5 Tips for Working From Home Without Childcare

If you’re considering working from home without putting your kids in childcare, these tips can help you feel and be more productive throughout the day.

When parents who work outside the home think of work life balance, they often imagine working from home as the gold standard. Parents with the work-from-home fantasy imagine keeping their babies out of daycare (and saving serious cash), loading the dishwasher between returning emails and fulfilling the roles and tasks of working parents and stay at home parents simultaneously.
While working from home does have some amazing benefits, most parents who do so understand that it can be incredibly challenging, particularly if choice or circumstance means that they have babies or young kids with them throughout their workday.
If you’re considering working from home without putting your kids in childcare, or are already doing so, check out the tips below to help you feel and be more productive throughout the day.

1 | Create a daily routine

When you work from home with your kids having a consistent routine is vital. By choosing intentionally when you’ll focus singularly on your child and when you’ll focus singularly on your work, you can avoid the pitfall of never being able to give 100 percent to either. Many working parents plan a busy, high energy morning with their young child in order to ensure a long nap and a peaceful afternoon. Many parents who work from home also report blocking a few evening hours, after their partner gets home of the kids go to bed to round out their eight hour workday.

2 | Time your tasks

It can be incredibly difficult to start a task that you know you won’t be able to finish in one sitting. When you work from home with your kids, it’s likely that your day will be filled with far more 15 minute chunks of time than 60-minute chucks of time. Start taking notes on just how long your regular tasks take so that you can maximize every five-, 10- or, 15-minute block of time you have.

3 | Create a physical workspace

When you have little ones at home, your workspace may be more mobile than a traditional office. While you might find yourself toting you laptop back and forth from the kitchen to the playroom all day long, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a space that is dedicated to your work. Consider creating an office where you can store your work materials and retreat during naptime for some serious concentration.

4 | Snag cheap childcare

If you’re working from home without childcare, having a major deadline or conference call coming up can be stressful. Before this happens, locate and lock down your affordable drop in child care location. Perhaps there’s a parent down the street who is interested in providing drop in care on select dates or a grandparent who never minds a visit from their grandchild. If you don’t have someone in mind who can provide care when you need it most, consider looking into drop-in childcare centers or gyms that have care you utilize while working from the lobby.

5 | Share your daily schedule with your boss

While you don’t have to share the details of your childcare arrangement with your boss, letting them in on a few key points throughout your day can alleviate some serious stress. If your boss or colleagues know that you’re always putting the baby down for their nap at 12:30 or picking up your big kid at 3:30, they’ll likely do their best to schedule meetings at different times.
Good luck to all the working-from-home parents this week!

When One "Snore" Closes, Another Door Opens

People fall apart over money, stress, jobs, lies, but not freaking snoring, unless the issue is of course not about snoring at all.

“Do you think anyone has ever divorced her husband over snoring? Asking for a friend.”

I jokingly wrote this on social media a few weeks ago because I was up late listening to my husband slumber away. When I say that I was listening to him sleep, I mean I was unfortunately really listening. There he lay, a foot away from me, snoring loud enough to shake the walls of our home (I swear it). It was the loudest, most wretched sound I can describe to you good readers: a mixture of gurgling, choking, gasping, coughing, mumbling, and good old traditional snoring. A real medley of marital unhappiness, if you will.

This is the soundtrack to my life between the hours of 10 p.m. and six a.m., and it has been like this for a number of years. Unfortunately, as we enter middle age, the snoring is only getting worse. The infant cries in the night have been replaced by this crap and, sadly, I can’t just pop a bottle in the hubs and make the noise cease.

I roll him “beached whale style” constantly, jab him in his ribs hard enough to leave him with physical reminders of my constant frustration and irritation, and wake him out of his pseudo-slumber several times a night in hopes that I can quickly fall asleep as he startles awake and tries to settle himself back down. My tactics no longer even leave a dent in the snoring.

Just a few years back he used to snore only after he had a few beers or stayed up late watching sports. Now I swear it starts before he has fully closed his eyeballs. I don’t think he even has to be asleep to snore!

I used to become agitated, but I could deal…or move beds. I am a mother to four young daughters, so musical beds is nothing new to me. As the snoring developed into a nightly experience, my agitation also developed into anger, aggression, and really negative emotions.  Every single morning we would bicker via text regarding the previous night’s snore-a-thon.

Why doesn’t he go sleep on the couch? When is he going to call and schedule a sleep study or buy some fancy mouth guard over the internet? Why doesn’t he care that his sleep selfishness is causing me to be exhausted and perpetually pissed off at him?

At the root of it all, this marital impasse wasn’t about the actual act of snoring. It was about something so much deeper: Why does he always come first? Does he think that he needs rest more than me because he has a high stress job that requires him to keep people alive while I’m at home vacuuming and doing laundry? When we jointly decided that he would work stressful, late hours at the hospital and I would give up teaching to become a Goddess of Domesticity, did I accidentally also give up my right to a good night’s sleep? Did I sign on some dotted line that I agreed to be the lesser person in this marriage and, therefore, if one of us had to sacrifice rest, it would automatically be me so that he could be his best?

Well, hold the phone dammit!

I started to firmly believe that his nightly snoring was a personal attack on my wellbeing. He might as well kiss me good night and then say, “Good night. If you get no sleep tonight that’s probably okay because you stay home all day and do nothing, so rest up then.” Of course he never said that, he isn’t suicidal or anything. In fact, he never said anything other than sorry or that he doesn’t mean to snore. Sorry didn’t matter to me though, the resentment was so thick you could slice it with a knife.

Now I’m not exactly the type of woman who bottles up her emotions and buries them deep down in the depths of her soul. No. If I’m pissed, you’ll know about it. If you’ve upset me, you’ll hear about it, over and over and over again. There’s no guesswork in deciphering how I’m feeling. He knew that the snoring was causing major anger and rifts in our marriage. I made it fairly clear to him.

