When you have a baby and a mile long to-do list to accomplish, the tasks can seem insurmountably impossible. I know what that feeling is like — I’ve been there plenty of times.
But, over the course of 13 months spent with a baby, I’ve learned some tricks of the mommy trade that help make accomplishing daily tasks a little easier and I’m here to impart them to you. (Feel free to share your own tips in the comments!)
1. Become BFFS with your slow cooker. If you don’t already have a slow cooker: GET ONE. If you already have one, but don’t use it: GET ON IT. My slow cooker is hands down my best friend in the kitchen. I use it as often as three times a week and it often provides leftovers too! Bonus!
2. Have a plan. Each night, I lay out the next day’s schedule in my mind and have a rough idea of what I’ll need to get done, and in what order. The fact is, you can’t do everything — so prioritize the most important things first, and then if you get the extra things on your list completed, it will just be a nice bonus.
3. Break up your tasks. Before I had a little one, I used to try to get things done in big chunks. I would cram as much into one period of time as I possibly could, but with a child, it’s kind of impossible. As such, I’ve changed my approach and started breaking up my tasks into more manageable parts. I used to go grocery shopping at three different stores in one day, but now I split up my shopping trips into two days. It gives us an excuse to get out of the house on another day and makes me feel less overwhelmed. With laundry, I might wash and dry one day, fold the next and put away the day after.
4. Have a designated “mom uniform.” A “mom uniform” will look different for everyone, but basically, it’s just a go-to type of ensemble that you can mix and match easily in your closet without having to think much about it. A mom uniform should be polished and versatile for going a lot of different places and totally comfortable for all of your daily tasks. Mine is typically jeans and a cute top paired with ballet flats and a cardigan. I can throw on a necklace or some bracelets for added interest. Takes all the guess work out of getting dressed.
5. Pack ahead of time. Every night before bed (actually, often during nap time) I make sure to refill Fern’s “diaper bag.” I actually just use a purse now that she’s a bit older, but I still refill it with all the essentials — snacks, a couple of toys, diapers and wipes – that way I’m not scrambling to find them at the last minute when we’re running late.
6. Always carry distractions. Sometimes you can distract your little one with odds an ends while you’re out at a restaurant or out and about, but other times, you’re going to have to step your game up. Never leave home without a few entertaining items in your bag. I usually keep a small book, a toy car and some type of plastic animal with me. I also try to change up the items every so often so she doesn’t get bored with them. Also – snacks are always a plus.
7. Recruit friends and family. There have been many times when I truly needed to get something done, and getting it done without help just wasn’t going to happen. Ask a friend to come along grocery shopping with you or have Grandma come play with your little one while you clean the house. It takes a village to raise a child, people — and there’s no shame in that.
8. Assume you’re a half hour late. Always. If you’re that one mom on the planet who is always on time, then you are a far better woman than I am. I used to be obsessively punctual before I had a baby, but since then I now run on what I like to call “mom time” (a.k.a., at least a half hour late always). It’s ok though, because I now pad my schedule with an extra half hour so at least now, I’ll only be a little bit late instead of obscenely late.
9. Have a routine. Even when your baby is still too little to truly stick to a schedule, make everything that you can into a routine. For example: wake up, then nurse, then get dressed, then play, etc. These routines don’t have to be at a set time; they’re more of an order for doing things. I want my daughter to be adaptable to new situations, but try to keep with a routine most of the time so that changes don’t throw her for a loop. Variety is the spice of life, but having it be the exception rather than the rule can make things a lot easier for many babies (and parents!) when trying to get through their daily tasks.
10. Sing. When things aren’t going well and there’s not much else you can do, just start singing. Your baby will be distracted and soothed and it can sometimes even change your perspective on the day.
11. Keep toys in every room. For months during Fern’s first year, I had the hardest time figuring out how to prioritize making dinner, and every night it seemed to fall apart. Finally, I got smart. I started keeping toys in every room of my house — including the kitchen where I make dinner. This solved the dinner problem because it meant Fern could now play right where I was in her view. Having toys in every room also gives your child a change of scenery and keeps them busy and entertained moving from room to room.
12. Take breaks. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the things on my to-do list and the seeming impossibility of getting it all done with a little one around. At times like these, I stop and take a breath and take a quick break to do something relaxing so I can come back refocused. Sometimes it just takes a cup of coffee and flipping through part of a magazine for a few minutes to get me back on track.
13. Get up early. I was never an early riser, but once my baby started sleeping a little bit better, I pushed myself to start getting up early to accomplish tasks. Working from home means this is often the best time of day for me to work and it doesn’t hurt to have a daily mocha bribe from my husband. I’ve really grown to love my early morning time to myself – even if it is spent doing work, it’s still time to myself.
14. Dance while you work. You can do dishes while you dance and your little one will be entertained. It’s a win/win.
15. Leave it for tomorrow. Some days, when you’re a parent, there are simply going to be things that are just more important than a to-do list — and that’s ok. Leave it for tomorrow. I promise your list will still be there.