Woman and baby in stroller, enjoying the day

How I made free time during 6 months as a single mom

It’s been a journey, writing weekly blog posts and incorporating what I’m learning into my life. What made this fall extra trying was that our second floor became a full-out renovation zone. My husband disappeared into our upstairs for days on end while I kept the wheels rolling for home life. This meant I had to learn how to make my own free time during 6 months as a single mom.

I’m not saying this to complain. Acting as a solo parent was how I contributed to our renovation. But I can say, holy cow do I have all the respect in the world for single mamas. Massive respect, also, for all you mamas out there who have a partner but carry the lionshare of the house tasks and child rearing. It’s never ending and thankless. You deserve standing ovations every. single. day.

Lessons from 6 months as a single mom

Without further ado, here are the top things that I learned in my “single mama” months as I sought to spend less time on house stuff so that I could squeeze in time for myself. 

  • Quitting time: 9:30ish became the time when I allowed myself to stop moving for the day and do something for me before bed. It is a boundary that continues to feel important.
  • Edge time: If I find I have a few minutes between things, I’ve started chipping away at a chore I know I’ll have to do later. Something as simple as unloading half the dishwasher before work means that I’ll have a faster time getting the kitchen cleaned that night. 
  • Batch cooking: I’ll say this one a thousand times, I’m sure. Batch cooking on Sundays has saved an hour or more of cooking and cleaning every night of the week. 
  • Your ONE thing: I decide what the most important task is. The thing that makes everything feel easier or better once it’s done. This helps keep smaller “task” distractions from eating up your time. It also helps me redifine “success” in this crazy life…I wrote a post on it that you can check out here
  • Bedtime schedule: Creating a routine that gets sweet child to bed on time is key. For us, getting dinner on the table by 6 practically guarantees lights out by 7:30. Ah, sweet silence! 
  • Schedule time to make time: Now that I look for invisible systems in my home that waste time, I see them everywhere. I quickly learned that unless I schedule time to actually make the changes, they don’t happen. If they don’t happen, then I miss out on time that I could be having more fun with my family or doing my own thing. 
  • Habits are killer: It is super hard to break habits, especially ones that started way before kids. To help stop myself in the middle of something that doesn’t serve a purpose, I’ve started trying to ask “does this serve me?” If the answer is no, it’s easier to drop it and move on. 
  • Online time: We all know the internet is a rabbit hole. By shifting my internet habits in small ways, I have managed to spend less time online. For instance, I don’t bargain hunt if I’ve found a company I trust and know my way around their website. I have unsubscribed from listservs so there are fewer emails in my inbox. Sometimes I set a timer to limit the time I spend online, including for activities like blogging or facebook. All this keeps me plugged in, but on my own terms. 
  • Savoring time: Over these last months, I have developed a gratitude for mindset for the time I do have with my husband and daughter. I have choir once a week and instead of Oh crap, I’ve got only seven minutes for dinner! It has shifted to Ah! I have seven minutes to enjoy myself. That simple and genuine shift allows me to be more present and really enjoy myself, even in small bursts. 
  • The sanity clause: Elbows up, mama! Don’t overbook. Trust your gut. Say no graciously and firmly. Ask your partner to say no or back out of things if the sanity clause means that your relationship will be in a better place or his/her presence will allow you to get more alone time. 
  • Loving the life I’ve got: This is a perspective on time in the larger sense.You probably get it when I say that I often feel like I need to have, do, and be more in order to feel successful. Having kids puts a huge speed bump in that race…maybe for the better, if I let my heart do the talking. I know I’m going to miss these days. I’m going to want them back. So maybe my rhythm is slower for a while. Maybe I don’t travel much or go out much. Loving this life just as it is right now is the brand of “success” that I’m learning to run with.

There you have it! The quick-hits list of how I’ve learned to save time and appreciate time over the past months – my keys to making free time during 6 months as a single mom. All of these bullets cover (like I said) a very intense time for my family. Renovations, my husband’s band and shows, my choir, full time work, raising a child… it hasn’t been all roses. It’s been messy and beautiful and a journey. 

Thank you for the enormous love you give your family <3

The way I see it, if you have time to love yourself, then your children have a real good head start in becoming adults who love their lives. I hope the lessons learned in my “single mom” months can somehow help you shift into a place where you have more space for your own beautiful self care.

In case anyone hasn’t said it yet today, thank you for all you do. Thank you for keeping the wheels on the tracks in your house, day in and day out. Thank you for the massive care and energy you put into your family. This world hums and thrives because of you and all the souls who cook and clean and watch over, making home for us all. Namaste.

