Are you busy?
Maybe working part-time, while raising kids?
Given that more women in America are NOT seeking full-time employment, keeping the brain engaged while wiping noses can be an issue for many SAHM’s. A recent study by PEW research says most Americans prefer a parent at home to raise the kiddos.
I get this. I’ve always worked part-time while raising little people – and bigger people. I remember making the decision to quit my full-time human resources career, but keep my part-time training job while I did the Mommy Job. I had read studies about how many hours mom could be away from her people before they had bonding, confidence, or developmental issues – at that time, it was 15-20 hours. So that’s what I worked – actually it might have been even a little less, as some of that time was sleep time.
Figuring out how to have life balance while raising kids, exercising, caring for our home, and maintaining a good marriage and friendships proved to be a challenge. Like other women, I struggled with wanting to “have it all,” and figured out how to not go completely nuts.
These are my life hacks – tips that I learned over the years which helped tremendously – and many of them are still in operation. At the time of this writing, I live with a college student, a high school sophomore, and junior higher. Don’t let anyone fool you – tweens and teens are often just toddlers in big bodies – they’re figuring out life, need you just as much, but want to talk late at night. And they often have to get up early. So here’s my list of BUSY MOM LIFE HACKS that are really tips to not just survive, but THRIVE as a parent maintaining life balance.
Nina’s Life Hacks for Busy Moms:
Life Hack #1: Learn to Power Nap
Seriously, it took a while, but I’ve trained my body to wind down in about 5 minutes, sleep for 10-12 minutes, then wake up to the stove timer. Around 3pm, it’s stinkin’ glorious. And research shows napping is awesome for you.
Life Hack #2: SLEEP. Go to bed before 10:30pm whenever you can.
A recent study shows that our memory works better if we get enough sleep. And if you are well rested in general, when the high school kid needs to talk for a few hours at 10pm, you’ll be able to function the next day because you haven’t been burning the candle at both ends for months on end. You can’t pick when they want to open up, either, so be prepared, be rested, and be available for when they want to chat.
Life Hack #3: Eat an apple every day.
Studies show that that old wives’ tale actually carries some merit! Another study shows consuming 2-3 apples daily actually helps with weight loss – without doing another diety-exercisey thing.
Life Hack #4: Play with your little people as early as possible in the day.
That way they won’t be aching to have their “mommy time” all day long. You’ll fill them up, meeting their needs first, and they won’t feel insecure, won’t be as clingy, etc. You’ll get more done.
Life Hack #5: Celebrate the EFFORT instead of just the results.
Experts say that this decreases the development of neurotic perfectionism and helps kids learn to work harder, especially if things come easily to them.
Life Hack #6: Keep the laundry moving – daily.
Seems like my laundry used to just keep multiplying – sometimes I thought it might be having more sex than I was…it just kept growing! Seriously, just throw in a load first thing in the morning, or move it over, and quickly FOLD whatever is in the dryer when the buzzer goes off. You’ll iron less, and it won’t build up or cause you stress. It just takes a few minutes. And, my sister-in-law taught me this – pure brilliance.
Life Hack #7: Exercise daily.
I know you know this. It’s good for you. But did you know you actually have MORE energy if you work out several times a week? Alternate strength training one day, and aerobic exercise the next. You don’t have to do a ton, but get moving, red-in-the-face, heavy breathing-style at least 3-4 times a week if your doc says you can. I try to do 10 minutes for every decade of my life when I do cardio. I still don’t LOVE it, but I do enjoy listening to podcasts and that helps pass the time while running.
Life Hack #8: Leave email and social anything until AFTER 2pm.
If you do everything you need to for the day in the morning, and leave email until after 2pm, YOU are in charge of your day. If you get involved in email early, it’s usually too tempting to let someone else’s crisis derail your entire day. And it’s uber-easy to get distracted and lost online or on the phone, and suddenly it’s lunch time and you’ve accomplished nothing for the day. I figured this out after wasting too many mornings getting nothing done because I started with email.
Life Hack #9: Schedule time for yourself.
Seriously. If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy – and a spent momma is a formula for disaster. You can’t pour into others, think straight, offer wisdom, if you are exhausted and sick all the time. Do that thing you love once a week, or however often it is that it fills you up. Know yourself well enough to respect and take good care of yourself!
Life Hack #10: Use lists daily.
Who doesn’t like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with checking off the boxes? And it will keep you organized, you’ll accomplish ten times more than you could if you didn’t plan out what you were going to do, even if the first item on your list was, “make a list.”