Snoring! People fall apart over money, stress, jobs, lies, but not freaking snoring, unless the issue is of course not about snoring at all. So why didn’t he just do something about it!?

As usual, we had to hit marital rock bottom before we were able to discuss the “whys.” Beneath his gurgling, snoring, middle-age manliness was some serious insecurity he was dealing with all by himself. Unlike me, my husband is the kind of person who bottles up his emotions and pushes them deep down only to have them explode once in a great while. He knew that he’d gained some middle age weight, which was contributing to the snoring. Even though he runs each and every day, he too was struggling with the beast that is “the thirties tire.” Facing middle age was another mirror that my husband wasn’t wanting to look in. While I seem to be accepting the fact that we are getting older, fatter, and grayer, he isn’t accepting that as easily. He still wants to eat, live, and drink like he’s 23 years old. No one wants to admit the golden days are long gone, I suppose.

So he kept on denying his snoring and I kept on hating him – every day – until we were able to get down to the root of his insecurity and the root of my feelings of being the lesser important human. Those kinds of marital talks are never fun. They are exhausting, they sting, they go on forever and ever, but they’re totally and completely necessary.

A week ago he went online and purchased a snore-guard. It can’t be the most comfortable thing to wear all night long, but sweet Lord it is working! He still lightly snores, but it’s tolerable – so tolerable. More importantly. I’m so grateful that this simple gesture of wearing his snore guard shows me that he does care about my comfort. It makes a world of difference in my sleep patterns and a world of difference in my appreciation for him.

Thank you, husband. Thank you for wearing your cumbersome mouth guard at night so that I can sleep and so that I know that you love me.

Fellows, if your wife tells you that you snore, then you snore. If you love your wife, if you value her and see her as equally important, buy yourself a snore guard. Nothing says I love you like a snore guard.

Illness and Family Dynamics: What Happens When We Get Sick?

It’s what we do as a society when we or our children get sick that highlights a lack of flexibility in our lives.

It’s inevitable that, at some point while raising children, you will be used as a tissue substitute, thrown up on, or pooped on. But it’s what we do as a society when we or our children get sick that highlights a lack of flexibility in our lives.

Lack of sleep never stopped anyone

Everyone has a sick kid tale to tell. My mother tells me about staying up all night with my ill brother when he was a baby. She talks about standing in the shower with him as he coughed, the endless checking of his temperature and the worry for my sister sleeping in the next bedroom.
My mother didn’t sleep that night. By the time the sun had risen, her temperature was rising, too, and she felt that familiar thumping in her head that precedes influenza. That same morning, she drove to the next camp where my father was working, not so he could take over – he was busy building a road and couldn’t take time off – but because it was the agreed upon plan, and illness doesn’t stop motherhood.

What are the options?

Whilst I never drove cross-country with a fever, a sick baby, and an excitable child, I certainly know what it feels like to wake up ill and have that sinking feeling that it can’t make any difference to my day. I’ve begged my husband to stay home, citing a thumping head and a stomach-ache that turned out that night to be appendicitis.
He went to work. He had to, and I understand that. People rely on him, and his work requires a significant amount of notice to enable him to take a day off. This is not about who should or shouldn’t take a day off, or who deserves to be cared for when they’re ill, or exactly how ill you need to be to justify staying or leaving. This is an examination of what we all do, what I’ve done myself, and how I wish we could do better.
Because it feels awful to watch your loved one leave and know that you have to get through at least nine hours without throwing up on your child. It feels awful when you’re the solo parent and you can’t even count down nine hours until you see another adult and have some help.
It feels awful to leave your loved one behind, knowing they’re going to have a terrible day, but that money or your boss’s goodwill just can’t stretch for a day off. It feels awful when your kid says they’ve got a sore throat on the day you’ve got back to back meetings. Dosing them with medicine and sending them anyway becomes a viable choice.
These are all options people routinely choose. Yet, none of them are ideal.

There is no illness!

Many parents have made the choice to ignore their symptoms and just get on with it. In two parent families where one parent is at home, most of the time the other parent will still go to work. Currently, there are no legal requirements for paid sick leave in the U.S. Families are entitled to unpaid sick leave instead. This forces people to choose between leaving their child with an ill care-giver, relying on a support network (which may or may not be available), or losing a day’s wage.
We would never let our children stay with a caregiver who could barely walk, so why do we consider it acceptable to care for our children ourselves when we’re so sick? We do it for two reasons: lack of flexibility in the workplace, and cultural expectations. Our culture is entrenched in the idea that sickness is weakness. We power through. Advertising for medication isn’t about getting better; it’s about masking symptoms and getting on with your day. Stay-at-home parents put a movie on and hope for the best, because really, what other options are there?

I’m not sick, it’s just pneumonia

This ‘powering through’ isn’t limited to stay-at-home-parents. When working parents get sick, they go to work. Time off for illness is rarely available. Given the nature of sickness, it’s not as if you can book a sick day a fortnight in advance for a head-cold. Illness takes us by surprise and often leaves us with the choice of going to work or missing a day’s pay.
Unsurprisingly, research shows that people in low-paying jobs are the most likely to go to work even when they’re sick. This is likely because the consequences of missing that day of work are monetarily more severe than for workers in high-paying jobs. However, 45 percent of people in high-paying jobs still go to work when they’re ill, but they more frequently cite reasons such as letting down co-workers.
The culture of the workplace has a big impact on whether workers come in if they’re sick or not. Companies who have procedures and policies in place involving back-up staff and the flexibility to work from home are less likely to have sick staff in the workplace. Interestingly, companies who have better policies also have workers who take less time off overall.
Families who have found workplaces with flexibility surrounding illness want to keep their jobs, so they work harder even when they’re working from home with sick kids watching a movie. Flexibility is they key to providing families with viable options.

