I don’t want to come across all Stepford Wife-y, as I’m really not, but there are three things, which if I manage to achieve all three, almost guarantee my day alone with two small children under the age of three, will run smoothly. I mentioned this on my Instagram stories last week and received lots of messages asking me to share. So here goes! Three things to make life as a stay at home parent easier…
1. Get up and dressed before the children.
Okay, this is by far and away the single event that is most likely to lead to a successful day. Unfortunately, I only seem to manage it approximately three out of five weekdays, but when it happens, it’s great!
Basically, if B wakes up between five and six a.m. for a feed, she’ll usually go back to sleep for around an hour (or if I’m lucky, two hours!). If this happens, then instead of going back to bed, I hop in the shower, wash and dry my hair and get my clothes and make up on. M usually wakes up at around seven thirty, so I can usually manage to get myself sorted before she rises for the day. If B (by some miracle) sleeps through, then I get up just after Matthew’s alarm goes off, and do the same.
On the days that I succumb to the promise of a bit of extra sleep, or pretend that both my children are going to sleep until at least 8am, I can almost guarantee that it’s going to take me three times longer to get ready whilst juggling two inquisitive children (and when I say inquisitive, I mean they empty the contents of my bedroom drawers onto the floor) who are hungry for their breakfast. And then we’ll be late to wherever we’re going and I’ll be cross before 9am because I’ve spent 45 minutes saying, “stop that!”
2. Prepare dinner early. Preferably at breakfast time.
It might seem a bit extreme to be thinking about dinner before you’ve even finished your cornflakes, but I can honestly say that this works wonders.
(A quick side note here: I cook all of our meals from scratch. I don’t mean to sound like I’m coming from a moral high ground here, because I’m not. I’ve just grown up eating non-processed foods, so that’s how it’s always been for me. Yes, we sometimes eat out and the children will have a pizza or fish fingers from the children’s menu. But we don’t generally eat foods like that at home. I like cooking, and then I enjoy eating!)
I appreciate that cooking from scratch takes a little more time than throwing a few fish fingers on a baking tray. One of my goals for 2019 is to use the slow cooker at least once per week. I bought myself a new slow cooker cook book, and found some new slow cooker recipes online.
My favourite thing to cook in the slow cooker is chilli. It takes very little preparation in the morning. I just sling it all in the slow cooker while the girls are finishing off their breakfast, then leave it on low all day to cook. Then I just need to spend ten minutes making some rice at that time of day. If you’ve got small children, then you’ll know exactly what I mean!
So instead of trying (and failing!) to control tired, hungry miniature people while I’m attempting to whip up a culinary feast, I can spend time cuddling and playing with them instead. Much better!
Even if I’m not using the slow cooker, I try to prepare whatever I can at calmer moments of the day. For example, yesterday, I prepared all of the vegetables for our roast dinner while the children were calm, with full tummies! Then I was able to just pop the tray into the oven and turn on the hob at the right time. Zero stress!
3. Get out of the house.
This is another reason that I have a new-found love for my slow cooker. It means that we can go out for the day, without worrying about having to get home to allow a particular amount of time to cook dinner, as it’s already there waiting for us.
Another of my goals for the year has been to go outside every single day. Even if it’s just a quick run around in the garden. But the best days are those that we’re out doing something for a whole morning or afternoon (or both!).
Being out of the house makes the day go so much more quickly. Yesterday, we spent a good hour at the park in the sunshine, and it really lifted all of our moods. Other days, we might pop into the city for a walk around the shops. M loves looking around, chatting about things that she’s spotted and asking questions about the world. And of course a babyccino at a cafe always goes down well!
So, there you have it. The trifecta of parenting success! I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek, as I honestly don’t believe that I have all of the answers. Some days I am ready to tear my hair out and resort to far too much CBeebies. And sometimes I’m that mum with a toddler pummelling the shop floor with her fists.
I have maybe two or three days per week where all three of these things come together, but when they do, they are almost guaranteed to make for a stress-free day. And that lack of stress of course impacts positively on my mood, and therefore positively on my parenting. Which, in turn, results in two happy, well-behaved children. Well, most of the time..!