisons and solitary confinement are a form of punishment.
Mothers often find themselves removed from a social working environment, Staying at home (often in pain and healing from birth) on their own, sleep-deprived, socially deprived and on a massively reduced income, with a newborn or toddler too. Even baby groups are not really there to help socialise mothers. Most baby/toddler group setups mean you arrive… you spend 30-60mins or so playing with your child in front of others (which adds pressure as you pray they don’t kick-off), and then you come home again having not really had engaging adult conversations.
When mothers do go out and about, most spaces are not set up to cater to mothers. If you have a newborn or toddler how do you go to the loo? You cant fit a buggy in regular toilets, you can't leave a baby or toddler on the floor. I have often taken the kids swimming, then had to come home if I needed the loo as I didn't want a crawling baby on the floor of the toilets!
To make it worse Sure-start centres have closed down, so even the baby groups are only really available to those with the money to pay for them.
Then people wonder why Post Natel depression is on the rise!
Cooking on your own is often dull. Especially when you feel like it is never-ending. Around 4 years ago I started cooking with friends. We started off prepping meals weekly. But have now progressed to 5 of us prepping monthly. We decide on what meals we want. Then order the food and split the bill. It takes between 2-3 hours to prep the meals for the month by working as a team (if you are prepping a chilli con carnie, then putting out 5 containers and adding mince /onions/herbs and spices to 5 containers doesn’t take much more effort). There is also something lovely about chatting and cooking with friends! You get a chat and learn new skills off each other (and often cook things you wouldn’t normally try). This prep saves so much time during the week and makes everything else possible, not only by removing the mental time taken of “what on earth are we having for dinner tonight”, or the worrying if I have all the ingredients to make a dish. Or worrying about finding time to pop to the shops. It also means you are not having to clean up chopping boards and work surfaces multiple times a day as everything has already been prepped. Of course, this does not work on days that the kids decide they want to cook. Then we have a bit of chaos to deal with. Luckily they don't want to help cook every day :D
When parenting our children one of our jobs is to raise self-sufficient adults, who can look after themselves. Obviously there will be children that are exempt from this if they don’t have the mental or physical capacity to look after themselves. But for most families, this is an aspect that can be lacking. Children should know how to use a washing machine/dishwasher/vacuum and how to cook. And it is important to start young because if you wait until you have a hormone fuelled teenager who is used to having everything done for them, you will have a major uphill struggle.
Our family have a list of ALL the jobs that are required to be done in running in a household. The jobs are given a number of points. And each child has a certain number of points they are expected to do in order to access the fun stuff. Of course, they never ever choose the difficult or yucky tasks like cleaning the loo’s or the cat litter tray… and I am fine with that because not only are they seeing the jobs that need to be done, but to be honest, those little 10min tasks that they do (like wiping down the kicker boards or cleaning the cupboard doors) actually free up 3.5hours a week! (3 kids with 10mins a day). And the fact that they see ALL the jobs that need doing means they don’t feel like its a big ask to wipe down the cupboards when they know I still have 2 toilets, 2 cat litter trays and the bin cupboard to sort out. The do have their off days. And I never FORCE them to do the jobs.. But there are natural consequences. If I have to do the little jobs, then i won’t have time to do the fun stuff with them.
So how does this help with everything else?
Each morning the kids have to be dressed/ had breakfast / brushed their teeth and have done some tasks before accessing technology/tablet/ TV. This removes the nagging and faffing. Because we need to leave the house at 8am, and so they want to be able to access their technology (they only get 1hour a day). This means by 6:30am they are dressed/had breakfast / clean and have done their tasks.. Which means we have a lot fewer battles when it comes to 7:50am.
On a Friday we have a movie night. The kids want to snuggle under their duvets on the sofa… which is fine, but I don’t want stinky duvets on the sofa. So to get movie night the kids need to strip their beds so I can wash them. We then work as a team to get the duvet covers on, and I leg it upstairs to put the bedsheets on.
We also have a rule that unless there is an after school activity or play-date. Then when the kids get home they have to put their dirty clothes in the washing machine, have a wash and get into their Pyjamas. This is so when the kids are tired, later on, I am not having to battle tired children into their Pyjamas. Having them put ALL their clothes into the washing machine also has the bonus of having full outfits to make clothes rolls from when the laundry is dry. Clothes roles are basically a whole outfit rolled together with the socks slipped over the ends to keep it together. It means it removes the “I can’t find any pants/socks” faff that can occur in the mornings. As the outfit is complete.
I do a few things to help the process run smoothly. I have the “clothes rolls” ready the night before. I also have a load of bagels and sandwich-thins made up in the freezer (ham / cheese / turkey) as well as yoghurt tubes / malt loaves and muffins so the kids can make their lunch without making a mess. I also make a batch of waffles and freeze them so the kids can pop them in the toaster if they don’t fancy cereal. Again this reduces the mess and therefore the cleaning up time.
You will find that because the kids have helped clear up an area, they are a little bit more careful about not making it messy. They put their shoes on the shoe rack, they put their dishes in the dishwasher, them mop up spills if they make them, as they are aware of the things that need to be done. They also know I will not invite playdates over if they have created chaos, so it's in their interest to not cause complete destruction ;)
Diaries + Calendars do help massively. But so does having ALEXA. I set reminders for everything. I have weekly reminders for..
Putting the bins out.
Getting ready for scouts
Picking up the kids from clubs
I also put reminders in as soon as I put something in my diary. If a child has a birthday party, then I will put a reminder in 4days before that I need to sort a present. If there is a homework project due on a date, then i set a reminder for the Saturday before so we have time over the weekend. Because not only does she tell you over the speaker, you also have a notification on your phone...
Anxiety can come from many angles. If you don’t have healthy relationships or friendships then your risk of anxiety increases. If you have lots of things to “worry about” then, of course, your anxiety will increase. If you are low in magnesium/potassium/ Vitamin B12 / Vitamin D then you are more likely to get anxiety. Getting outside, making friends, eating well, not having to worry about what’s for dinner this week, knowing your family are helping keep on top of the house all help massively with stress and anxiety.
I set up a mums coffee group around 4 years ago. The aim was to help mums get out of the house, outside and increase their Vitmain D levels. From chatting to others I worked out that mums won’t spend more then £5 on themselves (maybe for a coffee and slice of cake) but that’s about it. I started to phone local venues (sailing lakes / cycle centres / ski slopes) and asking them when their quiet periods were, and if they would be interested in letting mums come along, for an interesting activity and coffee for £5. 80% said yes, and so “mothers who get out with coffee” was born. The activity breaks the ice, and gives the mums some common ground and something to talk about. We now have activities including Skiing, Kayaking, Sailing, Paddleboarding, Rock climbing, Go-Ape, Golf, Fencing, Zumba, Yoga, Hooping, Iceskating, Donutting and more. So many of the ladies that come along would never have tried the activity on their own (who would hire a kayak and set off around a lake on their own) but doing it as a group gives you some comfort. We try our best to organise the activities with 2 sessions so people can tag-team childcare (1 friend watches the babies while the other does the activity and then they swap). The ladies in the group are all awesome!
With all the above I have so many more hours free’d up to do number 7 and look after myself.
I save at least 2hours a day/17hours a week by not having to prep/clean up breakfast / lunch and dinner mess. I get 30mins a day/3.5hours a week by the kids chipping in with the house tasks. Add it together and I am basically getting an extra day in the week.
Of course, we all have our down days (usually when I take my eyes off the ball and forget to put the clothes out or forget to defrost dinner). But even if we are there 80% of the time then that’s a massive improvement.
I hope you find this blog useful and can take something from it to help you get more hours back in your day.