Avoiding Burnout // A Wish List

>> Saturday, August 3, 2019

As we prepare for the long days of school + XC season + a coaching course Stephen has to take, I've been brainstorming things that would make my life easier. I should also mention that I'm looking to double my own freelancing workload. Some of these things are what I'd consider reasonable wishes. Other things -- or things in combination -- seem like "wouldn't THAT be nice???" But I thought it might be a helpful exercise to share for those of you who feel desperate and can't seem to find a way out.

After years of struggling and suffering/powering through busy/tough times, I've decided that the only way to help my situation when I'm feeling completely over-stretched is to be proactive. I may not get all the things I list here . . . but just saying them out loud helps to acknowledge areas where things are tough. Does this make sense?

(I miss the beginning of summer so much right now!)


More childcare 


Or, I suppose just childcare . . . period. We have never had a babysitter who isn't family. And we don't have family where we live. So, we get dates once every one or two months. Dates are fun and all, but having some semi-regular childcare can also be helpful just in the day-to-day when Stephen is gone so much. I may need that time for work or just for my own sanity.

I don't know how babysitting would look . . . how many hours . . if it would be all or only a couple kids . . . or what. But I'm listing this first and foremost because I've been a parent for 8 years -- a work-from-home mom who, at times, was working nearly 30 hours a week -- without regular or semi-regular babysitting.

Some steps toward this: Eloise will be in preschool W-F from 9-11:30. It's a start. And we did just join our local YMCA for $70 a month. They have childcare hours that I'm hoping to take advantage of if my kids can get used to going.

Help with the house


I love cleaning and organizing. I can get into a good rhythm, too. But now that Eden is mobile and Eloise is in the drawing-on-the-walls, pooping-in-her-underwear, generally making ALL the messes stage, it gets over my head. Especially when I'm home alone for six days a week.

I had inquired about cleaning services a year or so ago and, at the time, they were recommending weekly cleaning. It was too much for our budget. I think twice a month might be better for how much we can spend. So, I'm going to revisit this.

More dedicated work hours


Like I said, I've worked from home freelance writing for eight years now. I've done it without dedicated work time. Without scheduling work hours. I don't know how I've managed. I relied on early mornings and naps mostly. With Ada, it was pretty easy. With adding Eloise, it got much harder but was OK because Ada was in school. Now with Eden, it's nearly impossible.

I've figured out generally how many hours of work time I need each week. I have decided I need to leave the house for at least half of these hours.

More food money


We had always prided ourselves on a super low grocery budget. Like $75 to $100 when it was just the three of us. I also was able to make pretty much everything from scratch because I honestly love cooking and enjoy spending hours toiling in the kitchen. These days, despite my love of food and making food . . . I just CAN'T take the time to assemble all our snack foods from scratch. I know many parents do it -- and some of you have shared how you still do it with several kids -- but I find it impossible with everything else on my plate.

But not making all our own food means buying more convenience foods. I also try to get more fruits and veggies to hand out. It all adds up, somewhat significantly . . . even at Aldi! So, I'm looking to increase our food budget to more like $175 a week, which would include getting, gasp, occasional takeout.

A schedule


I always just wing it with the kids. We have a few activities, but the rest of the time is unstructured. I think I'm going to experiment making a loose schedule -- even if that means that I'm putting things like "play time" or "dinner time" on a schedule. Without structure, I feel aimless and helpless. I may try making each day a theme. Like Monday Moves (do something active -- like going to the park), Tuesday Treats (like baking something with the girls), etc.

Saturday is the hardest, so I may try planning things out in advance (trip to go apple picking, play-dates, certain fall events, etc.) that we'll do each week. Even just writing about the possibility of a schedule makes me feel more empowered.

More me time


I tend to take very little time to myself when our busy seasons gear up. As an introvert, this is VERY bad and leads to mega-burnout. I'm not trying to paint myself as a special snowflake, but constantly being with my kids with no breaks is very hard for me. So, I need to definitely find a way to carve out alone time, even when I don't necessarily have it. That could mean asking Ada to watch over the girls so I can take a brief shower. Or getting in a yoga/breathing session when my kids nap versus working. Or spending time with friends who actually fill up my cup versus empty it (I'm sort of a social introvert. I have certain friends who don't deplete me).


********************

So, this is my wish list. A lot of it takes extra money, which is always hard. But having these ideas out there may help me come up with ways to make it a reality.

Is there anything you would add to this list? 
Do you share any of my wishes?

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Some Thoughts on Life With Three Kids

>> Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I recently asked you guys what you wanted to read about if I ever got the chance to sit down and write. Resoundingly, many of you asked what life is like with three kids. Or -- if you already have three kids -- what our daily schedule is like. Basically, a good number of you want to know what life am I living right now with children who are ages 7.5, 3, and 9 months.



This is way too much to cover in just one post, so today I thought I'd focus on how I don't have myself together. Like, at all. A few of you asked for tips and tricks on how to make life easier or more organized with three. I don't have those answers, and I wish I did. A few months ago, I was able to clean my entire house to the point of it being magazine-worthy. Today, it's a mess. I'm a mess!

