Learn to say no. Yes, I realize that this is harder than it sounds—but, there is nothing in the parent rulebook that says you must agree to every play date, every volunteer opportunity, ever outing, and every obligation that comes your way. Pick and choose the most important ones—and respectfully decline the others.
Limit extra-curricular activities—for kids and parents alike. The Thompson girls and parents are limited to one or two year long activities each—and no more than two seasonal ones. It requires some compromise and sometimes some difficult decisions—but, it keeps the schedule at a manageable pace and actually better allows the kids the opportunity to pursue specialized interests.
Tag team efforts keep families in order. Whether you are a stay at home parent, a single parent, or managing the family with a spouse or partner, it is important to ask for help from your support “team”. Parents need to communicate needs—and stay at home and single parents need to develop a network of friends and family to help out in a pinch.
Hold a weekly family meeting. Family meetings are a great way to share activities, events and plan your week. Discuss the activity schedule—and anything out of the ordinary set to happen in the upcoming week and make sure that each family member understands responsibilities.
Learn to delegate. This can be especially tough for a stay at home parent. Many sadly fall into the trap of do-it-all-parenting. Instead of doing everything for the kids—or the spouse, delegate tasks and set up chore lists or to-do-lists for each person. You can delegate tasks at the weekly family meeting!
Get organized. Have you ever tried to make breakfast in a messy kitchen or pay bills on a cluttered desk? Both activities take twice as long then they would if your work spaces were neat and organized. Take the time to truly create usable work areas and organize them for specific purposes. This is not an easy process if you are creating a space “from scratch”—but, once the space is in practice, you will be amazed by how much more efficiently the family functions.
Stay organized. Once you have created order it is important to retain that order! Resist the temptation to fall back into a pattern of disorganized chaos and soon enough you will develop habits to keep your life running smoothly—and life is much easier when it’s running smoothly!
Be proactive instead of reactive. Throw out the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality—and try to anticipate breakage before it turns into a large scale disaster. For example, taking a few minutes today to tighten a loose stair railing can prevent it from breaking and causing either an injury or a large scale drywall repair project—or both. You won’t be able to skirt by every future mishap, but you may find that you’ll be simplifying your life, saving time, and often money by addressing little things before they grow!
Stay healthy. This should actually be at the top of the list, because it is one of the most important things that you can do to make your life easier. Obviously, you cannot prevent every illness or injury—but, you can certainly lifestyle choices you can make to be as healthy as possible. When you feel your best, you function at your best and are better able to keep up with your family’s busy lifestyle!
Learn to relax. You may be making your life more difficult than it really is—so take a step back and reconsider your life’s goals and what is important to you and your family. Remember that your kids may not remember that you ironed the sheets—but, they may remember making snow angels or cookies for Santa. No, you cannot always do everything all of the time and you need to adjust any unreasonable expectations that are preventing you from enjoying your family and home.
If you have followed all of these tips and still find yourself behind the game—it's time to refocus and reset prioritize. In order to make your life easier, you may need to accept your life for what it is: a limited time to create memories and a legacy--and learn to enjoy it.
For more tips and tricks to help simplify your life, visit my column on Examiner.com:
Stay at Home Mom 101: Managing the Many Tasks of Moms
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Oral-B blogging contest, making me eligible to get full-sized Oral-B Glide products and a $30 Target gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.