Anyone who is a mum knows how incredibly exhausting it can be in the middle of all the joys it also comes with. Unless you have an amazeballs mother’s group who share the ins and outs of everything to do with parenting, you might have missed some of the little life hacks to help you get through the days and the weeks.
Do you wish you had this magic list of hacks? You’ve come to the right place! I’m all about supporting mums. If I hear of a great tip I’ll be sure to let you know! I want all mums to feel supported so they can focus on loving their children and focus on the joys that motherhood can bring. I don’t want mums to feel so bogged down in the mess of life that they can’t see the happiness that is mixed in. So here is my list of mum hacks to get through your days. Some are things I did when my kids were babies/todders and some I’ve found from other sources:
- Write a weekly dinner menu. This is sooooo helpful to get dinners sorted! You don’t have to THINK each day about what to have for dinner. You don’t have to do a last minute scramble because you forgot to thaw out the meat for dinner and it’s now 5pm. Write it out on a Sunday or a Monday morning and then forget about it. Except each night, remember to take the meat out of the freezer and pop in the fridge for defrosting for the next night’s meal. This is especially important if you follow the next tip!
- Make use of your slow cooker. We all know that the late afternoons can be a ferral time in most families. The witching hour, from about 5pm-7pm, is when toddlers are whingeing, babies are crying or cluster feeding, and mum is ragged. So rather than fight the fight day in and day out, cut yourself a break. Meal prep in the morning when life is more manageable, kids are happier, you can cut vegies in peace, and pop everything in the slow cooker. The only thing that prevents this from happening is if you forget tip #1 and your meat is not defrosted! If you don’t want to use a slow cooker, you can still chop vegies and put them in a container in the fridge for later on. OR, completely cook the dinner in the morning and reheat at night.
- Take a photo of inside your fridge before you go shopping. How many times when you are doing groceries can you just not remember if you need milk? Yep, always. There’s always something you can’t remember because you.are.just.so.tired. Solve that by taking photos of inside the fridge, freezer, pantry before you go.
- Use snacks to keep your kids happy while you shop. Whether you take advantage of the ‘free fruit for kids’ in some supermarkets in Australia, or you bring your own snacks, if it means you can whiz around without too much disruption – do what works! You can also get your kids to count the pieces of fruit into the produce bags, or ask the toddler to put (aka throw!) each item into the trolley. Involving the kids in the activity can make it more bearable (and can keep them from wanting to climb out of the trolley!).
- Do your grocery shopping online. If grocery shopping is becoming a nightmare, or you.just.don’t.have.time anymore, shop online. The prices are usually a tiny bit more expensive, and yes, you may need to pay for delivery, but I swear, you’ll save money from not buying all the impulse buys! You create a standard list on the supermarket website, which you quickly tick through each time, and then grab the extras you need. It has been a lifesaver for me over the last few years as my life has become busier. It’s a better use of my time to do other things now. I also don’t have kids begging for particular foods because they don’t get to see all the options out there – most of which are highly processed and unhealthy anyway! You can either do ‘click and collect’ where you drive to collect it, or you can have it delivered to your house where the driver will bring it straight into your kitchen if you wish. I even ask for mine to be left outside the front door and I make sure I’m home soon after to get the cold stuff inside!
- Make the week’s sandwiches on a Sunday. If you have school aged kids, kids who need packed lunches for daycare, lunches packed for days out, or hubby’s lunch for work – make all the sandwiches in one go on a Sunday and freeze them. Most cheeses and deli meats can be frozen. If you take them out of the freezer the night before or the morning of, they will thaw out by lunchtime. It saves.so.much.time.
- Group errands together. Some babies and toddlers just hate being dragged around while you get the necessities done. Or, you have a toddler who won’t sit in the stroller anymore, wants to walk and be independent, but runs away and touches EVERYTHING! Group your errands together so you can hit the chemist, post office, and bank all in one go. You’ll get it done and feel great for ticking it off the list!
