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Why Multitasking Is The Key To Parental Survival

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Don't those pictures drive you nuts? You know the ones. You see them in the movies, on social media, in advertisements: Photographs of families who seem perfectly put together, never a hair out of place.

But those of us in the trenches know what parenting looks like in reality. You're running around getting the kids ready for school in the morning. You're lucky if you can change out of your pajamas before dropping your son off at 2nd grade and taking your two younger ones to swim lessons. Coffee is a food group, and your one magical wish is that the sink full of dirty dishes will somehow disappear by the time you get home.

The way through is a little tactic called "multitasking." I remember as a young dad, with my first baby, thinking that multitasking was being able to hold my daughter while playing video games at the same time. Three kids later, I see it a bit differently. I'm a firm believer that parents should be awarded an honorary PhD for juggling baby with one hand while vacuuming with another. Multitasking is not just parenting advice; it's parenting survival. Here are 5 tips to help you keep your sanity and even enjoy this adventure called parenthood.

1. Prepare.
We have a hanging shoe organizer in our kids' rooms with complete outfits for each day of the week placed in each pocket. During those hectic mornings, I can tell my kids to go get dressed while I make coffee (and yes, I even get that elusive shower.) Honestly, I've never been the best at choosing which colors match or which patterns complement each other. Before we started this time saving technique, I admit sometimes I sent my kids to school looking like they got dressed in the dark. Let's just say my wife was not amused.

2. Be Food Efficient.
I give parents fun lunch ideas on my blog every week. A great multitasking secret is to think of leftovers as the next day's meal. While you're cleaning up dinner, instead of just putting the remainders back into the fridge, portion it out to use as lunches the following day. Load it straight into containers or lunch boxes, and you get the clean up and lunch prep done all at the same time.

3. Teach--Anywhere.
I multitask while riding in the car by asking my kids math problems, giving them spelling tests, and having them read aloud. It helps all of us. (Does any parent really want to hear the Frozen soundtrack one more time?)

4. Make Bedtime Productive And Fun.
Getting kids to bed can be tougher than corralling squirrels drinking espresso. So I like to plan fun things to do with my kids before bedtime, like playing board games. Sometimes, multitasking is the only way this happens. When playing games with my older kids, I've been known to feed and change our baby at the same time. I also pause the game and give them incentives to get ready for bed quickly. The goal is for them to have as much time as possible for fun time after they're in pajamas. Tears do happen (for parents and kids), but more often than not this strategy saves the night.

5. Use All Available Resources.
You need help in order to multitask effectively. My wife came up with the ingenious idea of using Ziploc® Sandwich Bags to assemble baby food kits. We take 8-10 bags and put a spoon, napkin, and bib in each, along with a container of baby food. This lets you quickly grab a kit, sit at the table to feed your baby, and help your other child with his homework at the same time. You can also easily take these on the go. When you're done, just stick the dirty items back into the baggie to be cleaned when you get home.

While these tips can help you get more done in less time, don't forget that sometimes the most important thing is to set everything else aside and spend special moments with your kids throughout the day. What multitasking tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!