They’re not sick, it’s just…pneumonia

When kids get sick, guess what happens? They still go to school or childcare or wherever they usually go. Four out of 10 working parents say they might send their sick child to school. Six out of 10 do this because they fear they’ll lose their jobs if they take time off to care for their child. Clearly, workplaces hold some of the power here.
Families with children will get sick more frequently throughout the year. A study found that, in childless households, viruses were present four to five weeks in a year, whereas households with children had viruses present up to 45 weeks in a year – that’s 87 percent of the time. We all know that once one person in a family goes down, it’s inevitable that everyone will.
Perhaps the best thing to do is to have a solid plan.

Make a plan, and make it good

Talk to your spouse about what you’ll do when you or the kids get sick. Find out how you both feel about illness and responsibility. Figure out who will do what so you’re not left simmering with both fever and resentment as your partner drives away to work.
Also, find a really good takeaway place, stock up the freezer, or sweet talk Grandma into watching “Moana” on repeat with a sneezing toddler. Try and strengthen your immune system in preparation for flu season. Build up your support network. Even if your friends or family can’t watch your sick children, maybe they could leave a lasagne by the door?
Perhaps most importantly, talk to your workplace about flexibility. We all deserve to know that we’re worth receiving care when we’re sick, whether that’s from a partner, a parent, or an employer.
Planning for sickness will pay off. The way we do things now? It’s a bit sickening.

Top 10 'Must Haves' for First Time Dads

This list will offer some valuable insight into one of the most amazing and terrifying experiences of your entire life.

There was shit all over the walls of our one-bedroom New York City apartment. My two-week-old son managed to simultaneously pee all over me and poop on our crisp, white, living room walls.
Aside from being somewhat impressed, I immediately realized that I was an unprepared and overwhelmed first-time parent. If you’ve ever seen the State Farm commercial where the main character keeps repeating “I’m never… (insert random life event here)” – that is basically me.
Marriage and parenthood have been the best experiences of my life. Our son was born a year ago and, after countless of sleepless nights, ‘learning experiences,’ and unnecessary doctor visits, my wife and I have at last become familiar with the territory.
Admittedly, I assumed but did not know what to expect. Today’s your lucky day, though, because this list will offer some valuable insight into one of the most amazing and terrifying experiences of your entire life:

1 | Birthing classes

My wife was a marketing director prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom. Her ability to plan for the future keeps our little family in check and prepared. One of the most important things she did before our son’s arrival was to sign us up for a birthing class.
We were lucky enough to have an energetic instructor whose ability to combine Enrique Iglesias’s “Greatest Hits” with Lamaze breathing techniques kept us constantly entertained. You can only imagine the look on our faces as the yoga-pant wearing, granola eating, tenured nurse of 30 years straddled her living room coffee table illustrating how to squat and deliver a baby.
Not only did the classes bring us together in a comical and very informative way, but we were prepared for every step of the birth process.

2 | Photos

Leading up to the birth of our son, we basically relived our childhoods through pictures. Our families did not hesitate to share every photo of our youth that had ever been taken. Looking at our priceless memories made me realize how important it would be to create our own to share with our son someday.
Whether it’s a camera phone or a DSLR, just make sure that you capture all the moments you can. I captured my wife’s pregnancy and made a great photo book memento. I’m also compiling an album to share my son’s embarrassing photos when he brings his first significant other home to meet us.
Disclaimer: If your wife screams at you to get the camera out of her face while she is in labor, don’t be afraid to ask the nurse to take pictures instead. Your spouse may want to kill you then, but reliving the moment that your child came into the world is unreal.

3 | Prepared hospital bags

‘Essential’ doesn’t even begin to describe this one. Below is my recommended checklist when planning for a stay in a maternity ward. Of course, you’ll probably think of other things I may have missed.
Changes of clothes
Cell phones and chargers
Snacks
Pillow
Candy for the nurses
Medication (if applicable)
Anything you need to make the delivery room special for your wife (candles, pillows, pictures, etc.)
Toiletries
Safe car seat if you’re driving your baby home
Camera
For those driving to the hospital, I would also recommend looking into the parking situation and pricing.

4 | Scheduled date nights

It’s important to make time for your relationship. It’s hard not to feel bad leaving your little one behind, but it’s worse to forget about each other. A strong bond with your spouse will help during the stressful times. The first few weeks after childbirth can feel like your freedom is gone. It’s not gone, it’s just a change – a “new-normal.”
My mother-in-law actually kicked my wife and I out of our apartment to go on one date a week after our son arrived. Except for the tears during the appetizers, it was great.

5 | Dad-ready apparel

My son loves to be walked in his stroller, so a good pair of sneakers was key. Don’t forget you’re going to be carrying your child everywhere.
You’ll also spend a lot of time celebrating moments in your child’s life. Spruce up your wardrobe while you don’t feel bad about spending on yourself. Whether for a religious event or work, a well-tailored suit is always a must-have.

6 | Sense of humor

There will be a lot of serious moments to come. Stay light-hearted and enjoy this special time in your child’s life.
One of my favorite memories came after our son turned a week old. He was having trouble sleeping and woke us up almost every hour for a 48-hour period. We were mentally drained and feeling the physical effects of sleep deprivation. My buddy had given my son a large stuffed bear, so we decided it was time they were introduced. James’s expression was priceless, and the laughter gave us the ability to power through the pain.

7 | Baby gear

After gallivanting around the city at our own leisure for five years, we immediately started to feel caged in our small apartment. Within the first few weeks, my wife and I knew we had to get outside. Our son was born in July, so we were able to take advantage of the summer weather.
I highly suggest a convertible stroller with a snap-in car seat. It’s important to check the weight of the stroller and safety rating. At the end of the day, the stroller should be as comfortable for you as it is for your baby because it will be a constant staple in your life for awhile. Take the time to test-drive a few around the store to determine what works best for you.

