It's 8 a.m. You're trying to get ready for work while simultaneously packing lunches, signing permission slips and attempting to locate a lost shoe, a favorite toy and your sanity. Life with three kids is chaotic even for a stay-at-home mom, but for a working mother, the stress level only increases. Keep the pandemonium to a minimum -- and your mental health intact -- with some careful planning and organization.
When you're rushing to get out the door in the morning, breakfast can become almost an afterthought. A quick toaster pastry or a doughnut might be the easiest option, but it's definitely not the healthiest. Instead, prepare for breakfast the night before. Measure out cereal servings into plastic bags, or put all of the ingredients for a smoothie into the blender and store it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, add some ice and quickly blend a healthy breakfast. While you're preparing breakfast the night before, get the kids' lunches and snacks ready, as well. Add water or juice, fruit or pre-packed snacks to the lunchboxes at night, and make sandwiches in the morning.
At the end of a long day, preparing a fresh, healthy dinner might be the last thing you want to do. And when the kids are threatening to revolt from hunger, you need something fast. To save time, plan a month's worth of menus at a time, and prepare several meals in advance over the weekend. Each morning, pull out the frozen meal or the ingredients for a quick meal to thaw, so all you have to do when you get home is pop it in the oven. Keep several types of lettuce and bottled dressings on hand to round out your prepared meals. Your slow-cooker can be your best friend when you're managing three kids and a career. While the kids eat breakfast or get dressed, toss some meat, veggies, seasonings, and water or broth into the crock and let the cooker do the work all day.
Buy in Bulk
Your daughter has just informed you that she needs three dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale -- tomorrow. You may never get your kids to remember these things well in advance, but you can be prepared for last-minute emergencies. Purchase several boxes of cake mix in various flavors when they go on sale at the grocery store, or look for bulk packages at your local warehouse club. Warehouse clubs can save you time and money when it comes to meals. Purchase juice boxes, prepackaged snack items and pantry basics, such as pasta, flour and sugar. Combine a trip to the warehouse club with your monthly meal plan. If you do most of your shopping once a month, you only need to make a quick stop at the grocery store for fresh produce and dairy once a week. If you're super busy, look into a grocery delivery service. In some areas, you can place an order for fresh groceries online and have them delivered right to your door.
Almost every working mom has dreamed of having hired help at some point. Unfortunately, hiring a personal chef or housekeeper is not economical for most people. Kids, especially young kids, are often eager to help, though. During mealtimes, harness their energy into something other than tearing apart the family room. Kids as young as 3 can tear lettuce, fold napkins or shake up the dressing for a salad; older kids can set the table, scrub vegetables or measure ingredients. Not only does this help you get dinner on the table sooner, but gives you a chance to spend time with the kids and chat about your day. After supper, enlist the kids to help clear the table and load the dishwasher.