Seven ways to make a busy life easier

Family time...I'll do whatever it takes to get more of this.

Family time...I'll do whatever it takes to get more of this.

I don't love the word busy. These days I feel like most people have quite a bit going on, and we're all just trying to do the best we can in a demanding world. Saying one is busy is a rather boring thing to say, to be frank. 

That said, since having Amelie, H1 and I have found that our lives are quite a bit – well, shall we say 'fuller' than they used to be, and also more complex. In the past, if we didn't manage to organise ourselves to have fresh groceries for dinner, or we forgot to pick up paper towels at the supermarket, it was no big deal. Now, however, we have to feed Amelie dinner as well, and I prefer not to just give her toast if I can help it, and if we ran out of nappies it would be terrible for everyone involved. 

On the upside, after well over a year of practice now, I've worked out a bunch of little things that make our lives so much easier. Here are my top seven for you, if you're interested...

Order My Food Bag

Absolutely my top tip. It might not be called My Food Bag where you are – you might have Blue Apron, or Hello Fresh – but odds are there's a meal delivery service in your area. Having the decision-making removed from cooking dinner is such a luxury on weeknights – and that's said by someone who enjoys cooking. I can only imagine how much simpler it must make life for people who aren't as fond of cooking as I am. Plus, it's fast, you'll waste less food, you'll probably buy less takeout, and if you're like us and upsize your plan, you'll have enough for lunches too.

Get a cleaner

I love having a cleaner and it's one of the things I'd give up last if we had to cut back. Not having to take a chunk of family time away from the weekend is just the best. We still have to clean, of course – I pull the vacuum out most days, after Amelie is in bed because she's scared of it – but all the big stuff, like bathrooms, is taken care of on a Friday so we can enjoy a pristine house over the weekend (well, until 9pm Friday night, usually – by then the shine has worn off and we usually have bits of Amelie's dinner on the floor again).

Keep an assortment of kid-friendly food in the freezer

I don't exactly feel like Supermummy when I give Amelie frozen veggies and cheese for dinner, but at least she's getting some vegetables into her (and she loves this meal, to be honest).

Unashamedly cook the easy meals

We only do My Food Bag once a fortnight, and the other week we enjoy such delicacies as lazy chicken tacos (lazy because the chicken is frozen tenderloins and we just throw it in the oven with some taco spice mix), dumplings (also from the freezer section) with broccoli and beans, and tomato salad with feta, basil pesto and some sourdough. Would I serve it to guests? Hell no. Is is tasty food that serves its purpose for us, and means we're not cooking all night? You bet it is.

Give yourself lots of different ways to get around

In Auckland at least, if you only ever use a car you're going to spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. We have a car, but we also walk, cycle, bus or train frequently. If the traffic is horrendous (as it often is) and H1 has the car, he often wouldn't make it to pick Amelie up in time – but because we're happy to be flexible and we have other options, this doesn't happen. It's often seen as hard but trust me, for us it's so much easier than dealing with traffic all the time.  

Live closer to where you want or need to be

This is a biggie! Because most people can't just drop everything and move. However, you can move other stuff, like daycare, schools, errands, the gym...do people in every city drive all over the show to get to everyday places, or is this a weird Auckland thing? We get so much more time together because our everyday life things are close together. There are sacrifices of course – our apartment is not exactly a grand sweeping space – but the trade-off is totally worth it. I know it's not possible for everyone, but even moving just one thing – like having your children go to a school that's walkable instead of having to drive them there, or changing your drycleaner to one by the office so you can drop clothes off and pick them up on the way to work – could make such a difference.

Be prepared to drop an errand

This is something I learnt quickly when I was at home with Amelie, and trying to fit life around her nap and feeding schedule! I have a tendency to try to do too much, get overwhelmed and stressed, and end up in tears. Now, I counteract that by expecting there will be one thing too many on my list, and I won't get to do that thing that day. If I get everything done it's a bonus and I feel awesome, and if I don't I've already dealt with that. This also means I always do the most important thing first...never a bad way to live.

 

Do your children eat dinner with you?

Eating an early dinner in Takapuna one evening.

Eating an early dinner in Takapuna one evening.

I was brought up almost always eating dinner with my whole family, and without thinking it through too much I always imagined Amelie would do the same. Right now, however, her bedtime is between 6.30-7pm and by the time we're all home, unpacked and ready for the next day, there usually isn't time to eat together and still get Amelie in bed on time.

Thankfully, this doesn't mean it's always impossible. Occasionally we cook an extra meal over the weekend and have it for dinner on a weeknight; sometimes we have leftovers, and there are always weekends of course. On these nights, H1 and I eat earlier than we'd prefer, but it's worth it to get the time to eat with Amelie. I want her to learn that eating together is the norm, and that it's a lovely way to spend time with people you care about. I also find that she eats a lot better when she's eating with us – she's less likely to play with her food or throw it everywhere, and apparently our meals are consistently more appetising than hers (even when it's the exact same food). It's not unknown that we pretend to take spoonfuls from our own plates to give her so she'll eat it.