8 | Defined responsibilities

My wife and I quickly assumed different roles taking care of our little guy. For us, this was a natural process because we both realized our specialties rather quickly and how they fit in with my work schedule. It’s absolutely crucial that you are there for each other.
If you haven’t done so already, learn to recognize your partner’s ‘breaking-points’ and be prepared to step in to allow for some much needed sleep or a chance to just step away for a minute to take a breath. The first month is a test of true endurance.

9 | A good doctor

This is a big one. During pregnancy, it’s paramount that you and your significant other find a pediatrician for your baby. Lots of pediatricians have scheduled meeting times or take appointments for interviews. I’d suggest meeting with a few different practices before selecting the best fit for your family.
Remember, you will spend quite a bit of time with your doctor in the first year of your baby’s life, so you need to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to take care of your child. Below are several items to think about when selecting a doctor:
What are the hours of the practice?
Does the practice have scheduled times for newborn visits?
Does the practice isolate the newborn and family from other patients when waiting for appointments? (This is important since your child’s immune system will be weak early on.)
Does the practice take your health insurance?
How long has the doctor been practicing?
What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? Will the doctor be visiting your child after birth in the hospital?
Are there other doctors in the practice, and are you comfortable/confident with them?
What are the doctor’s philosophical beliefs about child-raising (e.g. thoughts on breastfeeding or vaccinations), and do they align with yours?
Is the doctor specialized in any particular area, and does this align with any known needs for your child?
What is the on-call procedure at the practice?
Make sure to examine the cleanliness, wait time, and upkeep of the office to ensure they align with your standards.
How far is the office from where you live? Is the location of the office convenient/accessible in the event of an emergency?

10 | Patience

Let’s get real. While it’s a wonderful experience, having a child can be very stressful. When things get tough, take a breath and remember that these moments are fleeting. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help when you’ve reached your physical or mental limit.
I’m a strong believer that your child feeds off of and reacts to your energy, so you need to be confident and relaxed. If you have the support of family, don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance when you feel your patience running thin.
I hope this list helps as you begin your journey into fatherhood. When you think things are stressful, just remember, in 17 years your son or daughter will be asking for the keys to your car.
Please share your must-haves in the comment section below!

Date Nights in the Parenthood Era

I want to feel like my husband and I have left our date nights like we used to before we were parents.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

This is not the opening exchange at an Indecisives Anonymous meeting. (I’ve never actually been to one, I can’t decide if I should go.) This stimulating conversation is the exchange that begins date night with my husband.

A long time ago, in the land of skinny jeans and carbs, my husband and I could ponder the, “What do you want to do tonight?” question for hours and still come up with something fun to do and have a great time doing it. Since we’ve become parents, this question has a pressure for which I was unprepared. We’ve got to figure out what to do with our precious date night time right now. We must connect! We must have fun! We must make our Golden Time remarkable!

These days, my brain is too overworked from answering tough questions like which brand of kids’ fruit snacks is less deadly, and will our toddler’s Spiderman costume turn him into a spider. For date nights, I’d like to suggest a romantic evening of staring at the wall, but I know my husband and I need time to connect, so I’m not sure that’s going to suffice. The best plan my tired noggin can think up is dinner and movie. Admittedly, this is not very creative or exciting. Unless it’s a movie with Chris Pine, then it’s very exciting! (My husband loves Chris Pine.)

Dinner and a movie gets us out together, but oftentimes we find ourselves rushing through the dinner portion of the evening only to find me falling asleep through the movie portion of the evening. It feels hurried and forced. I only have a limited amount of time to prove to my husband that I’m still that fun gal he married – that I can totally stay up past 9:30, laugh at his jokes, and use words like “gal” easily in a sentence. I’m scoring very high on using words like “gal” in sentences, but I keep falling asleep in the middle of his jokes. Our Golden Time in not very golden.

I want to feel like my husband and I have left our date nights like we used to before we were parents – full of each other, the kind of happy-full I feel like after I’ve eaten that ridiculously enormous chocolate cake from Claim Jumper (don’t ask me to share). Mostly, though, I leave our time together feeling hungry like I’ve eaten my toddler’s portion of vegetables (ask me to share). I want more him. I want more us. I want more chocolate cake.

In an effort to help us connect more, I started trying to come up with different ideas for our date nights. Maybe the dinner and a movie thing just wasn’t conducive to connection. We tried staying home and catching up on TV like we used to. We tried going out for long dinners with no other plans like we used to. We tried heading out the door with no specific itinerary except maybe to get dessert like we used to. None of these helped me feel more in tune with him. Now that we were parents, was this just the new norm – me falling asleep face down in our appetizer in the middle of his punch lines? Had we changed that much?

I’ve definitely changed, and it isn’t just my wardrobe. Yes, elastic pants have replaced tight-fitting jeans and 9:30 PM is my new midnight, but I feel my insides have shifted, too. As a stay-at-home mom, my days are filled with my child. My focus is all-kid-all-the-time with only an occasional adult-alone break to use the bathroom, and even then I occasionally have a toddler-sized chaperone. I’m constantly a mom, always tuned into that mom-channel within. Maybe the problem isn’t with us, the problem is me.

I keep looking for time with my husband to be like it was, and that’s the true problem. I’m not the same person I was before I had a child. Why would our date nights feel the same when I don’t? I was slow to figure it out (I’ll blame that on lack of sleep for over a year), but once I stopped expecting our Golden Time to feel the same, an immense amount of pressure dropped away. Our time together began to have a lightness that sparked that connection for which I’d been searching.

Date nights with my husband aren’t what they were, but I am cool with this. Releasing the heavy expectations of our previous time together has freed up space to allow them to be what they are: a reflection of us now. Sure, my husband might prefer I stay up later than 9:30, but we are a couple with a kid. I may not get there. However, this doesn’t make me any less great of a “gal” or us a less fun couple, it just makes us partners with a kid. Enjoying our time together for what it is has made all the difference. That and starting our dates at 4:30 pm.