***Go Mama Love is off and running! If this article spoke to you, please share it on Facebook and “like” my Facebook page “Moms with Time.” Your support in this way means the world to me.

Use the sanity clause to make space for things you love, like this family sitting outside!

The life changing “sanity clause” for busy families

Have you had periods of time where the sheer number of things you’re juggling leaves you completely zapped? From the depths of a pile of blankets and potato chips on the couch and about to binge watch your favorite TV show, you announce you are never having a schedule this crazy again. From now on, things will be different! …months later you’re buried in potato chips again. If this is you, then you might like to know about the sanity clause. It can be life changing for busy families.

“The sanity clause” is a phrase my husband and I use to remind ourselves to look at the big picture before we say yes to things. We often find ourselves in a cycle of taking on too much and running thin. But when we remember to use the sanity clause, we end up a much happier family. 

The Sanity Clause

It’s a simple concept, so I’ll get right to it. The sanity clause is basically a question: will my family and I feel calm and stable if I say yes to this new thing? If the answer is no, then we adjust:

  • Perhaps we modify, slow down, or push off the activity for another time
  • Perhaps we say yes, but change or let go of stuff we’re already doing
  • Perhaps we say no, and that’s the end of it 

The sanity clause works really well in our house because we are the sort of people that go nonstop. When we don’t use it, we regret it. For instance, we did not use the sanity clause when we decided to move across the country with a baby, go on a trip to Europe days later, and then return to a fix-er-upper house with the idea that we could be living in it within a month. It’s hard to admit even to ourselves, but we struggled along for the better part of a year because of that too-intense summer. But the times when we look at all the things we could do and then ask: will we feel sane if we do all this? We get some perspective and make choices that are better for our family.

This is Key: Prioritize Your Well Being

So let’s say you know you need to use the sanity clause, but all the options in front of you look exciting for one reason or another. How do you choose what to say yes or no to? There is a huge body of articles that give guidance on the topic, but my favorite ones get at the topic from a holistic approach. In other words, they help you decide based on what’s most important to your physical, mental, and emotional well being. Your self care needs can change from week to week, which means that how you use the sanity clause might look different from week to week. 

In a blog post on prioritizing, Dr. Kate Northrup writes, “A life filled with what matters is a life well lived. And the only way to make sure you have a life like this is to do it on purpose.” She recommends that we intentionally figure out what matters most to us, schedule those activities first, and then fill in everything else that needs to happen. By doing this, you end up prioritizing your heart first. You get clear on what needs to fall off the plate and approach life on offense toward your goals.

Another nice article from Plenty Consulting talks about a healthy approach to prioritizing well being – it’s an intentional act made without guilt or apologies. I love that idea. I love that women are learning to speak and act in without apologizing or feeling guilty about it. It takes practice and it’s hard at first. I know, because I’m right there with you moving towards this space of unapologetic living. Fortunately, we’re surrounded by the voices of others who are doing the same and are encouraging us on this path.

2020: Best Year Ever <3

My wish for you in 2020 is that it becomes easy to hear the quiet stirrings in your heart. The whisper that says “this way” toward a life you love and experiences that keep you in awe of this beautiful world. May tools like the sanity clause and new ways of prioritizing help guide you on this path. You are an inspiring, powerful human being and I’m glad we’re in this together. 

***Tell me in the comments – because I’d love to hear! – what are you planning to do this year that you’re excited about? How can the sanity clause help you let go of things that don’t feel right anymore? Make sure to write it in the comments. You never know who you’ll inspire. Go mama! 

Dresses on a clothesline - Moms can get it all done with a little guilt-free help :)

A happier way to “get it all done.”

I joined a couple of online mom groups last month. Through other mom posts, I realized how common it is to feel like it’s a personal failing if we can’t get it all done. Today I explore that idea – I consider why we shouldn’t feel that way. Second, I explore how to release that sense of guilt around getting help. (P.s. if you’re on a budget, we’re in the same boat and I’ve got you covered!). 

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t “get it all done”

Congratulations, mama bear! A fabulous, holy, heart-filling, hugely time-intensive human being has landed in your life. For the perhaps the first time ever, you can take a big breath and revel in the fact that you get to move through your days without the “perfection” mindset that you maybe used to have. After all, something done is better than nothing done. You have every reason not to be hard on yourself for an unfinished to-do list. 

