Calling all soccer moms

I am facing a new parenting stage and wondering how to get through it productively.

Having never sent the kids to a school away from home, I am not used to having to drop kids off for activities/classes, etc. I’ve done it a couple times (like gymnastics a couple years ago) and even with only once a week, those months of my life pretty much evaporated in a blur and I was constantly worn out!

Anytime I have to go anywhere with the kids (even just a play date, where I’m sitting on my butt drinking coffee and talking to other moms while the kids destroy someone else’s basement) I come home wanting to take a load off and relax rather than jump into chores. On those days, if I’m smart, I’ve started a crock pot meal for dinner, or else I’m calling my husband on the way home begging him to grill out because I just don’t have it in me.

Now Miriam is taking an art class (just a few more weeks, thankfully) and the girls also have piano lessons once a week.   I’ve also organized an every-other-week hand sewing class taught by a friend, that I sometimes host (with 6 other little girls). Even though these events take just hours, I feel like that encompasses the whole day as I’m either getting ready for it or recovering from it. Then there are farm delivery days, visits, library days, and regular errands. When am I supposed to feed the kids (or myself!) and do the neverending laundry? And how about nursing the baby? It perplexes me.

I just don’t know how some moms can manage doing this kind of running around all the time. I know there must be a trick to it (and I hope the answer is not “takeout for dinner” because that simply isn’t an option for us).  Today wasn’t so bad even though I drove about 90 miles all told, and it took up my entire afternoon (12:30 to 5pm). Here are a couple of the things I decided to try:

– Instead of juggling everything at once like I usually do, I chose one or two specific tasks that I could get done within the time frame I had (in between dropping off/ picking up someone, or before leaving the house in the morning). Such as preparing a new batch of sauerkraut, or loading the dishwasher. That did help keep me focused, and felt good to check something off the list rather than feel like there wasn’t enough time to do much of anything.

– Keeping it simple for meals. After errands and before dinner can really be a “witching hour” in my house, as the kids are tired and hungry and it coincides with my bustling about like a madwoman trying to get dinner on. Today, instead, I decided to make breakfast for dinner (something that is quick and simple) and serve the kids immediately, and then reheated some leftovers for me and Dave. Though I can’t do this every time, it did work for today.

So please, moms who drive around town as part of your weekly routine, please enlighten me! How do you do it? What are your tips and tricks? What simple meals do you have up your sleeve for just this kind of day? What chores do you have your kids in charge of to ensure smooth sailing at these times? Any and all feedback is appreciated.

The girls in their sewing class today:

photo credit: Susannah Joy

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10 Responses to Calling all soccer moms

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi Sarah,

    As far as activities that only take an hour or so seeming to dominate the whole day, that does get better as your children get older and become more independent. Also, they tend to move a little faster helping those errands move along, so grocery shopping isn’t quite as cumbersome. (I have to admit, it’s still a 3 hour process for us most of the time, because I can’t get everything at one store.)

    I have a few tips for you, and I hope they help. First of all, meal planning in essential. Plan out your menus for the week. It really only takes about 10 minutes. It’s so much easier if you wake up knowing what you’ll be fixing for dinner, I try to fix enough for dinner that we can have leftovers for lunch the next day. If I’m using the crock pot, I get things out the night before so it’s all ready to go in the morning. (I use the crock pot and delay bake on my oven a lot!) Since we are talking about the kitchen, a great tip for keeping the kitchen relatively clean is to wash the dirty dishes as you prepare a meal. Then I have one of the kids put the dry dishes away when I’m finished. On really busy days, I use paper plates and plastic-ware. It is just too much to do dishes too on a day with activities. I believe the offset of the stress of after meal cleanup is well worth the time saved. Secondly, things that run in cycles, like laundry, I do a little each day. This works for bigger projects too, say I want to reorganize a closet, I’ll do one shelf a day. There are some projects I just can’t do that way however. For example, when I’m sewing, that’s all I’m doing. As far as tasks like emptying the dishwasher, sweeping, putting the laundry away, changing sheets, emptying garbage, cleaning the bathrooms etc. I give those jobs to my children as often as possible and we usually do one or two of them a day. Sometimes I have my kids make breakfast and/or lunch. (They love that!) Well, there are a few ideas. Try to enjoy the moment. These busy days will not last forever and you don’t want to miss the most important part by spending time stressing over meals and chores.

