10 super simple hacks that will make your busy days run smoother
Being a working mum, I will be the first to admit that daily life, the running of our days from morning until night, can sometimes feel like a bit of a juggle.
Balancing the demands of a job with that of family life requires both patience, an ability to survive on minimal sleep and pretty super-human management skills too.
Having been mastering the skills of mum-life for close to eight years at this stage, I like to believe I have picked up some great time (and sanity-saving) methods and tricks over time, all of which help make my often pretty busy days run that little bit smoother.
Dreaming of less manic days? Here are 10 clever mum-hacks I pretty much swear by.
1. Put out all the clothes and pack backpacks the night before
Listen to me; nobody wants to have to argue over outfits with a fashion-forward tween (or a toddler who only want to wear shorts – even in February) at 7 am. No-one. The same goes for having to iron school uniform shirts or frantically search for a maths book that somebody can't remember where they had last.
The solution? Put out everything the night before, from underwear to coats and jackets, so that come morning, everyone can just find their pile and get dressed. And even if you have kids so young you are still helping them get dressed, it's all there in the pile and you don't have to go searching for stuff last minute.
The same goes for school bags. Pack them ready to go (minus the lunch box, which you in the morning can just slip in), and you are all set for a smoother morning tomorrow.
2. Start (and maintain) a family calendar
Air traffic control of activities and schedules is essential in a busy household where everyone has places to go and things to do. Some swear by online calendars, which can be updated and amended by both adults in the household on separate devices, others, like myself, swear by an actual monthly calendar on the fridge, where I jot down everything from work meetings, ballet lessons and playdates, to birthday parties, dentist appointments and bills that need to be paid.
3. Stay ahead of head-lice
If you have ever had to deal with the sheer ordeal that head lice is, then I am sure you, like me, is pretty keen to keep the critters far away from your home and your kids' heads. Which is why I have started using a conditioning spray that will actively protect your children against head lice infestations - and help keep their hair looking healthy too.
4. Stack up on birthday cards and presents in advance
My children, the lucky things, have far better social lives than I do, and there seems to be an endless stream of parties to attend on a near-weekly basis. To prevent any stressful last-minute dashes around the shops trying to find cards and appropriate presents, I now always make sure I keep a stack of cards and go-to presents, like cinema vouchers, ready at all times. Meaning, when one of the kids come home with yet another party invite, all I need to do is pull a card and a voucher out of my desk drawer, and voila; good to go.
5. Order groceries online
If hell really exists, it probably looks a lot like traipsing around the supermarket, trying to get a week's worth of groceries with a hungry and narky toddler in tow. Having endured this far too many times, I now do near all my food shopping online, and just sit back and wait for the delivery man to bring them to my front door.
6. Put a load of laundry on every morning
The trick with laundry, I find, is to always stay one step ahead. And by keeping on top of things, AKA doing a little every day, you will never get the feeling you are about to drown in grubby pants and paint-stained tops and tees.
7. Get up an hour before you have to
Yes, I know this sounds horrible, but trust me; once you get into the habit of doing this, you will wonder how you ever did without this hour in your life before. I have found by doing this, I not only feel like I get to start the day in a less stressful way, having a whole hour to myself before anyone else gets up, but I am also less concerned about trying to cram in me-time at night, meaning I actually go to bed at a more sensible hour come evening.
In my me-hour, I sit down at the table and sip my hot lemon water, write out a to-do list for the day, and get breakfast on the table – before I wake the children and am consumed with their needs and wants. Some mornings I squeeze in a bit of yoga, other days I get a head-start on e-mails and deadlines before my work-day actually starts.
8. Make an "every eventuality" kit and store it in your car
If your mum-day is anything like my mum-day, you will find that you are spending large chunks of it in the car. There is always an endless stream of hockey practices and ballet lessons and pick-ups and drop-offs happening in any given day, and I have found that having a supply of pretty much everything kid-related you might need in the car will save your sanity on many occasions.
What to include? Well, at the moment, my car kit includes sunglasses, sunscreen, wet wipes, antibacterial hand gel, plasters, spare gum shield (for hockey), car charger (compatible with all our devices), snack bars for kids, water bottles, a toilet roll (for when you have to use a public toilet and there is no loo roll), and a selection of bits like lip balm, tiny toys (to keep little people occupied on long car trips) and a pen and some paper.
9. Keep a basket in the hallway, by your front door
When you have children, there seems to always be stuff we have to remember to bring somewhere. Be it hairbands that need to be returned to whoever my little girl borrowed them from or books we are lending someone. Sometimes it's enevelopes going into school or cards that need to be posted. No matter what, if it is something I know have to leave the house with us, I plop it into this rattan basket bag I have sitting in the hallway, and always bring it with us out to the car when we leave for the day. That way, whatever needs to go wherever is with us and more likely to end up where it needs to go.
10. Start meal-prepping
Having toyed with the idea for ages, I finally started getting more serious about planning out our meals in advance last year, and it has totally transformed our hectic afternoons, I think. As well as being easier to assemble and taking less time to get dinner on the table, planning our meals in advance also makes sure we eat more varied and healthy throughout the week too.