An article in Verywell Family points to data that moms with toddlers can be interrupted 210 times a day to attend their toddler’s needs. According to researcher Gloria Mark, who studies digitial distraction at the University of California, Irvine, it takes just over 23 minutes to regain your focus after a distraction. However, unlike the workplace, attending to a child can lead all over the place and easily go beyond 23 minutes.

No wonder moms struggle to do it all! You are losing time and focus because a child needs you. There is no shame in that. In the end, I hope this knowledge gives you some peace and a reason to be easier on yourself. No one can “get it all done” in a home full of interruptions. 

A new way to “get it all done”

If I have convinced you that you don’t need to carry the load of“getting it all done” on your own personal power, allow me to convince you of one more thing: that there are areas in your life where you can and should consider calling in help. 

Elizabeth Dunn, author of Happy Money, introduced me to this idea of intentionally buying time. She finds that people who spend money to buy themselves time or experiences are often happier than those who spend money on things. If you’re a parent, odds are that buying yourself time is what will allow you to have space for fulfilling experiences. 

Fortunately, even budget-strapped people can find ways to creatively buy time. Consider: regardless if what the going rate is, there are probably neighborhood kids who would babysit, mow the lawn, or weed the garden at a price that works for both of you. There are of course professional companies that can also come in and do yard, cooking, or housework, for a higher price and expert service. And if you really want to get creative, perhaps you could barter with a friendly neighbor: one hour with your kids gets them a jar of your blueberry kombucha. You get the idea…there are ways to buy yourself time on any budget. 

As a child, my husband’s family lived off one salary; his dad was in the early years of building a name for himself as a Milwaukee historian, and his mom stayed home with the kids. You can imagine how tight their finances must have been, and how his mom probably needed more breaks than she was getting. Cash strapped as they were, they managed to hire house cleaners once or twice a month. It gave his mom a little less to do, and helped keep the peace in their home. 

How to Not feel Guilty about buying time

When it comes down to it, buying time takes intention. First, you have to decide that the status quo in your house has to go: it’s time to buy time. Second, choose to feel good about this choice. This is a case where money (or maybe a little creative bartering) really can buy happiness. 

In a great article called “Why You Feel Guilty When You Spend Money and How to Stop,” Dani Pascarella writes, “A big reason why people feel guilty about spending money is they fear that it could be going towards something better or more important.” She says the solution to this problem is creating a budget where some of your money is set aside to spend on whatever the heck you want. This is guilt-free spending with your happy self waiting on the other side, so get on it! 

When it comes down to it, just about everything you do at home could be outsourced in some way. So consider what you like doing least – maybe that’s a good place to start buying time. Or consider the tasks you don’t mind, but do most often… that could be a great place to bring in help and free some time.

You are incredible

I’m not sure how any of us comes to the conclusion that we have to do it all, and do it alone. But if you find yourself in that boat, take a step back and congratulate yourself for all you’ve done. You are incredible. Then, take a moment to acknowledge that your heart and happiness are worth letting some of that stress and responsibility go. Start looking forward to that breathing room you’re about to buy. 

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I’m curious – which household activity are you most excited to hand off in some way? Write it down here in the comments! Your comment is a commitment to making this change, and it may just inspire another mom to do the same for herself. May our lovin’ energy inspire and cheer each other on. Go mama!

A winter bird - a pretty image to say "thank you for who you are"

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for who you are

I went to a women’s circle for a solstice gathering a couple days ago. It was a profound reminder to be grateful for who I am and my life, just as I am grateful for you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for who you are.

During the women’s circle, as we celebrated the wisdom that may be found in darkness, and our expectation for the return of the sun, we also held space for each other.  It was deeply powerful, to sit and share my story for a few minutes and to be witness to others. As I sat there, everything that I struggle with somehow seemed to feel better, lighter. I regained perspective that I am exactly where I should be, that we all are. 

The Path is the Goal

Gandhi once said, “The path is the goal.” Powerful words, right? But perhaps not enough on their own?

“Ah, but Gandhi,” you might be thinking, “How do I remember that in the middle of everything I’m going through right now?”

Not knowing Gandhi personally, I cannot tell you what he would respond. What I can tell you is that from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful for you. So is everyone else whose lives you have touched. I suppose that’s what Gandhi might tell us – to remember to be grateful for where we are and who we are, and to remind each other of the profound beauty of our lives when we forget.

With that in mind, this is my gift to you: a reminder that you are a gift. You have not made no mistakes. In fact, you chose exactly the right people at exactly the right time. You are being of light and love and we all need you. Just as you are.

