9 Tips for Working Parents to Make the Most of Their Time at Home

posted by Andrea | 02/12/2019

As someone who LOVES being home and thrives on the simplicity, consistency, and security of my own at-home schedules and routines, it’s very difficult for me to wrap my brain around others who don’t necessarily want to be home — or who can’t be home due to demanding work schedules, pursuing higher education, taxiing children to extracurricular activities, etc. etc.

However, I completely understand different personality types mean different likes, dislikes, needs, wants, etc. and I know this world would not be a very functional place if every other human loved being home as much as I do! Yikes, that would be crazy! 

We all have different organizational needs, different personal lives, different energy levels, and different time constraints — making it very challenging for me to write tips and share ideas that will work across-the-board for everyone.

Since I’m home all day, my posts and tips are often from that perspective — yet, I get productivity questions from working parents on a daily basis.

While I know my life experience doesn’t qualify me as an “expert” on today’s topic, I have worked with enough busy families and working parents to come up with a fairly LONG list of tips I think (hope) will be helpful. 

If you are gone most of the day, here are a few of my tips to make the most of the few hours you are home! 

1. Hire Help:

I know this might be a cop-out, but honestly, there are only so many hours in the day!

If you’re gone for 8-12 of them, and you need to sleep for 6-8 of them, that doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of time to do much other than get dinner on the table, put children to bed, switch a load of laundry, and prepare for the next day. 

Logistically speaking, you will save yourself a HUGE amount of time, energy, and stress if you can find someone to do the basics while you are gone at work. 

If I worked outside the home, here’s what I would hire someone to do (in order of importance for me). 

  • Thoroughly clean all bathrooms — toilets, sinks, counter, mirrors, showers, floors.
  • Vacuum and sweep all floors. Shake out rugs.
  • Wipe down and disinfect kitchen surfaces, wash and put away any dishes.
  • Wash sheets and remake beds.
  • Dust flat surfaces, window sills, baseboards, door frames.
  • Do any other wash while cleaning the house (as time allows). 

I’m positive someone could do all of this in one day (probably 4-6 hours) and that would be a huge amount of cleaning YOU would NOT have to do when you are finally home! 

As an added bonus, the knowledge that a house cleaner will be coming the next day is usually motivation to declutter and pick up the night before, so you might keep your home neater and cleaner!

Plus, wouldn’t it feel fantastic to walk in the door to a thoroughly cleaned home after a long day at work! 

If you’re not willing or able to hire help, at least consider bartering with a friend or relative. 

And if bartering isn’t an option for you either, then you WILL have to adjust your standards as to how neat and organized your home will be. I can give you all the quick-tips and time-saving advice possible, but the fact of the matter is… Taking care of a home requires time spent at home. If you don’t have much time at home, you most likely will not be able to take care of your home to the extent you want to. 

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2. Wake Up Earlier:

Yup, you knew I was going to throw this one at you! 

Dave and I wake up at 4:00am every day (5:00am on the weekends), and even though I’m home all day, this 2-3 hour window before the kids wake up is (by far) the most productive time of my day. Dave would say the same thing. 

I can tackle multiple loads of laundry, clean bathrooms, write a blog post, work on my Virtual Assistant jobs, make breakfast and dinner, pack lunches, clean out my email inbox, and get completely ready for the day WITHOUT interruptions, distractions, or excess noise! 

Even if you are not a morning person, if you work outside the home for the majority of your waking hours, I’m 100% positive waking up earlier WILL IMPROVE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY. 

Even if you just give yourself 30-60 extra minutes, you’ll be amazed at everything you can accomplish (especially if you have a plan of attack the night before). 

If I worked outside the home, I think I would use my morning hours to quickly get myself ready, make sure breakfast and lunches were ready to go for everyone in the family, check backpacks, do a quick pick-up of the main living areas, and prep dinner so it will be ready to eat (in a slow cooker) or ready for the oven when I get home. 

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3. Limit Evening Activities: 

Once again, I realize I’m writing this from a perspective of someone who loves and NEEDS to be home in order to feel grounded and sane. However, even if you’d rather be out and about, there’s no way you’ll have the time and energy to keep your home neat and organized if you are gone all day at work… and then gone all night at extra curricular activities. 