- Go late night shopping. I used to do this once per week when my daughter was between 2 and 3 years old. Tip #7 was her. She NEVER would walk with me, always running off and touching everything. How many times can you say ‘can you pleeeeease put that back!’. So I fixed it by just not shopping with her anymore. I waited until I gave her the last breastfeed before bed, and raced to the shops. I often only had an hour or so until closing, and I raced around like a lunatic, but I actually got heaps done!
- Do online shopping. If getting to the shops is just too hard, resort to online shopping! We have Christmas coming up so there’s heaps to be done and little time to be wrangling kids. Jump online, most shops have an online store now and shipping can be free if you spend over a certain amount. How easy to walk outside your door to pick it all up! But see tip #10.
- Tick the box for online shopping to be left in a secure place. So, you do the online shopping for ease but you happen to be out when the parcels are delivered and you come home to find the postcard note stuck in your door saying it’s now at the post office! Argh! Drive to post office, get baby and toddler out of the car, they touch EVERYTHING in the post office, and then you have to wrangle kids AND parcels back to the car. It’s like you’ve run a marathon! Just tick the box. Or sign something, anything, to say to leave the parcels!
- Baby wipes are your best friend! You can use them to wipe furniture, benches, bathroom sinks, walls. They can wipe anything off your baby’s hands and face, or your own. Keep them everywhere – in the house, the car, the nappy bag, the bottom of the pram! If you don’t like the idea of using copious amounts of baby wipes for environmental or financial reasons, buy some cheap face washers. Keep them around the place. Use them after your baby has eaten family foods and it’s everywhere and then throw them in the wash. Use them to wipe down the bathroom sink!
- Clean as you go. While you are brushing your teeth, wipe the sink with a cloth. Having a shower? Scrub the walls. We don’t have time for proper cleaning when we have babies and toddlers so just get the bare basics done when you can. Wipe the fridge out while you wait for vegies to cook.
- Throw toys and lego into a lingerie bag into the washing machine. Saves scrubbing them some other time and they get clean at the same time as your clothes!
- Run the dishwasher even if it isn’t full. I didn’t learn this tip until my kids were much older but I love it! It means that you regularly have clean dishes, even if you use the eco cycle to use less water.
- Wear a backpack. When you go out there’s nothing worse than holding a crying baby or picking up a tantruming toddler off the floor while trying to manage a nappy bag or handbag on one shoulder. It’s time to go hands free! I’ve seen some great stylish nappy backpack bags recently and it means mum wears it evenly on her shoulders to reduce pain and her hands are free to deal with the baby or toddler. Even if you babywear your baby/toddler on the front of your body, you can pop the backpack on your back!
- Choose a pocket in your bag for essentials. Whatever bag you decide to use – nappy bag, backpack, handbag – keep your essentials – your credit card, cash, phone, keys in one place ALL THE TIME. This means in a hurry you know where to look and don’t have to empty out your entire bag looking for your keys. It’s always handy when your child is screaming and you just.need.to.get.in.the.car. Perfect for scolding hot weather or rainy weather too! Fast fast fast!
- Give the kids their own backpack. As your children start to get a bit bigger (maybe about 3 years and older), give them their own bag. It helps them feel independent to carry their own things, and it gives them life skills about what they need to take when they go out. Obviously in the early years you will do it all for them, but as they get older they can take responsibility for packing their own bags (even if you have to do a last minute check on the way out the door!). Their backpack can contain nappies, extra clothes, food, drink bottle, hat. If they lose the plot throughout the day and won’t carry it anymore, it just means you know exactly where to go to look for a change of clothes or food for that particular child. This is helpful if you have a tribe and you don’t have to ferret through an enormous bag of your own for the size 3 clothing for your son!
- Keep a second nappy bag in the car. In an emergency – you either forgot to pack the nappies, or it’s been one poo explosion or vomit after another and all the clothes are dirty – be rest assured you have a back up! Even if it’s a plastic bag – pop nappies, wipes and a change of clothes for the kids AND an extra top for YOU in the boot of the car. It will be a lifesaver when you really need it!
