How do you manage everything? How do you balance mom life? This was probably the most asked question in some way or another in my survey.
I think we, including myself, are interested in other people’s management tips because a lot of us are always feeling overwhelmed and trying to figure out how to balance everything. I’m going to humble myself and assume these questions were asked out of curiosity/interest and not because you think I have it all together. Because, let me assure you, I wonder the same thing of other women. How do they do it all?
Some of the questions that were asked regarding this topic included: How do you prepare for the week ahead? Any prep? Do you use a planner? If so, what kind and how? How do you get so much done with two small boys? Do you have any daily routines that make life easier? How do you balance mom life? Meal planning tips? And, how do you manage everything?
So if you are interested in any of these topics, keep reading. Some of it’s pretty and some of it’s ugly 🙂 I really hope you chime in at the bottom in the comments and share ways you manage everything. We all manage life in some way or another and I’ve learned something from each friend I have, so I know there is good info out there, life hacks if you will. This is chock full of detail, so grab a cup of coffee and get ready.
A little background if you’re somewhat new: I am a stay at home mom of two boys (age 2 and almost 5). I have an Etsy shop called Joyful Art Designs, that keeps me pretty busy. I also have this blog that could literally be a full time job if I had the time (if you’re a blogger, you know what I mean). I’ve been married to my husband, Ryan, for 9 years. He teaches high school math and is also a college basketball official. In a nutshell, he’s gone a lot, especially between September and March. And then there is, of course, the daily cleaning, laundry, church, sports, kids, etc. that we all deal with. Life is busy, as it is for most of us.
A lot of these “tips” will be how I manage when he’s gone since that’s the time I really have to be on my game (and I’m in that season now).
Let me just start with the basics of how I get normal stuff done throughout the day. Here is a very simple breakdown of a typical day (that goes as planned) and what I get done:
–Morning Routine (ideally up by 7:00am) – small clean up (put dishes away, load of laundry, pick up from night before), coffee, devotion, a little work on Etsy and blog reading (work rarely happens though), and then kids get up around 8:00-8:30.
–Morning Time – Between the time they get up and lunch time, we usually will go to the gym and/or run errands and/or have a play date/activity. There is no time for working during the morning, I only can manage kids and whatever we’re doing. Sometimes they’ll play with toys while I can clean something real quick (we’ll get to cleaning later).
–Lunch – We usually eat around 12pm and then the boys play until Maddox has a nap.
–Nap/Quiet Time – Maddox (2yrs) naps about 2 hours. He goes down between 1-2pm and wakes between 3-4pm. Beckham (almost 5) will do at least 25-30 minutes of quiet time in his room (if he goes longer, I don’t stop him). He usually plays, although he can lay down or read a book if he wants. Once that time is up, I’ll give him an activity to do like coloring or painting at the table. Sometimes, he’ll just want to play trains near me 🙂 Once M has been down about an hour, B can get on the iPad, but he has to do ABC Mouse first before any other apps (he loves YouTube…ugh). I try and cut him off of that after 30-45 minutes. Then Maddox usually wakes up around this time. During this quiet time is when I get a lot of things done. Most of the time, I’m working on orders for Joyful Art Designs, but I also will do some cleaning, check emails, blog if I can, organize, budget, etc. Whatever needs to be done first.
–Afternoon/Evening Time – This all depends on the season. If Ryan comes home or not. If he’s home, I just have extra help to keep them entertained (they love wrestling and playing tag with daddy) and cook dinner. This is the time they will play. Lately, they’ve been able to play in the backyard since it’s shaded at that time of day and connected to the kitchen (I can see them as I cook dinner…and of course check on them every 3 minutes…I err on the “helicopter mom” side so this is still hard for me). They usually get completely covered in dirt, but I just go with it and rinse them off with the hose once they’re done. When I’m desperate, I’ll let them watch a show. And if weather is nice, a lot of times we’ll go to the park before dinner (this is our favorite).
–Dinner – We usually eat around 6:00/6:30. If Ryan is not home, sometimes I’ll munch on something and eat when they’re asleep, but usually I just eat with them. Then I try and clean the kitchen while they finish up eating or are playing in the living room. If I can’t get to kitchen, I’ll usually clean counters and do dishes/wipe down after kids are in bed.
–Bath – We do bath every single night. I’ve always been a nightly bath person because quite frankly, my kids smell like dogs by the end of the day…and it’s a great activity. I’ll let them stay in as long as we have the time for. After bath time is actually my favorite because it’s the time they play the best. It’s just a calmer time of day.
–Night time Routine – After bath, we do pj’s and the boys play so well in Beckham’s room until it’s time to clean up. I don’t know why they play so well, but it’s the calmest they are and I can actually clean up the bathroom and some of their room if needed. I turn off main light and use a lamp during this time. They help clean up, we brush teeth, and then read 1-2 books in Beckham’s bed together. Next, B gets in his bed and I take Maddox to his room to rock him for about 5 minutes while I sing to him. Every night. Then I go back into B’s room and he usually wants me to tell him a story, then pray, then tuck him in bed. That’s usually around 8:30pm (sometimes 8pm on school nights…I’ll get to that later too).
