This post is part of a series called “How do you do it?” I asked readers to share how they manage a typical day in their family life. Of course we all know there is really no such thing as a typical day in family life, but this gives us a sneak peak into how others are doing it and hopefully you will find some tips that can help you in your day. You can read other posts in the series by clicking here. Thank you so much to the women who generously shared their stories!
What is your name?
Where do you live?
Tell me a little bit about your family
In a nutshell, I’m a stay at home Mum at the moment and do some volunteer work on a kinder committee. My husband leaves for work at 7am and is home around 7pm, sometimes he also travels for work. We have 3 children all at home (apart from short sessions at kinder/occasional care) and they are fairly close in age: Boy 5, Girl 3.5, Boy 1
Our 5 yo has many wonderful qualities and is what you would describe as a “spirited child”. The other side of this is that put simple he is also hard work. He is constantly pushing the boundaries, and has a few emotional & social immaturities which mean that we are restricted as to what he can cope with, and my week involves behaviour many strategies I use at home to help him, as well as professional therapy sessions. I am grateful that the other two children are very straightforward by comparison and have easy going temperaments.
What do your mornings look like?
Most mornings someone is going to kinder, swimming lessons, or gymabroo by 9ish. The children are still very young and quite dependent on me. So I make their breakfast (they like toast & cut fruit – which is easy), baby still has his bottles, and is spoon fed cereal with puree.
At times we have had trouble with our 5yo sitting up to eat a meal – this might be controversial but we have used screen time to overcome this. He will sit still and eat a proper meal while watching something. This means he can go longer before needing to eat again. Otherwise he’s hungry all the time if only snacking. I’ve tried many other strategies but they didn’t work.
I also dress them. While the 3.5 & 5 yo can mostly dress themselves, I find it takes me so much prompting & reminding etc that it is quicker for now, that I just do it for them. I don’t mind doing this. It only takes me a few minutes and because it is physical contact I often sneak some hugs & kisses in to.
I also add things to lunch / snack boxes that don’t work so well the night before, like sandwiches. Things that last well overnight in the fridge like fruit, cheese etc I prepare the night before. Bags are packed with change of clothes, or hats or whatever else is needed the night before.
The kids also shower in the evenings. In general, I have streamlined mornings as much as possible so that we have a simple routine and the kids are not rushed & I am not stressed to be ready on time. I find this is more enjoyable for me and the kids are happier this way too. If I am stressing or rushing my 5yo picks up on this and he will get on edge too.
What does your after school time look like? (eg 3.30pm – 5.30pm)
Some days there is a kinder pickup around 4pm, other days we might go to the park. Most days I prepare dinner while the baby has his afternoon nap (2-3.30pm). I will make salad at that time, or cut up veg & meat – basically do everything except the cooking. Things like stir-fry I can cook quickly obviously & make sure the rice is put on at the right time…or if its something for the oven that takes longer but then it can just cook in there while baby is up and the kids are starting to need afternoon tea & some attention from me etc.
What does dinner time look like? (eg 5.30pm – 8.00pm)
With such a young family we eat at 5pm. This way it’s not rushed and is a nice family time until showers around 6ish. I give myself heaps of time so if I have underestimated something and we don’t actually end up eating until 5.30 I’m still on track for the rest of the evening routine & bedtime for the kids.
“Start dinner really early” was the best piece of advice given to me before my second child was born, from a mother of 3. That way, she said, you give yourself ages to get everything done and still get them to bed early. In hindsight, this was definitely the best piece of advice I was given in going from more than one child. I used to dinner closer to 6pm & the rest of the evening sometimes felt like a mad rush to get them to bed before they became overtired and uncooperative.
My dinners involve simple family meals that are quick to prepare and everyone enjoys. My daughter has simple taste with food, while 5 yo eats anything, and baby still needs a different meal (this is made as a big batch in advance and frozen in portions – I cook about once every 3wks for him & husband will cook also).
I eat at 5 with the kids. I know many people find this early or the food too “boring” but it works well for us. I am used to eating at that time so that’s when I get hungry and I like the social time with the kids. I only cook one thing that we all eat – I put aside a portion for my husband and he re-heats / eats it much later when home from work. He is happy with this and as he works in the city he can have whatever he fancys for lunch. He also has plenty of work-related meals and functions so he likes simple healthy food as a change.