Here's what I've come to realize: We all only have so much energy. Only so much time. And we have a gazillion priorities and things that NEED to be done today. If not YESTERDAY. It goes without saying that we cannot do it all, right? In summer, my husband is home from teaching and I feel like we get less done than ever. Our days right now have some semblance of structure . . . but, overall, we're going nowhere and getting very little done.

It drives me insane.

That isn't to say that having time to rest and free ourselves from the hectic pace of life isn't good and worth dwelling in. I'm talented at saying no and freeing up our schedule if I feel like we're doing too much. But there's the great void that you can fall into if you're not careful. I'm a person who thrives on routine. Working from home the last eight years has made it difficult for me to feel a sense of accomplishment. The days all run into the next days. It's maddening at times.

Throwing three kids into the mix of this can make me feel like a failure of a mom. Sure, I'm taking care of basic needs. Sometimes just keeping the kids alive is enough to give myself a big pat on the back. Other times, I feel I fall short in addressing their more complicated needs. Or in just providing opportunities for them to grow and expand their horizons. I'm a big believer in letting kids be bored and not providing tons of planned out activities. However, sometimes I feel like I just use that sentiment as an excuse to be lazy.

I'm at a point of introspection right now. It happens every summer. I take stock of what's going on and I think of ways to improve. Sometimes things stick. Other times, we end up in the same place we were before. My advice to those of you who are looking to make life with three kids easier is not to listen to me. You have to examine your own family. What areas do you feel are going well? Where do you think things are feeling crazy or like they're just not working? What are our family goals? How are we working toward them . . . and how are we working against ourselves?

We're currently discussing these important questions and how to address them. For example, I try to keep activities limited. Ada only does like one major "sport" (gymnastics) at a time. Then she does an informal choir. She doesn't do anything organized or that meets weekly beyond that. If we find something else, like a random weekend class, we'll consider adding it in if things aren't too busy. Resist feeling like you're not providing enough if you just have your child in one activity. I have to remind myself of this, too, because it seems like everyone I know has their kids in something every day of the week. They spend their afternoons, evenings, and weekends shuttling one here and the other there -- quite literally everywhere.

Which brings me to self-care. This is an area I don't do well with at all. It's going to be the topic of my next post. I'm not talking getting manicures and pedicures either. Basic tasks like feeding yourself throughout the day, drinking water, getting sleep when you can, and getting enough exercise are so, so, so important. When we have kids -- especially three or more -- self-care can easily fall by the wayside without us even realizing it. I learned this the hard way, as I've been struggling with a cycle of starve/binge eating . . . and, again, I didn't even realize I was doing it until I took a step back and realized what was going on.

Life with three kids is wonderful at times. At others, it can be chaotic and make you question all your major decisions. It can make you feel insecure and depressed. I wish it were easier. I wish there were more universal tips and tricks that would lend to more simplicity. But as much as the Internet and social media might like us to believe, there's no filter to wash over the tough times and make them prettier to deal with. Hey, at least we're in good company!

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Source List: Storage Containers

>> Monday, June 3, 2019

A lot of you have asked me where I get all my organization bins, boxes, etc. It's a mix of Target, Walmart, Aldi, IKEA, and Dollar Tree. But because we don't all have these stores in our area, I thought I'd get a source list going of the closest matches I can find online.


Toy Organization

  • 20-pack clear storage bins. At just about a dollar a piece, these are great for separating out different toys -- like figures, puzzles, play-doh, etc. We keep extra toys in these all sorted by type and pull them out as needed.
  • IKEA Sortera Bins are AMAZING. They may be my all-time favorite. We use them for block storage and for doll clothing and accessories. Very sturdy and stackable.
  • Woven Storage Baskets -- helpful for organizing markers, crayons, and other things you want to keep in an open-top container.
  • Tall Woven Storage Baskets -- same idea, just a taller option. 
  • Chalkboard Labels -- these are reusable and dishwasher safe. You can use them anywhere. I recommend getting a chalk pen/marker versus using chalk.

Clothing Organization

Refrigerator Organization

  • Slim Storage Trays -- long a skinny, perfect for cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, and other small snacks.
  • Rectangular Storage Trays -- helpful for hummus, guacamole, cheeses, and other medium-sized containers.
  • I also find it helpful to buy a bundle of different sized trays that can serve many purposes and be mixed/matched in different spaces. 
  • Fridge Storage Bundle -- this includes an egg holder, can holder, and four other trays that fit cup yogurts, fruits and veggies, and other things. I like that these are clear.
  • Flexible Storage Baskets -- I use these in my freezer mostly. Great way to organize bags of frozen veggies.

Pantry Organization

The Rest . . . 

  • Husky Heavy Duty Storage Shelving. This thing is huge and perfect for all our storage in the garage. We have 16 bins on it. I hear they also sell it at Costco.
  • I use these Large Flex Tubs all over the house -- currently in the linen closet to hold all our sheets and towels. We also have one in the garage for dirty bathing suits/towels in our pool area.
  • Similarly, these Bendy Bins flex and work well for multi-purposes. I use them for bath toys, Eden's bottles, and storage in Ada's room.
  • Dollar Tree Rectangular Bins -- you have to order a multi-color case online or go to the store and hope you can find WHITE or GREY. The BEST.
  • Dollar Tree Square Bins -- same idea. Use them anywhere.
  • And if I had more money, I'd love to have all wire storage baskets. They are so classic and clean looking.

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