This week has been a long week, baby P has been poorly, some important deadlines have needed to be met at work and I’m not ticking much off my preparations Christmas to do list. In my last post I wrote about how I was smashing it as a single mum and then also thought about what is it that’s helping me manage?
Well this week emphasised it, having a tough week means you have to call upon your reserves and are extra reliant on you’re tried and tested coping mechanisms and strategies. So what do I do to cope, well here’s a mix of my practical and emotional tactics (some are a bit of both!!).
A good cuppa.
I love tea, a good brew fixes everything! I’m a coffee fiend too and one of the nest purchases I have ever made is my tassimo. So to ensure that as a busy working mum I always get to have a hot cuppa is my investment in flasks and travel mugs! My brother bought me a couple of years ago a flask that has a built in caddy and strainer for loose leaf tea, it’s bloody brilliant and I regularly treat myself to a “posh” brew by utilising it. With it being a flask it ensures it stays warm whilst I’m on the go or at home running around after toddler P.
My sister in law also bought me a travel mug when baby P was a newborn and it was a god send! Kept a cuppa warm whilst going through the cluster feeding growth spurts and also meant that there wasn’t a spill risk either!
I now use my travel mugs every day to take a hot cuppa with me on the way to work and on the way home, also meaning that I utilise the good old in car cup holders. It’s something so small but when rushing to get to and from childcare and work it ensures that I don’t ever end the working day with that horrible “not managed to even have a drink all day” feeling.
On the emotional front, I also use the come around or can I pop in for a brew as a coping mechanism. As a single mum I could easily spend my life just working and being around little miss P. I make a conscious effort to catch up with people even if just for a brew. I’ve stated before that I’m lucky to have a good support network and I’m not afraid to use it, I regularly text and ring friends for a catch up even if only for a quick cuppa. It means I get human/adult contact and convo even if only for a few minutes which is important, it gives me a space and freedom to laugh, cry and vent about teething, nappies, photocopier issues, forgotten homework’s, red pen marking dilemmas and whether or not Harry should win I’m a celebrity. It means I’m more than a mum and a teacher, it makes me, well me!
Cook up a storm!
I love cooking and baking, I find it therapeutic and fun and if I’m honest up until recently it was something that fell by the wayside without me even realising. Ironically since leaving my husband and going back to work after mat leave, I’ve ended up cooking and baking more! You’d think I’d have struggled to juggle work a baby and cooking homemade meals from scratch but actually it’s been a doddle.
Partly because I plan it carefully, my time management is better than it’s ever been. But more so because I batch cook. I cant always come home and cook a meal from scratch, I don’t have the time and more importantly I want to savour my time with my girl. So I batch cook, I use my weekends and days off to cook and bake and make a large amount then portion it up into Tupperware boxes (ones that haven’t been stolen by toddler P for her toy box 🤦♀️) and then freeze them. Meaning I can get in from a busy day and ping something in the microwave and still have some yummy home cooked healthy food for me and my madam.
I’m also a fan of Joe Wick’s #leanin15 recipes and use them as quick healthy home cooked fix for dinner.
I’ve even taken to baking my own bread in bulk and freezing the loaves-it’s cheaper and tastier than shop bought! Baby P joins in with me too, she has a ply tent in the kitchen and either plays and dances along to the radio around me or sits in her high chair next to me messing with child friendly ingredients and her plastic spoons and bowls as though she’s cooking too. It’s a fun joint activity we do together and one that hopefully she’ll continue to enjoy and join in with as she gets older.
Like I said it’s also therapeutic, I can relieve stress throwing around some bread dough. I can sing along to the radio, encouraging baby P to practising her Peter pointer dance moves (inside joke for those that know me). I can forget about the challenges of my working day or toddler temper tantrum my daughter had when I wouldn’t let her play with the remote control and enjoy rustling up something yummy and filling my kitchen with scrumptious aromas. I can also enjoy devouring the fruits of my labour!
Dance dance dance…
Dancing is another of my therapies and addictions! Being a mum means I don’t always get to go dancing as often as I like nor do I always get to go to the gym for a workout. Recently I’ve not been as in shape as I’d have liked and I’ve found it hard to find the time to go for a run, pre P I could just stick my trainers on and go, now it takes planning, a willing baby sitter whose free time coincides with mine. So I’ve now taken to Zumba, dance workout and insanity DVDs or episodes on Netflix and Amazon.
The best thing is little missy jumps around the room next to me giggling away. It’s become another activity we can do together, it’s fun and it means I’m still getting quality time with her whilst getting the exercise, burning the calories and releasing the endorphins I need! She also challenges and pushed me further by clambering on top of me as I complete my ab crunches or tricep dips…talk about resistance training!!
