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Parenting ain't easy. It's a full-time job whether you stay at home with your kids or work outside of the house without them.
I've been a working mama since my daughter was 13 weeks old and have spent almost three years tweaking how we go about getting things done. Every household runs differently and adopts habits that work best for them, but I know one thing: virtually all households with working parents need to have some kind of routine.
This is especially true if there are two parents in the house, and they are both working. Nothing upsets the day more than getting out of sync and, for that reason, we try hard to stick to these 10 ideas:
My husband and I are both coming and going, but no matter what, we make time to chat. Outside of pleasantries, we like to update each other on upcoming events and circumstances that may disrupt our schedules. We have copies of calendars so, at a glance, I can take a look at his and know that he won't be home until 9 p.m. He can look at mine and know that he can't take work on Saturday because Mama committed to a conference. As two self-employed parents, communicating with each other is the best way to ensure everyone is being taken care of.
Knowing what we're going to eat each and every day saves us. I don't care if you're all about packaged food or intend to make homemade organic meals each day, whatever it is—plan it out. The last thing working parents want to deal with is coming home to an empty kitchen with zero dinner ideas. Make a list at the beginning of each week so you'll know what you can have each day.
3. Easy breakfasts
Breakfast is everything in our home. We refuse to skip it. To ensure everyone starts the day off in good spirits and with a full tummy, we make quick meals that can be served within minutes. From homemade egg frittatas baked the night before to oatmeal in mugs, everyone eats something. Picky toddler not liking her options? That's when we pull out frozen waffles and slather them with almond butter. Virtually every breakfast option for working parents needs to be quick and easy.
4. Night prep
This is a tough one, but if you do it most days during the week, you're winning. Prep work cuts into relaxation time, but nothing makes nights better than knowing we won't be rushing the next morning. We go through a checklist: lunches packed, permission slips signed and car gassed up. Not preparing the night before can be disastrous the next morning.
5. Lay out clothes
This is another tough one, but it takes only a few minutes per closet. Older kids can help out, and I've found that it even helps me get ready in the morning more quickly. Laying clothes out each night skips the "What am I going to wear today?" conundrum. It doesn't happen often, but when I can do it for the week I have chopped my getting-ready time almost in half. Crazy, right?
6. Kids pitch in
My daughter is almost 3, but we certainly include her in our prep work during the week. She loves to pick out her clothes and pack her lunch box. Older kids can think of menu items and assist siblings. It takes help from the entire household to make it possible for everyone to start off their days smoothly, even with few hiccups.
7. 'Working' lunch
You don't have to physically be at home to keep home in mind. Got a break in your work day? Go grocery shopping or prepare a grocery list. I like to spend half of my lunch breaks actually eating and the other half getting things done. Even if it's just a to-do list or looking up activities to do with my daughter for the weekend, I feel like I'm that much more ahead in my day.
8. Back-up plan/partner
Working parents know that an unexpected blip can happen at any time. Conference call run over? Traffic on the way to pick up the kids? Sleep deprivation had you forgetting to turn the crockpot on? Always have a Plan B and Plan C. Connect with other friends who can have your back in case something pops up. Have food stashed in your freezer or a go-to restaurant where you can quickly pick up dinner.
9. Weekend routine
Outside of vacationing, keeping kids on similar eating and sleeping schedules over the weekends is important. Staying up an hour later is one thing, but if your child's bedtime is normally 8 p.m. and they're up watching TV until midnight on Saturday and Sunday, they may not be in the best spirits for Monday morning's wake-up call.
All work and no play makes anyone a bit crazy, right? Dedicate a freebie day in which the schedule isn't so strict. Our freebie days are usually on Friday. Dinner is a bit more fun and creative, bedtime isn't set in stone and we enjoy activities we normally don't have the time for during the week.