Several of my lovely readers have asked me how I honestly get it all done. Between being a traditional foods follower and making so much from scratch, to keeping up my house, to blogging, to running errands, to peacefully/natural parenting Tiny, to green living, to being a wife, to exercising, etc, etc, it would seem like I somehow I have superpowers. I have also received some great questions asking me to address how I suggest someone who has more time restraints and commitments than I do (i.e. more children, working outside of the home, multiple businesses, etc…) can do more of what I do in terms of food preparation and green living.
First – I never, ever, ever get it “all” done. There is simply no way. I just have come to peace with where I need to make adjustments and sacrifices.
Before I haul off and give you a pretty comprehensive look inside my life, let me share with you a couple of things. In the spirit of my May blog theme (parental anger), I would like to note that if you are a parent who has no sort of rhythm, pattern, routine or structure in your daily/weekly life, then you are basically chasing your tail while constantly frazzled and trying to create some semblance of order in a very unbalanced existence. This is exactly what can lead to frustration and anger in a parent. In a parent who already has difficulty coping with feelings of stress, overwhelm, and anger, this lack of rhythm is the exact thing that will cause you to parent your children from a place of anger. So getting your life in order and creating a predictable way of going about your normal day/week/month is extremely important in helping parents struggling with anger issues or simply trying to cope with the anxiety and realities of life and parenting. Second, this post also serves to address my Mindful Mothering Challenge #7 in which I asked my readers to take a look at their own patterns in life to see if they had a rhythmical flow to their normal life responsibilities.
I want to propose something. I believe that even though I have been a stay at home mom for the past 25 months, I do not have more time to get things done than a mom who works outside of the home. My guess is that on a workday, most moms end up with about 5 hours of available time (before and/or after work) to manage life's responsibilities. This is also about what I get in my day. If you read my results post on sleep, you would have learned that I am on lockdown with Tiny when she sleeps. I do not get to use this time to do household chores, run errands, etc. So I lose a significant part of a typical stay at home mom's day. Work at home moms might be shaking their heads at this claim but you will see what I mean once I outline my daily rhythm for you.
Let me be VERY clear. For me, rhythm is all about the word “around.” Things happen “around” a certain time. I am NOT locked into a rigid schedule other than sleep times. I feel that this is extremely important for little ones. (There is a lot of research as to why children should have the opportunity to sleep at the same time every day). But even so, wake up time, nap time, and bedtime all are “around” the same time every day. There is often times a 15-30 minute give or take with that.
I also am flexible to adjust what we normally do to meet Tiny's needs. Our rhythm is a rough guideline that helps Tiny know what comes next and eases her from one moment to the next. Again, this is very important for little ones. They like to know what comes next and around what time. However, not everything will happen in the same order and around the same time every day. Things come up, life happens, Tiny needs something different from me, etc…
And without further ado, let's take a look at my life in an effort to show you what a rhythm for a stay at home mom AND work at home/work outside the home mom can look like.
Daily Rhythm – standard, every day responsibilities:
· Tiny and I get out of bed between 5:45-6:30am.
· Immediately change diapers. (Tiny's, not mine).
· Feed dog, cats, and fish.
· If it is a laundry day, I pop a load in first thing.
· Make herbal coffee.
· Unload dishwasher (4-5 mornings per week).
· Make breakfast.
· By 7:00 we are eating breakfast no matter what time Tiny and I wake up.
· Clean up from breakfast which means putting dishes in dishwasher, wiping kitchen counters and kitchen table, and wiping up Tiny.
· Throw laundry in dryer.
· If it is a cloth diaper wash day, throw diapers in washing machine. Or start second load of other laundry.
· Quick dance session with Tiny or quick chase around the house.
· Complete one or two of the chores of the day while playing with Tiny is she needs my attention. Usually she likes to play in her kitchen or with her doll by herself.
· Get Tiny ready for a walk to the park.
· Leave for park between 8:15-8:45.
· Return from park by 10:30.
· If it is cloth diaper wash day, hang diapers on clothesline or pop in dryer, weather permitting.
· Tiny and I shower, get dressed (and all that entails) in a mere 15 minutes (even on hair washing, leg shaving days. Yep – I am that quick!)
· I am making lunch by 11:00 and we are eating lunch by 11:10. (You will see why I am that quick in a minute).
· Super quick clean up from lunch.
· Breastfeed and rock Tiny to sleep starting at 11:30. Tiny is usually lights out within 20 minutes and I am lying next to her either reading, checking Facebook on my phone, or blogging in my brain and hoping to keep track of my mental notes since I cannot move a muscle during nap time. This post explains why.
· Tiny will usually sleep for 2 hours or so but the official wake up time can be anywhere from 1:30-2:30.
