It’s one thing to stand on a septic tank and take a picture. It’s another thing to post it in a public place, but here we are — my husband and me, beaming with pride. This beautiful, sparkling white poop tank and all of its field lines tearing through our front and back yard was our 10-year anniversary gift to each other. In hindsight, my husband wishes he had set up a table and a candlelit dinner on the poop tank (before it was used, obviously) because we cancelled a 10-year anniversary trip without kids and bought this instead. The gift that keeps on giving.
We started having septic tank issues right before Christmas that year and couldn’t replace it right away because, umm, those things aren’t cheap and our unique situation was an extra pricey one. We had to make a few small changes to make the failing one last a little longer while we saved some money. One of those things was, unfortunately, choosing between the dishwasher running or the laundry running each day. They couldn’t both happen in the same day, nor could I do multiple loads of either. I had always waited until the weekend to wash all laundry. I hated laundry because it seemed so daunting to spend my whole weekend doing laundry. That’s what my mom did growing up, so that’s what I did. It never dawned on me that there could be another way. But when the old septic tank forced me to change my ways, my laundry sanity was saved. I began doing smaller loads every other day, I quit separating colors, and I folded and put away clothes immediately after taking the load out of the dryer. Smaller, more frequent loads felt manageable. I’ll never consider laundry to be something I enjoy, but I am thankful for what the poop tank situation did for my perception of this necessary chore.
Mothers are Doers
Is that not the truest statement ever? Don’t we always feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done? I think if we were miraculously given the gift of more time, we would still find it’s not enough. I don’t think it’s necessarily a lack of time as much as it is our motherly nature to accomplish an impossible number of tasks in the span of 24 hours (minus, of course, the limited amount of sleep we get each night). Regardless of your Enneagram number, I think we can all agree that mothers are servants and doers. We just get stuff done. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need some guidance (and grace!) sometimes on how and when to get the stuff done.
Literally seconds before I sat down to write this, my husband noticed the layers of dust on top of our dresser and jokingly said, “So when are you getting around to taking care of this?” I was quick to remind him of all the things I’ve already done this weekend: “Listen, I have organized family game night, spent the afternoon up at school, attended a voluntary training on my day off, scrubbed both bathrooms, done laundry, and cooked my grandmother’s meatloaf with homemade mashed potatoes.” He already knew all that I had done, which is why he could joke with me about the dust on the dresser without a snarky comment from me. I certainly do not claim to be a time management expert. I am more in the “it seems I put too much on myself again” category of expert. Either way, I juggle a lot just like every other mom on this planet, and I’d like to share some tips of how I make it happen in my home.
Time Management Tips for Moms
Go to bed with a clean kitchen.
The kitchen is the heart of the home. So much life happens in the kitchen beyond cooking. Do yourself a favor and make sure that popular place in your home is clean before you go to bed. You need a fresh start every day. A clean kitchen is a practical way to give that to yourself. You can start each morning with today’s tasks, not leftovers from yesterday. You don’t want to wake up and feel behind before you’ve even poured that first cup of coffee.
Wake up before the kids.
I’m not talking to you, sleep deprived Momma. Read this little nugget of advice and file it away for later. Once your kids are a bit older and they begin to wake up around the same time in the morning, wake up earlier. I’m not going to tell you how much earlier. It could be ten minutes. It could be an hour. Do what works for you. I’m a morning person now, but I definitely wasn’t when I had my first child. I’ve learned to appreciate early mornings in a quiet house, even if I sacrifice sleep to make it happen. I not only appreciate it, I recognize how much I need it. If I’m up before the kids, I prioritize me-time because there’s not going to be another opportunity to do that in the day. I exercise, take a shower, grab a cup of coffee, and read my Bible. Self-care is not selfish when it means I am filled up to pour out to others. When I’ve had quality time to start my day, it’s easier to fight the feeling of needing to be alone in the midst of chaos during the day. If I’m lucky, I also have time to accomplish a few household chores to get the day started — unload the dishwasher, start some laundry, or get dinner in the crockpot.
If your kid wakes up and messes up your me-time morning mojo, have a mindset that it won’t ruin your day. They are not an interruption to your day. Invite them in to what you are doing, or stop what you are doing and sit down for an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Designate tidy and untidy areas.
Go ahead and make up your mind that there are some rooms in your home that don’t have to be picked up or clean all of the time. In our house, the kitchen, living room, and playroom are picked up every evening. But the bedrooms? My rule of thumb is to make sure you can safely get out in case of a fire. Clear a path and ignore the toys for another day. That doesn’t mean my kids never have clean bedrooms; they just aren’t picked up on the regular. This goes against every bit of my personality, but motherhood is sanctifying and we must let things go, right? The playroom would typically stay messy, but in our home now, it’s also where I work out in the mornings. I’m not willing to risk injury on baby dolls, legos, and markers while doing burpees. Designating areas like this helps my kids know daily expectations and saves us time in the evenings.
Do first things first.