The math just doesn’t work in your favor here! 

Limiting evening activities might sound like a bummer, but those extra hours at home will give you a little more breathing room in your schedule, more time to tackle home-related to-dos, more time to decompress after a long day at work, more time with family, and more time to sleep (which means you can more-easily jump out of bed when your earlier alarm goes off!)

All of those “mores” are very good things in my opinion — and necessary if your goals is more time at home.

Of course, this means you might have to say “no” more often than you’d like, it means you could offend or upset someone, and it means you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation — but it WILL give you more time at home! 

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4. Simplify Your Food: 

Meal planning and prepping does NOT have to be “complicated” but it can be time-consuming… and if you’re not home, you won’t be able to make food and get it in the oven everyday. 

So… you have a few options in my opinion:

  • Regularly go out to eat — expensive, but fun and enjoyable. Plus, no mess to clean up at home and fewer groceries to buy.
  • Bring fast-food or take-out home — faster and cheaper, but not as healthy, and you still have some mess to clean up at home.
  • Subscribe to a meal-planning service — super fun (if you like to cook), but still need time to cook the food and they only provide food for 2-3 nights per week.
  • Buy pre-made meals from the grocery store — cheaper still, but you still need to be home to put them in the oven and clean up afterward.
  • Plan very simple meals (casseroles, soup, crock pot meals) — least expensive, potentially “boring”, still requires some prep-work and clean-up.
  • Learn to love leftovers — a great way to clean out the fridge, paired with a simple salad and some fruit.

I honestly don’t think there’s one “right” answer for any person or family — maybe a mix of all of them would work well, depending on the day and what you have going on. 

Either way, you should have a plan going into your week… and you must revisit this plan every morning before you leave for the day. 

In my experience, if you don’t know the plan for dinner BEFORE you leave the house, you still won’t know the plan when you come home — and who wants to come home to a hungry family at 5, 6, or 7:00 without a plan for dinner. That’s just a “recipe for disaster” — pun intended! 

If your kids love ordering hot lunch (and it fits in your budget) let them get hot lunch, and enjoy one less item on your to-do list! And if they will eat cereal for breakfast, consider yourself lucky, and enjoy a few extra minutes of free time every morning! 🙂

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5. Get Family Members On Board: 

In our house, I do the vast majority of meal planning, food prep, cleaning, laundry, etc.  but that’s because I actually ENJOY doing this and I’m home all the time to do it. I can quickly and easily work it into my daily routine — while kids are eating, while they are napping, after they go to bed, etc. 

However, when both parents work outside the home, I feel it’s imperative that both parents (and any children) pitch in to help with housework. 

I realize this might not be easy to implement (here are a few of my tips to encourage a cleaner, more organized family) but I think you’ll be amazed how much lighter your “load” is when everyone is helping out. 

It might not be fully up to your standards (see #6 below) but it’s off your to-do list, which frees you up to tackle other things! 

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6. Set Realistic Expectations and Standards: 

If you are already working full time (or more than full time) outside of the home, it really doesn’t make sense to assume you’ll also be able to work full-time to keep your home, yard, kitchen, family, and life running as well… it’s just too much for one person to take on every single day! 

Realize your home most likely will not be as neat or as organized as your friends or family members who don’t work full time, but it can still be clean and organized enough for you to enjoy being home and feel comfortable having guests over. 

Realize you might not have time to say yes to every request for your time (at least not if you want to be happy and sane) but you can still help out and volunteer when activities and requests for your time fit better with your work schedule. 

Realize you probably won’t be the parent who helps out at the school party or swings by school to drop off special lunches for you child — but you can still be an amazing parent in your own way and with the time you do have.

Realize you might not put big meals with 4 side dishes and dessert on the table every night — but you will make sure your family is fed, one way or another, and that’s all that really matters right now. 

This is not to say you can’t ever have everything you want — but in all honesty, you probably can’t have everything you want all at the same time. 

Instead of feeling bad or guilty, simply remind yourself that it’s all a choice — your choice.  You are choosing to work outside the home right now, which means you are also choosing not to spend as much time on house work, extra activities, meal prep, etc. This is not a right or wrong choice — but it is YOUR choice. You can change or alter this choice in the future — but for now, this is the reality of your choice. 

