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?
Sydney, New South Wales
Tell me a little bit about your family
I’m wife to a gorgeous man who works in finance and mum to three primary schoolers – Max (11), Arabella (10) and Lottie (7). They are all curious kids who together take part in at least 7 more extra-curricular activities than I can actually manage. In any given week we do parkour, scouts, cubs, jazz, hip hop, junior wildlife rangers, Little Athletics, band, clarinet lessons, reading tuition, basketball, netball, art club and swimming. OMG!
I’m also the editor of Mumtastic Australia – a full time job that I absolutely love. Each day I work with super-talented writers, photographers and designers who inspire me and challenge me to work hard and share my passion for helping others feel happy and supported. I also blog about my passion for parenting, creativity and kindness at Maxabella Loves.
Oh and I work almost 90% of the time from home. How else could it possibly work!?
What do your mornings look like?
My husband gets up at the crack of dawn to get some time to himself to exercise and be still (he’s trying to get me into the Headspace app, but I don’t have the headspace for it). He gets the kids up at about 7.00 am and generally gets the girls their breakfast. They are really fussy breakfast eaters and generally have leftovers from the night before (pasta, rice, sausages, you name it!). I usually stay in bed and check my work emails until Bart heads off to work around 7:30 am.
Max gets his own Weet-Bix or porridge for breakfast. I make a huge batch of porridge on Sunday mornings and reheat it throughout the week. It’s not as lovely as when you first make it, but it still does the job nicely! I store it in one of those massive bulk olive jars in fridge all week. Nobody has died yet.
The kids and I eat breakfast around the table, but on Fridays, when it’s a longed-for screen day, I let them eat brekkie in front of the TV and I read a magazine while I eat mine. I quite like Fridays.
The kids get themselves ready for school and the quicker they do it (dressed, bag packed, teeth brushed, face washed, hair done), the more time they have outside to play with the rope swing, trampoline, guinea pigs, chickens, etc. They are pretty quick.
I make lunch boxes the night before and store them in the fridge. We recently started using Yumbox lunch boxes and it’s made it kinda fun to put lunch together (I can’t believe I just said that!). I resisted getting the boxes for ages as they are SO expensive, but it has been worth every penny.
I get myself ready at the same time as the kids do. On a typical day, after a play outside I drop the kids off at about 8:45 am, but if I need to go into the office in the city I will drop them at Max’s best friend’s house at about 8:15 am and Joanna walks them all to school. I usually go into the city once or twice a fortnight. Not too bad.
On a typical day, after drop off I come home and do a quick tidy up and get things ready for afternoon tea and tomorrow’s lunch boxes. I chop up some vegie sticks and make a quick dip. Or prepare a fruit platter with some cracker and cheese. Or I’ll get the raisin toast bread out of the freezer. Or whizz up some bliss balls. Or I’ll get muffins or scones or crackers or a cake or a slice into the oven most days. Really, the whole thing takes less than 15 minutes and that includes a tidy up.
Then my work day begins.
What does your after school time look like? (eg 3.30pm – 5.30pm)
It varies depending on what day of the week it is and who is going to what activity. One thing is a constant – I always make sure we sit down for a proper afternoon tea and a catch up. It’s a really important time of the day for us. It’s generally the first time I’ve taken a work break all day and the kids are bubbling with news from their own day at school. It’s a really special time for us.
I stop work at 3pm to collect the kids from school and generally start work again at 4.00 pm once they are settled where they need to go, or amusing themselves at home. I rely on the kindness of many good friends to get the kids to their after-school activites each day while I keep working.
When we are home, I take my computer outside onto the verandah or up by the pool so I can keep an eye on the kids playing outside. We often do homework at this point – with me working away alongside the kids.
What does dinner time look like? (eg 5.30pm – 8.00pm)
I finish work (for the second time) and start the dinner preps at about 6 pm, but it depends on what we are having. Some things are quick, others take longer. Generally I’ll meal plan for the week around what’s happening on what day of the week. So Mondays when the girls have hip hop from 4 – 5 pm and then Arabella has cubs from 7 – 8.30 pm, we will have something simple like spaghetti bolognaise (where I will make the sauce first thing in the morning and keep it in the fridge to be reheated) or fried rice (ditto) or fish/ sausages/ chicken and vegies.
Tuesdays is the only ‘free’ day we have when we are all home in the afternoon together and there are no later activities I like to make something a little more special on Tuesdays – tacos, tomates farcies, katsudon, baked fish, lentil cottage pie… I like making a variety of things because cooking the same-old, same-old is a bit boring.