- Keep a bag or box of other stuff in the car. What else could you possibly need? It depends what climate you live in. Maybe a bucket and spade for beaches or sandy playgrounds, talc powder to take off wet sand on your child’s skin, towel, gumboots for jumping in puddles, socks for indoor play centres for the kids and YOU (in case you need to go with them on the equipment – saves you forking out money for new ones at the venue).
- Keep a bath towel folded length ways on the floor of your car. This was a lifesaver for me when the kids were really little. It catches sand, dirt, bark, food and anything else (spills, vomits etc). It’s easy to shake out or throw in the wash. It protects the carpet or carpeted mats on the floor of the car and you don’t need to vacuum very often. Alternatively, you can purchase rubber mats which are easy to shake out and hose off.
- Become a laundry master. For every person in your house, have a separate laundry basket. If you aren’t anal like me and HAVE to fold every item of clothing as you take it off the line, you most likely throw it all into one basket in a mess and it might get dumped on the couch, your kitchen table, or the floor because you need to use the basket again for the next load. Go and buy a few cheap baskets (and get them delivered!). Every time you take the washing off the line or out of the dryer, place each item into each person’s basket. That way if you are hectic and need clean undies for yourself, you know to go straight to your own basket and they will be there. You don’t need to sort through the entire mountain of washing.
- Use containers to stay organised. Kids toys are so hard to keep tidy. If you have people popping over, it’s easy to do a quick clean up by using containers, baskets, bins, totes, to shove everything in! Kids are more likely to help too if you ask them to put things in a container/basket.
- Use storage with wheels to save your back. We know that mums who are pregnant or have recently given birth have difficulty with lifting heavy things. If you use a storage container and fill it with toys it can be tricky to lift. You are more likely to be able to tidy up if you can wheel the box across the room.
- Make tidying up a game. There’s a few ways you can do this. You can ask young ones to count how many toys they put in the box, to just focus on one type of toy (eg, ‘can you find ALL the matchbox cars and put them in the box?’), or have a race (‘who can pick up the toys the fastest?’). Kids love racing. I often race my daughter to see who can get dressed the fastest in the mornings. It’s a winner most days!
- Toy power. Is part of the mess of toys that you just have too many now? And the kids don’t really play with them anymore? Rotate, rotate, rotate! Put some toys in a box in the cupboard and don’t take them out for a few weeks. When you bring them back out they are like new toys again, and get lots of play time! Put another set in the cupboard and continue to rotate.
- Inflatable pools for indoor play. If you have a baby who is sitting, and not yet crawling much, pop them in an inflatable (empty of water) pool inside the house with some toys. You can get a few things done nearby without the baby crying because the toys have rolled away.
- Inflatable pools for outdoor play. How great is sitting in water on a hot day? Sit in it yourself! Babies and toddlers can get cranky when they are really hot, so a shallow pool of water is ideal for some water play. It’s great for getting kids used to splashing water on their faces, or having a cup of water poured over their heads. Even if you have an inground pool, the inflatable pools are great because there’s less risk with the really shallow water *you will need to provide constant supervision though!
- Daytime bath/sensory play. If an inflatable pool isn’t an option, try a bath! Bathtime for kids, especially babies, doesn’t HAVE to be before bed. If your little one is unsettled or it’s particularly hot, try a bath. You don’t have to use a lot of water, but just enough to splash around in and cool off. You can always hop in a big bath with your baby or toddler for some ‘mummy and me’ time. It’s great if you haven’t been having time for a shower because you kill two birds with one stone – bath for mummy and bath for child.
- Make a cushion mountain. This is your chance for a rest. Grab some big pillows or beanbags and make a calm down space in the house. You and the baby can lay there, or toddlers will love jumping on the cushion mountain or pile of beanbags. There’s nothing to say you can’t lay on the floor and rest while your toddler is jumping around!