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7. Use Vacation Days to Stay Home: 

Many of you are rolling your eyes right now — I can sense it! However, this is an EXCELLENT way to get a little more at-home time to tackle some of those bigger projects and to-dos (and to just enjoy a less-rushed pace of of life). 

I did this all the time when I worked outside the home in our pre-children days! I would take my vacation days whenever Dave had breaks from school and we’d just hang out at home together — maybe go out for lunch, work on house and yard projects, cook a fancy dinner or gourmet baked goods, etc. 

Now, life is a lot different as our children are always home with us too — but we’ve often joked about the idea of taking off from work when our kids are all in school and just enjoying the day at home together. 

Even if you are an extrovert who loves staying busy, I think you should at least consider taking a vacation day (or 5!) to simply stay home, relax, and get caught up on life! Try it once and let me know what you think! 

8. Eliminate Wasted Time: 

I don’t know how to say this without coming across quite strong… but there’s a decent chance you are wasting a TON of time at home (especially in the evening hours). 

Most people I know who work outside the home have expressed their need to “decompress” after a long day away — I acknowledge this. However, when “decompress” turns into hours of watching TV, mindlessly scrolling through social media, lengthy phone and text conversations with friends, or reading “just one more chapter” in your current book, you end up wasting the night away, going to bed later than you planned, and struggling to wake up when your early alarm goes off the next morning. 

I realize this is a broad generalization, but I see it happen so often in the lives of people around me that I can’t NOT mention it. 

It’s amazing how many people contact me, lamenting the fact that they work all day and have “no time” to keep up with house work. But when I question them about their evening activities, the conversation almost always turns into a sob story of how busy they are during the day, how they just need to relax, and how they “deserve” a little down time. 

Yes, I DO think relaxation is beneficial to work into our daily lives… but only for a brief period. Once the kids are in bed, set the timer and enjoy a little down time… but then get back to work. 

I can honestly say Dave and I almost never have “down time” after the kids are in bed. Instead, we use this time to clean out the dishwasher, wash dishes, prep food for the next day, lesson plan, grade, write blog posts, and make our to-do lists for the next day. It’s extremely rare that we go out anywhere in the evenings, we never watch TV during the week, and we rarely ever take a night “off” from our to-do lists. 

Again, I know we are all wired differently, BUT if you are truly looking for ways to make the most of your at-home time, eliminating wasted time is a biggie

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9. Find Friends In Your Same Situation: 

In my experience, life feels easier and less overwhelming if I know someone else is going through the same thing and working through the same obstacles.

I know I’m not alone in my struggles — whether they be sleepless children, navigating the world of food allergies, dealing with chronic sickness, starting a weight-loss journey, working from home, working outside of the home, etc. etc. 

If you find a community (either in real life or online) who understand YOU and your current struggles, life will feel easier! Plus, these people often have the best tips and ideas that will work well for YOUR life, since you are dealing with similar struggles. 

At the very least, a group of like-minded friends will offer a sympathetic ear when you need to vent about your stay-at-home relative who makes snide comments about how late your kids stay up, or your single coworker who still lives with her parents and doesn’t understand why you can’t go out for drinks after work every day! 

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I realize I could be WAY off-base with this post as I haven’t had much personal experience working outside the home with a family. However, after talking with many friends, reading countless emails from many of you, and pulling from past experiences with clients who worked outside the home, I have confidence some of these tips will be helpful for many of you.

That said, I’d love some first-hand experience and tips from those of you who do work outside the home! 

What are your tips to make more time at home? 

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40 comments

  1. Margaret

    02/13/2019

    A day late to the party here.
    Since I work 3rd shift and sleep days I’ve had to figure out how not to let my evenings get sucked down the Internet rabbit hole. I’ve found a simple solution that works well for me. I eat breakfast while I read the local paper, and then check blogs and news sites while I sip my coffee. Then it’s up and at ’em. I close the computer and don’t go back until the whole to-do list–food prep, dishes, floors, restocking, dog training, dog-walking, exercising, laundry if needed–is crossed off. Most of the time I’ll still have at least an hour before I need to get ready for work.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Good plan! Thanks for sharing what works for you — I’m sure other 3rd shifters will benefit from this!

