Over the years I have learned many coping strategies to survive being a working mom. Little tricks to survive the rush, stay organized, and not completely lose my mind. Below are some of the tried and true daily actions that make life a bit easier.
1. Do One Load of Laundry Everyday
I don’t know about your house, but in mine laundry multiplies faster than bunny rabbits. Between school clothes, gym clothes, baseball uniforms, a husband who wears one outfit to work and then a different one to relax in at home, and four people taking baths or showers in the evening, laundry piles up ridiculously fast. My trick for surviving this mountain of smelly and stained clothing and linens is to do a load every single day. In the morning before I go to work I quickly toss one load in the machine. I have been doing this for so long now that I can seriously grab dirty clothes, load the washing machine and throw in some detergent and fabric softener in under three minutes. If I miss an item of clothing, no big deal, since I will just get it next time. This way I leave the house and my washer is working even when I am not there.
2. Turn on the Dishwasher Before Going to Work
This is similar to the laundry. I love knowing my machines are cleaning away as I drive to work sipping my tea. As soon as the last breakfast dish is loaded I toss in a Cascade pack and turn it on. As for emptying, my oldest son now has that lovely task. His chore as soon as he gets home is to empty the dishwasher so I will have all the kitchen tools I will need to prepare that night’s dinner. Plus, doing it this way means the dishwasher is empty and ready to be filled with dinner dishes, pots and pans. I hate cooking dinner only to find out the dishwasher is still full of clean dishes, or even worse, full of dirty dishes!
3. Get a Planner
My life would fall apart very quickly without my daily planner. I have everything in there; to do lists, appointments, the children’s activities, work obligations, even what’s for dinner. I personally use a planner that shows me a month at a glance and the weekly pages. Also, don’t forget to compare your planner to your husband’s planner if he has one. This will prevent accidentally double booking plans.
4. Facial Cleansing Cloths
After a full day of teaching, parenting, cooking, grading papers, and dealing with whatever crisis has arisen, I am practically dead on my feet come bedtime. For years I went to bed with my makeup still on. I was just too tired to care that my pillow the next morning was covered in mascara. I would washed my face every morning and applied new makeup. Then one day at Target I picked up a pack of make-up removing clothes. I have been purchasing them ever since. Now at bedtime I grab my adult version of a baby wipes and in about 10 seconds I am makeup free and there are no more black smudges on my pillow case.
5. Buy Each Child Their Own Monday-Sunday Hanging Cubby
You can get them at IKEA, or order them from Amazon. You hang it in the closet, and then every Sunday I stuff the cubbies with pants, shirts, underwear, and socks. I take care of my seven years old and I did my other son’s for years, but he is now old enough to do it himself. Every Sunday I check to make sure he has filled each cubby with needed items. If certain days require school spirit T-shirts or you have to wear a school color just stick it in the cubby for the day of the week it is needed. This trick saves tons of time in the morning. No looking for lost shirts, no squandering time deciding that days fashion choices. Just grab and go!
6. Lay Out Your Own Clothes Each Night
You have probably heard this one before, but it is true. Each night I pick my complete outfit, shoes, socks, and accessories before I go to bed. I check the weather to see if I need my water proof coat or if I can wear my wool coat.
7. Buy Black Pants…Lots of Them
I own 7 pairs of black pants. Seriously. I have some awesome jeans but I can’t wear them to work. I have other kinds of pants but teaching children all day who use dry erase markers for assignments and are sticky from lunch time inevitably means spots and marker blotches on them. I wear black pants to work pretty much every day. I wear all kinds of colors when it comes to my shirts and sweaters, especially jewel tones like red, purple, and emerald. I love my leopard ballet flats, my sandals, and my black ankle boots. I love scarfs and toss one around my neck all the time. But, ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am almost always in black pants. It’s just my thing and it makes putting outfits together so much easier and for my busy mom lifestyle it works.
8. Deal with the Mail as Soon as it Arrives
Sometimes I feel like mail and paper are the bane of my existence. I hate junk mail. I hate bills. I hate catalogs that just tempt me into buying things I don’t need. I have gone to websites to try to stop it, but since I do a lot of online shopping for the sake of convenience I get massive amounts of catalogs, fliers, and advertisements. I have learned to deal with the mail on the spot or it quickly consumes my counter top. I don’t even bring the catalogs in the house. My recycling bin is in the garage and I go through the garage to get to the mail box. Before entering the house ALL items of junk mail, or items that could lead me into making unwise spontaneous purchases (Pottery Barn, J. Jill, and Land’s End) are placed in the recycling bin. Once in the house bills are sorted and put into a folder marked bills. Other items that need to be dealt with are placed in their own folder for when I have the time to sit down and address them. In the end there is no mail left on the counter top. I do the same with the boy’s book bags and notes home from school. If a note comes home about an activity it is put on the calendar with any directions we need and the papers tossed in the recycling bin. Fliers for things we don’t plan to do go in the bin or get used as kindling for the fireplace.
9. Accept the Fact that Your Kids are Going to Watch TV
I know a lot of moms like to brag that their kids never watch TV. Good for them. Mine do. After school the boys do their homework at the kitchen table, but once they finish they are allowed to turn on cartoons. This is how I manage to cook dinner and fold laundry. Otherwise my children would want my attention every five seconds and I would get absolutely nothing done. The TV goes off as soon as dinner is on the table, and from then on we limit screen time, but I am pretty sure watching some TV will not completely fry my children’s brains, and it helps to save my own sanity as well.
10. Use Your Grocery Store Sales Paper to Plan a Week of Meals
Each week I look at my store sales paper to see what items are on sale. I clip whatever coupons I need, and then decide what I will be cooking for the next several days, or if possible the week ahead. Tuesday is piano practice so no time to cook, which means Monday’s dinner must be a double batch so we will have leftovers. Friday is T-ball so Thursday’s dinner needs to be a double batch. Just a little bit of planning can save a lot of time. I hate coming home and everything is frozen and I have no clue what to cook. I’m not saying that never happens, it does, but I try to have a plan so we eat healthy as much as possible and I’m not stressing out.