· Nap time wake up is a drawn out process usually taking 30 minutes. I won't bore you with those details. Tiny has her preferences for how she gets herself in gear for the afternoon. I know better than to mess with those unless we HAVE to be out the door for some important reason.
· Afternoon “tea” play time with Tiny.
· By 3:10pm at the latest I am prepping for dinner and completing the last chore of the day.
· Tiny and I play out back from 3:30-4:30. We water plants during this time as well as check the mail. Sometimes we do stay in and color, play playdough, or bake together.
· 4:30 I finish up dinner and we are eating by 5:00.
· Hubby gets home around 5:30/6:00 and I race around cleaning up from dinner, scooping litter boxes and feeding the animals. I also get lunch prepped for the next day and lay out hubby's work clothes. Hubby is doing whatever Tiny wants to do. Usually they have another tea party, play inside ball, scoot her wood cars around, etc…
· At 6:30 I start Tiny's bedtime routine. By 7:00 she is in bed and so am I.
· Now, depending on how quickly she actually falls asleep, I may actually get some decent time to blog on the floor – as long as I am super stealth like sneaking out of bed. I do not dare leave the room because if I miss Tiny coming out of her sleep cycle, all heck breaks lose. So I have to be right there. So my evenings are dedicated to blogging and other computer activities such as online shopping (for legitimate stuff).
· Monday chores include my laundry, Tiny's laundry, and dusting master bedroom and Tiny's room-in-waiting.
· Tuesday chores include vacuuming house, washing bath towels, dusting the office, and watering houseplants.
· Wednesday chores include husband's laundry and cleaning the master bathroom. I also put away produce delivery from our CSA. Wednesday afternoon, my mom watches Tiny for one hour so I can go grocery shopping.
· Thursday chores include my laundry again, Tiny's laundry again, cleaning husband's bathroom (he uses the guest bathroom since his work hours are wonky) and vacuuming.
· Friday is a no chore day!!!! Unless I have to unload dishes and wash cloth diapers. In the afternoon, Tiny and I run any non-grocery errands that many need to happen.
· Saturday is a cleaning rag laundry day and bed sheet washing day if needed. Bed sheets usually only get washed every three weeks. Same with bathroom rugs and entry way rugs.
· Sunday is husband's laundry, vacuuming, mopping floors, and cooking day. This also means deep clean kitchen day. Hubby takes Tiny to the park so I can spend 2 uninterrupted hours cooking and fermenting things. It does not always take me this long so I do my chores during this time to. I also cycle out and cycle in Tiny's toys. Not a good idea to ever do this in front of a child. Oh, and sometimes sit on my ass for five minutes. By myself. With reggae music blaring. BLARING.
· Every other Saturday my mom takes Tiny for the dinner hour so my husband and I can sit down and hash out whatever needs hashing. You come to your own conclusion about what I mean by hashing. 😉 But seriously – you can read about it in Communication Breakdowns.
· My grocery shopping trip on the first Wednesday of every month is my stock up trip. This is where I buy EVERYTHING I possibly can for dinners for the entire month. My mom watches Tiny for two or three hours on this day. My husband has a meeting and isn't home until 10:00pm so it works well.
· The last Monday evening of every month is my meal planning night. (Tuesday is my backup should that not work.) I sit on the floor in the bedroom with my penlight and have at it.
· Once a month, whenever I get the chance and have an extra moment, I clean out the refrigerator and freezer. It tends to need a good cleaning once a month anyway!
· We have a rule that every three months we tackle baseboards, windows, blinds, ceiling fans, cobwebs in corners and other areas of the house that have gotten out of control dirt level wise. My mom watches Tiny for that Saturday or Sunday afternoon and my husband and I tag team it. In actuality, this happens twice a year. But at least we try.
· Sort, pack up, and purge Tiny's clothes that no longer fit.
· Sort, pack up, and purge clothes that my husband and I are no longer wearing and have no intention of ever wearing again.
So there you have it – that is how I do it. Sure, life happens and sometimes our rhythm in thwarted. Well, I skip chores on that day and pick them up the next week. (With the exception of laundry which in a pinch can always be done in the evening by my husband. Not the best idea but it can happen.) I remain flexible where I can. I hate to skip Tiny's morning park play but if we HAVE to, we will. (That just means she probably will not be worn out enough to nap).
If you are a working mom, I believe that you can put my same basic plan in place in your life. The timeframe in which you do things might be different but the concept is the same. Create a chore list then break them up into manageable pieces each day. This is key! Include your child in your chores whether that means wearing your baby or having your toddler or school age children work alongside you. You can bond and have fun while getting things done. And stop and indulge your children every 15 minutes or so and allow yourself to play a little while you work.
Finally, I would like to offer you a few timesaving tips and tricks.
· First, work fast. Focus on each individual task and do not think ahead to the next one. Complete task A thoroughly and quickly then move on.