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  2. Katherine

    02/13/2019

    I work very part time- two days a week- and we have a sitter here to the house for the afternoon with my four kids. I totally echo having your kids do chores and pitch in around the house. Lots of work up front, but WORTH IT.

    Also, after having so many different sitters over the years, I learned to communicate very clearly that I will hand the house over to the sitter in fairly tidy condition and he/she needs to hand it back to us the same way. Dishes cleaned up, living room tidied, etc etc. Coming home after work and seeing the downstairs in good shape is WONDERFUL.

    I wanted to write that because I have many friends who are shocked when they come home and see that the sitter allowed the kids to leave messes everywhere, or the sitter didn’t clean up lunch that day, etc. I tell our sitter that it is our kids’ job to clean up, but please oversee them and make sure it gets done. I think that should be an up front part of the conversation with any sitter or nanny you hire.

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    Avia Reply:

    Yes, I have been shocked over and over to come home to mess. (This would be just when teenagers watch my kids in the evenings). I have learned that I have to be very clear with my expectation.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes yes! Good point to mention. I never did much babysitting, but whenever I did, I ALWAYS made sure to clean the house to the same (or better) condition it was when I arrived. I would definitely expect the same of any babysitter we hire (although, now that I think about it, we’ve actually never had a babysitter come!) I think we need to get out more! LOL!

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  3. Sam

    02/12/2019

    Hi

    I shared this comment on an earlier post of Andrea’s, but sharing again here for other working Mamas. Keep at it and don’t give up! 🙂

    “I’ve been a long time Andrea follower and I work outside the house 40 hours a week.

    These are things I’ve done to help myself (based on lots of her tips) and after many years, finally have it working.

    Anything for the morning, I do the night before, including packing lunches and clothes. Both kids have “Good Morning Kits”. Carry-totes from the dollarstore with everything they need for the morning (clothes, hair ties, diapers etc). I also pack school bags night before.

    My house has been purged and everything has a home.

    I take a few minutes to meal plan for week before grocery shopping. My meal plan includes all meals…I even tried “pre-packing” their breakfast in the fridge on their special trays and they loved it. Fruit, veggies, and a larabar, then I made them a protein smoothie while they ate.

    Kitchen is completely cleaned up after every meal. My kids help now.

    Laundry – as soon as there is a load. I do it. Wash, dry, fold, put away. I don’t wait for the weekend. I set up a blanket near me and my toddler son plays with toys while I do it.

    Kids messes – I keep an eye on time and build in 5-10 minutes for them to clean up their toys.

    Saturday – general clean up if needed. Everyone knows they have to help.

    Sunday – Day of Rest!

    ***You have to be home to tackle home life. I was overscheduling my weekends with social stuff and have cut back to usually one activity a weekend and my kids are limited to 2 extracurriculars.

    Good luck! You’ll find a system that works for you!”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much for re-sharing this! It’s super helpful and I know others reading this will get so many good ideas!

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  4. Meghan

    02/12/2019

    Andrea, all of your tips are fantastic! I am way less stressed being a working mom with three kids than I was when I had two because we have a nanny who comes to the house. Getting the kids out the door to a sitter’s in the morning was so stressful. She also does the kids’ laundry and cleans the first floor(main living floor) and the kids’ bathroom. Coming home to a clean and orderly house is wonderful. I don’t ask her to do my and my husband’s laundry, but she folds it if it’s in the basket or dryer. When my youngest goes to school I have to make sure I hire someone to come to the house at least once a week. I have definitely simplified the types and variety of meals I cook. I do a ton of freezer cooking. Generally we eat something “new” Sunday-Wednesday and eat leftovers on Thursdays.
    I love Walmart grocery pick up. It’s not perfect but I could never go back to grocery shopping ever again. As a treat, I go to Aldi every couple of months because I love it.
    During baseball season with two boys playing, we have games or practice 5 nights a week and Saturday mornings. There is nothing but the essentials happening from May-July.
    I think your post was so important – I sometimes compare myself to non working moms and that is not a fair comparison.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, everyone I know who has a nanny come into their home says it’s SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL! I’m glad you could make this work for your family — also, your nanny sounds amazing!