Lists of lists!
Since becoming a teacher I’ve always made lists to help keep myself organised but I’ve now taken it a step further. I not only list things I need to do but I make down in my diary when they need doing by. This helps me wake up knowing what I’m going to do when during the day, I know it seems a bit over the top but it just makes things that bit easier and run smoother. It prevents me forgetting things (I say prevents because I am human after all, it still happens!) and just helps me organise me and P. It means I can more quickly pack our bags and know what we need and when and where we need to be.
That said, I don’t want my life to be too regimented and I try not to stick to rigidly to things. Yes have the routine, lists and itinerary there but hey, spontaneity is the spice of life and I think I’d go mad if I didn’t step out of the norm every once in awhile! I just need clear planning and organisation to take the stress out of things, for example my chalkboard in the kitchen is filled in every Sunday with what evening meals we are having the rest of the week. This means I don’t have to route through the freezer every morning and suss out what I have or haven’t got in and what I can rustle up. I just reach for what’s been written on the board for that day. It means I have time for the fun things in the life and can focus my energies on me, baby P, my job and enjoying life.
Subscribe and save!
Amazon subscribe and save is amazing! To save me time and money I have signed up for a lot of my household things to be delivered on a regular basis. I have nappies, wipes, toilet roll, cleaning products and toiletries delivered to my door in bulk as often as require. It not only saves me money but prevents those annoy nuisances like running out of toothpaste first thing on a frosty Monday morning because I’ve also an extra tube in the cupboard! It saves on those quick “nip to the shop moments” because let’s face it you can’t nip anywhere with a toddler in tow. What once would be a ten minute trip to the local shop becomes an hour long excursion.
Buying in bulk saves a fortune too! My two local farm shops do some fantastic deals on fresh meat and I therefore buy in bulk and stock up my freezer, separating out the packets into smaller portions or saving them for my next batch cooking session. Saving myself time and money.
Take a time out.
I also have found it’s ok to take a time out and not do anything if necessary. It’s easy to feel as a single mum that you have to be on top of everything all of the time and constantly on the go. As I type I’m sat mid Saturday afternoon still in my pjs with a little lady snuggled up napping next to me on the sofa. I could’ve put her down in her cot and got some jobs done but actually I wanted the snuggle and the rest myself. It’s been a long tough week and she’s not been very well so some mummy daughter cuddle time is just what we both need. I’m catching up on Corrie and my other soap guilty pleasure tv shows and just taking some time to look after myself.
And that’s what is key, taking some time out for self care. Whether it’s painting my toe nails, watching a trashy tv show, writing a blog post or having a bubble bath and early night. I need to make sure I take some time to leave the dirty dishes until tomorrow and just give myself a rest and time out. Most importantly I need to not feel guilty for doing so, as long as me and little P are fed, watered, clean and living in a clean and (relatively) tidy house then all is ok!
I’m a fan of Pinterest and take advantage of any toddler hacks out there. One of my best purchases was a bowl with a silicone lid that has flaps cut into it. This means I can stick snacks in the bowl for baby P to easily access without tipping them everywhere and making a mess. This keeps a hungry baby happy next to me on a morning whilst I dry my hair and put my face on!
Another is a plastic table cloth laid out on the floor under her high chair or under her for when eating or doing messy play and painting. I don’t need to hoover and clean the whole floor, I can shake the table cloth out and due to its plastic coating give it a quick wipe down ready for the next meal time or play session, saving my floors and me time!
A toy clean set was also a good purchase (I’ve a feeling Santa will be bringing a matching toy dyson too) as when I’m cleaning little lady feels like she can copy and join in. Although sometimes she ends up stealing the real brush whilst I break my back bending over using her short toy one but the intention is there!
I think the main points I’m probably making are that multi tasking and organisation are the key. We run like a well oiled ship because I plan for us to be one. But I’m also not afraid to ask for help if I need it, however my top tip of be specific with what you need when you ask for it. Lots of my friends say they are there to help if I need it but they need to know what I need help with and often it’s simple logistical things like, “I’m out of milk, on your way over will you call in and grab a pint and I’ll pay you when you’re here” or “will you just keep an eye on little P for 5mins whilst I nip into the loft and get the Christmas decs down” these may seem like little things but these little things can make the life of a single mum twenty time easier! These are the 2 minute tasks that take ten times as long with a toddler in tow.
What are your time saving tips for working mums? I’m always happy to hear them!