I know this is a baking blog, but you can tell from the title that I’m pretty busy – otherwise I wouldn’t have to bake at midnight! I just wanted to share a few things that have made my hectic life easier to live – apart from my family and friends, of course – I’m not sharing them!
We all want to be free spirits, but at the same time we have to feed our families, make sure everyone has clean clothes, get the kids to school on time, etc. Now, I’m all for going with the flow and being spontaneous, but with three children and a full-time job, I need to be a bit organised. Everyone has their own methods and you need to find what works for you. Calendars and lists are all very well, but personally I find calendars are too small to write everything on and I’m constantly losing my lists! Enter Trello, which I found via Allie Casazza. It’s your own (free) online space where you can organise everything – and of course it’s paperless, which saves the trees! If you’re interested, check out Allie’s post.
I have created monthly and weekly schedules on Trello. I also have boards for this blog and for special events I’m planning, like my daughter’s birthday party and my baby’s christening. On one hand, I feel like a bit of a loser – on the other hand, I’m about a hundred times less stressed than I was before I started organising my life like a military operation. I find that if I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing each day, I use my time a lot more efficiently, leaving space for me to hang out with my kids and have fun.
Before I had children, I didn’t plan my meals much in advance. I’d eat out a lot with my friends after work, and if there was nothing to cook in the house, my boyfriend and I would just order takeaway. (We lived up the street from a great Indian restaurant – how convenient!) But I started planning our meals when I weaned our first daughter, to make sure she was eating a balanced diet … which is also good for adults!
Of course, we don’t always stick to the plan. There will always be days when I’ll forget to defrost the mincemeat, or the girls will have a doctor’s appointment and we’ll get home at 8:30 and decide to order in. But on the whole, planning meals ahead saves on stress – and money, too, because you only buy exactly what you need.
Sad though it may sound, I sit down every Sunday and plan out the meals for the week. I write down all the ingredients I need to buy, plus the extra stuff for breakfasts and lunches. Once a month I do an online shop, too, for all the bulky or heavy stuff like loo roll and booze (another must for busy parents!)
Naturally, I have a pretty printable to write my weekly meal plan on (in pencil, of course – remember those trees). I’ve also got one for baby weaning time so you can plan out every meal and snack. They’re yours to download here!
(And if those three words make you want to simultaneously start singing and kill someone, then you’re definitely a parent!)
For me, one of the hardest things about having all these little people relying on me is that I often have to leave tasks unfinished. I’ll start washing up, but then someone needs help with their homework, and while I’m doing that someone else does a pee on the floor, so I start mopping that up and get sidetracked into cleaning the bathroom, but I never finish that either because the baby starts crying and I need to feed her … and I still haven’t done the washing up. It used to really bother me, but I learnt to let it go.
There will be days – a lot of them, if you have a newborn – when you plan everything out (possibly on Trello!) and you don’t accomplish half the tasks you meant to. So what? There’s always tomorrow.
There’s too much pressure on parents – which we put on ourselves most of the time – to do everything and look perfect and be perfect. Yes, I plan stuff out, but I don’t want you to think I’m sitting in a whitewashed room with immaculate hair and a plastic smile while my children – dressed beautifully, of course – play peacefully and constructively together. Oh no. I often take a shower while the baby screams because she can’t see me behind the curtain. I sometimes have baby puke on my shoulder. Occasionally, my kids try to kill each other. I try to set a good example for my girls, but I have been known to lose my shit and yell at them. I’m not a failure – I’m a human being, and so are you.
I plan my days and my meals because, for me, it makes life less stressful. It means I have to think and worry less, and gives me more time for my kids and myself. Planning should be a tool to help you, not something that makes you feel inadequate if you don’t tick off every task on your list. Trust me, your kids don’t care if you didn’t have time to hoover, and they actually like it when you forget to buy chicken and end up ordering pizza. Do your children know that you love them? Yes? Then nothing else really matters.
Last, but definitely not least, remember to live! I can’t stress enough that planning is supposed to give you time – to play with your kids, read them a pile of story books, sit alone and meditate, even bake a cake! Don’t let housework and errands and chores consume you – have fun, make memories, enjoy life!