I also think it's best for her to eat the same range of foods as we do, and not to restrict types of food from her (as long as it's reasonably healthy). This has resulted in a couple of interesting situations – some tears over chorizo, when she realised she didn't like it as much as she thought she would when she demanded it; olives all down the front in a similar situation – and some surprising ones (like the time she decided she loved the saffron yoghurt in this recipe!) We try to trust her to work out for herself what works and what doesn't for her. This part's not too hard, fortunately – we save a small amount of our dinner so she can eat it the next night; we go out to eat a reasonable amount and ignore the kid's menu; and, of course, we try to get that time to eat together fairly regularly. It's really nice for all of us (in fact, it was one of the things I listed as needing more of in 2018 to keep me happy) and I'm grateful that it works well for us now.

How about you? Do you eat as a family, or do the children eat separately? Are weekends treated differently from weekends? Is it important enough to you that you compromise on things like your preferred dinner time to make it happen, or would you rather wait until your children are older and have a later bedtime?

A few good things

A recurring cold is trying to take me down but I WILL NOT allow it. Except for Friday and Saturday that is, when I spent most of my time cuddled up under a blanket on the sofa, sleeping. I hate being unwell so much but clearly I needed to give in and stop fighting. Napping is very unusual for me, so when I just fall asleep like that something is wrong. There have been some good times though. It's not all doom and gloom. It never is! Hope you've all enjoyed a more successful weekend than I have and have been celebrating a few good things of your own. Happy Monday! 

Felt much better Sunday and escaped to the beach for a walk with my lovely little family. It was gorgeous out! Midwinter sun is such a treat.

Felt much better Sunday and escaped to the beach for a walk with my lovely little family. It was gorgeous out! Midwinter sun is such a treat.

Auckland from on high. Cranes cranes cranes, as far as the eye can see.

Auckland from on high. Cranes cranes cranes, as far as the eye can see.

A bit of contrast – the city from down low. Amelie loved watching this bird from the safety of her makeshift picnic blanket.

A bit of contrast – the city from down low. Amelie loved watching this bird from the safety of her makeshift picnic blanket.

A few good things

It's so nice being home. Holidays are amazing but there's no place like home, is there? Feeling very fortunate these days to have lovely holidays and a lovely home I'm always happy to return to.

We spent the weekend up north, doing some work around the weekend home. It was such a nice weekend! The sun came out (in patches) and so did all the people. Walking around the market on Saturday, bumping into friend after friend, I realised how much I love that little community. Such great people up there. Such great times.

How was your weekend? Tell me a few of your good things!

This little girl is growing up so fast!

This little girl is growing up so fast!

When you see your name in a adorable bookshop in Brooklyn, you take a picture.

When you see your name in a adorable bookshop in Brooklyn, you take a picture.

This kid thinks I'm hilarious (I'll take it).

This kid thinks I'm hilarious (I'll take it).

New York style brunch with friends to celebrate our return.

New York style brunch with friends to celebrate our return.

Schippers beer at Mangawhai market. Tried the Scallywag over the weekend. Insanely good.

Schippers beer at Mangawhai market. Tried the Scallywag over the weekend. Insanely good.

Some stories about mothers after Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day – my first as a mother. Some people say you become a mother when you become pregnant, but that wasn't the case for me. I loved Amelie when I was pregnant with her, but she was an abstract, a concept that I hadn't fully developed. I had no idea what was to come, and how much she would change me. I had no idea how much love I could feel for someone whom I'd only just met.

Amelie helping me open my present on Mother's Day.

Amelie helping me open my present on Mother's Day.

That said, I was scared of losing her from the word go. I've talked before about how long H1 and I had to wait for her, and I couldn't – still can't – believe my luck. Mine was a high-risk pregnancy, but thankfully, overall it was pretty easy and both Amelie and I got through fine. I had amazing medical care, and I used to joke with my care team that I was the lowest-risk high-risk pregnancy there was. I felt cared for at every stage, and I knew that if anything turned out to be wrong with either of us, we would be well looked after.

It seems that's not the case everywhere. This story from ProPublica, about a mother who died after her child's birth, made me cry and is well worth a read (just don't venture into the comment section – people are the worst sometimes). To me, the behaviours exhibited in the story are the same ones that lead to abortion being illegal, because in lawmakers' eyes, an unborn baby is worth more than a woman. They're the same ones that literally blame mothers for climate change if they use formula (I have so many feelings on this, mostly based in rage, but for now, I think it's enough to say that if you're a man who wants to talk about breastfeeding, you need to sit down, shut up and listen to the ones who find it harder to have their say, because they're sitting on the sofa, trapped under a baby who is feeding).

They're the same ones that lead to stupid names for mothers doing things that men do, because – well, I'm not quite sure actually. Is an entrepreneur who also happens to be a mother too threatening? Do we really need to make it less scary by saying mumpreneur? 

They're the same ones that lead to mothers' opinions, feelings, concerns being automatically dismissed, because they're just mothers.

That last one happened to me recently, from a nanny agency no less – a business you'd think would be used to dealing with mothers, and would take their responsibilities seriously. The shock I felt as I listened to a woman on the phone insinuate I was an overwrought mother, and that was where the problem lay, made me feel ill. I don't think I need to tell you that was not where the problem lay – it lay firmly in the lap of a negligent nanny and this woman who rudely told me she didn't believe me, despite the evidence I had. And this happens all the time, to many women the world over, with consequences much more severe than those I've experienced. 

Come on. We need to listen to mothers. 

Some more good thoughts about mothers: