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Managing life as a full time working parent

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Working full time and being a parent is a tough game.  I’m sure many people think I’m lucky as I work from home, but I wonder if working away from the daily hustle and bustle would actually be better!  I can see the housework that needs doing every day, but I need to commit to my paid work if I want to get paid, so I must ignore the housework and it must wait for my non-working hours.  It can be pretty frustrating to be surrounded by things that I could be doing just because I am here.  I do think I may rent an office one day to really separate work and home.

I’m still trying to work out the best way to manage everything each day.  The work-life balance when a parent is a real struggle!  Some days I think I’ve nailed it and other days it feels as though everything is falling apart.

There’s basically never enough time in the week to get everything done.  I can find it quite overwhelming at times.  I’m always constantly rushing to get everything finished whether it’s housework, emails or getting the kids to school and nursery on time.  As the kids are in 9-3, to work full time hours I have to work when they are at school and then again in the evening.

Whilst I am very lucky that I work from home and can do the school runs and don’t need childcare past the standard 9-3 school day, it does mean I’m not left with enough time to work full time hours in the day time so have to give up most evenings too.  There are definitely pros and cons to both working at home and working away from home.  I’m not sure which is better!  At least in an employed job I would hope to come home and switch off from work for the rest of the day instead of carrying on working after the kids are in bed.  But then I’d need childcare for the kids before and after school so some of my flexibility and freedom would be gone.

My daily home and work routine

Here’s my usual daily routine:

  • 6.30am – Ben gets up and gets ready for work.  I wake and check work emails/bank accounts on my phone.
  • 7am – Ben leaves and I get showered/dressed and get the kids up and dressed.
  • 7.30am-8.45am – Make kids breakfasts, make school lunches, wash up, put washing on/away, clean kitchen, empty bins – basically do as much housework as I can before the school run!
  • 9.10am-2.50pm – After dropping the kids at school and nursery I work on my business for just under 6 hours.  I always have lots to do and just do as much as I can before I have to pick the kids up.
  • 3.15pm-4.45pm – We are back from the school runs and I make the children dinner and continue to do as much housework as possible.  Ben gets back at around 4.40pm.
  • 5-6pm – Me and Ben go to the gym for one hour and the kids to sports/activity clubs
  • 6.15pm – Me or Ben cook ourselves some dinner, carry on with housework, do the kids homework/reading books and get them ready for bed.
  • 7.30pm – Put the kids to bed –Ben often does this so I can crack on with work if I’m busy and because I have them before and after school, so it works out quite well.  I’ll go up and do a story with one of them most nights. Tidy up the kitchen again from our dinner.
  • 7.30pm-10pm – I work again most weekday evenings, sometimes I finish early and watch something with Ben, but it depends on how tired I am and how much work I have on.
  • 10pm(ish) – Bedtime.  Sometimes some naughty checking of work emails or social medias that I haven’t had a chance to check all day (I only use them for my businesses).

And then I do it all again the next day!  Mondays and Fridays are worse as Reuben goes to a further away nursery which turns the school runs and pickups into almost one hour each way, reducing my time at home and time in the morning to get housework done as we leave 30 minutes earlier those days.  Those are my least favourite days!

I don’t really feel like I get time to sit and relax with the kids.  I do try and do this at weekends, especially Sundays now if we don’t have plans.  The week is just too manic to fit it all in!  If I’m not working then there’s always food to be cooked, housework to be done, food shopping to be ordered, stuff to drop at charity shops, things to list on eBay, appointments to make, kids clubs to book, the list goes on and on…!

How to manage life effectively as a full time working parent

This is something I definitely haven’t totally nailed, but I find having a sort of routine helps, as does being very organised!  Here are some of the ways I manage to stay on top of everything (just about) and keep our house clean and tidy:

  • Be minimal – this is my biggest tip!  I am very minimal and it saves so much time.  There’s less stuff everywhere to have to clean.  It’s easy to vacuum as I don’t have to move loads of things.  There are no knick-knacks to dust everywhere!  The kids have capsule wardrobes, as do I.  One winter coat, for example, and one pair of trainers or shoes.  This saves so much time in choosing what to wear and put on.  There’s less choice and we just wear what is available.  Being minimal is really a great time saver and money saver.  It makes the house easier to stay on top of in every way, from toys to clothes to food to cleanliness to tidiness.
  • Do grocery shopping online – at first I hated online grocery shopping as it took forever, but I use Ocado and they save all the items I have bought before in my favourites.  This means I can now place my food order in a matter of minutes if I need to which saves me so much time.  It’s conveniently delivered to us and I always pick a free delivery slot, usually a weekend evening when the kids are in bed so it doesn’t cut into our family time or my working time.
  • Order a fruit and veg box – if you can find a good one then this saves a lot of time also!  Fresh fruit and veg every week to your house.  This saves a trip to the supermarket each week and has the bonus of supporting local organic farmers.
  • Divide washing into colours – I must get Ben to make a proper divide for our washing drawer, but I always try to put clothes in colours so I can just grab a pile when it’s full and chuck it in the wash instead of sorting it each time.
  • Use a dryer – buying a washer/dryer has been a lifesaver.  No more hanging clothes on the line or radiators waiting ages for them to dry (sometimes days on the radiators!), but instead I dry them as soon as they are washed so they can be put right away.  It definitely isn’t a money saving idea this one, but super convenient.  I feel more on top of our washing than when we had to dry it on a radiator and could only fit one load on the house’s radiators at any one time which would hold the laundry up.
  • Don’t buy clothes that crease – who has time to iron?  I’ve never ironed and don’t know how people have the time to!  I buy non-creasing fabrics like cotton jersey materials so we never need to iron anything.  If Ben has a work shirt then we give it a good shake straight out of the wash and hang to dry.
  • Bulk cook – meals are so much easier when I bulk cook, for example pasta bake that lasts three days.  This saves a lot of time after school if I have a home cooked meal ready to go in the oven.  I need to take this planning a little further and make everything on a Sunday ready for the whole week.  We use a lot of fresh vegetables and it’s very time consuming to have to chop them each evening to make a meal (or two sets of meals when we gym) and make a meal from scratch.
  • Eat together when possible – on our gym nights, as seen above, we don’t eat together.  But any night we don’t go to the gym and at weekends we eat together as a family. This is a great time to catch up on each other’s days and talk about things without rushing around or stressing about being late for something.  I definitely miss eating together when it’s gym night’s which are usually three nights a week, but the kids are too hungry to eat after the gym and we can’t eat so early before working out!
  • Take time off – I used to work weekends too, but now I really cherish my weekends as family time away from my computer screen.  If you can have two days off a week then take them.  Try not to work too much overtime or extra days if you really don’t need to.  It definitely makes me have a better work-life balance and not feel too guilty in the week when I have lots of work to do, as I know I’ll have special family time on my days off.
  • Use childcare when possible – though I don’t have afterschool or before school childcare, my youngest is in childcare in the day times so I can work in the day times without distraction.  If I did go to an employed role then I would have to make use of before and after school care to be able to work office hours.  Making sure it’s good quality childcare will ensure you are more relaxed about sending them there. 
  • Have a family calendar – I used to have a handwritten planner, but Ben persuaded me to use the iPhone calendar and sync it with his.  Now we can both always see family and each other’s plans wherever we are.  This keeps us more organised and stops us having to call each other when organising anything as we can see our plans for ourselves.
  • Try to separate work and home – this is tricky if like me, you work from home, which is why I try to only work when the kids are at school and in bed.  I try my best to not look at my emails after school or before school and save my attention for the kids or the never-ending housework!  Sometimes there are opportunities that require me to respond quickly as a freelancer or I’ll miss out on some paid work, so I’m always sort of switched on to work and can see the email previews on my phone in case there’s something I need to respond to outside of my usual working hours.  Even Ben is always on call with his role and so can be called at any time or may need to check emails.  I think this is sadly just a sign of the times with long work hours and people being expected to be available at all times whether employed or working for yourself.  I did used to work every day, so now I only work Monday to Friday and rarely work at weekends.
  • Remember to have time as a couple – this is a hard one, but we have recently found a babysitter which means we can pop out for a meal by ourselves every couple of weeks and spend a couple of hours enjoying each other’s company whilst knowing the kids are safe at home.  My mum also has the kids to stay once every 1-2 months for a sleepover so we get to have this quality time together too.  It’s better when we plan a day out or night away so as we’re not in the house doing normal things, otherwise we just get sucked into the housework and normal hobbies and don’t spend quality time as a couple.
  • Take time for yourself – for me this is mostly by going to the gym.  It’s always a mad rush to fit in the gym sessions after school, but I always feel less stressed after going and like I get a bit of time to myself away from the house, the kids and work.  Don’t feel guilty about wanting some ‘me-time’ as it’s so important for well-being.
  • Stay on top of housework – for me, personally, I prefer to stay on top of housework.  I do it every day so it doesn’t accumulate and overwhelm me.  I do clothes washing every day, a bit of vacuuming each day, clean bathroom sides and the toilet every other day or when it needs it.  I don’t have one major clean each week, but instead do bits every day so the whole place just stays clean and organised.

Working a full time job, at home or elsewhere, and being a parent can be tough.  It’s a challenge to find the time to do everything that needs doing each day.  Plus as the mum I find I am the one organising everything else too – the kids, their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, appointments, family and friend visits, the shopping, the family finances.  It can certainly be overwhelming, but by being organised and trying to separate the work and home life, it can be made less stressful and manageable most of the time!


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