How I Stay Productive (And Sane) As A Stay-At-Home Parent

Being productive when you’re a stay-at-home parent is, at best, bloody hard work. At worst, you’ll drive yourself downright demented. I’ve been both sides of the spectrum, and everywhere in between, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned along the way.

Now I don’t want you to think that I’ve completely overcome this problem. I have good days and bad. More of the latter, if I’m honest. I know how hard it can be, and if something herein helps a stay-at-home parent increase their productivity by even 1%, or at least makes their day go a fraction smoother, I’ll consider that a win. But if all you manage to do some days is run a brush through your hair, know that I don’t always even manage that much so, on those days, I salute you for being a damn hero!

The trick is to realise that, basically, you’re not going to get anything done while the kid’s awake. Let it go. I drove myself mad trying to accomplish as much as possible while Scout was up and about, but it only led to frustration and feelings of utter defeat and despair. It also left me so worn out mentally that, by the time she went to bed and I finally had some time to myself, I wasted it on mindless activities because, frankly, I needed the stress release.

Facebook. Productivity killer.

“I’ll just check Facebook really quickly,” she said… two hours ago.

Cue endless guilt trips and promises that tomorrow would be much more productive. So I’d pile more work on top of myself and, inevitably, end up even more miserable.

Now I let go as much as possible. I try to remember that, during her waking hours, my time, energy, effort, and focus will all be geared towards her. If I manage to achieve anything at all, I consider it a small step towards retaining my sanity. But, for the most part, achieving nothing (apart from keeping a child alive, like) is the norm and learning to accept that is the giant leap for parent-kind.

{ And just to illustrate my point, in the middle of writing this, my daughter began throwing up and we had to bring her to the hospital with a touch of viral gastroenteritis. Thanks for that, universe. }

Having said that, there are some techniques I’ve learned to ensure I don’t go to bed feeling like a total waste of space. Basically, I divide my day into two distinct parts — BB and AB (before and after Scout’s bedtime). The things I can accomplish during those two parts are very different. I can’t, for example, get any writing done BB because it requires focus. Ditto reading, deep cleaning, planning, or basically anything that requires my attention for more than a minute or two at a time. So I’ve tried to amass a list of tasks I can get done while having a toddler hanging off me.

Here’s a list of tasks a stay-at-home parent might hope to achieve:

  • laundry (Scout loves shoving clothes into the machine);
  • filling and emptying the dishwasher (again, she loves helping with this);
  • sweeping the floors;
  • sending quick emails;
  • grocery shopping (she likes sitting in the trolley);
  • quick errands (like posting a letter, or making a quick lodgement in the bank);
  • chopping vegetables;
  • washing fruit;
  • watering plants.

The rest of the time should be spent resigned to the fact that you won’t get anything else done until AB.

If you have kids, you should definitely try this. Write out a list of tasks you can accomplish ‘with child’ (it’s perfectly normal for this list to be short) and then divide your day as I have done. Put two or three of these tasks into the BB section, and then one or two “regular” tasks in to the AB section.

Never spend your ‘alone’ time doing something that can be done ‘with child’. Even if you didn’t manage to get it done before your kid went to bed, just bump it to the next day and focus on your other tasks. ‘After bed’ tasks are those that can rarely be done (or, at least, done well) with kids around, so don’t let ‘before bed’ tasks eat into this precious time.

And remember that rest and relaxation are more important than clean floors and sparkling sinks. Give yourself a break. Forget those women you hear about who have spotless homes, mannerly children, doting husbands, and who bake pies in their Cath Kidston aprons using Martha Stewart recipes. Those women rarely exist and, when they do, remind yourself that they’re pill-popping bitches on a slippery slope to the asylum.

Your choice is perfection or sanity

I used to choose the former but, when the latter started to suffer, I had a quick re-think.

A house, no matter how untidy, can always be cleaned, but a childhood can never be re-lived. Stay-at-home parent

Live, laugh, and let go.

(But maybe try squeeze some laundry in there too. 😉 )


Do you have any tips you could share on how to be productive when you have children?





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