6 Simplicity Hacks for Parents Who Would Rather Spend Time Doing Than Planning

Here are some strategies you can use to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy for the pursuits that bring you joy.

“How’s it going?”
“Busy. Good, but busy.”
We’ve all had this conversation. However you feel about busy-ness – whether it’s a badge of honor, something to be avoided altogether, or just an inevitable part of life – most of us do not enjoy managing the minutiae of the busy life. I know I’d rather spend my time tickling my kids, reading something without pictures after they go bed, or checking out the new yoga studio down the street than figure out how and when I’m going to actually do all that stuff.
I spent my childhood longing for the sweet freedom that adulthood promised. Now that I have it, I find I’m actually happier when I go out of my way to limit the number of choices required of me. That experience, it turns out, is not unusual. According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, less is more when it comes to options. People tend to be happier when they have fewer choices.
Enter routines. We know they’re good for kids but they might be better for adults than we give them credit for. By creating “rules” for what, how, and when we are going to do things, routines limit or even eliminate the pesky choices that drain our time and energy, leaving us with more room to engage with the people and things that matter to us.
Creating routines takes some up-front investment, but once you have them dialed in they’re worth the hassle. Here are some strategies you can use to minimize decision-making and maximize time and energy for the pursuits that bring you joy.

1| Divide and conquer

My husband and I have a deal: Until 7 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday I am free to “sleep in” or work out while he gets our kids dressed and fed. Monday and Wednesdays, we switch roles. This has been our agreement ever since I got the green light to exercise after our first child was born.
Kate Darby and Marc Neff, who are professors, parents of two, and avid runners, have a unique way of making sure they both get their miles in. On weekends, one parent drives the kids to the park and the parent runs to meet them. On the way home, whoever ran to the park drives the kids home, and their spouse runs home solo.
Katie and Daniel Westreich, parents of two, take the concept a step further. Every week, they grant each other an entire day off from parent duties of any kind, including even seeing their two children. Westreich jokes they have trademarked the arrangement “20 percent divorced.”

2| Schedule all the things

Savvy parents take the time to schedule all the things in advance. Jessica Ziegler, the co-author of Science of Parenthood, relies on phone alarms for everything: “One for Get The Kids Up, one for 10-Minute Warning/Brush Your Teeth, one for GTFO.” What did we ever do before phone alarms with customizable labels!?
Joy Jackson, a stay at home mom of three, has a phone alarm scheduled to ding three times a week at 9:45 p.m. after her kids are tucked in for the night. “It’s the sex alarm,” says Jackson. “It says, ‘Hey, reminder, you guys like each other, but have your busy days made you forget?’”
Lorin Oliker Allan is a stay at home mom who relies on a weekly delivery from a local farm for her family’s eggs, milk, and produce.
Elyana Funk’s two daughters have piano lessons every Thursday afternoon, which means Thursday is always pizza day. Says Funk, a non-profit administrator, “I order it earlier in the day and schedule it so that it arrives when we do.”

3| …And use a shared electronic calendar app to do it

My husband and I started using a shared Google calendar when our first child was born over five years ago. My husband had been trying to bring me over the dark (read: electronic) side for years, but as a paper lover at heart, I wouldn’t budge – until we had a child and I had to make sure someone was watching our kid every time I went to work on a Saturday, worked out, or met a friend. Now, I’m never surprised when my husband “invites” me to happy hours with men I don’t know, and he’s come to expect “invitations” to girls’ night.
Galit Breen is a mother of three and author of “Kindness Wins,” a guide for teaching your child to be kind online . Breen has had her kids enter their own events on the family’s iCalendar since her two older kids were 10 and eight. “We’re all on the same page,” says Breen. “They don’t need reminders from me because they’re the ones who put them there, they see double-booking instantly so that we can take care of it in advance, and it’s so much less busy work for me!”

4| Simplify your meals

Melissa Proia is a stay at home mom of three kids under the ages of six. She has egg frittatas every morning for breakfast. It may sound elaborate but it’s actually far simpler than even cereal or instant oatmeal. Once a week, she mixes up a nine eggs, a pound of ground turkey, and veggies, bakes them in a casserole dish, cuts and wraps them into nine squares, and all she has to do is grab one and heat it up each morning.
On Sundays, Sam Watts – a busy stay at home mom who juggles five part-time jobs – plans her family’s meals for the week, puts all the ingredients on her shopping list, and does her weekly shopping. Having this system dialed in means she never has to take extra time to think about dinner.
Amy Muller is a mom and project manager who volunteers for her local Boulder, Colo. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America chapter and hits ballet classes in her spare time. Muller takes it a step further with a weekly dinner schedule featuring chicken Monday, taco Tuesday, and pizza Friday, that rarely, if ever, varies.

5| Batch process

Never do something one at a time when you’re going to need to do it every day, every week, or every month. Stay at home mom Meryl Hertz Junick does all her school lunch prepping at once. This way, she says, “I just need to refresh the containers in the insulated totes each night or morning.”
I make a double batch of just about every time I bake muffins or prep a meal in the slow cooker. Those items freeze well and my future self always thanks me.
With two children in elementary school, Elyana Funk says it feels like her family attends two birthday parties every weekend. She saves time by stockpiling birthday presents.