Life Hack #11: Plan the month’s meals.
I love emeals.com, and have used it off and on over the years when I get bored with my own system – which… is um, really kind of boring. I have a single calendar page for a month where I planned dinners for the whole month. Some people prefer a consistent weekly schedule – we don’t. I know that if it is the 13th, we’re having Stroganoff. I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 years, and no one has even noticed. Some, however, LOVE the consistency of something like “Taco Tuesdays,” so do whatever make sense. But plan – because if you don’t, you’ll freak out around what’s known as “the witching hour” – when kids are hungry, stressed with homework, and you’re stressed yourself because you’re panicked about what to do for dinner.
Life Hack #12: Use a timer.
We use timers in all of our training courses for wives, speakers and leaders. I use timers in my house to manage my kids and my own time. I use a timer for email, social networking, time on the phone, chores I hate, and my workout. For some reason, it heightens the sense of accomplishment, too. I love looking back and seeing how much farther I can run in the same amount of time over the course of several months.
Life Hack #13: Hug often.
Studies show that touch increases intimacy in relationships, and generates the bonding hormone, oxytocin. Our immune system functions better when we are not deprived of touch. We get a deeper sense of attachment to others by touching and receiving touch. So help your kids connect with you physically, and freely give and receive lots of hugs.
Life Hack #14: Start your day QUIETLY.
Begin with getting yourself centered in quiet moments instead of generating an adrenalin response which can have long-term negative stress results on your health. Enjoy your cup of coffee with your spouse, instead of frantically sipping while rushing. Even if you work out first thing, take just a few moments to focus on what you are grateful for, even keeping a journal to reflect on these things, so you can start your day positively.
Life Hack #15: Limit screens for kids to ONE HOUR a day.
Remember to model this one yourself. Force your little people to interact with each other. Don’t hand them your phone when they start to fuss. Involve them in the stuff you are doing, so they don’t need to be entertained 100% of the time. Don’t plop them in front of the TV or computer, or i-anything, even those educational games should have limits. The synapses formed in the brain by creative thought are different (and better) than those formed by screen time.
Life Hack #16: Teach your kids to be responsible at an early age.
Too many young adults emerge from college or high school unable to launch, lacking in life skills necessary to do well in this world. We chose Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls to help us facilitate many of these important skills, but also from a young age, our kids were involved in cooking, cleaning, yard work, and pet care. They stood on stools to wash their plate in the sink. They helped mommy clean the toilets – and loved the swish! I think I’ve changed a litter box once. I’ve never cleaned a hamster cage – and I don’t clean the yard after their pets. Even the youngest of kids can learn to care for others. And goldfish make great first pets – they quickly die if no one feeds them. (Sorry if I offend – but a 4 or 5 year old can attach the goldfish’s food to their own breakfast or lunch – new chores need to be attached to old activities to be solidified – so Goldy eats first, because we care for others before caring for ourselves). I also have a policy (from age 5 – even a kindergartener can make his own lunch – supervised, of course!) where if you forget it, you have ONE “grace trip” from mom per semester. If you leave your lunch, your money, your book, your homework, etc., I’ll bring it once for you for nothing per semester, but the next time, it’s $5, or a chore of my choosing. And by the way, the rule is you need to pack and lay out your clothes the night before because we do not take time for morning rush dramas. I know that sounds harsh, but I started doing this after overhearing several women with high schoolers who were fed up with driving stuff to their kids’ schools MULTIPLE times a day. That is disrespectful behavior on the part of the kids, and enabling behavior on the part of the moms. And I didn’t have time. So a wiser-than-me momma shared what she did, and I started in kindergarten.
In doing these things, you won’t wake up one day and find that you are doing the work of essentially 5 adults. If they want their clothes washed, they’ll wash them – because they can. And they’ve become responsible members of your family. Their future spouse will thank you.
By the way, none of these things help your parenting as much without this one:
The MOST Important Life Hack of ALL:
Encourage and LOVE deeply daily.
Rules without relationship result in rebellion.
Rules without love and encouragement result in resentment.
We have to also figure out what our kids’ love languages are – and meet them there daily. They’ll grow up into adults you want to spend time with and who want to be your friend. Save the friendship for when they’re older – in the meantime (when it can be a MEAN TIME, btw) be their mom. That’s what they need most.
I don’t claim to have the full list, though. What about you? What life hacks have you employed that helped you as a busy mom?
Can’t wait to hear!
Love to you,