· Having designated days for doing certain laundry, cleaning certain rooms, running certain errands, etc… will allow your family to know what to expect when and there will no surprises as to why you aren't doing such and such. Plus, cleaning one or two rooms a day makes the actual cleaning go quickly because nothing is really ever that dirty! It takes me 10 minutes to dust a room.
· Order online as much as possible. Having things delivered saves you the time of having to pack up the kids and pick things up yourself.
· Pick up clutter daily. Do not let things pile up. Get them to their homes quickly. I also suggest that you have a file box somewhere whose sole purpose is to collect items that do not have a home and do not need to be cluttering up a space. Have a weekly box empty out where you figure out what to do with those items.
· Allow yourself one hour, twice a week to catch up on emails if this is not something you can do easily every day. Email overwhelm can wreak havoc on your mental state. Seriously.
· A few kitchen tricks – I do not wash everything I use in the kitchen with soap and water. For example, measuring cups which I used to measure dry goods go back in the drawer after a little shake into the sink. A knife I used to cut an apple gets a quick rinse. The blender I make my smoothies in? Well folks, I also give it an immediate rinse in hot water but only give it a good washing once a week. Do not let dirty dishes pile up. After each meal or snack, get in the habit of putting everything into the dishwasher or hand washing. It only takes 10 minutes and then it is done!
· Take as many cooking shortcuts as you can! See Time Saving Cooking Tips, a post I wrote about cooking shortcuts.
Menu Planning – A MUST!!!!! Here is how I do it:
· I print out a blank calendar for the month. I make things easy on myself by assigning specific food items to specific days of the week. Sunday is beef day; Monday is chicken; Tuesday is non-meat; Wednesday is fish; Thursday is chicken; Friday is lamb; Saturday is fish. All I have to do is write in what I am cooking on that day for dinner along with the recipe source. I always serve two veggies (salad and another veggies from my CSA produce box). I have to figure out the veggie recipes weekly based on what will be in my box. I typically serve fresh baked sourdough bread, rice, millet, or quinoa as a grain side dish. I do not do anything fancy with the grains. Rice with butter and Italian herbs; millet with butter, parmesan cheese and a little gluten free soy sauce; quinoa with butter and herbs.
· I have 5 main tools I use to figure out recipes:
o I have two awesome crock pot books. I cook 10 things a month from these books and these are the entrée items that I double or triple and freeze. (My goal is to use 10 meals from the freezer each month (2-3 per week) to help ease my cooking load.
o I subscribe to several menu planners including those from Cooking Traditional Foods, Heart of Cooking, and Health, Home, and Happiness. You can view other menu planners that are available by going to my Products I Love Page.
o I have a HUGE binder full of real food recipes that I have collected over time. I use a colored post it note system so I can keep track of which recipes I will include monthly, every other month, every three months or every four months. Everything goes back in rotation after a maximum of months.
· Breakfast and lunch are pretty boring (steak, eggs, salmon or leftovers that won't freeze well are in rotation). I do not eat or serve cereals. Tiny and I like our protein for breakfast along with fruit. Lunch is a vegetable heavy smoothie with almond butter along with another protein source for Tiny. She likes cottage cheese, nitrate free hot dogs, gluten free tortilla with cheese, and a few other easy items. Easy stuff for lunch!
· Snacks are homemade larabars, yogurt, gluten free crackers, veggie sticks, fruit, dehydrated veggies, nuts, raisins, cheese, avocado, and seaweed to name a few. EASY stuff. Nothing time consuming or complicated.
If you are still struggling to grab hold of a good rhythm for your family and feel like you need MORE time, try a few of the following:
· Spend 10 minutes preparing the night before for the day ahead.
· Set your clock for 10 minutes earlier in the morning.
· Start your bedtime routine 10 minutes earlier in the evening.
· Set one 10 minute toy pick-up at the end of the day (or three 5 minute toy pick-ups during the day).
· Take time after each meal to set the table for the next meal (3 meals = 15 minutes).
· Spend 10 minutes the night before filling up sippy cups and/or bottles, so they are in the fridge and ready to go in the morning (for younger kids).
· Spend 10 minutes after dinner packing lunch for the next day (for older kids).
· Take 10 minutes and designate an assigned spot for library materials so that you don't have to spend time searching for them every week when they are due.
· Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the week going over the calendar – include your spouse and older children so that everyone knows what is on the agenda for the week.
· Lay out the next day's clothing for yourself and your children the night before.
I know that this post is ridiculously long and THANK you for hanging in there. I hope that this helps some of you create a rhythm is one is not in place or gives your ideas about your own rhythm. Remember, rhythm is VERY organic. In a sense, you follow it.
Instead of posting the next challenge, I would like to give everyone following along the opportunity to spend another week on rhythm and I am really interested in hearing how this went for you. So please comment here or wait for next week's post.