I like my systems. If there is chaos in my life, I systematize it, organize it, and conquer it. One of the areas of chaos for us as a family, and for most families, is before school times and after school times. It’s especially hard to be single and have to get your kids out the door in the morning all by yourself. It takes a long time for me to get ready in the morning, let alone my two boys. I really don’t want to get up unnecessarily early to get everything done…I like my sleep…so I have to make everything as efficient as possible.
For my own routines, I use todoist. I organize my life on todoist by categories, or projects. I have a personal project with tasks I do at home, a work project for all my work tasks, and a meal plan project for the meals I’ve planned for the week. I also have grocery projects, which I discussed at length in a previous blog on Meal Planning for Single Parents. I put all my regular tasks in my projects as recurring tasks. So, I do laundry every Tuesdays and Saturdays. I run every Tuesdays and Saturdays. I take out the garbage every Wednesday, and so forth. Once I put a task in todoist and set it as recurring and when, it pops up in my inbox on the day it has to be done. Each evening, I move around the next day’s tasks in my inbox into before school tasks, during school tasks, and after school tasks. In the morning just before I head out the door, I check todoist to make sure I’ve done everything that I am supposed to do before school. I get my coffee ready, put laundry in the washing machine if I have to, get my lunch, get my clothes set out for the next day, etc. It takes ten seconds to check everything off and know that I’ve completed everything I need to before I head out the door. I’m also planning much in advance, so I set out my clothes for the next day in the morning. I get my coffee made and set for the next day in the morning. Everything I can do ahead of time, I do. I wake up every morning at 5:30am. I head out the door by 7:15am. So, I have an hour and 45 minutes to do my tasks and get the kids ready. It may seem like a lot of time, but I like to get up slowly and enjoy my mornings. This makes it so that I’m not rushed.
For My Kids
My kids are old enough to be responsible for many things themselves in the morning. I make a color-coded list for them to check every morning, similar to their own todoist, which I post on the refrigerator door. Eventually, they have their routine down and they don’t have to check it anymore. My boys get dressed, brush their teeth, feed the pets, and eat breakfast all on their own. Every once in a while, I’ll make the boys breakfast or feed the pets myself, but they know to do these things themselves. They also get their backpacks ready (which have already been put together the night before…we do homework after school and I sign all necessary forms and assignment notebooks at this time too).
After school is a little less rushed because there’s more time and no place to be. For me, homework right after school is a must. Let’s just get it done. The kids know that. They know to start their homework as soon as they get home, and I no longer have to ask them to do it. While they are doing their homework, I’m signing forms and assignment notebooks, making lunches for the next day (I usually make everything for lunches on Sundays, so all I have to do is toss sandwiches, fruit, and yogurt in lunch bags for the next day.), and getting dinner prepped. I also throw washed clothes in the dryer or get ready to go on a run after school. Once dinner is ready, homework has been done, lunches have been made, and clothes are clean and ready for the next day. I like to eat early…like 5 or 5:30. I can because I’m a teacher and I can be home by 4:15 each day. I make sure to make easy meals during the week so dinner is simple and quick. After dinner, I read to the boys and we talk about our days. By 6pm, we are done and ready to go to sports practice, go for a run, or hang out and get ice cream. I go to bed by 9pm, so this gives me a little downtime too, which is really necessary for my mental health.
Routines are necessary. I call them the white noise in life. They make everything calm and relaxed. The more you stick to them, the easier and more efficient they become. They’ll become memorized and automatic. And when you’re single and having to manage the routines and household tasks on your own, efficiency is necessary. Routines also eliminate conflict. They’re predictable for the kids so there is less complaining. Posting routines for the kids before they have them memorized is important too. It grounds me as a mom and as head of my household.