6| Do it the night before

I am the worst procrastinator. The more deadlines I have, the cleaner my house is. But even I swear by doing as much as I can the night before. I make my kids’ lunches while I make dinner.
Elyana Funk has her coffee pot prepped and ready to go before she goes to sleep.
Brittany Bouchard, a bank manager and mom of two girls, makes getting her kids dressed a breeze by putting entire outfits together on a hanger. So instead of helping her children choose a top, a bottom, socks, and underwear, each outfit is pre-planned and ready to wear. All her kids have to do is grab a hanger and go.
Jess Allen – the popular online trainer and fitness blogger at Blonde Ponytail – even preps her kids’ breakfast the night before to make mornings smoother.
When I was a kid, all I wanted was the freedom to be an adult and do whatever I wanted. Now that I’m an adult, that freedom can feel overwhelming and I find myself longing for some of the constraints I had as a child. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional Netflix binge, third glass of wine, or extra helping of dessert. But I am happier when I can put some of my adult responsibilities on auto-pilot and devote my limited mental energy to the areas of my life where it matters.

It's Easy to Ask Why I Didn't Leave the First Time

I said it only takes one time for him to lay his hands on you for you to know he is abusive. Until it actually happened to me.

I never understood how anyone could stay in an abusive relationship. I was independent and strong. I said if a man ever laid a hand on me, even once, I would be gone, no matter what.
I was unapologetic and unforgiving towards victims because I was sure I would never let it happen to me, just like anyone who’s never been abused is sure they wouldn’t let it happen to them.
I said it only takes one time for him to lay his hands on you for you to know he is abusive. I said you should leave right then and there. Until it actually happened to me. You have no idea what you would really do until you are in that situation.
The first time won’t be a hit or a punch. Sometimes abuse is never a hit or a punch. It can be pure emotional and psychological abuse. Sometimes the abuser won’t lay a hand on a woman until she tries to leave. And then he will kill her.
I have been in an abusive relationship for four years. It began with psychological abuse, and then with him breaking inanimate objects. For the first two years, he never laid a hand on me, and to this day, he has never actually hit me.
But he has broken my rib, left bruises up and down my arm, and thrown me onto shattered glass, among many other abuses that weren’t actually outright punching me. He has made it easy for me to defend him and say it was an accident.
But I am not ignorant. I am a smart, educated woman who knows the signs. I can look inside my relationship and see it. I can hear my husband spout off the stereotypical lines of an abuser verbatim. He would tell me it’s my fault, that I shouldn’t have provoked him, that I made him this way, that he used to be a nice person.
Colleen Hoover said in her book “It Ends With Us” that you lose sight of your limit. There’s a limit of what you are willing to put up with before you are done. With every incident, you stretch your limit further and further until you lose sight of your limit altogether.
They say it only gets worse, he will never change. I fully believe that, but I don’t want to.
My partner hasn’t laid a hand on me in three months. Sometimes I think maybe he really is changing. I am a stay-at-home mom to our children. We own our home, our car, and everything is in his name. I have no money and nowhere to go. So I want to believe he is changing.
If you think you would leave right away, you’re wrong. It takes time to leave.
Why, when people hear a woman is in an abusive relationship, do they say, “Why didn’t she leave?” and not, “Why did he hit her?”
It is dangerous for people to have these expectations of victims of domestic violence. It is dangerous for people to make victims believe that it isn’t common, that they are alone in not being able to leave. The truth is you never leave the first time.
People condemn women for staying, but so many circumstances in our society make leaving feel impossible. Sometimes there is no help to be had by the police or court system. The abuser controls everything and will destroy you if you try to leave.
Victim shaming needs to end.
Just because I’m not leaving my children homeless or taking the life they know away from them doesn’t mean I’m not the person and mother that I thought I would be. I am still the same strong person that I was before. Strong comes in many different forms.
Right now, I am doing anything it takes to survive. I do what I have to do for my children.
If you suffer from domestic abuse, you are still beautiful, strong, and capable, no matter what anybody tells you. You are no less because you have stayed, or because you will stay again. You have been through more than some people could imagine. Going through something others haven’t is what makes you strong – not the opposite.
That does not mean you should never leave. Sometimes it means you need to prepare beforehand to leave safely.
I’ll say it again. It takes time to leave. And when you find a way, you will come out even stronger.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please consider getting the help you need. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or consult the resources at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Make a Cheap, No-Sew Halloween Costume for Your Kid (Without Losing Your Mind)

Some tips to make your Halloween stitch-witchery a little easier.

It’s nearly that time of year again. As September wraps up and October looms ahead, kids between the ages of three and 13 start brainstorming about what they will dress up as for Halloween. Meanwhile, moms everywhere give a collective sigh, because they will be responsible for conjuring up yet another costume.
In Halloween costumes – and in life – I’ve always been a do-it-yourself mom. For one, it usually costs less money to build a costume out of makeshift materials than to buy one from a big-box retailer.
Sometimes the individual elements can even be repurposed after the holiday, so it’s less wasteful, too. If you buy a pair of gray sweatpants to go with a shark costume, they don’t have to be shoved into your dress-up box on November 1st. Your kiddo can wear them all through the winter.
I also just like making things myself. Costumes, cakes, curtains, you name it. While I’m not really a fully-committed “Pinterest Mom” (my husband might disagree with that, so don’t ask him), I do find enjoyment in turning a pile of old clothes, a stack of felt, and some hot glue into a costume that vaguely resembles a Ninja turtle.
As a stay-at-home mom, my days are often filled with the menial kinds of tasks that keep a household running but leave me feeling awfully unproductive at the end of the day. DIY projects make me happy. And my kids, so far, have appreciated the one-of-a-kind costumes I’ve been able to put together for them.
Without any judgment on the moms who toss a costume into their Target cart, pay the bill, and get on with their day, you might be someone who looks at those $39.99 prepackaged costumes and thinks, “Huh, I could probably make that myself for at least half the price.”
Whether you want to avoid shelling out big bucks for an overpriced mermaid costume or simply want to get your hands dirty with pipe cleaners, rhinestones, and scrap fabric, here are some tips to make your Halloween stitch-witchery a little easier.

