Let’s assume I work 8 hours a day (which I do) and get 6 hours of sleep (which I don’t). Let’s throw in another 2 hours for things like going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, and commuting. For those of us who also have to drop off and pick up our kids at daycare, you get another hour taken from your day! That’s 17-hours gone, just like that. But let’s not get too carried away.
Let’s pretend I’m left with a full 8 hours of “down time” to squeeze in everything else I’d like to take care of in my personal life – you know, stuff like cooking, eating, grocery shopping, and cleaning. Oh, and breathing – let’s not forget to breathe. Whether you stay-at-home, work-at-home, or work-out-of-home, you know those hours literally evaporate at the snap of a finger before a new day starts again.
The number one tip I have for streamlining our routines with such a limited amount of time is to…
1) Take Advantage of the Night Before
These are all the things we do the night before so that we can do less in the morning:
Dinner. I don’t want to end work at 5 pm, come home, and scramble to put dinner on the table. I don’t know about yours, but my daughter walks through the door saying “eat time!”. As a mama to a toddler, I know first hand that nipping hunger in the bud is one of the easier ways to prevent a meltdown. My dinners are really easy so doing it the night before isn’t too much of a time suck. I do a lot of stirfries and crockpot dishes, and I always make sure we have rice in our rice cooker and enough for leftovers.
Toddler Breakfast. I pour milk into a straw cup and set aside a container of yogurt and put some fruit on a plate, then cluster them together in our fridge. This way, all I have to do in the mornings is grab everything and put it on the table. No running back and forth for multiple things. I also make sure breakfast is on the table before I wake her in the mornings.
Toddler Lunch. She usually gets dumplings as her main entree for lunch, which I make in the morning. However, I put everything else I want in her bento the night before (fruit, veggies, cheese, etc). It can be time consuming to assemble a bento, but it’s very easy when it’s all ready to go in the morning with the exception of one or two items.
Bottles for Baby. I mix what I pumped at work the day before and older frozen breastmilk, then divide it into 3 bottles that I keep in the fridge so that my MIL can easily grab and go when she needs them while I’m at work. Once he goes to daycare, I’ll continue to make sure my bottle are prepped the night before.
Pump Parts. I’ve had dreams about forgetting my pump parts at home, so I make absolutely certain the night before that all my pump parts are cleaned, in good working condition, and packed away in my Medela bag. In addition to that, I also keep an extra set of parts at work.
O T H E R T I P S
2) Mass Breakfasts and Lunches
What works for our family is making easy, make-ahead, repeatable breakfasts and lunches. I like to make quiches or baked oatmeal on Sunday nights that will last us for breakfasts through the week. These are extremely easy, healthy, and versatile breakfast options that can be tweaked to your personal preferences. I make my quiches crustless and with greek yogurt for a healthier version. With these breakfast options, all you have to do in the morning is slice and microwave – no mess or cleanup to deal with!
Lunches are often a variation of tuna, chicken, or egg salads prepped on Sunday night ready to be slathered on bread throughout the week.
3) Divide and Conquer
Ever since I got pregnant with #2, Mr. Heels has been handling Noelle’s bath and bedtime routine. He continues to be in charge of that, so while he’s managing her I’ll clean up and wash the dishes (after I finish nursing Jaren). It may not be realistic to always divide and conquer, but we try to whenever possible!
4) Lists Lists Lists!
I’m a list maker – always have been, always will be. It’s become even more essential now that I’m a mom of two. I also have a terrible case of mommy brain, and I fear it may be chronic. Everything from grocery lists to packing lists to to-do lists, you name it I’ve got it. One list that has come in extra handy lately is our morning routine list. As Noelle grows, she’s become increasingly more opinionated and insistent on doing things her way in her own time. To remedy some of that, I reread Mrs. Jacks’ post on how she sequenced her morning routine with Little Jacks.
I created my own morning routine using only visuals because Noelle can’t read yet (I found images online and inserted them into a word document). It’s laminated so I just use a dry erase marker and check it off as we go along. It’s broken down into 5 simple big steps that are easy for Noelle to understand – 1) Eat Breakfast 2) Change diapers/clothes 3) Brush Teeth 4) Choose Gummi Vitamins 5) Go with Daddy to Car. This particular list has helped condense our mornings into a relatively short 30-minutes.
5) Shop During Your Lunch Break
Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but I really don’t like spending family time on the weekends grocery shopping (I’ll give Costco a free pass. Costco is like an amusement park to her filled with goodies of every shape and size for her to taste and sample). Other than that, I try to do my grocery shopping over my lunch break whenever possible.
I’m constantly racking my brain for new ways to streamline and simplify our routines so that we can have more quality time together as a family, and downtime to recharge. Most days, it feels like an impossible goal, but we do what we can. Even with my mother-in-law around to help, there is still so much to be done.
Do you employ some of these methods? What are some things you do to streamline your life?