I’m no different to thousands of other parents across the World juggling more demands than I care to deal with and trying to get through each day without collapsing in a wine-induced heap on the sofa most nights.
Aside from the imminent house renovation I have a full-time job, plus run my own photography business and have toddler twins. My husband works full-time and we manage to keep our day-to-day life running reasonably well without the wheels coming off the bus, so to speak and with minimal support from anyone else. I’m not going to lie, the relentlessness of it all does get to me at times and it can feel all-consuming. The last few years haven’t felt easy. When I do feel a bit blue then I’ll be kind to myself and book a back massage or having a long soak in the bath, with wine and a book. Life felt more challenging when the children were smaller, partly as I never spoke to anyone about how I found it tough. Talking, without sounding really cheesy, does help and I’ve learnt that sharing with my fellow twin Mum friends has really helped me feel better about the craziness (and happiness) of this stage in my life.
My tips below are the things we do to enable us to function. Individually, each tip is small but combined together, for me it is what enables our every day to carry on and for me to feel sane:
- Be prepared. Monday mornings can feel a bit of a rush, the children feel the ‘come down’ after the fun of the weekend and we’re all a bit gloomy. That’s why I always find it’s a good idea to take a little time out on Sunday to prepare for the week ahead. I will always organise the children’s clothes the evening before. In the morning I can get them dressed easily without scrabbling around trying to find a lost sock (although we usually have protests about not wanting to wear a coat!) and we’re then ready to start the day.
- Use technology to help. My husband and I have our calendars sync’d on our iPhones so we are both aware of each other’s schedules and avoid date clashes. We also have a sync’d food shopping list so when key items run out we update the list and whoever is passing the supermarket knows what shopping is needed.
- Let stuff go and ditch the guilt. I rarely do the ironing, as a result, our ironing pile can very quickly tower over me. I don’t care. I can’t do everything. When things get unmanageable, my lovely Mum will often take the ironing basket for me – Thanks Mum! If I’m really behind then I’ll use a local ironing firm who are actually really good value – that’s the one thing I outsource occasionally – we don’t have a cleaner (there’s no point in the house being in its pre-renovation state). So know your limits, if you hate ironing get some help, or buy clothes that need minimal ironing!
- Eat out as a family. We don’t have babysitters so instead will occasionally eat out on the weekend with the children at somewhere like Prezzo. Prezzo is great as we can use our Tesco Clubcard points, your Tesco vouchers are worth 3 x their face value (well 4x currently but they are changing it), so a £2.50 Tesco voucher gets you £7.50 to spend at Prezzo. For the children it feels like a treat and whilst we’d love to have more ‘us’ time, this is a compromise. Once a year we do get a childfree weekend and will indulge ourselves by staying at a lovely hotel for the night, booking this well ahead helps me have something to look forward to, particularly as my nights are regularly broken with the children calling out, asking for a drink or getting in our bed!
- Value your time. I ditched the negative people in my life. My time is so precious that I want to spend it with people whom I like being with and who I know have my best interests at heart. About 18 months ago, two of my longest friendships came to an end, we’d probably grown apart well before this if I’m honest but we all kept on meeting up and I knew for some time that none of our hearts was really in the friendship anymore. I held myself to account as I was heading out to meet up with them and found myself thinking ‘I don’t want to go’. Saying it out loud later to my husband, knowing I’d feel far better if I stayed in and had a hot bath and an early night, spoke volumes to me about the relationship. It took time though, these were people I’d grown up with, been on holiday with, and cared about and it made me feel really sad. However, having children naturally meant my me time was seriously reduced and I wanted to be with people whose company I really loved. Breaking up with your buddies is never easy though but your time is precious so use it wisely.
- Use ‘dead’ time for you. I listen to podcasts when I’m on my own in the car (when I’m not on my own I’m listening to Incy, Wincy Spider)…..This also helps me to feel like me and not just me the Mum. I also use the hands-free option on my car to make catch-up calls and book appointments. When I’m on the train I respond to emails, messages and catch up socially on what’s app with friends. I use every available moment of my time to do stuff. I have approx 30 minutes between 9:30pm to 10:00pm where I might watch TV or read a book but that’s it. I know the balance for me time will shift as the children get older and more independent so I’m cool with the wonky balance of things right now.
- Meal prep ahead. Doing a weekly essentials shop and planning our meals for the week ahead, on a Sunday frees up more time in the week. Being tired when we get home from work and given we rarely start cooking until 8:00 pm I try to make a big meal like a casserole which can feed us over a couple of days. My present this Christmas was a slow cooker – I’d wanted one for ages and now I’ve got one its on constantly – such a great invention for hassle-free home cooked meals.
- Shop smart. I bulk buy birthday cards in one go, aware of the birthdays we have coming up in the coming months. I also start my Christmas shopping really early. Like August. I keep a list in the notes section of my iPhone of what I’ve bought and for whom. This way I spread the cost and the energy of shopping for presents for so many people.
- Get rid of clutter. Embrace your inner Marie Kondo and have a really good clear out. Then give it away, sell it on or donate it to your local charity shop. It’s really therapeutic and I find calming to have clutter-free space. It stops me feeling stressed and more in control.
- Finally, I use lots of planning tools to help me. I always have a To Do list on the go (have you seen the freebie To Do list in my resources section, free to download?).
The other things that keep me sane are planning in some treats for us all, we book our summer holiday at least eight months in advance and then plan weekend breaks, it’s fun to plan and knowing we have this to look forward to really makes me smile. So yes life is super crazy busy currently and it does feel like I’m stood on top of a fast moving train each day but this is only a stage and I know, in time, things will slow down…… so I’m holding on to that thought 🙂
What life hacks can you recommend? How do you manage to juggle it all in your household? Do get in touch as I’d love to hear what works for you.