Give your kids a deadline for making a decision

If your kids are like mine, they start proposing costume ideas in July and change their minds no less than a dozen times. You know what’s worse than scouring eBay, Amazon, and the craft stores for all the supplies needed to make a Dora the Explorer costume? Having your kid decide she actually wants to be Doc McStuffins instead. Let your kids entertain a million different ideas at first, but tell them no take-backs once it’s October.

Look around your house before you buy anything

What do old sheets, aluminum foil, muffin tins, wooden curtain rods, cardboard paper towel rolls, and bungee cords all have in common? They can be re-purposed into any manner of costume parts or accessories, and they’re probably all lurking somewhere in your basement. Shop local first – as in your own house – before you start searching elsewhere.

Get thee to a thrift store

Used clothes are the perfect foundation items for homemade, no-sew costumes. Hoodies can be turned into anything requiring a headpiece (like many animals), skirts and dresses can be refashioned into everything from cloaks and capes to princess and fairy outfits, and a T-shirt turned inside-out to hide a logo or graphic is basically a blank slate for whatever you need it to be.
Bonus: you’ll feel significantly less guilty about taking a pair of fabric scissors to a gently-used $3 sweatshirt than one you just bought, brand-new, for $14.99.

Invest in a glue gun

This step is essential. I have never once used a sewing machine (or even a needle and thread) to make a costume for my kids. Instead, I hot-glue everything. Truly – everything. Buttons, felt, fabric, velcro closures, PVC piping, cardboard. It works on nearly every kind of material. Fabric glue and Krazy glue work only selectively, under certain circumstances. Hot glue is the most dependable and versatile option.

Felt is your friend

You can use felt for anything. A swath of soft, flexible felt can be bought by the yard and used just like fabric. It cuts more smoothly and bonds together better with hot glue than its cotton, flannel, and fleece counterparts. It’s very forgiving.
Stiffer felt, usually sold in rectangular sheets, is perfect for decorative accents: animal or character facial features, superhero emblems, letters and numbers, flowers and leaves, headbands and hair accessories. The stiff kind is also the easiest and most comfortable way to make a partial face mask. (Just cut two holes on either side and attach with sewing elastic.)

Leave yourself enough time

This is probably the toughest part. Depending on your level of craftiness, it might take two hours or two days to whip up a Captain America or Lego Ninjago costume for your kiddo. I know you’re busy, but don’t wait until the night before to get started. It’s unusual for everything to work 100 percent as you expect it to, so you will need to have a backup plan (and the time to execute it) for any element that doesn’t quite work on the first attempt.

Head to Pinterest

There, I said it. Maybe I really am a Pinterest Mom. Just remember: you don’t have to copy another mom’s butterfly or gumball machine costume tutorial to the letter. You can adapt, modify, skip steps, and take shortcuts. Find some inspiration and do what works for you. After you’ve racked your brain trying to figure out how to turn an old plastic container into an astronaut helmet, you might have a total lightbulb moment while perusing Pinterest tutorials.

37 Ways to Entertain Your Kid That Won't Bore You Out of Your Skull

When your day with little ones stretches endlessly before you and you’re out of ideas, try some of these.

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It is not even noon, and you’ve watched a movie, done a puzzle, read books, and everything else you can imagine. When your day with little ones stretches endlessly before you and you’re out of ideas, try some of these:

  1. Write a letter or draw a picture for a faraway relative. Address and stamp today so you make sure to send it.
  2. Visit your local hospital cafeteria for lunch.
  3. Make a collage of things you like from old magazines.
  4. Go to the shelter, and give the animals a little one-on-one attention.
  5. Armed with $1 each, go to a store and have each person pick out a snack to share.
  6. Make paper bag puppets or costumes.
  7. Call the fire station and arrange for a tour.
  8. Look at baby pictures or home movies.
  9. Act out a favorite picture book.
  10. Make a word search with the names of friends and family.
  11. Get out the flashlights, turn out the lights, and explore the house.
  12. Have each family member take a picture of the five things he or she would rescue in a fire. Write a sentence or two about why each item is so special.
  13. Make a map of your block. Include as much detail as possible.
  14. Make a big pan of Jello Jigglers (see the box for a recipe). Cut puzzle pieces and try to put it back together.
  15. Visit the library with a list of things everyone must find: something blue, a book with turtles, a newspaper, etc.
  16. Use a few basic food supplies to build towers or houses. Graham crackers and marshmallows are a great place to start, with frosting as an adhesive.
  17. Tell a few sentences of a story. Say “and then…” so the next person can continue the story. Go around in a circle a few times till you come to a natural ending.
  18. Break out the microphones! Hairbrushes or vacuum attachments work well. Turn on some great dance music and sing your hearts out – extra points for stage presence.
  19. Use tissue paper and Mod Podge (or thinned out white glue) to decorate anything wood. Picture frames work well. Rip off pieces of different colored tissue paper, wet it thoroughly to stick, and add layers. Dries overnight.
  20. Search the internet or cookbooks for a fun new recipe and give it a shot.
  21. Put on swimsuits, add extra bubbles to the tub, and have a family bubble bath. See who can cover themselves the most in suds.
  22. Play a memory game. Put 10 objects on a tray, cover it after 60 seconds, and then see who can remember everything. If that is too easy, go for less time or more stuff.
  23. Go bowling. It never fails.
  24. Make a piñata: Blow up a balloon. Cut newspaper into one-inch thick strips. Coat with glue or ahesive mixture and cover with wet strips. Leave a small (2” x 2”) section blank. Dry overnight and pop balloon. Paint or decorate the exterior. Fill with small goodies through the hole and seal with duct tape or a sturdy piece of cardboard wedged in. Then go to town.
  25. Take a sightseeing trip to find heavy equipment. See how many machines you can identify (and bring along reference material if possible).
  26. Let the kids ask you 20 questions about your childhood.
  27. Clear off the dining room table, cover with a sheet or two, and all climb into the fort.
  28. Give each child a list of words or a set of pictures to use in a story or poem.
  29. Visit pbs.org or another television website for interactive games and activities relating to favorite shows and characters.
  30. Plant some seeds in a window box and make labels for what each thing will become.
  31. Using towels, sheets, dishrags, or anything else you can think of, become a family of super heroes. Invent your own superpowers and work to rescue things around the house.
  32. Take turns doing portraits of each other. Have one person sit for 10 minutes while everyone else draws, then switch. Make a gallery of your work.
  33. Have a silly string or whipped cream fight in the kitchen (or maybe the bathtub).
  34. Learn about tools. Find some things around the house that can be safely taken apart with screwdrivers or wrenches.
  35. Practice gargling together. See who can do it the longest, who can talk while gargling, or even sing a song.
  36. Bring out your animal side. Say “hocus pocus…rabbit,” and everyone has to act like a rabbit. With another “hocus pocus,” you switch. Take turns being in charge of choosing the next animal.
  37. Look at a globe or map and figure out a location opposite from you: opposite side of the world, opposite side of the country, anything. Research that place and put together pictures and words to tell about it.