Look, I know it’s more fun to mindlessly scroll social media or search Amazon for the highest rated yoga pants, but that load of wet clothes in the washer really needs to be moved to the dryer. Prioritize must-do items from can-do items. Every day there are tasks that must be done that should not wait until tomorrow. Make these your focus, then shop for those yoga pants.
I don’t mean treat yourself to a Starbucks run or a bowl of ice cream, but you totally should. A friend of mine once said that she picks a favorite podcast and she only allows herself to listen to that particular podcast while she’s doing household chores. I love listening to podcasts while I’m cooking dinner and cleaning up the kitchen at night. I also love to watch a good sitcom while folding laundry. This is a great way to make the job a little more enjoyable and maybe even something you look forward to.
Ditch the cord.
Get a cordless stick vacuum. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive one. The key is being cordless and lightweight. I recently got one, and my floors are in shock from all the vacuuming that’s happening. My kids can do it too, something I couldn’t expect them to do with an inconvenient cord and stairs in our house. It’s like a dramatic scene from an infomercial. A cordless stick vacuum has made the chore delightful, quick, and the task can be shared, freeing me up for other things.
What about dinner time? This could be an entire post all on its own. I think the best advice I can give you is to do what makes dinner time easy and enjoyable for your family, and don’t worry about what others are doing to feed their family. I’m not going to even offer any tips or recipes here because I think there is a deeper perspective we need to have about feeding our family. It’s not really about the food. The food is a means of gathering. Meal time is ultimately about the time spent together, even if that meal has been in the car after ball practice three times this week. Even if that means Mom and the kids eat pancakes every Tuesday because Dad’s work schedule keeps him at work late on Tuesdays and pancakes are thoughtless.
By the end of the week, I’m spent. I have nothing left to give. Those nights are what I call “Whatev Bev” nights — whatever you can find, that’s what you eat. Whether it’s a brand new recipe that you are really proud of, a tried-and-true pot of spaghetti, another trip through the drive-thru, or a “Whatev Bev” smorgasbord of goldfish, applesauce pouches, and slices of cheese (basically charcuterie if you ask me.) If you have provided sustenance for your family, it’s enough. Cut yourself some slack on your idea of what dinner time should look like and just remember it’s the family time that is of most importance . . . and what your kids will remember.
When you have 10 minutes . . .
Here are some tasks you can accomplish in ten minutes — also known as the time between yelling, “Everyone get in the car!” and when everyone actually gets in the car.
- Wipe down the kitchen or bathroom counters.
- Go through your mail and throw away the junk.
- Take out the trash.
- Fold a small basket of laundry.
- Load the last little bit of dishes and turn the dishwasher on.
- Clean last week’s leftovers out of the fridge.
- Read and sign all the papers that came home from school.
- Reply to an email.
- Pay a bill online.
I think you get the idea! Utilize the small bits of time you have throughout your day before the little things pile up into a big thing that you can’t find time to do. Make a list of things you can accomplish quickly. Keep it visible, and when you find chunks of time here and there, cross one or two items off your list.
The Five Finger Rule
I wish I could remember who gave me this advice because it’s been so helpful when making decisions about my time and how much I have on my plate. Each finger represents a role that I have in life. I am married, have kids, work a full-time job, and write for BMC, so four of my fingers are spoken for. That leaves only one more role I can commit to during this season of my life. What roles do you have? Are you a single mom? Do you homeschool? Do you have a side hustle while staying at home with your kids? Are you the PTO president? Are you going back to school for another degree? Do you coordinate nursery workers at your church every Sunday? Evaluate how many roles you have and keep it at five or less. Don’t evaluate it based on how much time it takes. A role is a role. When one hand is used up, your plate is full. Saying no to extra stuff is 100% okay.
It’s Nap Time Somewhere
I’m a die-hard fan of the mantra “sleep when baby sleeps.” I stuck to it with all of my babies. But babies grow up and naps become a thing of the past. Naptime has been replaced by the kids playing The Mandalorian outside with nerf guns or putting together a puzzle while Alexa plays “The Fart Song.” But you know what? It’s naptime somewhere, so I don’t see any reason why I can’t lie on the couch for a snooze. Who says I can’t sleep when someone else’s baby sleeps? Research shows an afternoon cat nap is a good brain boost and may be just the thing you need to complete the tasks of your evening.
Each family is different. We all have our own unique makeup of personalities, dynamics, ages, struggles, needs, seasons, etc., and it’s important to find what works for your family in order to save time and sanity. You may have read this entire post and thought that none of this will work for your family, and that’s okay! The only household I’m running is my own. You do you! Hopefully, this has at least helped you identify ways you can save some time, give yourself some grace, and be confident in the decisions you’ve made to keep your home afloat. Pinterest and Instagram have some fabulous ideas, but they can’t determine what’s best for your family and the season you’re in. Only you can do that, Momma.
I’m off to remove layers of dust from my bedroom furniture. Or maybe take a nap. Somewhere in this world there’s a baby napping.