DONE! I walk down the hall in relief and to be honest, my night kind of starts for me. This is my time to clean up the house. I always clean the kitchen each night. Put dishes in dishwasher, wipe down the counters, bar, and table, sweep, and make sure it is super clean for the morning. This usually takes between 10-30 minutes, depending on how much I cooked or cleaned that day. Then I clean the living room. Those are my two rooms that I have to clean every night. I also clean the middle bathroom while the kids are taking a bath.
Once I’m done cleaning, I like to shower and then work in my office and/or watch TV. If Ryan is reffing, sometimes he’ll get home right as the kids are getting in bed (this is the worst because they want to stay up, but I also know Ryan wants to see them) or he gets home super late. If he’s home, I like to watch a show with him if I have time. Other times, I’ll watch a show while I’m cleaning. But most every night, I do some sort of work for an hour or two…sometimes longer. This part of my daily routine is where I need the most self discipline. It is VERY hard for me to shut everything down and go to bed. When the kids are in bed, I feel like I need to be doing all the 1 million things I can’t do while they’re awake, but we know how important sleep is too in order to be more productive.
In all honesty, I’ve gotten a lot of things done over the last few years with very little sleep. While sometimes that’s necessary, I feel like I’m noticing the repercussions of it more easily and realizing I need to scale back where I can, simplify more, and sleep more. I’d say I typically get 6 hours of sleep…on a good night. I’m really trying for an 8 hour sleep, but that’s pretty tough.
How do I manage it all?
Hopefully, that gave you an idea of how I organize my day, but here are some other things that help me get stuff done:
–Pre-school – both my boys are in pre-school 2 days a week for 5 hours. That gives me about 4 hours of time, 2 days a week, to get stuff done. In addition to working on Joyful Art Designs and my blog, I like to get my grocery shopping done, go to medical appointments, hair appointments (this is about every 6 weeks for me), and any other errands (I feel like there is at least 1 a week). My friends and I have also determined we are going to get together for coffee once a month after drop off for an hour or two. I think that’s equally important as all the other tasks.
–Weekends – Ryan is always home on Sundays and at least half a day on Saturdays, so I’m able to do anything I need to do if he’s home and able to watch the kids (or we can all go do it together). Ryan works hard to provide, but he’s also a great supporter for all my girls’ nights and errands I can do solo if needed.
–Workout at the gym during the “work day” – Fortunately, I’m able to work out at a gym, while the kids are in the child care center. This is a relatively new thing (about a year). Before that, I pretty much just didn’t work out. Beckham cried at the child center if I went to the gym when he was little and so did Maddox (although it’s easier for him with big brother), so for about 3.5-4 years after having kids, I’m finally able to workout at the gym (I loathe any other way, besides breastfeeding…can’t beat burning 500 calories for not working out…God designed that perfectly). I consider this a great blessing to be able to workout, when some simply do not have the time before or after work. I work out 4-5 times a week. I’ll try to go once on the weekend when Ryan is home, so I don’t have to take the kids.
–My mother-in-law – My MIL is retired, but they live about 30 minutes away. That’s really not that far, but it does take some planning if I need her to watch the boys for something. She also has a dog, so she has to plan for being away as well for his sake. She is so gracious to watch them if she can. We try to save her for date nights on the weekend (this is about once a month during season) and for times when I have something at night and Ryan is gone. We consider this a huge gift not to pay for babysitting. My parents are also local (about 30-40 minutes away), but both work and have other family they take care of, but they still help when they can.
-Routines – I touched on some routines above, but when it comes to getting everything done, the hardest part for me is keeping up with cleaning! So let me get into cleaning!
This could be several posts of their own, but I’ll let you know my plan for cleaning below. Before kids and when the boys were much younger, I cleaned as I described in this post. It was basically a once a week house clean. I prefer cleaning that way, but it has just seemed impossible as of late. I don’t know if it’s a heavier work load, the kids are older, we have more clutter, or what? The problem is, the house wasn’t getting deep cleaned as much as I’d like and the kids are much better at getting our house dirty now that they’re older (one example, pee and toilets…my gosh, so much pee…boy moms, can you feel me? It ends up everywhere BUT the toilet).
So I’ve been working on a new cleaning routine where I can do something smaller each day instead of hours on end 1-2 times a week, but its success heavily depends on a routine. It is basically divided up into 4 parts:
1. Morning Routine – simple chores in the morning (ex. put dishes in dishwasher after breakfast or laundry)
2. Nightly Routine – any chores after dinner (ex. clean the kitchen)
3. Once a Week Task – each day gets a house hold task (see below)
4. Zone Cleaning – an area of the house gets deep cleaned every 8 weeks (see below)
Once a Week Task:
Monday – Dust entire house
Tuesday – Clean mirrors and glass in house
Wednesday – Vacuum house
Thursday – Mop Tile (most dreaded day)
Friday – Bathrooms and Change/Wash Sheets on all beds in house
Saturday – Tidy up outside/Yard work (Ryan does yard work)
Sunday – Prep for week (grocery shop online or menu plan, make to do list for week, talk to Ryan about weekly schedule, budget)
This is super complicated and I plan on doing a post about this once I’ve gone through it a couple of times. If you haven’t heard of zone cleaning (comes from the Flylady.com), it’s where you clean one zone of your house each week. It will look different for everyone, depending on how big your house is or how it’s laid out. For me, I’ve split my house into 8 zones. And then each zone is split up into 5 days with different tasks for each day. After 8 weeks (8 zones), my entire house will have been deep cleaned. Doing this more often also means it will be easier to clean each time, overall, cutting down on my cleaning time.