The Power of NOT Negotiating With Toddlers

The other day, I snuck one of my triplet toddlers – the one sitting in the shopping cart seat facing me as the other two sat in the plastic car, facing away – a Krispy Kreme cruller.
The only one without a corn allergy, she’d been denied all her life such packaged treats, eating only home-baked cookies and cakes on rare occasions, like birthdays and playdates.
“Mmmmm,” she said, her eyes widening. “I like these cookies.” She gulped the cruller down in three bites. “Another.”
“Shh,” I said, not wanting the other two to catch on. They would’ve wanted one, too, but they couldn’t. I’d read the crullers’ ingredients: corn, corn, and more corn. “You only get one.”
“Another!” she screamed, pounding her fists against the shopping cart, kicking her legs, and shaking her head. Of course, my daughter was no stranger to complete meltdowns, though luckily, until then, I’d escaped the public ones. “I want another butter cookie! I want it now!”
Thinking about the lesson I’d just read about ignoring whining and fits in Dr. Catherine Pearlman’s “Ignore It!”, I gathered my strength, looked away, and laid produce on the checkout belt. The clerk’s eyes widened.
The doughnuts floated by, and my daughter screamed again, “I want butter!”
“Do you want…?” the clerk said, holding up the doughnuts, knowing, at least, not to conjure them by name. Still, her eyes begged me to give my daughter another, anything to quiet the screaming imp now throwing her head back and kicking my waist. I shook my head.
“Nope,” I said. “No way.”
I must admit, when I read the title and the premise of “Ignore It!” – including logic, such as “…negotiation is almost always initiated by the child for the benefit of the child” – I said to myself, “I’m a high school teacher at a rigorous Catholic school. I stick to my guns. I don’t negotiate.”
Nonetheless, my triplets had just turned two-and-a-half and were starting to win about half of the arguments they waged with me. In any given moment, one child might be lying on the floor tattling on her sister who’d just touched her and, wanting to be picked up, another might be lobbing her lovey and demanding I go retrieve it, while a third might be scheming for a pasta dinner once again after I’ve spent all afternoon making lemon chicken.
It wasn’t until I’d read halfway through Dr. Pearlman’s book (subtitled, “How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction”) that I started to realize just how much negotiating I had been doing with my three toddlers:
“You can have more milk if you eat just one bite of chicken,” or “I’ll stand in your doorway until you fall asleep, but I’m not lying in bed all night with you,” and “Just one more cartoon, as long as you’re quiet.”
I was exhausted, dealing with one child who no longer napped and two who did, but went to bed late, demanding my presence until they fell asleep. I was getting only minutes of down time a day, my husband and I clambering to catch up on our lives before one of our children needed us yet again.
It was in that moment at the grocery store checkout, my daughter throwing herself in four opposing directions, that, ironically, life became a bit simpler. When my daughter’s “butter cookie” tantrum produced no attention (or doughnut), she stopped screaming. In fact, she became quite sweet, the rest of the day whispering in my ear, “Thank you, Mommy, for the treat at the store,” at which point I followed Dr. Pearlman’s advice again, re-engaging my daughter and showering her with attention for good behavior.
Pretty soon, I started ignoring other, less tantrumy behavior, as well. Instead of yelling at my child to go back to time out, I let her wander into the kitchen while I kept chopping vegetables, until eventually – to my disbelief – she returned on her own.
Instead of standing in my daughter’s doorway until she fell asleep (which seemed to get later and later each night), I told her I’d tuck her in, go rock her sister, and be back to say goodnight, at which point I’d leave. After one night of listening to her yell for me a few times, she accepted my absence and went to sleep. Then my husband and I climbed out from under our rocks and started watching the first season of “Game of Thrones”.
I hate to make blanket statements, like “my children became more enjoyable,” as the book promises. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. Like all kids, they have good and bad moments, days, weeks. They can change from darlings to monsters and back again in mere seconds. I do know that I have stopped wasting energy trying to force them to be more enjoyable, however.
I let them whine. I allow them to resolve more disputes on their own. I don’t negotiate. Most importantly, I am more rested and connected to my spouse, which helps me handle the bad days when ignoring all their schemes would otherwise seem impossible.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned implementing Dr. Pearlman’s strategy is that my role as a teacher at a rigorous high school, where I maintained clear rules and boundaries with my students, does not make a perfect educator at home. We may know what is best for our children and for us, but we still need constant reminders (and step-by-step instructions with dozens of real-world examples, as Dr. Pearlman gives) on how to implement that knowledge.
In our exhaustion, we make mistakes. We yell, we negotiate, and we skulk around the house, making us no better than our screaming toddlers. But, maybe, if we “Ignore It!” (in my case, all three of it), we will at least be more effective than our toddlers at getting our way.