  2. Aunt Carol says:

    Boy, Sarah, does this dilemma bring back memories! Shopping in Brooklyn: one in a snugglie, two in the old Perego, one holding onto the side (“If you let go, You’ll WISH a car had hit you!”), complete w/ stops at Waldbaums, the green grocer on Sheepshead Bay Rd., the prime butcher on 18th and X. Three hours minimum to complete the circuit. The real commuting fun started here in MI, once all kids were of school age. We’ve done the piano lessons, the Karate classes, sewing, art lessons, Friday classes at the Home School Building (yes, we have one of those here,w/ at least four different organizations meeting there on various days of the week). The only defense against total exhaustion is planning ahead BIG TIME. This was a real challenge for me since I don’t do takeout, crockpot or microwave. It came down to planning the entire week: writing down all 21 meals for the week before shopping, preparing quick meals on days w/appointments or classes, doing as much of the prep work the night before as possible (chop the vegetables, bake the meatballs, grate the cheese, etc.) after the kids are in bed. No you do not get much, if any, down time some days/nights, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Another way to “get it all done” is to assign olders to youngers and put them in charge of getting the younger completely ready to go on the crazy days. Then, be satisfied w/ however they end up dressed and fed. Maybe you’re already doing these things and, if so, that’s a pretty good start. You have your hands more full than I did, that’s for sure, but you will survive this stage, my success-driven friend!

    • Sarah says:

      Aunt Carol,
      You are so right about meal planning. I really need to get back into that. And one thing that is so important is to plan 21 meals as you say- not just dinners! I tend to plan dinner but then get completely flustered regarding breakfast and lunch.
      “…be satisfied with however they end up” – that is so you, and I’ve always loved that about your attitude toward parenting! You come off very laid back but always seemed to have it together. I strive for that and in many ways I can say I’ve had you in the back of my mind as a role model as a parent!

  3. Aunt Carol says:

    Thanks, Sarah! You’re so sweet. Another trick I got from a mom of six kids is laundry-related: she had a LARGE hamper in each bedroom and did only one hamper per day. For you, perhaps that would be 4 older girls on monday and thursday, Soren, Estella, and parents on tuesday and friday. If it doesn’t hit the hamper, it doesn’t hit the washer either.

    • Sarah says:

      For a while I was doing one dresser/closet at a time and that was the easiest on the back end – the worst part, putting away, was totally ameliorated because it all went to the same place! … but it couldn’t last, as I don’t have that many receptacles to sort things into. And the washes were too small to maintain. But if I could, I would love to do it that way. Sounds like your friend’s trick might be a good compromise.

  4. Jessica says:

    My older boys have activities SIX days a week (seven days a week when it is Little League season). I always swear I am going to cut down, but so many great and affordable things are available for homeschoolers in our area. I try to leave mornings free for schoolwork and general chores. If I know the day will stretch into evening, I do dinner prep now. We also eat lunch at home because, like you, eating out or grabbing drive thru is not an option.

    We have two cars and so on some days I take the kids to their classes/activities and Michael picks them up. This allows me time to get grocery shopping done in town, or just to return home with the littles for chores and mealtime stuff.

    We tend to overcook on Sundays so that we can use the leftovers in other dinners for Monday and Tuesday. We have a meal calendar and follow it strictly. I have about four types of lunches that I rotate through for the kids. Main food of melted cheese tortillas, pasta with cheese and butter, make your own sandwiches, or pizza bread (homemade dough), fruit or frozen veggies, and juice or water. These are fast with minimal prep and quick clean-up. That way we can be out the door shortly after lunch.

    The great thing about being so busy is that when we are home, the kids appreciate the time here so much more and they tend to leave me alone to do their own things.

  5. Katherine Lauer says:

    I’m so interested in these answers. I’ve often wondered how mothers do it and how I will do it when my kids enter that phase. Right now I barely hang on and we don’t do any activities.

  6. Jessica says:

    Sarah,
    I sew a few stitches on my way to and from the bathroom. Since I am preggo I am getting more sewing in than usual, LOL! No really, my kids are pretty independent. If they bother me I usually send them off to do more school lessons or clean something up so they have learned not to really bother me when I am at my sewing machine.

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