Healthy Kids Lunches facebook page has fielded many questions this past year wondering why I stopped blogging (sorry! I am going to start again this year!). Well, I went back to work full time, and I was trying to run a small start-up business, and I have two kids, a bunch of chickens, a dog, a ridiculous garden, a husband, well – you get the picture. 2015-2016 was the year when I learned that I couldn’t do it all. This was a hard pill for me to swallow but on this side of the time I can see how I am better off because of it.
There is no denying that for me, personally, it was a challenging year. However I recognized the challenges early on and worked hard to make it work. Some of the changes that I made and things that I learned were really valuable and I want to share them here – maybe they can help you have easier year this year as well. So…here are some practical tips and retrospective thoughts from my year as a full time working mom.
STOP FOLDING YOUR KIDS LAUNDRY
Seriously. If you take nothing away from this post but this first tip then you will save yourself hours of time this year. At some point about four months in to working FT I was at the end of my laundry rope. I simply could not keep up with it and I didn’t want to keep up with it. I was DONE doing laundry all.the.f*ing.time. So I goggled “how to make doing laundry easier” and I found this tip buried in the pages of my results, and it is brilliant. Here is how my kids’ laundry works now:
- They put their laundry into a basket that holds as much as the washer will hold. When it is full they bring it downstairs, put it in the washer, add the soap* and turn it on. *no measuring, just throw in a Tide Pod – it’s much easier and less messy for them*
- Someone switches the laundry when it’s done in the washer – they can do this, or I do it – whatever.
- They pull it all out of the dryer and into the basket and haul it back to their room.
- In their closet they have bins for all their clothing – one bin each for shirts, one for pants, small drawers for underwear and socks, etc. They sort everything into the bins. The only thing that gets hung up are dresses and outerwear.
And no, they are not wrinkled messes all the time. In fact, bizarrely, their clothing never looks wrinkled. I was paranoid about this at first and asked many people if they noticed my kids looked more disheveled than usual but no one had and everyone was amazed to hear they don’t fold their laundry.
Having the kids take full responsibility for all their laundry – from start to finish – has been such a timesaver and a chore that has been easy to incorporate into our routine. My 9 year old is typically responsible for making sure it happens and her younger sister – who is 6 – helps with all the parts that she can (she can’t reach the top of the washer yet but she can do most of the rest of it).
FEEL FREE TO CHANGE YOUR IDENTITY
Last summer I happened to read the book Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, about habit formation and change. It is a brilliant book and I took a lot away from it. One bit of advice that stuck with me was that you decide what your identity is and you can change parts of your identity as you need to throughout your life.
Before I started working FT my identity was very much wrapped up in time consuming food preparation (obviously)! I grew my own food, prepared everything from scratch, made dinner every night, and just basically spent a lot of time in the kitchen — and I was known as this person. (Although, for the record, lunches were not terribly time consuming because I had developed my Plan-Prep-Pack method!) I had a lightbulb moment when I read Gretchen’s book and I realized that I could stop being that person and instead be the mom who lets her kids eat cereal for breakfast (and sometimes for dinner) and buys bread instead of making it. Dinner didn’t have to be an elaborate affair – and semi-homemade took the place of totally homemade rather quickly.
I openly announced my new identity to anyone I could: “This is the new Jes, who feeds her kids cereal in the morning and tosses pizza on the table for dinner because I have no time anymore!” Guess what? No one really cared. It turns out that your identity matters so much more to you than to anyone else. Huh.
ELIMINATE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE FROM YOUR LIFE
Our culture seems to encourage this absurd and judgy underlying current about working moms vs. sahm moms etc. It’s totally fueled by social media – you see your friends career promotions and question your decision to stay home or you see these elaborate themed birthday party celebrations for your neighbor’s two year old and question your decision to go back to work. Well I’ve done it all from full time stay at home mom to full time working mom and everything in between. I can tell you that NONE of it is easy and social media is all bullshit. You need to do what is best for YOU at this moment of time and ignore the rest.
Now, that said, in my experience, working full time means you simply have less time for pretty much everything else. It’s not about prioritizing or optimizing scheduling – you are literally losing 40-50 hours a week to a job. For me this meant that a lot of stuff simply had to go. And by stuff I mean the physical crap in my house and the extra time commitments that I didn’t really care for.
Taking my lead from another great book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, I dutifully decluttered room by room. This took months but in the end the results were so worth it. Kondo basically instructs you to only surround yourself with items that bring you joy and to organize by keeping all like items together and giving everything a home. My kids heard me say “Put it in it’s home!” so many times this year – but it worked! Applying the Kondo method to my house helped tremendously last year.
I also eliminated some time commitments, mostly from my children’s schedules, but also from mine. They kids were restricted to extra-circulars that were easy and fast. No more swim team 4x a week or 9 hours of gymnastics. No more spending 45 minutes in the car to make a 45 minute dance lesson happen. It was too much! Instead they could pick out activities that happened right at school. Music lessons worked only if we had an instructor who could come to the house. And for Christmas my 6yo asked grandma for ballet classes – and a ride to and from. We also said no to more playdates and birthday parties. I started shopping at the local grocery store more often instead of going further to the co-op or Whole Foods. I stopped blogging and closed my little start-up company (it was a bit heartbreaking but it had to happen).
The result: even though I was out of the house more this year we were also home together more this year. My kids spent their time playing outside, developed a love for board games, crafted and created so much, wrote stories and drew pictures and we ate dinner as a family many nights a week. If they really wanted something extra they learned to make their case for it. A half-hearted desire for something was simply not good enough anymore. They developed skills to figure out what was important to them and how to communicate that to us.
IN THE END…
I learned a lot of lessons too. I was forced to figure out what was most important to me and truly realized that I cannot “do it all.” I also learned to start small, and accept failure when it happens. I learned that I am who I say I am, and not what I think other people think I am. It was a big, sometimes painful, growing year.
Finally, I learned that full time plus was just too much for me right now so I talked to my boss and changed my schedule for the upcoming year. I’m going to 80%, 4 days a week. And now I can start blogging again – because blogging is something I loved and missed so much last year.
SHARE WITH US…
How do you make it happen? Do you have tips or tricks for getting though the day whether you stay at home or work full time or are somewhere in between? What works for YOU? Leave a comment below!