Back when I had Franklin in 2010, motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks (that fell on me while I was being hit by a truck without warning). It was tough! I’m a naturally introverted person who likes to be alone a lot, and I love to be productive. When Franklin was born, I was taking a double loads of classes to finish my masters degree in psychology (I am also a law school graduate), I was running an online food store (for which I wrote newsletters, ordered products, stocked shelves, printed out orders and filled boxes, shipped them… I did pretty much everything), I was running a non profit food buying group so people in my community could have organic food at cost (which involved ordering produce, creating spreadsheets for orders, trying to accommodate everyone’s requests, sending out invoices…), I was also writing a couple of books, blogged, cooked everything from scratch, did most of the housekeeping, and more… It was insane!
I often say that Franklin was exactly the baby I needed to have at the time. Yes, he was terribly high needs, but I needed it. I needed someone to tell me to slow down, to be OK not doing anything. It was hard… But I’ve changed so much and for that, I’m grateful.
Today, I have another little boy, and I am with my kids nearly all the time, with my husband going to law school. I’m also determined not to have a baby sitter take care of baby Nicholas. I don’t feel comfortable leaving my baby with anyone before he’s at least a year old (and even then…), but… I’m totally not OK with being a mess at the end of the day.
Over the years, I’ve developed strategies to make my life easier. Here are some of the main ones… They allow me to nose overwork myself with things that aren’t important, while still allowing me to keep working. Can’t take the workaholic out of the girl!
1. Choosing clothes every day is a waste of time. I recently read an article about some of the most successful and productive people in the world. Think Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg, and more (you can get more details in this article). What do they have in common? They wear the same clothes every day. It made me laugh, because that’s what I do, and what I’ve been doing for years. Of course, I don’t wear the same exact items, but I wear identical clothes day in and day out. For instance, I have the same model of underwear, the same American Apparel leggings, the same shirts from Victoria’s Secret (or a longer version if my sweater is short), the same Gold Toe socks, and I only wear my Doc Martens boots (or the one pair of rain boots I own if it’s raining). I only change the sweater I wear on top of the shirt. I can’t tell you how much time this saves me.
2. Shopping once a week only: Heck no I’m not going to bring a baby and preschooler to the supermarket multiple times a week! I make a menu before I go shopping, or I make the menu on the fly while I shop. That way, I buy groceries once a week, never more. If I need something, I’ll walk to a nearby store with baby in the Moby and Franklin by my side, so we both get some exercise and get outdoors. That’s rare though.
3. Hanging all clothes: I don’t fold clothes. I also don’t iron anything. Sorry, Matthew 🙂 Franklin has 2 bins in his closet, one for pants, one for tops. He has a small box with drawers with one drawer for socks and one for underwear. As for Matthew and me, we each have a drawer for underwear, socks, and pajamas. Everything else hangs in the closet. I only fold towels, underwear, and socks.
4. No commute: I have a no tolerance policy for commuting. If it’s more than 15 minutes away, I don’t consider it (unless it’s for seasonal things like picking berries). This turned out to be especially nice with Nicholas who hates the car seat (I’m considering making babies until I get one who likes being in the car). Of course, this means I don’t go to Portland proper after 3 pm, but that’s OK! We go out in the morning, and we chill at home in the afternoon.
5. No lines: I don’t stand in lines, ever. This means going out to eat at 4 pm instead of 6 pm, which is fine. If a store or restaurant is busy, or it’s rush hour, I’m not there!
6. Ultra fast lunches: Lunch cannot take more than 15 minutes to prepare. This means eggs and spinach with sourdough toast and sauerkraut, or scrambled eggs with avocado, tomato salad, and raw cheese, etc. Nothing takes more than 15 minutes, and cleanup needs to be a snap.
7. No me time: I have no me time, except when Franklin is in preschool twice a week for only 2 hours each time and Nicholas sleeps the whole time. This happens about 85% of the time, so far. How is this a life hack? Quite simply, it gives me more time to do other things. Before I got pregnant and Franklin was 2-something, I would go to the gym. It was great, except that I had to make dinner as fast as I could as soon as I got home, and it always had to be something quick. It was stressful… Unfortunately, I have very little help with the kids lately, so I can’t do a bunch of things for myself without making everything else become stressful and hurried. Totally looking forward to having more me time in a few years though…!
8. Pre cut produce, frozen fruits, prewashed greens: I used to love getting whole heads of lettuce, cutting fresh fruit, etc. Remember the food buying group I mentioned? I would get so much fresh produce, and I processed it all myself. Now? I still make green smoothies near daily, but the berries, pineapple, mango, etc. are frozen, and the greens are prewashed. Same for salads. When I make butternut squash soup, I get pre-cut butternut squash. When I make fajitas, I get pre-sliced onions and peppers. It may cost more, but not that much, and it saves me a good 10 minutes of prep time at least.
9. Showering with Franklin: Like I said, my husband’s in law school 8-5, with some days going until 8 or 10 pm. So by default, the hours spent with Franklin are limited (= my me-time is limited as well). So when I have me-time, I make it count, and that includes doing everything I can with the kids so I don’t spend my alone time cleaning the house. As a result, I shower with Franklin, because it’s kind of alone time for me, except that he’s there. He’s just playing on his own in the shower (we have a walk-in shower with 2 shower heads – we each take one).
10. Baby in my bed: Think I’m going to get up every night to tend to the baby? Heck no! My babies sleep in my bed from birth, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get few opportunities for rest, and I’m not going to miss out on sleep because of some unwritten rule about having kids sleep in another room. I don’t mind nighttime parenting, but I do it all horizontally, with my eyes closed if I can get away with it. Also, I go to bed at 8 pm. I haven’t sleep through the night since 2010, have breastfed almost non-stop since then, and I’m sure that going to bed early has helped keep me sane.
Bonus 11. I delegate “blocking activities”: I quickly realized that emptying the dishwasher in the morning was a pain. The kids are strangely more fussy. Baby needs to sleep within 2 hours of waking, as babies do, and apparently Franklin sees nighttime as separation and hangs on me the entire morning if we don’t go out. Emptying the dishwasher was difficult, but it meant piling up dishes because I couldn’t put them away. The solution? My husband has to empty it every morning before he goes to school. He spends a few minutes in the kitchen making coffee anyway, so he just empties it while it brews. He also has to take the trash out, run laundry (I fold/hang and put it away), and takes care of the plants.
These are my tips to make motherhood a little easier. What are yours?