Parenting takes time, patience, money, imagination, brain power, creativity, strength, listening skills, leadership, energy and…the job description is endless! But these products and practices from experts, including parents like you, can help you stay organized and get it all done. Whew!
Manage the morning rush
Create a staging area, a.k.a. a “command center,” preferably near the door you exit from the most at home, so you can grab things in an instant, such as your purse, car keys, your cell phone and diaper bag. Speaking of which, “restock your diaper bag at nap time or before going to bed so you always have a packed diaper bag ready to go,” says Miss Megan, owner and founder of EmpowerMe NYC, The Miss Megan Effect and Mantra Sleep Solutions. Being organized is a habit that just takes a minute.
Bundle up first. When it’s chilly out, put on your coat yourself first, then your baby to make getting out the door smoother. “As an adult, we can be a little hot for a minute. But babies will quickly overheat and start screaming because they’re uncomfortable,” Miss Megan says.
Do what you can the night before. Fill out daycare permission slips, prepare bottles and pack diapers and extra clothes. Check the weather forecast and set out your and baby’s next day’s outfits, too. You can also pack snacks, make your child’s lunch and set the table for dinner. (Overboard? Okay, yeah, maybe.)
Also, set the stage for events that don’t happen every day. If you’re going to yoga during your lunch hour, for example, put your yoga mat in the car the night before too. That’s when you have more time to think things through, to give yourself an AM advantage.
Get kids into the car faster. Coax toddlers and preschoolers to the car quicker by keeping a stash of designated toys in the car. Don’t let them play with them until they’re safely in their seat. Or, challenge your child by saying, “I bet you can’t get into the car seat before I count to 10.” This will inspire your child to disprove you, says Virginia Shiller, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Rewards for Kids! “My 3-year-old thinks it’s a race and rushes to get in her seat before I reach 10,” says his mom, Joanna Deller.
Music can also motivate. “My 2 ½ year old son, Alex, loves listening to the Beatles in the car, so as we’re trying to get into the car, I’ll ask, ‘What Beatles song do you want to listen to?’ That gets him moving,” says Hallie Fisher, a mom of one. “I also wait to give Alex his daily chocolate milk until he’s in his car seat. He’s pretty efficient about getting out of the house because he knows the only time he gets chocolate milk is in the morning,” Fisher says.
Make daycare drop-off easier. The key is to establish a morning routine and stick to it (for example, wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, have a short playtime together, and leave the house). Structured routines give kids a sense of control. When they know what’s coming next, they’re less likely to procrastinate or become anxious about going to daycare or school.
Also, be on time. Going into daycare or preschool late causes drama that can upset kids. Keep your departure short and sweet. Say goodbye calmly, tell your child when you’ll be back to pick him up (such as after lunch or his nap). And make sure you’re there on time for pick-up as promised.
Make diapering more doable
Create a mobile changing basket. Even if you have a designated changing table in the nursery, a basket of about 10 diapers, wipes and diaper cream and a couple of toys, gives you the option of changing your baby anywhere in the house, including on a towel on the floor.
De-squirm the changing station. “Put a few pictures on the wall by the changing area to give your baby something to look at for distraction at changing time,” Miss Megan says. Or, use a sight and sound projector to project images onto the wall. Just don’t use the projector at bedtime. “It’s counterproductive; it may quiet your baby down, but it will keep him up longer,” Miss Megan says.
Keep disposable changing pads handy. Put a disposable changing pad down before laying your baby down for a diaper change. “If your baby pees or poops on the changing pad, just toss the pad that’s on top of it, instead of having to wipe down the whole thing,” Miss Megan says. She recommends Munchkin Waterproof Changing Pad Liners or OBloved Baby Changing Pads.
Trip tip: A disposable pad is great to put under your baby in a car seat for long rides in case diapers leak through. “It saves the car seat from needing a bath,” Miss Megan says.
Get organized and save your sanity
Stop digging through your diaper bag. To find important items faster (baby wipes, pacifier, clothes, nail clipper, diaper rash ointment, snacks and toys), compartmentalize your diaper bag by placing similar items in small zip up pouches. Miss Megan recommends Baby Diaper Bag Organizer, which is a five piece color-coded mesh bag set, including a wetbag. “The bags fit any diaper bag!” she says.
If your diaper bag already has compartments, use the pouches to compartmentalize your compartments. A diaper bag can never be too organized. If your diaper bag has a side pocket, designate that area as a home for sippy cup or bottle. Then, get into the habit of putting items away—in their designated compartment–right after using them.
Pacifiers—buy 20, so you always have a lot. To avoid dealing with a dropped paci, get a pacifier tether that clips to your child’s clothes, too. But take it off at nap time and at night (radar: choking, strangulation hazard during sleep).
Buy slip-on or Velcro shoes. Avoid the hassle and hold off on shoes with laces until your child is 4 or 5. And keep in mind that babies can go shoeless until they start walking. “Being barefoot is good for their feet,” Miss Megan says.
Take smart short-cuts
Skip the onesie! Anything that goes over a baby’s head is a struggle to change. “Having a zip up or snap-on pajama is more than sufficient,” Miss Megan says. She likes KicKee Pants Footie with Zipper. Tip: “Always look for jammies you can cover the hands to keep babies from sucking their thumb at night!” Miss Megan says. It’s so much easier to prevent bad habits than to stop them. All KicKee pants jammies have foldover mitts.
“Clean” the house in 15 minutes. When you’ve only got minutes to spruce up the house before a last-minute playdate or company, spritz the kitchen counters with cleaning solution and light a scented candle, says Justine Walsh, coauthor of Nanny Wisdom. “Spotless counters instantly make the house look neat and the candle will give it homey smell.” She also suggests using baskets or boxes to organize toys, magazines, and books for quick cleanups. Get the kiddos involved too. “See how many toys and things they can pick up in five minutes,” says Amy Olson, a spokesperson for The Maids Home Services.
Make meals multitask. Get in the habit of doubling recipes and freezing the second half for another meal. To make a double batch of lasagna may take an additional 10 minutes (because you have to assemble two pans worth), but it can save an hour or more the day you serve it because all you have to do is heat it up. And, put an Instapot on your baby registry. Cooking at home is a big money saver, compared to take-out or eating out–and it’s healthier too, because you control the ingredients.
“At the end of the day, do your best to savor these fleeting moments with your baby or tot and revel in their learning process,” Miss Megan says. After all, life is your baby’s school and work. And, if you need support, reach out to your support system, including Miss Megan. “I’m here for you!” she says.
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Copyright Sandra Gordon Writing Resources LLC