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  5. avia

    02/12/2019

    I work outside the home full time and my husband owns a business that can be 24/7 depending on the day/week. So he can never be counted on to be home and most times he isn’t. So I just have to think and plan like I’m a single parent or I will start to become resentful.
    1. I have cleaning lady that comes in every other week and does all things on your priority list except laundry. I’d love find someone to do laundry and even meal prep!
    2. I currently wake up at 5 and have to leave the house with my kids at 7. I have been contemplating getting up earlier ever since I first read about you and Dave getting up at 4. But I haven’t decided yet if that would be more beneficial than more sleep. One thing I have been thinking about is finding someone to come to my house early in the mornings (about 6), get my kids up and to school/daycare. That way I could leave the house at 6 and get off an hour earlier.
    3. I very rarely will allow an activity during the week evenings. There’s just no way I can do it. We’ll see what happens as my kids get older and want to joint different activities.
    4. This is the hardest part for me. Before kids I loved meal planning and cooking lots of different meals. I have had to accept that I just can’t do it and the world will keep spinning. Right now I have some easy and quick dinners (if you can even call them that) that I can get on the table within 1/2 hr of walking in the door. I hope to someday really cook again!
    7. YES vacation days at home with no one!! I would love to do this at least once a month but I’m still working on the logistics. I would easily give up actual vacations to use all my days as home catch up days. I’m not sure my family would agree though!
    8. And yes on the wasted time although I have to remind myself that it’s OK to have some down time. I can very easily spend every second being busy and still never feeling like I get everything done. It’s important for my to give myself permission to have some relaxing time – which for me is usually reading.
    Thank you for all your ideas and thought on this! Now you can see why I posted on your personality post that although we are the same personality type – our lives look a lot different! Ha!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I completely understand about weighing the pros and cons of more/less sleep versus getting more/less accomplished — it’s a constant give/take situation. In my experience (as someone who apparently doesn’t need huge amounts of sleep to feel very rested) the extra time in the morning is SO beneficial for me, for my happiness, for my productivity, etc. I honestly think my entire family benefits from my early mornings as I am a happier person all day long when I can get a bunch of stuff accomplished first thing in the morning!
    That’s just my personality and experience though. Not sure I could wake up super early if I had to be “on the ball” working all day long without time to relax while the kids played or napped! Do what feels right for YOU!

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    Alicia Reply:

    I completely understand what you’re saying about not being able to count on your husband being home to help, or you end up feeling resentful! I have found that I have to do the exact same thing. My husband easily works 12+ hour days and I have found I/we are much happier if I just plan on him not being home. It sounds terrible, but it helps so much with my expectations. And while I did for several years , I don’t work outside of the home anymore but I do have 4 (soon to be 5!) kids to take care of! My #1 lesson learned has been to LOWER my expectations ! And I’m perfectly okay with it!

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    Avia Reply:

    Right. Expectations can get me every time!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Ladies — and WOW Alicia! Congrats on #5. woohoo!! We’re stopping at 4, so we won’t be able to compare pregnancies and baby stuff anymore 🙂
    You ladies are amazing for doing everything you do with husbands who work so much. My saving grace is the fact that Dave is almost always home by 3:30 every day so I can finish cooking dinner in peace. It’s just the little break I need in my day before dinner and bedtime routine starts.
    I’m thankful you shared your perspective and what helps you get through those LONG days home with kids. I’m positive it will be helpful for others reading this post!

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    Alicia Reply:

    Haha thank you, Andrea!! I thought of you when I found out so was pregnant this time, but remembered you saying you were done at 4!
    I’m trying to be better about being more organized and structured, but I have to remind my perfectionist self OFTEN that I can’t get everything done because I’m often a one woman show, and that’s okay!!!

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    Alicia Reply:

    *I was pregnant

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  6. Gail

    02/12/2019

    Now I am retired, but when both of us worked outside the home as teacher and engineer, I cooked doubles on Sat. and Sun., giving us two weekday meals. I made quickies Wed., went out with the kids Thurs., and quickie Fri. again.
    I did laundry while I graded and lesson planned almost next to the washer and dryer, and I cleaned as needed only. Sometimes it needed it for a while!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That’s a great dinner schedule — gives you plenty of time together at home as well as a few nights “off” from the kitchen!
    Thanks for sharing what works for you!

