This is the first free moment I’ve had in almost a month. Sitting outside, listening to the rain, feeling the cool breeze on the nape of my neck. The rain is heavy and dogs are barking, yet it still seems so quiet. Usually, my day consists of the hum of a popular annoying mouse and his friends on the TV, the vacuum cleaner running, an attempt at a phone conversation with one of my doctors’ offices (and trying to remember why I even called), all being minimized by the overbearing sound of my two-year-old screaming, “More juice please! More juice please!”
This is my day. The yelling – either happily singing about a spider with an intolerance to precipitation, or crying because she’s in trouble after telling me that she wouldn’t pick up her toys…. Anyway, my day is the yelling, the chores, half the time a doctor’s appointment, and keeping a toddler entertained by anything educational. The true secret to being a productive mom (that doesn’t have a nervous breakdown): creativity. And on a side note, creativity doesn’t always prevent a nervous breakdown. It just helps prolong it.
Some people are naturals. They have figured out a way to turn their daily life into a Leave It to Beaver re-run, all with a smile on their face. I, on the other hand, am not one of those people. I can barely focus on reading if the TV on, much less figure out how to fit 38 hours into a 24 hour day – and somewhere in there, get some sleep.
After becoming a mom, though, I had to get creative in so many ways. I had to make up ways to entertain my own child. I had to somehow teach this little person about all sorts of basic things in life. I had to create stories about broccoli being an endangered specie of tree that would just be thrown out and wasted, or they could fulfill their mission in life to be eaten and make little girls into tall, strong, smart big girls. And, of course, I had to come up, through trial and error, with a method to be able to multitask. Or at least find time to get things done. So, from one mom to all of you others, I will share my secrets. But shhh…. this is classified.
1) If possible, have your kiddo help with chores! One day, my daughter was begging me to go in her room and play. I told her that Mommy needed to clean the kitchen, but obviously that wasn’t a good enough reason for her. Then I remembered that she loves helping me – with everything! Cooking, folding laundry, even getting her bag ready when we’re preparing to leave. So I handed her a wet paper towel and she cleaned the dining room chairs. She was occupied, learning, and I didn’t have to do 100% of the work. Win, win!
2) Folding towels at the exact moment your baby needs milk? Grab an unfolded kitchen towel, fold it on the way to the kitchen, and put it up right before making the bottle. 2 extra seconds will not hurt the baby and you have one less towel to fold. It may not seem like much, but trust me, these things add up.
3) Don’t make yourself do double the work. Don’t sweep the kitchen before lunch. Don’t mop the entryway before the muddy soccer game. Don’t clean the bathroom before a shower. I know we still have pregnancy brain (for the rest of our lives, it feels like!), but search deep inside for where that common sense used to be.
4) I usually only do my coupon clipping when my mini-me is watching Frozen for the 84th time. Inevitably, though, she’ll come over to see what’s going on. Instead of screaming at the top of my lungs and ripping my hair out, I turn it into a lesson on scissor safety. “Without touching, I want you to look at the scissors and tell me what you see.” Of course, she touches anyway. “See? It hurts. That’s why we don’t use these without a grown up. See how I’m cutting away, and not toward myself. Look at how far the fingers on my other hand are from the blades. Whenever handing someone a pair of scissors, always hold them by the closed blades and offer the scissor’s handles to the other person.” Anything can be a lesson in disguise.
5) Timing is everything. If your little one can feed himself, make one or two important phone calls immediately after he starts eating lunch. If he needs something, it can usually be done with a phone to your ear. Nap time is also an excellent time to get stuff done.
Make sure time is also made for you. You do so much, you probably forget that a shower is a good idea…at least once a week. Master these, along with some hubby time (if that applies to you) and some mommy time, and I promise that life will become simpler. Not easier – there is nothing easy about being a mom – but at least simpler.
Amber Goodman is a SAHM to her toddler, a rockin’ wife, and a jane-of-all-trades, studying to be a life coach.