Written by Kaylee Hilling
Striving for that ideal work-life balance seems to be the topic of the decade! As dual-income houses become the norm in Vancouver, and technology threatens to further blur the lines between working hours and home life, it can become increasingly more difficult to have a handle on raising a family for the busy, working moms out there.
Below we’ve included some tricks to try on for size, but keep in mind that what works for one family, may not work for yours, and that’s okay, too! We are all just trying our best, and having a little compassion for yourself is no bad thing.
Without further ado, here are six simple tips to help you avoid that morning mayhem, and maintain your equilibrium.
1. Prep everything you can the night before.
Put out their clothes, put out your clothes, tuck those shelf-stable snacks into the lunch box and leave it open on the counter. Grab your favourite mug and plonk it next to the kettle or coffee machine, place any fruit you plan on slicing for their breakfast meal right next to the plates you’ll be serving them on. We all have our little tasks in the morning, and I’m sure we have just as many tips and tricks to manage those tasks – do what you can the evening before to mitigate the stress of the early-morning rush.
2. Get a good night’s rest.
Although this tip is suggested often, and may be easier said than done, making an effort to get enough sleep contributes positively to so many aspects of your life. This is absolutely imperative to many of the moms I have chatted with as I’ve raised my two little ones. Getting to bed at a decent time and logging 7-8 hours of sleep sets you up for a productive day, one where you have the energy to pivot at a moment’s notice (emergency Zoom call? Unexpected issue at home?). This ties into waking up at an appropriate hour! Allow yourself to fill your own cup before toasting the waffles and putting out their winter gear, or slathering on that sunscreen in the warmer months. And I mean that quite literally, please, please enjoy that hot cup of tea/coffee while it’s still hot, before those little footsteps grace the stairs. If you like to do 20 minutes of yoga before you get your workday started, try adding it into the routine a half hour after you wake up, with plenty of time before the morning duties begin. Many Vancouver yoga studios offer classes you can stream whenever you like, adding some more flexibility to your schedule. A bit of stretching certainly sets a limber tone for the day!
3. And don’t neglect nutrition.
If a good night’s sleep sets you up for success, by extension, fuelling your body with healthy food can only help in this endeavour. That’s not to say that a little indulgence isn’t called for now and then, we all like a pastry with our morning coffee occasionally, or perhaps a square of dark chocolate to compliment. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with serving a pop tart once a week, or a bowl of cereal with your preferred choice of milk, the kids will undoubtedly enjoy such a treat! But regularly fuelling you and your family’s bodies with a varied, nourishing selection is an excellent way to ensure our energy levels are optimal. You’ve heard of meal prep for lunch and dinner, so why not breakfast? The internet is abundant with time-saving breakfast ideas, from overnight oats and chia seed puddings, to frozen, pre-made breakfast burritos.
4. Have an ongoing to-do list.
Place it within easy reach, like a magnetic whiteboard propped on the fridge door. When you’ve poured out the last of the milk with this morning’s granola, scribble it down on the white board, save time and valuable real estate in your mind by setting it to “paper” right away. Studies suggest that To-Do Lists can be immensely helpful with feeling organized and keeping track, and having yours be visible to all members of the household allows you to delegate tasks with ease. Support systems are crucial to families, so don’t be afraid to lean on your partner, extended family, or a trusted babysitter to do some of the simple things on the list. It’s also an amazing way to introduce the concept of the household as a unit, working together to make the home a safe, clean, and welcoming space. I bet your five-year-old would be better than you think at wiping down place mats or tidying the magazines on the coffee table. Placing trust in them can do wonders for their self-confidence, instilling pride at a job well done, having helped out a loved one. If you have very young children, consider asking an older sibling to show them the ropes, or to prepare a simple snack for the younger, fostering a supportive relationship between the two.
5. Take advantage of the opportunities within your wider community.
You very likely have neighbourhood kids studying at the same school, perhaps it is time to initiate a carpooling schedule. Take turns taking a couple kids to or from, and enjoy the added time back on the alternate days. Or perhaps you live close enough to ask an older neighbourhood kid to walk your little ones to school for a few bucks a day. Speaking of, you may also want to consider extracurricular activities, too. Have a neighbour take your oldest to the community centre for indoor track & field every other Friday evening, and use this time to have one-on-one activities with your youngest, or if possible, with each other.
6. Plan time for family activities.
Don’t stress about the lack of time in the mornings to connect, I’m sure if you’re like me, you carry plenty of guilt already! So schedule it in if you have to, why not? We schedule appointments, meetings, massages, martial arts, there’s no shame in scheduling some quality time! Make a calendar with the kids, maybe every Monday evening is free time with the family, so roll a die to decide the order in which each family member gets to choose an activity. Think of all the things you’d like to do: arts & crafts, movie night, playing a board game, or asking Google a science question and researching the answer – whatever floats your boat! This is the time to put the phone away, to turn off any notifications. In all likelihood, our kids are not going to remember the tiny incidentals we tend to feel guilty about, but they will remember times that we are fully present, they will remember baking cookies, writing a letter to a friend, or laughing about the drawing competition you initiated one Monday evening (have you ever had your portrait done by a six-year-old?!). And let go of the guilt, we cannot do it all, so don’t try. Prioritise, make time for yourself, make time for you and your partner, the rest will follow.