Thank you for who you are

Merry Christmas, my friends. (merry everything!) Thank you for reading this blog and allowing me to connect with you. It’s an honor to be in your life. I hope that this Christmas, or whatever holiday you may be celebrating, you find rest within all that’s going on around you. May you experience the deep peace that is always present inside your heart – a gift to you, just as you are a gift to all of us. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for who you are.

Have it your way: 33 ideas to spark more free time

Recently, I had the privilege of getting to know the mother of a dear friend. We talked about the trials and stresses of new home ownership and tight finances when you’re starting out in family life. For instance, when she was a new mother (with four children) and they moved into their home, she said it was 100 small things that got them through, like the move from brand name Cheerios to knock off bags of cereal. Finding ways to free more time in your schedule is like that, too. To jump start your own path of 100 small things, today I offer you 33 ideas to spark more free time. 

33 Ideas to Spark More Free Time

  1. Mix your favorite go-to spices (cinnamon and sugar counts!)
  2. Use Youtube to learn how to slice weird shaped fruit or veggies
  3. Download an app so you can capture your mental to-do list on the fly
  4. Put your keys in the right hand pocket every time
  5. Use Amazon auto-ship for toiletries that you buy every month (works for diapers, too!)
  6. Create a family habit of 10-minute cleanup before the bedtime routine starts
  7. Have multiple laundry baskets so that you can sort clothes as you take them off
  8. Make your kids and spouse responsible for packing their own lunches
  9. Set out your outfits for the entire week (no more rushing around to find the right shirt!)
  10. Put only the utensils you most often use in your kitchen utensil drawer
  11. Use see-through food storage containers so your food doesn’t go to waste
  12. Set your email account to automatically file e-receipts in a separate folder
  13. Get yourself on the federal do-not-mail (or call) lists
  14. When you’re online shopping, commit to purchasing from a company you trust and avoid wasting time on bargain hunting
  15. Unsubscribe from listservs whose emails you never open
  16. Use your lunch break to squeeze in a workout or a trip to the gas station
  17. Elbows up! Learn to gracefully say “no” to activities you would rather not do
  18. Plan for activities you *do* want to do, so that they are sure to happen
  19. Ask yourself, “does this serve me?” when you’re doing something that’s not productive. (Sometimes the answer is yes, in which case you should absolutely continue!)
  20. Set a timer for things you know could accidentally make you lose track of time, like online shopping, Facebook, or reading a book.
  21. Chop extra veggies while you’re in the kitchen and freeze what you don’t use
  22. Batch cook
  23. Don’t set a snooze alarm (you won’t hit snooze too many times, plus you’ll sleep longer)
  24. Stack your folded laundry in a way that lets you see everything, so you’re not digging for what you want.
  25. Give away jewelry you don’t use anymore
  26. Organize your grocery list by section of the store
  27. Set boundaries with what your little ones play with…you should not have to search for things that you actually need.
  28. Get your spouse and kids on board with choosing a home for things that sort of float around (in our house, it’s the salt shaker).
  29. Keep a just-in-case bag that lives in the car (water, diapers, extra clothes, snacks, toys, sunscreen, lotion and earrings for you…). It’s your backup to the bag that goes with you everywhere.
  30. Create a routine that helps you see where your time-saving gaps are. For us, setting 6:00 as dinner time set off a whole chain reaction of choices that help us get to 6:00 without stress. 
  31. Set up auto bill pay for as many things as you can.
  32. Use mini-gaps between activities to start a piece of housework
  33. Throw a pillowcase in with the laundry loads, so you have a backup “basket” to stuff clothes in if the actual basket wanders off.

Commit to Actively Looking for Time Saving Moments

Saving time is a journey that will never end, because our lives constantly change. The kids get older, we get new jobs, sports come and go, we try new hobbies… Along the way, you’ll figure out some time saving tricks that you keep around, but there are others that will only be discovered when life calls you to new rhythms and routines. 

Your challenge is to commit to actively looking for those 100 small things you can do to save time. You’ll know you are successful because suddenly you have 10 minutes to read a book, or you’re playing with your kids before dinner when there used to be no time. Maybe you’re getting a little more sleep. Maybe you finish the dishes and look around and think, “Now what do I do?” (Yes, this can be you!)

Whatever it is that you long for, its 100 small choices that save time that will get you there. Plus, you’ve got a head start with these 33 ideas to spark more free time. Get going, mama bear! I believe in you. 


***How about you? What are the small things you do that save a tiny bit of time? Please share in the comments! You never know who you might be helping out. May our loving energy inspire and cheer each other on. Go mama!