I work outside our home, like a lot of women do. That presents a challenge for me-to keep up with and balance my household tasks so I'm able to be a mommy and wife when we are all home together. It's not easy, but over the last year or so, I've learned some time management and some shortcuts to make our days and nights go a little smoother.
1. EVERYONE helps around the house.
One of my goals for 2011 was to implement a chore chart for Matthew and Lucas. I printed off several copies of the chore chart. Every Sunday night, I look at the previous week's chart, and assign chores based on which son did what the previous week. For example, if Matthew did lunches last week, the next week it's Lucas's turn. Every week the chores are the same, but the boy who does them alternates. I decided to save the last two I've filled out, and I'll just reuse two weeks of chore charts, instead of rewriting it for the week.
2. Sunday night set-out
We invested in one of those kids closet organizers that is labeled with the days of the week, and has sections for an outfit for each day. LOVE it! Every Sunday afternoon or evening, I set out a set of clothes for each son. It's done for the week, and I can decide what they're wearing based on if they have gym, if we are going anywhere right after school, the weather, etc. I also set out a week's worth of clothes for Natalie, and each evening I lay out the next day's clothes on her dresser. It makes Derrick's mornings of getting her ready so much easier.
3. Routine, routine, routine
As soon as the boys get home from school, they complete their homework. This works in our family...I know a lot of families that let their kids have down time, and spend after dinner doing homework. That doesn't work for us, so they do it asap. About 10 minutes before they get home, I do a slight pick up, sharpen pencils, and clear the table. I also start getting a snack ready for them, so they can sit right down and work. After they are finished, their homework goes RIGHT into their backpacks, along with anything special they might need for the next day and their backpacks go by the door. Also, our after dinner routine is so important to them. If the boys don't have a snack, snuggles with Derrick and I, or a back scratching, it gets thrown off. I love how they need the snuggles and back scratching before bed..someday, that may not be the case.
4. Down time
Between homework and dinner, we have about an hour and a half to spend playing. This is the time I often spend playing and having one on one time with Natalie while Matthew and Lucas play together. Since the boys are done with homework right after school, we have the hour and a half or so after dinner to play, watch tv, and have snacks and snuggles before bed.
5. What can I do before they come home?
I have about an hour or slightly less to "myself" before the boys get home from school. I spend this time:
~making grocery lists or couponing
~folding/putting away laundry
~meal prep for that night's dinner and possibly the next
~trip to the gym or a run (when it finally gets nice outside!)
~short grocery trip
~help Derrick with church stuff
6. Laundry-essentials for the laundry room
~hangers-I get the empty hangers out of our closets and hang them in the laundry room. That way, when clothes that need to be hung come out of the dryer, they go directly on the hangers and into the closets
~trash can-for the dryer sheets, clothes that truly cannot be even given away, tags, stray threads, etc.
~storage bin-clothes that are outgrown or seasonal (I don't always have a storage bin in the laundry room-mainly around Twin Sale time and season changes)
~trash bag, box, etc-clothes for Goodwill or the Clothes Closet (a local organization that is run by churches in our area to help the less fortunate)
~2 laundry baskets-one for us and one for the kids. When I fold laundry, I put it in its respective basket. This assures that I'm not going from room to room putting clothes away. Our basket goes to our room, and the boys/Natalie's basket goes to their rooms.
I do 1-2 loads of laundry about 2 nights a week. Therefore, I'm not spending my whole weekend doing laundry on top of the other household chores.
7. Dishwasher? Not always
My husband doesn't mind washing the dishes nightly, and I'm starting to see the benefits. While I oversee the table clearing (since that's one of the boys' chores), Derrick starts washing dishes. Whoever is on table clear patrol helps him with dishes, and I finish putting leftovers away and start getting pjs on the other two kiddos. We are starting to run our dishwasher less, and I'm getting more ok with that. It's nice to have all the dishes clean and put away.
8. Weekly Meal Planning
Another one of my goals for this year was to meal plan. Let me tell you, my Monday mornings wouldn't be the same if I didn't take time to meal plan. I HATE the "what am I going to make for dinner tonight" feeling that usually occurs around 3:30 or so. Not anymore. I look at our schedule for the week, then base my meals around that. We ALWAYS have pizza on Friday nights. I also make sure and put in the options for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. That helps me so I don't neglect having the necessities for those meals, and it reminds me that I might have some muffins, or breakfast bread in the freezer that would make for a nice switch in the morning breakfast routine. Also, I only try one new meal a week-if I try any. I found a template that is very helpful to me, and faithfully pull it up every week Monday.
I take about 20 minutes of my lunch time one or two days a week to make my grocery lists from Deal Seeking Mom, MoneySaving Mom, and/or Stretching a Buck. As I'm making my lists, I star (**) the items that have a printable coupon so when I get home I can go back and print those. Every other week, I check http://www.coupons.com/, http://www.redplum.com/, and/or http://www.smartsource.com/ for new printable coupons. As I print them, I cut them out and file them right away. Otherwise, I'm stuck with a huge pile of coupons, and it takes me forever to sort and organize them just to make a quick trip to the grocery.
10. Recognize the capabilities
Above all, I recognize the capabilities of my husband and my sons. How can I give up some control and benefit from it? I'll be honest-I am a control freak when it comes to household tasks, grocery shopping, and meals. But I'm also learning that I can't be all things to all people...and I'd rather spend energy being a good wife and mom and NOT on begrudging my tasks. Just because my husband or the boys don't put something EXACTLY where I wanted it, or folded it the EXACT way I would've doesn't mean it's wrong. Delegating some tasks has made our house run a lot smoother...and we're all happier.