Saturday, 19 April 2014

Where Do You Find The Time...

Where do you find the time

If you've clicked this link looking for clever lifestyle tips or life hacks... you'll probably want to click away now. I don't really have any clever tips. Sorry about that.

I'm a single mother; I work from home; I maintain (what I'd like to think is) a successful blog. People are forever asking me how I have the time to bake biscuits with S - or make a kick ass Easter bonnet for nursery. One person did rather sniffily ask me how I find time for housework.

Here is how I manage to find the time to do the things that matter:

The things that matter come first in this house.

Now, I'm fully aware that what matters can differ from household to household, person to person. In this house, cleaning and tidying are fairly close to the bottom of the list. I believe that when my child grows up, she will remember afternoons spent sitting on the kitchen work surface making biscuits, not how often the bath was cleaned. 

Here are a few things I do that allow me more time to do the fun stuff (and the blogging and the obsessive West Wing watching):

  • I only wash up once a day. There are only two of us here, and there are plenty of plates and cups to last us a day, so we pile it neatly next to the sink, and I wash up after S has gone to bed.
  • I never read the instruction manual, so I've made an executive decision to just assume my oven is self-cleaning.
  • I make piles of things at the bottom and top of the stairs. Every time I go up or down, I take something with me, and put it where it belongs.
  • Similarly, I keep my recycling in a pile, and take a little of it down to the bins every time I go out without S (when she's with me, it's just not worth the effort!)
  • S has a shower instead of a bath. She enjoys splashing under the water, and I can use the time to potter about on the landing, sorting washing and tidying the toys that are usually left hanging about.
  • My housework is done on a "critical mass" basis. Everything is left until it can't possibly be left any more, and then tackled in a massive spree. I'll often have the washing machine and tumble dryer running for 2 days solidly, and then not use it again for a week or so.
  • When S has nursery the next morning, as soon as she's in bed I get her clothes ready for the next day. I bring a pair of trousers, two tops and two pairs of socks (so that she can choose what she wears) down to the living room and put them on the side along with a clean nappy and the baby wipes. 
  • As soon as S takes her shoes off when we get home from anywhere, I pick them up and put them on the side, out of her reach. She has a tendency to play with footwear, and there are a million places to hide such small shoes, so I keep them where I know they'll still be when we need them in the morning!
  • I watch very little TV. I haven't watched any live TV on a regular basis since... I don't even remember. I use the catch-up function on my TV package to browse through what's been on. It cuts down my viewing time considerably, to see that a show I thought might look vaguely interesting is an hour and a half long. In fact, the only show I watch every week without fail is Casualty. And while I'm "watching," I'm blogging and researching. And sorting washing and tidying away some toys, and flicking through magazines for ideas, and scheduling tweets.
  • When it comes to blogging, I type very quickly so once I have an idea for a post it doesn't take too long to get it written up. I keep a notepad next to my bed, and make notes on my mobile when I think of ideas.
  • When I'm using Facebook, Twitter etc, I'll often compose updates, respond to tweets or comments etc, while I'm queueing in a shop or on my way home from nursery drop off.
  • I use apps like Trello, Work Flowy and Asana to keep track of what I'm doing, what I need to do, what I've done.
  • Probably the biggest thing I've learned to do is just plain let go. Instead of rushing around, worrying I won't get things done, worrying about this or about that, I just chill out. S and I meander to and from nursery, usually taking a couple of detours. When we go to town she will have a little wander and I will follow along. If I don't stress about being late or missing something or whatever, S doesn't pick up on it. Realistically, there aren't many things in life that absolutely can't wait, and I find that actually, if I'm not stressing about things, I get more done any way.
So there you have it: my secrets for being Wonder Woman/Mum of the Year. Don't go telling anyone!

Friday, 18 April 2014

When I Grow Up...

When I grow up

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she said that when she watches cookery shows on TV, she often thinks "I'll cook that when I'm an adult..."

It reminded me that I still think "When I grow up..." on a regular basis.

When I grow up...

  • I will keep my house clean and tidy, and vacuum every day.
  • I will have money left over at the end of the month.
  • I will read proper, grown-up magazines instead of the lowbrow tat I currently entertain myself with
  • I will understand the other 80% of the jokes on Have I Got News For You
  • I'll be able to stay up past my bed time (the bed time I impose on myself because I'm always so tired!)
  • I will have a dinner repertoire that stretches beyond one chicken dish and one beef mince dish.
  • My dirty clothes will find it to the wash basket without languishing on the landing for a while first
  • I will organise my time properly and not waste so much of it dicking about.
  • I will cease to find lolcats funny
  • I will see what's coming, and plan for it.
  • I will be prepared for every possible outcome
  • I'll be able to just keep chocolate in the house for unlimited amounts of time... without having to eat it.
  • I'll be able to speak my mind in person, not just on my blog.
  • I'll feel like I know what I'm doing.
Is it just me, or does everyone still think When I grow up... - even when they're 32?