- Sleep when baby or toddler sleeps. Seriously. Leave the housework. Get some rest. The only opportunity you will have is with your first child. By the time your second baby is born, your older child will need entertaining or supervising and you won’t get to rest (unless they are at daycare by then). I used to love going to my bed during the day with my toddler when I was pregnant with my second. We would read books and then both of us would sleep. I never had the opportunity to do this again when the baby was born. I so needed it during my pregnancy though!
- Lower your expectations. With cleaning. With cooking. With parenting in general. Maybe you used to love cooking from scratch before you had kids. And now there’s no time or you are just too tired. So buy a few jars of pasta sauce! Maybe you can manage to cook from scratch a couple of nights per week, particularly when your partner is home. Cook extra serves and freeze for the nights when cooking just isn’t happening.
- Order in or eat out. If you’ve just had one.of.those.days, don’t keep pushing. Just get takeaway. It won’t hurt your toddler to have pizza or McDonald’s one night. It doesn’t matter if you have an omelette for dinner. It’s about lowering those expectations. Sometimes it’s just not possible to have a fully cooked meal on the table seven nights per week.
- Eat little and often. If making your normal meals throughout the day is becoming challenging, then graze on foods throughout the day to keep your energy up. Remember that if you are breastfeeding you will be burning extra calories through the day so you will need more nutrition. Sometimes not eating can make mums feel sick, so eating little and often can be helpful to settle the tummy.
- Use a diary or planner. If ‘pregnancy brain’ or ‘mummy brain’ is getting to you and you forget more than you remember, write it down! Write all your appointments, coffee catch ups, mothers’ groups, birthdays etc in a calendar so you can keep track. Using an electronic one is great because it’s with you everywhere you go and you can check it and make appointments/catch ups on the go.
- Get into a routine. This isn’t for the kids as such, but for you. If mornings are so difficult to get out of the house, prep the night before. Nappy bag packed. Lunch boxes/snack boxes packed. Mum’s outfit chosen/kids outfits chosen. It might increase your nightly taskload, but it will make things run smoother in the mornings.
- Get out of the house. Staring at four walls and not getting fresh air can drive you batty. Pop bub in a pram or carrier, go for a quick walk around the block, or a slow walk, depending on where you are at with your birth recovery and fitness. Otherwise, just wander around a shopping centre. You might find yourself chatting away to anyone who will talk to you (I know I did!) because you crave other adult conversations. That’s okay. There’s usually someone around who will chat.
- Exercise with your kids. It might be that walk with the pram. Or the toddler is on a bike or scooter while you walk. Or you find a gym or outdoor exercise program that has a creche, OR a family centred exercise program so you can all do it together. There’s plenty around. For a few years I went to an outdoor bootcamp that had a creche inside a building and then I joined another bootcamp where babies and toddlers could be there with their mums. Mums stopped exercising to tend to their children but mostly got a workout and it was a great option!
- Last tip: learn to say no! Sometimes it’s really important for your body to rest, for your mental health, for your kids to have some downtime if you’ve been really hectic lately, to just say no and stay home. Maybe you get asked to a social event and your calendar is actually free. It’s still okay to say no! Prioritising yourself and your children is within your rights and it’s important to do so!
At the Making Mama Village workshop series we cover a lot of this content in the last session. It’s important for mums to learn tips to save their sanity, but also to realise you don’t have to do it all. It’s okay if you are not doing everything perfectly the way you might have done before you had children. It’s important that mums feel supported in their efforts to do the very best they can. At the end of the day your children will know that you loved them by what you say to them and how you act with them, not because you have a gourmet meal on the table each night and a clean house. We’ve moved on since the 1950s thankfully!
Have you signed up to join the village yet? Go here to do so: https://makingmamavillage.com.au/
You can check out more about the workshops on offer here: https://makingmamavillage.com.au/services/