I religiously make the school lunches at the same time that I make dinner.
The kids have their baths from 6 pm. Lottie likes a shower, which I run for her, but otherwise they get themselves clean and fresh without my assistance. Result! You definitely start to realise how much easier it is to do other things at home once the kids are older… there is no way I could have done ANYTHING in the evenings except the kids dinner /bath /bed only a few short years ago.
We eat dinner at the table when Bart gets home from work at around 6.30 pm. If he is going to be any later than 7 we start without him. We eat earlier on Mondays and Fridays to accommodate cubs and scouts. On Thursdays Lottie eats dinner with her best friend’s family, but she generally fronts up for a second dinner when she gets home at 6.30 pm. She’s like a night-owl hobbit.
After dinner Bart and the kids clean up the kitchen, sweep the floors and empty the bins while I go for a lovely walk or bike ride and count my blessings.
What does the kids’ bedtime process look like?
The girls go to bed at 8 pm and Max goes in at 8.30 pm. We are a mostly screen-free family from Sunday through Thursday, so before bed the kids relax with a book or dancing or whatever it is that kids do. Sometimes we have a board game or go for a walk. A few evenings a week they will do some Cosmic Kids Yoga which they all love (and I do too!); like I said, we are ‘mostly’ a scree free family!
My kids have never been very good sleepers but they have improved enormously as they have become older. Phew. These days they generally go into bed fairly easily and we’ve always had a very strict routine. They have 5 minutes of meditation once they are in bed – I talk them through it, or we use the beautiful Smiling Mind app. This helps them wind down for sleep.
What happens once the kids go to bed? (eg 8.00pm – 10.30pm)
That said, I generally go back to work for an hour or two (sometimes more) while Bart watches some tele or reads or goes out. Sometimes it’s me who is watching TV, reading and going out. We try not to schedule too much in during the week as being together is our favourite thing in the world.
Mostly we don’t hear from the kids once they’ve finally gone to sleep, but a couple of times a week there will be a drama of some kind. One is scared, anxious, can’t sleep, needs water, needs the toilet, needs to be annoying. You know how it is.
Do you do any preparation for the week on weekends and if so what?
I meal plan at some point on the weekend, using online shopping with a Monday delivery for supermarket items. (I go to the market and butcher for meat, vegies and fruit usually on Fridays.) I try to do the supermarket delivery once a month and the fresh foods weekly. Bart picks up milk and random items from Woolies on his way home when we need them. Meal planning lets me shop like this.
The weekends are also the time for me to check that we are on track for the week ahead – school notes, calendars, pick ups, etc.
And, of course, I make my beloved porridge on Sunday mornings.
Anything else you would like to share?
For a long time I tried to achieve that elusive ‘work-life balance’ we hear so much about, but I reckon it’s impossible when ‘work’ is work but ‘life’ means my family. I will always, always tip the scales in their favour. For me, it’s really all about work-life rhythm – getting the job done beautifully, but in an organic way that suits me and the work. The whole concept of strict working hours is foreign to me now and I wish there were more people who could say that too.
The thing is, you have to ask for it – since having the kids, I’ve always had ‘flexible’ hours, but you won’t find a job advertised as such. I had to apply for the standard job first and state my case to get the hours and flexibility I need. Back this up with some concrete evidence of your commitment, conscientiousness, diligence and talent. Then deliver.
Above all else, make sure that you don’t over commit. We are far less social these days than we used to be – than perhaps we want to be – but that’s the sacrifice we make in order for the kids to have such a busy week. Weekends are our free-flowing down time when not much is planned and the most we will do is dinner with friends. Being together, doing not much at all, is my favourite part of the week.
For me there is so much to love about Maxabella sharing her day in detail like this and all the fabulous links she provides (definitely check them out!). These posts continually show me, that they typical day for every family will differ and finding what works for you and your family is so important. Like Maxabella as a family we often have pretty quiet weekends to allow everyone, me included to catch our breath and rest.
Do you work full time from home? How do you manage it?
Maxabella is the Managing Editor of Mumtastic Australia and blogs at Maxabella Loves. She makes creativity, curiosity and courage her priorities and she loves her three kids and her husband with the force of 1000 burning suns. Everything else is gravy. Be sure to check out her facebook page to as she has a great eye and shares useful stuff. [Image credit: Luisa Brimble]