What will you do when you grow up?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Toddler Behaviour Ideas for a Happy Day

Having written this post about toddler issues last month, I decided to do some reading.

The problem is that I don't really agree with a lot of behaviour modification techniques.

I don't agree with naughty steps/chairs/corners, because I don't believe that any child will sit on their naughty step and think about what they did wrong. I believe that at S's age, they don't necessarily understand what they did wrong, even if it's the third time they've done it. I think kids mostly sit on their naughty step either thinking Mummy doesn't love me any more or - as they get older -  argh I hate Mummy, she's so mean to me.

I was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with S's behaviour though, so I did delve into the parenting books in the hope I might at least find one tool I could use to help S when she's having a hard time. One book I found that is proving really useful is Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr Harvey Karp. I bought the DVD  a while ago, but didn't really do much with it since S was still pretty young... I think I'm going to dig it out and watch it again though, as the book has some great tips in it!

Here's what I found, and have begun using:
  • Remember I wrote that post about the idea of Tooth Brushing? This book actually suggests a similar thing with toddlers, where you sit down at the end of the day and reflect on all the great things that have gone on. I started doing it with S as I cleaned her teeth, and she seems to really respond to it. It helps us both to focus on the positive aspects of our time together, so even if she's just had a massive tantrum and thrown her dinner on the floor, we end the day on a high note. The book also suggests "hand checks" where you give your child a little mark on their hand with a pen, for every time they are helpful or kind or do as they are asked - then sit with them at the end of the day and remember how they earned them all.
  • "Could you help Mummy?" S is often disgruntled if I've laid her on the floor and forced her to get dressed, or to have her nappy changed. I find that I can help her out of this mood by saying "would you put your pjyamas in the wash basket for me please?" or "shall we put the nappy in the wash bucket together?" She helps by putting things into the bin or by fetching me a book to read to her. I suppose it makes her feel like a grown up and like she has some control over whether she helps or not. Actually this reminds me of when I was a teenager, and my younger sisters used to beg me to give them "jobs" to do. She can be getting into all sorts of mischief, but if I say "S, could you put your socks in the wash basked please?" She happily picks them up and runs to the kitchen with them!
  • Magic Breathing: I love this idea. You teach your toddler to take deep breaths; you sit quietly and use your hand moving up and down to show your deep breaths going in and out, encouraging your child to join in. Once they've got it, you can sit with them and do some magic breathing every day. It works as a great time together, but also when they're getting a bit toddler-ish you can say "let's do some magic breathing together" and hopefully the deep breaths will calm them down. I've only just started doing this one with S but I think it's a great way to start the idea of meditation in children.
  • Allowing a choice: I let S choose her top and her socks each morning. If we're buying clothes for her, I give her a choice between two things. At first she didn't really understand the question, but now she knows exactly what I'm asking, and quickly decides what she's going to wear that day. If we're out and I don't need to do anything specific, I let her choose which direction we go in.
  • The last one is really simple but I think it's something we all forget: listening properly. At the moment S does a lot of babbling, but only a few of her words make sense to me. On the other hand though, she is learning words really quickly. It's easy for me to just respond to her chatter with the standard "oh really? Wow!" and so on, without actually paying attention, but often when I take the time to stop and listen, it's fairly clear what she's after and we work it out together. For example, the other day she was saying what I thought was "boo" but then she started grabbing at her nappy - and then she took the lid off the box where I keep her nappies. She'd done a poo.
One point Karp makes in his book, which I think is worth bearing in mind all the time, is that toddlers usually lose at everything. They're weaker, shorter, slower, clumsier, and less able to express what they want. The idea behind a lot of his techniques is that toddlers "just want to win a few" and that as parents, by letting them choose their clothes, or win a pillow fight, we let them win a couple of things.

An example Karp uses is that if you've no money, and someone asks you for £10, you'll say no - but if you've just won the Lotto, and someone asks you for £10 you might just give them £20! So if your toddler feels like they've won a few battles through the day, and then you want them to clean their teeth and go to bed, they might just surprise you.

Last night I said to S, is it bed time? She put her pens away on the side (!) and ran to the bottom of the stairs. I opened the gate, she climbed the stairs and went straight to the bedroom.

Since beginning this with S, we've not had a full on meltdown.
Weirdly, if I sense a meltdown coming on, and hand her a banana (still in its skin) she calms right down. I often end a shopping trip by buying her a banana to carry home. Strange but true. 
I'm thinking of writing my own parenting book about that: Bananas Parenting. Wadaya think?

If you have any other non-naughty-step related ideas for helping toddlers to "behave" please do leave a comment, I'd love to hear them!

What I'm reading: Above All Things - a novel about the 1924 expedition to climb Everest. It's written from several different perspectives, including that of George Mallory's wife, left at home.

What I'm watching: The Wire: Season 3  - I absolutely love The Wire, and am re-watching the seasons... as and when Love Film sees fit to send them to me, that is.


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