Our favorite life hacks as working parents
Routine, routine, routine
I am starting with the most obvious one. Routines are not only easy to execute, it actually helps children because they know what to expect. You dont want to have a over-regimented life but we have found a weekly menu for breakfast really helps keep the busiest part of the day most smooth-sailing. Combine it with daily reminders for school and you’ll have a handy chart.
This doesn’t stop at the routine at home. My friend Laura, who has four kids under 8, actually takes her kids to the same favorite vacation spots over and over again. Kids never get bored and they even learn routine for home away from homes. We do the same with our favorite airBNB mountain cabin. We go there in the winter, we’ll go there in the summer too. They have learnt how to respect the home and figure their way around it.
Empower them as soon as they’re able
Once we could tell that they were able to dress themselves, we changed our language to reinforce that they are capable. There’s a few weeks of whining and asking for help at first but eventually they get it - getting dressed themselves, is just what they do. I know sometimes it’s just easier to do things for them, but I would recommend looking out for their capabilities and trying to empower them. Once I saw that my daughter was tall enough and strong enough to open the refridgerator door, I bought a kids-sized shatter-proof Luminarc milk pitcher that she could access. She was so excited and this meant, she could get milk whenever she wanted. We made sure there was some Klean kanteen stainless steels 10oz tumblers always accessible and just like that, we have reduced one thing we had to do, and empowered her to do one thing by herself.
Pick your battles
On the flip side of empowerment, not everything is worth a teaching moment. Shoelaces is a good example of that.
Why? It slows us down as we’re trying to get out of the house during the busiest time of day. So I’ve set up their sneakers with the no-tie Hickies system. Now, we’re out of the door in a jiffy. My POV is that eventually, everyone learns how to tie shoelaces. I’m okay with that delay. What skills do you need them to learn ASAP (toilet-ing) and what skills can wait? I also wasn’t militant that Emmy had to be able to read by kindergarten. We read to her everyday but did not put pressure on her. True enough, her kindy teachers did an amazing job and started reading within weeks.
Help them manage time like clockwork
One of the best time-management hacks we use for our kids is using the time timer. We set clear guidelines for how much time they’re allowed to do what (activity). Mostly it ends up being used for sunday morning cartoons and the occasional iPad use.
It works great because they are able to visually tell how much time is renaming. I was shocked at how well they comply when the timer goes off. (Of course, they know what happens should they whine after that). We loved them so much we have two, mini and large, for different parts of the house. The mini is also taken with us during travels.
Teach them responsibility, it’ll pay off in the long run
If you ask my mom what the biggest mistake she made as a parent, she will say it was how she played the savior role for my brother. If he forgot something (frequently), she would swoop in to save him. Because it was her nature to help and fix, that was what she did. We don’t do that. I make sure I use the right language so we know who’s accountable for what.
“Oh wait, you forgot your homework, not me.”
“It’s Caden’s birthday party tomorrow. I wonder what you’ll have to do ahead of time…” (reminders are okay)
“We’re leaving in 5 minutes. Make sure you check your schedule for what you’re responsible for bringing”
Don’t shelter them from chores
We don’t shelter our kids from the chores that have to get around the house. Just today, Emmy asked me if they could go to the playground after Church. This was my response:
“Sorry, I would love to but no honey, we have too much housework that needs to get done and we’re behind. You can help too as that is what makes the family stronger together.”
Her response, “Oh okay”.
They get it - the house needs to be maintained and we all need to contribute. It’s key that kids know they are not the center of our universe.
More about why we don’t even do chores when they’re napping.
When it comes to food, don’t aim for perfection
Our kids have very simple meals most of the time. I make foundational building blocks of a meal and assemble for meal time. This helps me stay within my macro goals to lose/maintain weight and also feed the family at the same
time. My hack with keeping things healthy is by spreading fat/carbs. On friday nights, we have pizza night. That means the rest of the day we’ll have healthier meals. On Sundays, it is ice-cream night - so lunch will be broccoli soup and chicken. Even though I may ditch recipes most of the time, I have memorized a few tried and true recipes for some of our special nights.
White socks, white sheets and white towels
Tell me this is not your life - you have a box for mis-matched single socks.
We have learnt this the hard way. Some things should be kept to the uniform level while others can be personalized. We learnt this the hard way. Everyone has their own stuffy, their shoe of choice and yes, they can pick their outfits and I don’t care if it doesn’t match. But anything to do with getting out of the house and getting ready for bed - we keep simple. You have no idea how helpful this is to reduce whining and complaining. It’s just what we do in our household!
Schedule in fun
We schedule in what we call a “Daily spark”. Our favorite is candy day. They store up all the candy they receive at parties, halloween, hand-outs and every Monday, they get to pick one candy out of their box to enjoy. It works so wonderfully because we never have to debate when they can /cannot eat candy. The rules are clear. The best part of this is every child knows what fun they’re going to expect each week. Make room for surprises though!
Always have plan B
We always have gender-neutral birthday gifts in the closet (because we always forget), and frozen foods like cauliflower nuggets, bagels and waffles. We also have a few surprise gifts/books wrapped in the closet for any “emergency”. Have spare clothes in the car because you just never know what could happen.
Fill the emotional tank proactively
One of the best hacks is to be proactive about special time. Make the kids remind you if you forget. The idea is that if you fill their emotional tank with special 1:1 time EVERY SINGLE DAY - you’re actually reducing meltdown and behavior issues down the road. We’ve gone to a few parenting seminars and guess what, they all have the same message! Kids act out when their tanks haven’t been filled. Don’t wait till it’s empty!
Fill YOUR tanks proactively
To continue on the theme of the kids should not be the center of the universe, I make sure the kids know that grown-ups need play-time too. When we go out to eat with our friends, we need to be able to talk them too. Most day, mommy needs time to exercise on the peloton bike. That means for 45 minutes everyday at 0500, I ride with an amazing group of peloton riders across the west coast (#ZeroDark!). Unless somebody is sick, I am fiercely protective of that time. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency. That’s how I was able to lose 70 lbs with two little kids. I also do 5-minute mini enrichment activities like play the piano or brush lettering. This sets a very important precedence that mommy needs self-care too!
What’s the ONE thing you’re going to focus on for you?
If you’re not getting sleep, get help
I know I’m at my worst as a parent when I don’t have good sleep. I yell, I am impatient and even the kids tell me they don’t like it. Now I make it a point to seek out help proactively when we need it. We worked with a sleep coach when Thomson’s co-sleeping issues were insurmountable. When we had behavioral issues we couldn’t get past with Emmy, we sought help with a parenting coach too. It’s not a sign of weakness!
It’s okay to drop the ball. Seriously.
We won’t be perfect. Sometimes, it’s chicken nuggets from the freezer. Other times, we’re blasting the iPad all morning. And so what if we go to the same vacation spot over and over. Kids don’t' have complex needs, they don’t need much to be happy. And if you haven’t read Tiffany’s Dufu “Drop the ball - achieve more by doing less”, get it on your required reading now!
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