I know what many of you are thinking: How does she raise two young daughters, maintain a career as a struggling freelance writer, and still find the time to throw her hair into a ponytail, jump into an old pair of faded yoga pants and feed her family nutritionally balanced prepared meals from Whole Foods day after day?
My life may seem glamorous with its endless routine of carpools, play dates, and half-asleep coffee breaks at the neighborhood latte joint, but to be able to maintain an outward appearance of order I have developed a few shortcuts. And, in the name of parental camaraderie, I have decided to share the secrets that keep my life from unraveling.
I did search for what experts say when it comes to "timesaving tips for busy parents", but I found their advice to be unreasonable and cumbersome. One site advised to "never come home angry." Well sure, that is a fine goal, but if we can't come home angry, some of us would never come home at all.
My tips, on the other hand, are practical suggestions to save twenty seconds here, a minute there, and a massive headache later. These are the hidden methods to my madness:
Wear day/night clothing. It may be time to ditch the cute pajama pants and matching tank and invest in a wardrobe that meets your daytime and bedtime needs. A flattering pair of black yoga pants can easily transition from the bedroom to the playground. Not only will this save time crucial time in the morning, but it can cut down the laundry loads quite a bit.
Utilize those babywipes for more than your tot's tush! Instead of washing my face in the morning, I use baby wipes to clean the sleep from my eyes. Don't be so appalled, I do buy the chlorine free ones.
Never prepare an unnecessary meal. When my husband has one of his many dinner meetings, instead of making my own evening meal, I eat the leftovers on my daughters' plates. Yum... carrot sticks and uninspired chicken on Disney Princess plates.
Make Sprout your new BFF. I know, I know, admitting that I let my children watch the occasional television program may likely send Children's Protective Services to my home, but it's true, we do. The girls love Dora, Max and Ruby, Olivia, and a good half-dozen other annoying cartoon characters. Do you know how many task I can get done during one 30-minute cartoon? Clean the dishes, put away the laundry, have a quickie in the bedroom with my husband...
Cut your daughter's hair. On principle I keep the hair on my two young daughters' heads well trimmed. I have yet to meet the parent of a girl that doesn't suffer from the tiresome tangle battles. Neither of my girls readily allow me to brush their hair, nor do they have the ability to do this themselves. So, in my effort to avoid chasing them around the house, wrestling them to the ground and holding them in place with my thighs while I attempt to detangle the rat nests cultivating on their domes, I simply keep their hair no longer than chin length.
Pretend you don't notice. Some days my husband will arrive home from work shocked at the state of a room. "What happened?" he exclaims, the anxiety spilling from his ears. "Gee, I just took out the garbage and when I came back..." I answer, where in reality I have carefully stayed clear of the two girls who were ever so diligently painting the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste. Sure, the clean up will be bothersome, but it took them a solid 25 minutes of cooperative play to make this mess!
Pajama Day! Is it really so horrible for your preschooler to show up to school in last night's pajamas? I'm sure his teachers have seen it before. With my 2-year-old, the morning tasks are some of the hardest to get accomplished, so I often bring an outfit for her to change into at school if she so desires. Again, this also saves time with the laundry.
Socks? What socks? Fortunately we live in the moderate Bay Area climate, where the temperature rarely drops below 48 degrees. Because of this, and Crocs made for toddlers, my girls almost never wear socks. They each own less than ten pairs and only wear them when we visit my parents in Oregon, during the winter ... if it snows. By foregoing this extra layer of footwear, I save approximately thirty seconds each morning, in addition to a good ten minutes each Sunday desperately attempting to match pairs of tiny toddler socks.
Skip the extra-extracurricular activities. My children are allowed one, two at most, lessons a week. In my opinion, their swimming classes are mandatory, but if we don't make it out of the house for their 9 AM Saturday morning ballet lesson, we all kind of benefit.
Stop picking up the toys. Whenever the clutter in children's bedrooms begins to trigger my panic attacks, I close their doors and remember the mantra of the iconic Phyllis Diller: "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."
Now that I've shared mine, tell us, what are your time saving secrets for an easier day?