Thank you so much to Sarah from Let Them Be Small for this really helpful post. She’s a very busy mum of two little ones under two years of age, so she knows what it’s like trying to balance parenting, with life, and trying to not only look after your growing family, but yourself as well. You also can find her on Twitter and Google +
As a stay at home mum to two under two, it is all too easy to become totally consumed by the children and to not take time away for me.
In any line of work (and being a stay at home parent is a type of work – just not a paid one!) it is important to have a balance and take time to rest. Interestingly our Priest recently spoke about the importance of rest (see here for the full text of the homily). I am not religious myself but this homily really resonated with me – rest is really important, whatever form that rest takes.
For me, I find that resting or doing something none house or child related makes me a better parent to the children; it makes me more patient and gives me time (even just a small amount) to think about me, and only me. For me a good way to look after myself is to go swimming. I’ve always enjoyed swimming and it’s a gentle enough actiivty for my body (which is really important in the first six months after having a baby) but it also helps with keeping fit and shedding the last of the weight gained in both pregnancies.
My friends often ask how I manage to do so much, the answer? I try to be organised . Not such a revelation I suppose, but swimming and taking time out for me helps me to order my thoughts and plans. I also try to stay organsie in the following ways:
1 .Stay on top of household chores
My husband and I found that we had slipped into a habit of each Sunday spending most of the day blitzing the house and giving it a full top to bottom clean. Not the best way to spend time as a family and I found it was making me really resentful that instead of going out and doing something together, my husband and I would be trying to occupy the children whilst hoovering, mopping etc – a task that is near impossible with an ever inquisitive toddler.
We decided that a better approach would be to try to do a room each night, once the children are in bed. I’m not quite sure we achieve this, but we do try and keep on top of things much more now. To clean one room each evening takes about 20-30 mins between us (and that includes tidying all rooms of toys and books and doing the washing up) and it means that each week each room is given a good clean. Usually by 7:45pm we can sit down and do what we want, with both children in bed and the house clean and tidy. We start as soon as the chidlren are in bed – if we sit down it won’t get done! For me I might go swimming, for Damian he might spend time clearing emails or reading the papers.
2. Prep activities so there’s always a ‘go to’ activity ready should you need one at short notice
On the odd occasions that both Emma & Daniel nap at the same time I will tidy up and get an activity ready for Daniel. Pinterest is a great way to find quick and easy ideas for activities to occupy your children. I’ve found that a couple of hours spent planning ahead gives you a good couple of months worth of acitivites that you can go to should things not go as planned, eg: a planned trip to the park doesn’t happen because of bad weather etc.
It also ensures that Daniel doesn’t get too bored if we end up stuck in the house because Emma is napping and if one activity doesn’t inspire or grab his attention I usually have something else to go to.
We have a good supply of craft materials, play doh and plenty of stuff to quickly throw together sensory tubs. I also try and keep a log of what activities have grabbed Daniel’s attention too so should I need to keep him occupied for a reasonable amount of time, I have a good idea as to what will achieve this.
This one is key for me – If I don’t have a rough plan of what we will eat across the week I find that by 3pm each day I begin to panic about what on earth I am going to do for tea.
I am a big fan of the slow cooker, and like to use it a lot in the winter. Using the slow cooker means I can have dinner prepped and on the go during Emma’s morning nap and it’s all ready and waiting come 6pm. Even better I can make extra and freeze it for the following week – saving even more time and stress!
4.Plan the week ahead
For me, knowing where me husband and I will be and what that means in terms of the running of the house is really important.
Each Saturday or Sunday, when I am meal planning, I make sure I know if we have plans to be anywhere (for example family birthdays, visiting friends et) and the shifts my husband is working. This just ensures that I can have a broad range of activities planned in for Daniel and Emma, but also that if we are to go out somewhere for a set time I can try to organise naps etc. and have the bags ready to go, based on how long we expect to be out for.
None of the things above are rocket science or big revelations, but trying to so these things means that I find it much easier to make time for me – there isn’t any guilt that I am off out to the swimming pool when there is a mountain of washing to do at home – because I have usually found time to do the washing. I also don’t often find myself sat wondering what to do with the children on a wet day, again saving any feelings of guilt or stress!.
For me, having those three or four hours out of the house each week and in the swimming pool are really key to helping me unwind. Some days at home with the children are really tough and draining, but swimming helps to clear my mind and rest and relax me more at . I find that for the first 15 minutes in the pool I go through the day and what I could have done differently, and then make plans for the next day. When I get home and go to bed I have already gone through the events of the day and my mind is clearer and more relaxed, leading, I think, to a more restful sleep (when Emma permits!)
On the occasions I can’t get out to the swimming pool, either because I just don’t feel like it or my husband is working late or away then I will do something like read a book, take a hot bath, pick up a colouring book or do something crafty such as cross stitching or sewing. I find the time alone concentrating on something non house or child related really helps clear my mind.
And a clear mind is so important.