We keep dinner fairly light and afternoon tea at 3ish for the kids is like another meal. Its a big healthy afternoon tea and I find they need something substantial then to give them energy to be happy through the afternoon. This means dinner is a smallish meal. (So we do 4 “meals” a day, and a small snack at morning tea).
Because me & my husband don’t eat dinner together we enjoy drinks/snacks later in the evening when the kids are asleep. We’ll hang out then & chat then over a coffee (decaf!) or wine. With my husband’s work hours this is what is most practical for us at the moment. One day when the kids are older and we can eat later we hope to sit down as a family.
We do a takeaway once a week, plus my husband cooks once or twice on the weekend. We always have leftovers from the weekend on Monday night. This gives me a break from the monotony of cooking. I will also cook for two nights if it’s the kind of meal that you can. Eg. Make bolognese sauce for two nights but cook the pasta fresh on the day. Make a curry/stew or stir fry for two night & just cook the rice or noodles fresh again on the second night. I love a free afternoon to do something fun & have a break from cooking!
What does the kids’ bedtime process look like?
At the moment, I can shower my 3 kids together (it is a big shower). They really enjoy this. Our baby is almost one, but is very happy crawling about the mats on the shower floor while the older two wash themselves. I wash the baby in the shower like that. It’s so quick and easy like this, but I realise not all babies would be happy with the water getting on their face etc. Given he is our third, I think it’s mostly because he wants to be doing what the older ones are! I have a basket of plastic toys in the shower – the plastic tea set and the mobilo have been the most played with toys in the shower.
After this I have some one-on-one time with each child. Baby has a bottle then bed 6.45pm. Then 3 yo does teeth etc and has some books with me – in bed soon after 7pm. Then either me or husband does books etc with 5 yo. Whoever isn’t putting the 5yo to bed, cleans the kitchen. So by 7.30pm they are all in bed & we have some time.
What happens once the kids go to bed? (eg 8.00pm – 10.30pm)
Weekday evenings vary between having some time together, watching something together, going out with friends independently, talking on the phone, reading for work, meetings or kinder committee work, exercise, catching up on chores that couldn’t be done during the day, exercising and other hobbies.
Do you do any preparation for the week on weekends and if so what?
On the weekend I plan meals for the week and order all the groceries online. Even though I realise we probably pay a bit more and don’t always have the option to get some rarer food items, the convenience of online shopping has made such a huge impact to minimising the time and effort spent shopping. This has freed up a lot of time during the week. We buy meat from the butcher on weekends that can be stored in the freezer if needed, plus other things like gourmet bread that I can’t easily get online from a supermarket.
I order chemist products online, clothing for the kids, books, toys, as much as I can I shop online. Many sites have free or cheap delivery and short waiting times.
Anything else you would like to share?
I love the quote “the days are long but the years are short”. We all have tough days with young kids – when this happens I try to remind myself of what a short and precious time this will seem in hindsight when they are all grown up.
I make sure to look after my health and give myself a break and a pat on the back that I’m doing a good job. I’m someone with high expectations of myself so this doesn’t always come naturally. But the happier, calmer and more refreshed I am the easier it all seems and the more cheerful I am with the kids which all rubs off on them.
I do have a child who is particularly hard work and I find the more accepting I am of this (rather than wishing it were easier) the better I cope. Luckily he has many redeeming qualities which I remind myself of if we have a bad day. I have found that my mindset is crucial to how well the whole family runs so I do put some regular effort into making sure I have a good attitude towards the challenges that come up. Your blog has helped me with this – thanks again!
I love that Anna makes looking after herself a priority, I truly believe that to be able to look after our families the best we can, it starts with looking after ourselves.
I still remember our 5/5.30pm dinners! They too were a cornerstone of a calm evening for me for many years with little ones and is still advice I share to new parents. As the kids are older now our dinner time has moved later, but there are still nights when the younger ones are tired and I feed them earlier so they can get to bed earlier.