Guest post by the lovely Nerissa Buckell, founder of Crimson Tiger.
Don’t you just hate those mothers? You know the ones! Those that turn up on the school run or toddler group with full make up, matching accessories, immaculate children, always on time with everything needed in their bag. Ever wonder how they do it? Other than having a full complement of staff (if only!), it's from being organised.
I learnt my lessons the hard way. My husband was working abroad for weeks at a time and when he was home he was working late most nights. I had four boys between the ages of 1 and 7. Number 2 son was visiting various hospitals trying to reach a diagnosis of his condition and I was struggling with chest infection after chest infection before finally being diagnosed with bronchiectasis. I was sinking and I needed to get more organised. So here some tips that I implemented to get and keep on top of a busy family life.
START WITH THE BASICS
Whatever the day brings you, aim to get two things done. Always try and get one load of washing done and prepare dinner the first chance you get even if it is 9am. Peel the potatoes and have them sitting in cold water, peel and chop the carrots, anything you can do well in advance, do it. No matter what happens later in the day, if you can still get dinner on the table you are winning. This was a piece of advice I was given by my eldest sister when I had my first child and I still live by it now 18 years later.
DO IT THE NIGHT BEFORE
I know, you are exhausted, you just want to flunk into bed and hope Pixie Pickup will wave her wand and get the packed lunches sorted, lay out the clothes and makes sure the school bags and change bag are packed, but trust me, Pixie Pickup is knocking back the gin and despairing of her to-do list like the rest of us! It is far worse in the morning and for just a few minutes of work before bed your mornings are going to be much smoother. I also soon realised that if I allowed my children to go back upstairs in the morning to clean their teeth and get dressed they would soon get distracted and start playing and we would run late. I laid out their clothes on the sofa the night before, toothbrushes were kept downstairs and they could only ever go and play once they were fully ready.
FOOD PLAN & FREEZE
Okay, this sounds so boring and nothing like pre-baby days where you were winging everything including food, but wasted food is expensive when you are feeding a family and when you are tired having to decide what to feed everyone and finding you are missing key ingredients it is no fun. Look at what you have coming up for the week, work out when you are going to be too busy and plan round it. I used to love cooking until I had to do it for 6 people every day so I batch cook, why cook twice when I can do two or three meals worth in one and load the freezer up? Just remember to label the containers as a few times I have served pasta with chilli, hey, in my defence it looks the same when it’s frozen! It is also worth putting the food plan on the calendar, especially when you have a large family. Trust me, being asked ‘what’s for dinner?’ 5 times in 10 minutes will have you punching Pixie Pickup out cold so you can get to the gin first!
Buy a decent sized family calendar, my favourites are from Boxclever Press as there is plenty of room to write on them and they also sensibly have spaces for lists which are perforated, and a pocket at the back perfect for the party invitations. If you can, train the family to look at the calendar. I have to admit to failing here as the husband will stand right next to the calendar and still ask what is happening tomorrow. Thankfully my children are much better and have even reached the stage of writing their plans on the calendar. It is impossible when you are tired and juggling the social lives of others to remember who goes where when. A calendar will avoid the double booking but unfortunately it will also highlight that your 3-year-old has a far better social life than you.
Bullet journals are probably the most blogged about trend at the moment. Lots of pretty doodling’s of life goals take up most of Pinterest. Ignore the pretty pictures and look at the practical uses. A book, any book, with a pen loop kept beside you at all times to write in everything you need to do, think about, or shop for, is so much easier than scraps of paper at the bottom of the change bag. If you were to look at my bullet journal you would think the contents of your child’s nappy was more artistic but it has saved me so many times. Mentally, crossing off items from your list is also a great way to remind yourself what you really have achieved in a day.
Set aside half an hour a week for a planning session. If you have a partner then I suggest that you time it for after dinner on Sunday so the washing up and bathing kids’ sessions fall to them. Worked a treat for me! Cuppa, calendar, notebook, and computer. Work out what, when, where, then list it, shop it, note it. If said partner walks in, huff and puff a bit and mumble things like ‘how am I going to manage that’ so they quickly turn and leave you in peace for a few more minutes. You soon learn tricks that give you an extra 5 minutes peace and quiet in a busy household.
BLACK BOX IT
If something is time consuming or just not working for the family, analyse why and change it. The airline industry has a great attitude that I try to implement in my and my children’s thinking. When something goes wrong, no matter how disastrous they collect information from staff and from the aeroplanes black box and analyse what went wrong and then make changes to stop it from happening again. A minor example of this is when the children were not using their wash baskets in their rooms. I was fed up going from room to room gathering the washing so we got a communal wash basket on the landing. I soon realised that rather than going up to the basket to place their dirty pants they were throwing them from their doorways and because the opening folded in the washing never made it to the basket. We changed the basket for a large plastic box for them to aim easily at. Sorted.
To yourself – you are never going to get everything right, you are going to screw up, have bad days. There is nothing wrong in having a day where you slip up, where a hairbrush never meets your hair, where the kids run around in the pyjamas all day and you all eat cereal for dinner. It’s normal. It’s just not good when that is your daily life.
Reward yourself. It is hard to find time to clean your teeth on some days but try and find time for a treat. A bath in peace, a glass of wine, a face pack, paint your toes, anything that makes you happy. Look at the Mum’s Back Hampers, the contents are treats, wine, a book, cheese, chocolate, lip balms. We need rewards as much as the children do. Don’t feel guilty!
To others – You really don’t know what they are dealing with so if they make mistakes, be kind, forgive. If a friend who usually posts regularly on social media goes quiet for a while, check up on them, it might be that they are struggling. Be their Pixie Pickup. Go and visit with a bottle of wine or cake for a chat, perhaps quietly, without fuss do a few jobs for them while you are chatting. Drop in a dinner for their family that they just have to reheat.
Finally, have fun, ignore the mess and have fun with the kids as they do leave home sooner than you think and then you and Pixie Pickup will have more time to share a glug of gin or two.
This blog was written by Nerissa Buckell, mum to 4 boys and a dog that snorts like a pig. She is also founder of Crimson Tiger, creators of made to order personalised gifts.
Big thanks to Nerissa for all the fab hints, tips and life hacks!