Coffee alone won't cut it. Parents who work full time need a plan to get out of the house on time in the morning with everyone fed, dressed and backpacks packed—without tears. (No one would blame you if you have a little cry on the way to work, btw.)
How do seasoned working moms make it all happen? We asked our members their top tricks and tips for keeping themselves and their kids happy and sane despite hectic schedules. Hopefully these hacks can make your routine go a little more smoothly.
Many of our members said the key to a smooth day is preparing nearly everything the night before—or even earlier.
"I plan my outfits every Sunday so I never have to wonder what I'm going to wear," says one member. And this working mom has a great closet strategy: "I keep my everyday, in-season work clothes grouped together in the closet, with whatever I wore most recently on the far left, so that every morning I can just grab an outfit from the 3-4 that are the farthest to the right."
Dinnertime is another opportunity for advance prep. "I prep a lot of meals in advance and freeze them," says one mom. "If I don’t get everything cooked on the weekend, I usually cook it the night before, so I can get dinner on the table quickly. If I don’t have a plan the night before, we don’t eat!"
And here's a genius cooking hack: "Whenever I cook anything requiring spice assembly, I create extra baggies of the same spice mixture so that the same future 'from scratch' meal is a lot easier/faster."
Enlist the kids
Why should parents have to do everything themselves? As soon as kids are old enough to help out, many parents put them on the chore list. "During the school year, I used a visual checklist so my kid could figure out what task needed to be done next (this also helped me and my husband)."
Here's a great idea to ensure more adult time: "[My kids] have to help put everything away before they go to bed, so that there aren’t more chores for adults to do after bedtime."
We can all aspire to get our kids to do as much as this mom's: "They make their own breakfast 80% of the time (I'm in charge of mornings). I've started getting the kids involved in doing their laundry but we are nowhere close to having them take it over yet." But still. They are feeding themselves and washing their clothes. High-five, mom.
Enlist other parents
Getting the kids ready and driving them to school can add a lot of stress and time to an already hectic morning. Many parents suggest splitting driving duties with other parents. "I work from home a couple days a week so I drive the carpool the days I don't have to get myself ready for work," says one mom. "The days I go into the office, I only have to have them ready to walk out the front door and I can finish getting myself packed and out."
And what about after-school activities? Carpools can help with those, too. Says one mom: "The kids were on baseball/softball teams this past spring with a ton of overlap so having friends on those teams to share driving with was the only way it worked."
Hiring help around the house isn't attainable for everyone, but if you can afford even a little help, you will save yourself a lot of time (and stress), according to our members.
"We have a before school nanny/house manager that helps get our son ready for school, takes him to school, and comes home and cleans up breakfast, folds and puts laundry away, accepts said grocery delivery (marks everything off so we know what came and what didn't), starts laundry, and will do light cooking, load/unload dishwasher, help clean/cut up fruit, and help with little things and projects around the house. She also helps with Target returns, etc.," says one mom. Yes, she is living the dream. But wait, there's more. "We also have an afterschool nanny (college student) that picks our son up from school and drives him to his activities, etc."
Possibly more attainable for some of us: a house helper who comes one day per week. Check out how much work this mom squeezes out of once-a-week help. "She arrives at 6am so [my] husband and I can get one early-day start to work, and she gets kids ready and drives them to school. Then, she cleans our house from 8am-1:30pm, including laundry and changing all sheets, and then runs errands for us like...returns, dry cleaning, a few groceries as needed, buys all household cleaning supplies. Then picks up the kids at 3:30 from school [and] drives them to all after-school activities and goes home at 6pm." Phew! That's quite a day. "All other days [my] husband and I juggle responsibilities but this one-day-a-week position is amazing," she adds.
Delivery isn't just for pizza and Amazon packages you forgot you bought. Many working moms recommend getting everything from dry cleaning to groceries delivered to save precious time. "We have all groceries delivered...It saves [my husband] and me a ton of time. [Now] I don't impulse shop."
This mom did the grocery delivery research so you don't have to. "I used to do grocery delivery but then did a side-by-side cost comparison between Instacart and regular old Jewel Drive Up 'N Go, and well, I now mostly do Drive Up 'N Go."
Do you have any tips and tricks you'd like to share? NPN members can comment on this thread on our member discussion forum.