For example, Week 1 is my Kitchen (probably the hardest zone in everyone’s house since it’s used daily). On Monday, I would clean out my fridge/freezer (wipe down), straighten pantry and wipe down shelves, sanitize lunch bags, and wash hot pads and rugs. On Tuesday, I would wipe down appliances and counter top decor, clean backslash, wipe down chairs and table really well, wipe down fronts of cabinets and pantry door really well, and wipe inside of cabinets and drawers. And etc. for each day of the week until the entire kitchen/breakfast nook is deep cleaned. The floors are done in my weekly routine so that is separate. Week 2 is Bathrooms, so the process is the same for that zone.
May sound complicated and like a lot of work, but it only is at first because, if you’re like me, it’s been neglected (some of it at least). My deep cleaning now basically happens when I notice it gets dirty…and then of course, it takes twice as long. Anyone I know that has done zone cleaning, swears by it. I’ve included my entire Zone Cleaning in PDF format HERE if you want to take a look. I will be tweaking it as I go. I’ve adapted a lot of this from How Jen Does It on YouTube, so I have to give her a lot of credit.
How do you prepare for the week ahead? Any prep?
Prepare for week – Like I mentioned above, I like to meal plan for the week, jot down some to-do’s in my planner. and talk with Ryan about week (when will he be gone, what nights he’ll be home for dinner, etc.). I also like to do some laundry if I’m not caught up and budget if I haven’t already (this gives me an idea of where we are in the month).
I do not do any food prep as far as cooking goes. Just a simple menu plan. I see what nights Ryan will be home, if we have any get togethers, date nights, etc. to plan what we’ll eat that week. I usually just choose meals based off what we have in our kitchen, what we’re craving, and Pinterest.
Do you use a planner? If so, what kind and how?
Yes! I’ve used a paper planner since I was in high school. I love planning…probably more than I actually like doing the tasks. I currently use a Weekly Planner from Plum Paper. This is my second year in a row to use their planners. In the past I’ve used Erin Condren and ordered an Emily Ley planner as well (never used though, returned). I liked the EC planners, but they’re kind of pricey and didn’t have the custom add-ons I wanted. Once I found Plum Paper, I couldn’t believe the quality, the detail, and the customization. The custom add-ons is what sold me (and the lower price point). I was able to add a Blog section, a Meal Planning section, and extra Notes pages. The planners start at $31.00 and the add-ons are very well priced (well worth the money). I plan on ordering another planner from Plum Paper, but this year, I think I’m going to get the Large (8.5×11) Planners. I believe these are new this year. I write big and I write a lot of detail, so this might just be even more perfect (starts at $41).
To some, that might be a hefty price for a planner, but for me, it’s something I use daily for an entire year. That comes out to about $0.13/day. 🙂 I snapped some pictures last night of my planner…real life, nothing was staged so you could see how I use it. Here are some of the pages in the planner that I took back in January when I first got it.
And here are some “in use”
This is a place to write my goals and an overview of the month. I actually didn’t use this much as I like to print out my goals (since they’re area a lot).
This is the month at a glance. This is why I can’t go digital…I like to see my dates like this. This holds important reminders/dates. More detail goes into the weekly spread.
This is the grocery/meal planning section. I find this really useful to start my list and jot down things I’ll need as I menu plan. Plus, it’s easy to see what we didn’t eat from the previous week and move it ahead to the next week. I usually make a separate list to take to the store because I have more items than are provided (plus, I don’t like taking my planner in the store).
This is the weekly spread I use to write down my to-do’s for the day. Some days I use it, some days I don’t. I like it because I can see what I didn’t do the previous days and add it to the next day if needed. I also use this spread to track my workouts so I know what muscle group to workout next. I literally forget within 2 days what I’ve done. 🙂 I also will write our dinner plans at the bottom too, but didn’t do that this week. Stuff I need to get done that week, I’ll write in the “Weekly Checklist” to the left.
So there ya go! I hope that answered some questions about how I do life basically. I’m definitely in a “need to get better” mindset right now because I feel I could be more productive, but it’s always a work in progress as life changes too. I’m sure I forgot some things, but if you have questions, just ask below and I’ll try to answer. I will let y’all know how the cleaning routine works out. I do know that managing life is much easier with less clutter, which is why I’ve been so intent on simplifying our house/life in 2016!
Now, I’m dying to hear from you! I’m so curious how other people manage things as well. Do you have a cleaning routine or other routines/life hacks that help you manage your house and family? Even if you hire out certain tasks…sometimes we need help in order to do what we do.
Have a great Monday and I’ll be back next week with another answered question!