Parenting Tips: One Mom, One Week + 5 Hacks for Multi-Tasking

17 alarms | 25 breakfasts | 15 lunches packed | 16 doors pulled open for an ‘I love you send off’ | 2 full-time jobs | 2 schools | 9 loads of laundry | 2 flights | 2 cars | 8 power snacks | 17 practices | 2 games | 3 orhto/doctor appointments | 11 carpools | 7 poorly attempted dinners | 6 nights of homework | 1 hair cut | 2 parents | 3 kids | 1 forgotten dog ....

This week my oldest child turned 15. So by my calculations, I’ve been a mom for 780 weeks. This doesn’t include the 40 weeks of pregnancy, nor the compounding effect of busy that comes with having 3 kids.

I often wonder how I pull this all off each week.

Don’t get me wrong, having a family is the best thing I have ever done. I never experienced love like I have since being a mom. And in addition, I never experienced exhaustion like I have since being a mom. In all honestly, what I’ve realized over these 780 weeks of parenting, is that having kids is not for sissies.

I’m a doer and a goal-oriented girl by nature. I thrive on checking things off a to-do list. I like to be busy and am much more productive when I am. But if I had any clue about how logistically challenging parenthood would be, I would have stopped dead in my tracks from jumping on this road.

Perhaps this is why you never truly understand what becoming a parent entails until that day you leave the hospital with a baby in your arms.

You plow through the early years of diapers, feedings, colds, and birthday celebrations thinking you’ve mastered parenthood. But then the school years come and a new level of busy is folded in with homework, sports, and clubs, and the work compounds.

The daily grind of parenting is a ton of work. I wake up every morning and parody the donut guy from the 80’s TV commercial when my feet hit the floor, ‘time to make the donuts’. There is no sick day or vacation day from parenting, so it’s time to get things done. To do so, I employ a handful of guiding principles in hopes of making this busy life just a little easier.

Here are my Top 5 Hacks for Multi-Tasking Moms:

1. Keep a meticulous calendar.

I prefer iCal on my iPhone, but I know other families who use calendaring tools like Google, and even others who keep large paper calendars in the kitchen. However you decide to keep your family calendar, make sure it’s updated often and shared.

Here's what I do: 

  • Color code my calendar by family member. 
    This pfrovides a quick way to sort and visualize what each family member has going on that day or week.
  • Grab any and all calendar feeds I can. 
    We have one for the school, one for soccer, and another for hockey. Subscribing to these feeds saves a ton of entry time. Likewise if an activity doesn't have a feed, deal with it right away when the new calendar comes out for an activity, or a new invitation arrives. This way, schedules are current and everyone knows where to be, and when to be there.
  • Share the calendar so everyone has buy in. 
    When the whole family knows what is going on each day, there seems to be a little more patience and respect for what needs to be accomplished.

2. Touch it once.

I learned this tip decades ago in a class about being organized at the workplace and have never forgotten it. Our house is full of stuff. With shoes, jackets, backpacks, sports equipment, laundry, toys, games, and more that accompanies a family of five, it is just a lot to keep organized.

Based on this, I have a ‘touch it once’ philosophy to keep the house organized. For example, when you come in the door, hang up your coat and backpack instead of tossing it on the floor. If you do the first time, you won’t have to touch it again when asked to go pick it up.

Same with laundry. When you change your clothes, put the dirty items in the laundry instead of tossing them on the floor. Then you won’t have to pick them up again later on.

It’s a simple reminder and can help add a few minutes to your day. Just deal with that 'stuff' the first time you touch it, and you won't have to go back and touch it again. 

3.  Prep for the next day.

Take 5-10 minutes before you turn in to get a few things done for the morning. It will streamline the AM rush and leave you in a better place to manage life's unexpected things that are sure to present. 

A few things I always take care of before I turn in for the night include:

  • Prep the coffee maker
  • Throw a load of laundry in the wash or dryer
  • Start the dishwasher
  • Put out the lunch boxes and water bottles

4. Carpool.

Find a group of trusted parents and share the task of getting the kids where they need to be. I carpool weekly with a handful of friends who have kids in the same activities. For the 10-15 extra minutes I spend picking up and dropping off kids in a weekly carpool, I typically gain two shifts of not driving. It’s a life saver.

Tip. When it’s your turn to to drive both to and from the activity, make the most of carpool layover. It’s a great time to run to the post office, make a return, or grab groceries for lunches the next day.

5. Make chores family activities.

My mom always used to say, "Many hands make light work." And let’s face it, no one likes to do chores alone. So grab the kids when it’s time to wash the car, rake the leaves, vacuum, or clean out the fridge. Everyone working together will make lifes tasks go faster and give everyone a sense of pride when they are complete.

In the end, if you feel exhausted, congratulations, you’re a parent. Enjoy the chaos. Embrace the exhaustion. And know you are among some of the the most capable human beings on the planet. And use these five hacks to make the weeks just a little more manageable!