How do you get stuff done with little kids?!
One of the biggest shifts for me after I had my first child was figuring out how to get stuff done while caring for a baby. It sounds so basic, but any mom will tell you that unless your firstborn is super laid back (mine was not), learning how to knock out a to-do list while caring for an infant is no picnic.
Fast forward to the birth of my second child (my oldest was just shy of 18 months) and I was pretty sure I’d never get anything done again.
But as the months have passed and I’ve gotten into the swing of being a mom and juggling a toddler and a baby, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me get stuff done, even with having little kids around.
This post is all about getting stuff done with little kids, and it’s for you if you’re a busy mom who feels overwhelmed and like you can’t get anything checked off your to-do list. Below are my top seven tips for how to get stuff done with little kids.
Work from a To-Do List
This sounds obvious, but I can tell you there’s been many a morning where I’ve woken up, nursed the baby, the toddler is hollering from the crib and the thought of putting together a to-do list for the day is the furthest thing from my mind.
Sometimes, we’re so exhausted, we just start rolling along, trying to keep up with whatever is happening right in front of us. We don’t own the day, the day owns us, and by the time we hit the pillow again at night, we wonder what the heck we did all day.
For me, it works best to take five minutes at the end of the day to get myself organized for the next day.
I give a quick glance at the calendar for any scheduled activities, then list out what needs to get done. I do it in my bullet journal (see my post on how I use my bullet journal and bullet journaling for homemakers) or on a mini whiteboard I have on the fridge. It doesn’t matter where you do it, as long as you do it.
I can then go to bed having a good sense of what the next day will hold (minus major toddler meltdowns and blowout diapers, of course).
Shorten Your To-Do List
It took me a while to figure out the to-do list I had pre-kids and the to-do list I have with kids don’t look the same.
Not even close.
I was able to get so much more done in a shorter amount of time before having kids, and that was really a struggle for me right when I became a mom.
I kept comparing former “pre-kid working woman” me to current “stay-at-home-mom” me. Those two roles are so incredibly different, and it took me a while to accept that.
After a few weeks of having our first child, I started a to-do-list which had super basic tasks on it. Get dressed. Make the bed. Feed the baby. Feed myself. And so on. The task list was short and simple.
At the bottom, I put optional to-dos to accomplish if I had the time or the energy. As my baby grew (and I started to get more sleep), several of those optional to-dos were added to my regular task list.
Even now, however, having two kids and having been in the groove of mothering babies for a while, my task list is still shorter than it was pre-kids, and I don’t feel bad about that.
Between the items on my to-do list, the unwritten tasks are filling my time, tasks like dealing with a teething baby, or snuggling a sleepy toddler, and that’s perfectly okay. In between the tasks of life, I am raising two humans, and no completed task list compares with the joy that brings.
Do the Right Things at the Right Times
I learned quickly if I was going to succeed at getting things done with little kids, I needed to be strategic about when I did particular things. For instance, doing computer work when your toddler is awake and needing your attention does not work. Trying to have an important phone call when your baby is hungry is frustrating for all parties.
To the best of my ability, I try to have a sense when I write my to-do list the night before of what things I will save for when my kids are napping or in bed for the night. Mopping the floors? Do after the kids go down at night. Answering emails? Do while the kids are napping.
It has been helpful for me to strategize like this, so I don’t wind up irritated at every turn throughout the day.
Know Your “Big Rocks” for the Day
It’s so important to know what absolutely has to get done that day. It can be easy to get sidetracked with something less important, then one of the kids has an issue, and the next thing you know, it’s two hours later and you still didn’t get to the critical stuff you needed to accomplish.
You can star or circle those top-priority items on your to-do-list, or put them at the top of the list, or whatever you need to do to remind yourself those are the things that must get done.
If nothing else on your list gets done, you can call the day a success if you know those things out.
Know What Can Wait
On the other side of the coin, it’s important to know what can wait. So often, we stress ourselves out with all of the things we put on our to-do list. Half of it doesn’t need to happen, or at least doesn’t need to happen on that day.
What can wait? What are you putting pressure on yourself to do that is not a necessity? What is on your list that is causing unneeded stress?
Raising kids is hard, and we often make it harder by piling expectations on ourselves that only a superhuman mom could meet. Remove what’s not necessary, or reschedule it on another date, and don’t feel guilty for leaving some white space in your day.
Ask for Help
This is a hard one for most moms. We feel guilty. To ask for help feels like admitting weakness or defeat.
On the contrary, asking for help actually expresses strength. A strong person knows their limits. A strong person has the humility to know when they need to call in the reserves. A strong person knows having support from others will allow them to be a better parent in the long-run.
We are spoiled with two local grandmas and we see both weekly. During that time, I’ll sometimes hang out and chat, but sometimes, I’ll use that time to run errands or grab a coffee. I struggle with guilt sometimes, even though both grandmas tell me they love watching the kids while I go out to do a few things.
It is hard to accept help, but the benefits of doing so are undeniable. If you don’t have local relatives, perhaps arranging for babysitting (or trading babysitting with another mom) so you can run a few errands or take a walk by yourself (or a nap) is a possibility. It is well worth it.
Know When to Rest
When people tell moms to rest and put their feet up, you can almost see the collective eye roll among busy moms. Sure, I’ll put my feet up, but then who’s going to fold the laundry and start dinner and clean the bathroom and pack the lunches and load the dishwasher? That stuff doesn’t do itself!
While that certainly is true, another truth is that a busy mom’s to-do list truly is never-ending. For better or worse, there will never be a time when you sit down with a glass of iced tea, prop your feet up on the ottoman and say, “There! I finished everything.”
So, if that’s the case, it’s important to build in periods of rest for yourself.
The first six or seven months after my second child was born, I napped almost every afternoon. I am not kidding.
And yes, dirty dishes sat in the sink and the floor was not always clean and sometimes the laundry was slow in getting folded (who am I kidding? It still is!), but I have absolutely no regrets about those naps.
I was caring for two needy and energetic children (including being up with them at night), so I was barely hanging on by dinnertime if I didn’t have some rest in the afternoon.
Your situation may be different (my older child still napped, so I had a quiet period in the afternoon to rest), but to whatever extent you’re able, build in periods of time–even if they’re short–to rest and recharge. Believe it or not, this will make you more productive. I found I was able to get more done during the day (plus I was nicer to my kids) if I rested in the afternoon.
Try it. You will not regret it.
So, those are my seven tips for how to get stuff done with little kids. This is a season when you’re juggling tons of different things. It can be frustrating to work successfully through a to-do list, but with the tips above, it is definitely possible.
If you’re a mom of littles in diapers trying to figure out how to set yourself up for a productive day, Justine Marie has a video which covers a basic morning routine with two kids under two. It was super helpful for me right after my second kiddo was born.
Give yourself a lot of grace, embrace flexibility, and take advantage of pockets of time when you have them. Life won’t always be like this, but we’ll miss it someday when it’s not…or so I’m told. 🙂