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    Avia Reply:

    I like your dinner schedule and I’ll have to think about it to see if that would work for me!

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  7. Lynn Arnsdorf

    02/12/2019

    Looking back, should have hired cleaning help, that’s A#1, even if it was just floors and bathrooms. Second, I wish there had been grocery delivery or pickup! absolutely love shopping online, select a pickup time, and they load it in my trunk! Something I did do right was your suggestion to limit activities on weeknights! This is a must if you want sanity, IMHO. Don’t fall for the pressure (we put it on ourselves) to sign your kids up for everything and anything…crazy! Your kids just want to be with you, so take ’em for a hike. One other thing….marry a “doer”, or you’ll be doing all of it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    The grocery delivery is amazing! I used it when James was born and had 3 kids 3 and under. It was fantastic!
    They have since raised the prices on the store closest to me, and now that my kids are older, it’s not as hard to take them out — but if I worked full-time outside the home, I would definitely go back to using grocery delivery!

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  8. Heidi

    02/12/2019

    I think the key for our family is just to give ourselves grace. My husband and I both work outside of the home and I have relapsing multiple sclerosis. He also coaches high school football. My mom helps us with child care as well as things around our house. We eat simply, eat out when we need to, and just let somethings go.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! And wow, you do have a lot on your plate (I know how busy coaching seasons are — Dave used to coach 3 sports!)
    Good for you for letting some things go! I just blogged about that a week or so ago too 🙂

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  9. Rhonda

    02/12/2019

    I work half-time, which in some ways I feel is harder than working full-time or staying home full-time (but mostly it’s pretty good!) It’s hard to get in a daily routine when working days are not always M-F, but I do have time to keep up with chores. I have benefited over the years from “hired” help. #1 I mainly purchase clothes through a stylist service – clothes come in a trunk to my doorstep and returns picked up from my doorstep (used for the past 3 years). #2 I recently hired an interior designer to help with furniture purchases and some small remodeling projects (we never know where to start on our own). And #3 I have had someone clean my house for a number of years. We started when I was either pregnant or first child was small, and kept her because she is local and reliable and it is the dedicated time when we clean up clutter before she comes. I think overall it has allowed our home to be in better shape over the years. It doesn’t break the budget since it’s only once per month, and we still doing cleaning in between when the “full house” clean is done.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know a handful of people who say they feel working part-time can feel more overwhelming than either working full-time or staying home full-time. It’s like you have one foot in each world, but can’t totally commit to either — so you are not alone in that frustration!

    I’m glad you have hired some help — that’s definitely the way to go if you can swing it financially!

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  10. Mandi

    02/12/2019

    I love all of these, but #9 is so important! I can quickly grow discontent when I surround myself with homeschooling moms who don’t work because they have so much more time than I do for things like field trips, coffee dates, etc. When I spend time with other working, homeschooling moms who “get” the challenges of juggling both roles, I end up feeling much better about the choices I’m making and less focused on the things I’m missing out on!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yup, I can totally understand this (not the working/homeschooling part, but the socializing with like-minded people part!)

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  11. Brenda

    02/12/2019

    One thing with menu planning that I have found helps is to have 3-4 dinners planned for the week and then I let me husband pick what we have each night. He knows that eventually all 3-4 meals will need to be eaten so its more of what meal do you want when. And then we decide what day he wants to cook dinner and he grills something that day. Then we have a couple days for leftovers of quick things that they kids request. (We used to have ‘loud discussions’ when I would get home with a plan for dinner and he had something else going. This has help with that.)

    Also, I would really really stress that parents make #5 a priority with their kids. Kids can help a lot and it makes them feel like they are part of the family, although they complain a lot, lol. I started folding all the laundry into individual baskets for each person and then I deliver them to their rooms and they have to take care of the clothes. I have to do my best to not go look at their dressers/closets or I’ll want to re-do all of it. It will also help when they move out on their own. They won’t be totally helpless with their first apartment/dorm room.

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    Andrea Reply:

    great tips! Thanks Brenda!

