Becoming a parent is one of the most joyful experiences of life. Once you see that sweet face and your little one wraps his or her hand around your finger, your life changes forever. Instantly, your heart is full of love and gratitude, yet your life has suddenly become more complex, busier, and stressful. Soon your days are jam-packed with work, parenting, laundry, shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Some days, you feel like your head is barely above water. Juggling too many things can make your life feel out of control.
My three boys are each less than two years apart from one another. That means that I spent many years juggling marriage, work, all the needs of three wild boys and everything that goes along with managing a home and being a daughter, a friend, a colleague, etc. My boys are all grown up now and looking back at the years when they were young, it was a beautiful time in my life but it was also stressful.
The road to happiness—regardless of how many children you have—involves streamlining your life. Finding ways to cut back on small things adds up to more time, less stress, and peace of mind.
Here are some tips to help you get a handle on the chaos!
1. Pre Plan
Simplify your life by planning and preparing for each day in advance. Make a family calendar to keep track of activities, school events, appointments, and other relevant items. Don’t schedule too many things and always allow for transition times between activities. A quick glance at your calendar can help you stay on top of commitments.
Lay out clothes, make lunches, fill backpacks, and prep for breakfast the night before. Mornings will be less tense and you’ll feel like you have more time.
2. Clean. But don’t stress about it!
Everyone has that one friend whose house is impeccable. Don’t stress over yours! Being a parent means having lots of toys underfoot. Invest in large toy storage bins. Encourage your children to throw toys into the bins when they’re done playing. Regular gathering of toys—between activities, before meals, and at bedtime—teaches children to clean up after themselves. Soon they’ll be doing it without verbal reminders. Clean up on a larger scale by setting aside one day a month to declutter your house. Make it a family event and donate outgrown clothes and toys to charity. Getting rid of extra clutter frees up space and in your home but also in your head!
Asking for help and allowing others to do things for themselves can simplify your life. Sure, you can do everything yourself but is that really best for everyone? Make cooking and cleaning family activities. When everyone pitches in, the work load becomes lighter. You and your spouse can spend quality time together with your children while teaching them important life skills and promoting self-sufficiency. This will simplify your life greatly over time as your children grow older and become more capable of doing things themselves. Allow young children to pick out their own clothes. It doesn’t matter if their outfits don’t match. Important decision making skills are being fostered and you gain five minutes of extra time. Older children can clean their rooms, empty the dishwasher, help to prepare lunches and make simple breakfasts for themselves.
4. Establish Routines
Routines let you get more done in less time. Children thrive on routines because they know what to expect. A quiet bedtime routine—bathing, brushing teeth, and reading a book—calms your child before sleep. It also provides a nightly opportunity to bond. A relaxed morning routine—by preparing everything the night before—promotes order, reduces stress, and puts children in a positive frame of mind for the day ahead. A regular weekend routine—movie night, day at the park or Sunday dinner—strengthens family ties.
5. Prepare for little emergencies in advance
- Children are always hungry. When on the go, bring snacks and water to avoid having to stop for food.
- Always have baby wipes easily accessible in the kitchen and the car. They are indispensable when cleaning up messes.
- Have a first aid kit at home and in the car for minor injuries.
- Pack a set of spare clothes for accidents. Keep a set in the car especially for kids under 3 years old.
- Have blankets and towels in your vehicle in case you need them.
- Think about problems that occur regularly to your family and plan accordingly. This will save you a lot of time and worry.
Parenting isn’t a contest to see who has the best multitasking skills. Your top priority is your family. Reduce commitments—yours and those of your spouse and children—to streamline your lives. Choose the most important activities and cut out the unnecessary. Your simplified life will leave you with more time to spend with the most important aspect of it—your family. When you look back at this time in your life you won’t ever think about how clean your house was or if your make-up was always perfect. You’ll look back and think about all the amazing moments you had watching your children learn and grow. These days are precious! Don’t miss them!