Hang on. *All* mums are busy, aren’t they? It comes with the territory. We are (usually) the driving force behind the household. The person who knows where everything is, the one who does the washing, the cleaning (or who briefs the cleaner), the tidying, the shopping. We are the replenisher of toothbrushes, keeper of tissues, signer of school forms, and so on and on and on.
The list of tasks is endless but while I have previously railed against the mental load, I am now here to bring you some super duper life hacks to combat that. Seven simple ideas to free up more headspace, make life run a little smoother, maybe even save you some money.
- Get up 20 minutes earlier
Before you start tutting, I know this isn’t for everyone. If your toddler gets you up at 5am as it is, then you don’t need more time, just more caffeine, so move along people – nothing to see here. BUT school-run-mums listen up: the mighty Davina McCall posted a little video the other night saying that this simple hack stopped her being shouty mum in the mornings. A little extra time meant she could make sure everyone has their coats/gym bags/football socks/whatever in a calm manner, rather than losing her shit ( I paraphrase) at her children every morning. Sounds good to me.
- Embrace the veg box delivery
I love food and I used to love food shopping but it’s much less appealing with a toddler in tow. Or specifically, my toddler, who is a wonderfully spirited, ‘don’t fence me in’ kind of a girl. This is brilliant for her future life, not so great for getting round Waitrose at pace.
The best way I have found is to start with a bumper veg and meat box from Riverford. We get organic seasonal veg and tasty, farm-reared organic meat delivered once a fortnight for £50ish. This gets topped up with supermarket-delivered basics and heavy goods or sometimes an order with our local Suma cooperative group (great for huge bags of rice and lentils etc). Then all we need to do is a couple of top-up shops for milk, bread, kids yoghurts, fruit etc.
- Meal plan
I used to think this was the ultimate in dreary, smug-married, no spontaneity behaviour. But it makes SO much sense. It doesn’t have to be dull – in fact you will probably eat better than ever because you buy what you need for specific recipes and can really experiment. If you follow my veg-and-meat-box delivery hack above, you’ll already know what your basics are. Riverford give you loads of recipe ideas for their produce and you can use your cookbooks to think of the rest. It’s easy to stretch one meal into two (we had pulled lamb last night that was turned into a mexican style stir-fry with spicy rice tonight, for example), you use up leftovers instead of forgetting about them and you don’t spend a fortune buying ingredients that only get half used before going mouldy and then being thrown away.
- Batch cook
Most people batch cook at some point for their kids (we are always doing big vats of cauliflower cheese for Ted), but we realised how well it works for everyone once Rik started the 5:2 diet. In Elly Pear’s Fast Days and Feast Days book, she shows how batch cooking is a great way of having really interesting fast day food without having to cook it fresh. Rik loves knowing there is always something tasty in the freezer, but you don’t need to be on a special diet for this to be true. Her follow-up, Elly Pear Let’s Eat!, offers loads more veggie and vegan batch recipes that you can add meat or fish to, or serve in the various ways she suggests. A day dedicated to filling the freezer means you can pull out something fast and healthy when you don’t want to cook. SO much better than a takeaway.
- Listen to podcasts and TED Talks during ‘dead’ time
No time for reading? Feeling like you want to use your brain more? Back in the early days of motherhood, I took up a friend’s suggestion of listening to TED Talks while I walked. She is a science teacher so she is very smart and this suggestion made me feel it too. You can learn stuff, have interesting things to think and talk about and not feel bad that you can’t read more than two paragraphs of a book before falling asleep every night (just me?). This is the kind of multitasking I can get on board with. And if you are out of the buggy stage, you could do it while folding washing or other mindless tasks. Podcasts are another good bet for this. I will do a separate post on this, as there are so many good ones out there, but Freakonomics Radio is always thought-provoking, the Scummy Mummies provide the LOLs and I am just starting Happier in Hollywood on a friend’s recommendation (yes, my friends •are• very cool and knowledgeable, you’re right)
- Get a lady in!
Time poor DIYers get a man in for their maintenance needs, why should it be different for mums? I don’t care deeply about my appearance but with brow trends being the way they are, I was getting major instagram-induced eyebrow envy. I kind of fell into getting a lady to come and thread my eyebrows and top lip every three weeks and it is brilliant. I feel much better about myself and there is no way I would find time to go to town to get it done. If I was richer I would get my nails done too but in absence of that I use CND Vinylux instead – no base coat required, just two coats of colour and a top coat. It definitely lasts longer than other polishes (I never get 7 days though) and it’s super quick-drying, so that is a WIN.
(Side note: I started getting a hairdresser to come round to cut my hair and the kids’ in one, which was useful but I have decided I like the time alone to go to a salon and the children are so wriggly I do almost as good a job on them myself.)
- Mix up your routine
A game-changer for me was to start doing my cleansing routine while my kids are in the bath. If your children are young enough to need supervised bathtimes, chances are you don’t have much spare time on your hands. I used to fall into bed every night with my mascara intact and then feel like a failure for not even being able to wash my face of an evening. But then I started doing it before the kids were in bed, not before my own bedtime. It means I have time to double cleanse and apply a night facial oil, as well as enjoy the scent all evening *and* revel in my smugness that I am adulting properly by going to bed with a clean face.
I really hope you find some of these useful. They are some simple things that have reduced some stress in my day and so maybe they can do the same for you. Feel free to comment and leave me your hacks too! I know there are many more out there.