14 Been-Around-the-Block Parenting Hacks

My husband and I have three kids. They are now one, three and five years old. And while juggling multiple kids is tiring (and rewarding and amazing and I wouldn’t change it for anything), counterintuitively, with each child I have been able to find more time for myself.

Part of this is experience and our kids getting older and being able to play with each other. And I joke that part of it is also that we just don’t care as much. (It’s funny because it’s true….) But my husband and I have also learned a lot of time-saving tricks. Here are our top parenting hacks so far.

  1. Buttoning the onesie. Most onesies come with three buttons on the bottom. With our first, we meticulously buttoned each one of those suckers while he squirmed and kicked and tried to roll off the changing table. Here’s a secret: You only need to button one. It doesn’t even need to be the corresponding button and button hole. It will still stay on and will not ride up if you combine any button with any hole. Minutes a day saved, I tell you.
  2. Zipper pajamas. Relatedly, whenever possible, get the zipper pajamas. With the regular button pajamas I still get confused when I get to that part where the buttons converge in one maddening arc at the diaper area. I end up having to re-button the whole thing just when I thought I was almost done more than I will admit here. The zippers are so vastly superior that I’m not sure why they even make the button ones anymore.
  3. Diaper changes. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. I mean, not indefinitely. But if you’re doing disposable, most diapers are good for up to twelve hours. Just saying. This is especially useful if you are still using the button pajamas.
  4. Don’t rush toilet training. In theory, having a potty-trained child is amazing. No more diaper changes! No more wipes! No more stinky diaper genies! But there’s a solid three month (if you’re lucky) transition time when you find yourself pulling 2T underpants out of your purse when reaching for your wallet at Starbucks on your way to work, you’re doing seventeen extra loads of laundry, and there are mysterious puddles on the floor and wet spots on the furniture. When they’re ready, they’re ready. No rush.
  5. Let them dress themselves. Today our daughter chose to wear four shirts, a pair of pants and boots. It was 73 degrees and hasn’t rained in four days. She is a big fan of the layered look generally – often wearing all four of her skirts at the same time. Wearing her pajamas out is another favorite. Are her outfit choices sometimes a bit unusual? Absolutely. Does she still look completely adorable? It goes without saying. And if we get strange looks from people, then that’s a great indication that these are people we do not need to be friends with. She’s happy. She’s clothed. We saved 45 minutes of screaming and yelling and got out the door. Done.

    A dress, a skirt, legwarmers and socks. And she looks perfect.

    A dress, a skirt, legwarmers and socks. And she looks perfect.

  6. Push the pacifier. Our first child took the pacifier for a few months and then rejected it. Our daughter never took it. When our third started getting over it after a few months, we kept on pushing it until he finally realized how wonderful and soothing and magical it is. I know we will eventually have to work to break him of it, but for now the quiet car rides and moments of peace are totally worth it. (Stay tuned for a post next year on what a mistake it was to let our child use a pacifier.)
  7. Teach your kids how to play by themselves. I love getting down on the floor and playing with my kids. But I also don’t think it’s my job to be a constant source of entertainment for them. And sometimes it can even be disruptive to their flow when I try to insert how I think they should play into how they are playing. Trust your kids to play by themselves. Give them a pan of water and some cups. Give them a box of pompoms and some containers. Sit back and watch. And also check out the lovely Janet Lansbury  and Tumbleweed blogs if this appeals to you for ideas on how to get started and the philosophy behind it.
  8. TV is okay in moderation. Sometimes I let my older two kids watch an episode of Go, Diego, Go! If I feel like I really need a break, I let them watch an episode of Super Friends. It gives me 24 or 50 minutes to clean the house, put the baby to bed, start dinner, or stare at a wall. They are still okay.
  9. Take advantage of your kids not being able to tell time yet. Our kids generally go to bed at 7 p.m. Unless it’s one of those days when they have been screaming at each other since the moment they woke up, didn’t nap and cried because a piece of lint fell on their hands. Then bedtime is at “7 p.m.”
  10. Buy the okay to wake clock. This is a digital clock that turns green at a preset time of your choosing. Once it turns green, the kids can get up. If your kids are out of the crib, you just have to make this purchase. It is the single best thing we have ever bought as parents. Maybe as human beings. You would think it also erects some sort of secret force field that prevents them from opening the door it works so well. Check it out here (affiliate link).
  11. Don’t google. Ever. Just call the doctor if you’re worried. They won’t laugh at you. I know because I have called and asked such questions as “Do you think it’s a runny nose or brain fluid?” and they have been nothing but kind.
  12. Consider baby-led weaning. For those new to it, baby-led weaning is introducing your children to food through whole foods rather than purees. So instead of giving them apple sauce, give them steamed apples or even raw apples. This allows them to hold the food, experience different textures and just generally be exposed to a lot of different foods, including whatever you’re having for dinner. It is also a huge time saver not to have to puree the food and spoon feed it. Love. It. You can read more about it here.
  13. Encourage short hair. This is my husband’s number one time-saving tip. Relatedly, he’s in charge of bath time. This is especially key if your child doesn’t like to have her hair brushed.
  14. Elf on the shelf. Don’t. Just don’t.

Do you already use any of these? What tips would you add?

11 responses to “14 Been-Around-the-Block Parenting Hacks

    • Exactly!! Starting traditions that are time consuming and require a lot of creative thought are just setting yourself up for headaches. I wish I had the foresight to have my son hide the Easter eggs for the Easter bunny to find. I am too old to be awake and hiding eggs at midnight.

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  1. Yep, these are great ones!! Our kiddos are now 11 and 13 and one of the BEST things we ever did was purchase projection clocks for both of their rooms. This allows them, with just a slight peek, to know what time it is. Our rule was that they were not allowed out of bed (other than to go to the bathroom then straight back to bed) until 7am. Obviously, more freedoms are allowed now, but it was brilliant and worked beautifully for us back in the day. 🙂

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  2. Teaching kids some self responsibility like picking their outfits or entertaining themselves are so important as empowerment for them and a breather for parents!

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  3. Great hacks list. And I laughed quite frequently. The four-layered clothing bit? Hey, it’s Portland, they do that in hot weather. She’d fit right in.

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  4. I would add (and I do this jumping up and down b/c I so deeply regret NOT doing it) keeping the gift giving light. Christmas, Easter, birthdays. It is so tempting to go overboard those first few years, but that only leads to expectations that make life hard on everyone down the road. And once they reach 10 years old and only want media-related items it is nearly impossible to come up with gift ideas to fill the stocking, Easter basket, etc. and not go bankrupt in the process.

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  5. I LOVE this. So true. For potty training…wait until 3 for sure. Also, Mom Time Outs. You get alone time and you’re in time out so no one is suppose to bother you. 😉 Teach them to say “I’m tough” when they fall, etc. Hands off on oogling over every injury and teaches them to fix the problem. You’re an awesome mom!

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  6. Love your blog, love this. Have to disagree on the potty training though. All of my kids were done with diapers by the time they were 2, and I would much rather change the occasional wet pants or sheets than diapers all day long for months. We used cloth though.

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