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  12. Jo

    02/12/2019

    I work outside the house and can’t say I am on top of everything but I do know where I go wrong and where I could make changes to make things better….sometimes though for whatever reason I do need an evening where I just need to go to bed as soon as the kids have gone, sometimes i fancy going for a swim in the evening and sometimes i just want to read magazines and have a long bath. I have to lower my standards sometimes because if I do these things I won’t have time for everything else – fact – I just have to make peace with the fact something will not get done. I think it is about finding an overall balance. That being said…this is what I do to try and keep all the balls in the air..

    1. I have a cleaner 2 hours a week (I’m in the UK, we have smaller houses I think!) she does all the floors – hoover and mop – the bathroom, dusts, work surfaces plus one extra each week – windows/rugs/skirting/chidrens toy etc etc. Its great to know everything is cleaned once a week.
    2. I batch cook and freeze so i can just reheat in the evening. I also use the slow cooker. As much as possible though we have a hot meal at work/school and then have eggs or sandwiches for a quick tea.
    3. Get up early. I’m much more productive first thing.
    4. Make sure weekends aren’t too full – when we have crazy busy weekends I often feel the week gets off to a bad start. Sometimes this means I say no to things.
    5. I get my groceries delivered (don’t know if you can do this) I set the delivery for when the kids are in bed and I can put them away in peace!

    And my husband and I also have a holiday day when the kids are all in school/nursery – what a treat to be at home and it be quiet!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    For what it’s worth, I think it’s completely normal that you regularly need some nights where you just go to bed on time and/or relax — Dave and I have that at least once a week! We put the kids to bed, take our showers, finish up a few things, and head to bed — we feel so much better and more rested in the morning and are often much more productive the next day!
    Thanks for your tips Jo!

    [Reply]

  13. Ann

    02/12/2019

    It is imperative to realize that I can NOT do it all! So what do I CHOOSE to do, and what to learn to leave undone? ( Or lower my expectations)
    I see buying ready made foods, or semi-ready made, as Buying “TIME”!
    {Same with hiring help.}

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! sometimes buying “time” is the best route for busy families!

    [Reply]

  14. Kelly Hess

    02/12/2019

    Meal planning is key to making our house run successfully. With three busy kids (ages 13,10, and 6) you can bet 1 or 2 of them have some commitment each day of the week. We don’t even have time to eat out during the week. I always have something planned for dinner and use my crock pot A LOT to keep this family running!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I love that you said “we don’t have time to go out to eat”! I agree, I feel like it takes LONGER to go out to eat than to just make something simple at home! So many people we know go out to eat to “save time” but I feel like they spend more time at the restaurant (and commuting back and forth) than I do making, serving, and cleaning up our dinner. And I guarantee my meal was exponentially less expensive!

    [Reply]

  15. Ashley Orfe

    02/12/2019

    I think this is good advice even for those who don’t have kids! I especially relate to the meal planning one. After working all day, I’m not going to come home and make a three-course dinner, so I keep my meal planning simple and I always cook enough for leftover meals! This helps us get quicker to our evening commitments.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Ashley — I would agree with you (good advice for people without children too) but I guess most of my email questions have come from parents 🙂

    [Reply]

  16. Maria

    02/12/2019

    These are all great tips – especially #’s 2, 4 & 8. I find that grocery shopping every 2 weeks rather than weekly helps save a lot of time that I can rather spend with family, catching up on chores etc. Also, groceries can be ordered ahead at some grocery store chains and you can just pick them up which is a great time-saver as well. As you mentioned above, menu planning is a huge time-saver that will save a lot of time and frustration on a daily basis ( it takes a bit of patience, time and work when you start, but gets easier when it becomes a habit). I also like to shop on-line for my other shopping needs i.e clothes, household items, etc which saves a lot of wasted time walking around the mall which I hate. Thanks for this great post!

    [Reply]

    Avia Reply:

    Being able to order and pick up groceries is a life changer for me! We live 60 miles from the nearest big grocery store so we are always running a million errands when we’re in town. Being able to take the time and energy suck of grocery shopping off the list is amazing. Well worth the $5 charge that I pay!!

    [Reply]

    AVia Reply:

    Now if I could just find someone to pack them into my house and do food prep!!

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