Keep on top of the great parenthood juggling act with a bit of imagination, plenty of organisation and a little help from your friends. Here are eight ideas to help busy parents.
1. Share childcare
It may seem obvious, but too many parents don’t ask for help when they need it. Friends with children of a similar age are often happy to help – especially if it means you’ll return the favour another time! And let’s not forget, grandparents are usually chomping at the bit to get involved. If you’re worried family politics might come into play, try these tips for keeping everybody happy. Finally, if you don’t have relatives or parent friends nearby, don’t despair. The Mush app could help you meet mum mates near you.
2. Take a load off
First things first: check the labels and try to buy only clothing and bedding that are easy to maintain from now on. Cashmere and baby sick do not mix well. If you have space, keep two washing baskets side by side, one for light and one for dark clothing and sort your clothes as you take them off. Likewise pop delicate items in net bags ready for the machine so you don’t forget. You probably can’t cut back on washing, but could you do less ironing? Most children’s clothes look fine if you hang them up quickly after the washing cycle ends, and the same may go for many of your own clothes too. Find more laundry hacks here.
3. Be a smart shopper
If you’re looking for a specific item, avoid a wasted trip by phoning ahead to ensure it’s in stock, or reserve it online and collect in store. You can also save time by doing your grocery shopping online. If you have a Tesco Clubcard, once you’ve registered, the items you usually buy in store will all be listed under ‘Favourites’, and all the offers are handily kept in one place. You’ll be able to do your weekly shop in minutes.
4. Get clever in the kitchen
Plan meals in advance and try to keep your freezer and cupboards well stocked with basics like pasta, rice and soups to avoid unnecessary shopping trips when things run out. Invest in a slow cooker so you can throw a few ingredients into the pot in the morning, and have a hot meal ready for supper. You can also cut back on food preparation by batch-cooking and freezing your family’s favourite dishes.
5. Use your smartphone
There are hundreds of time-saving apps to help you out. Savvy parents use the Tesco Groceries app, which lets you do the food shopping on your phone, while organiser apps such as Mom’s Daily Planner combine to-do lists, calendars and budgeting tools. Babychange is the National Childbirth Trust’s invaluable guide to your nearest baby-changing facility.
6. Clear the clutter
Whether it’s toys or books your little one has lost interest in, clothing you no longer wear, or even out-of-date jars in your fridge, not only are unused items taking up precious space in your home, but there’s a good chance they’re making it harder for you to find the things you actually use. So have a good clear out and sell things or give them to a charity shop. And the good news on the toy front? Young children concentrate better when they have a few good toys rather than an overwhelming choice, so not only will you spend less time tidying, you may also get a bit more time to get on with things!
7. Set deadlines
Always set yourself a limit of how long you can spend on a task and try to keep to it, as most jobs will always take longer if you let them. Likewise, try to be strict about timings with your children’s activities and routines. It can be hard to drag children away when they are happily playing, but if you’ve said ‘only 5 more minutes’ then stick to it – set a timer on your phone if it helps so they can hear that time is up. Children can also be experts at delaying tactics around bedtimes (with requests for one more story, a drink of water etc.) so be firm and remember that the time after they go to sleep is precious to you, whether you need to get things done or just flop out on the sofa for a well-earned rest.
8. Encourage helpful habits
Even very young children can learn to lend a hand at home, whether it’s putting cutlery on the table, tidying up their toys, pairing up socks, or helping you unpack the shopping. Ok, this will probably won’t bring instant rewards, and things may actually take longer at first as you explain things, but the earlier you start the process, the sooner you’ll have another pair of helping hands on deck.
Want to make things easier at home? Here’s how to organise your child’s playroom better.