As a disabled mum, with a perfectionist personality type, it has been a huge adjustment and challenge to 'relearn' how to approach everyday tasks. I've found some things that have proven invaluable. They're often simple but practical things anyone can put in place meaning a little more organisation can prevent the mayhem before you leave the house with the kids and increase your little ones independence along the way.
- Steps in the kitchen. I gave this plain set from IKEA a quick makeover and they 'live' in our kitchen:
These steps have enormous use in our house. The kids simply drag them across the floor and it enables my children to wash hands, get drinks of water, reach snacks independently resulting in less ups and downs for me which would increase my pain levels and means I can put my energy into more quality activities with them.
- Accessible art & craft materials. My children have been in a constant creative whirl for at least 3 years and when I was immobile completely organising a craft area for them was essential in facilitating this. Drawers with paper, scissors, markers, glue and other such materials are at a height the children can access at will. Apparently, having paper and pens available at whim develops childrens imagination too.
- A Basket in the Car Boot! I try to keep a stock of items in a basket in the boot. It can be a 'go to' supply rather than carrying things in handbags, resulting in less time to get out the door. With a bit of maintenance every now and then your boot basket can enable you to be prepared for any spontaneous away from home (indoor or outdoor) activity with minimal stress of packing, tearing round the house finding 'stuff' and wasting the sunshine before hand!! Items might include a box of snacks, sunscreen, towel, drinks in cartons, wellies, buckets & spades, balls, sun hats, spare clothing, picnic rug etc. I have to pace myself due to pain levels on physical activity so this is a real win for me - very simple but worth putting in place for any busy mum!
- Cooking in batches. It's very important to me as a mother to feed my children healthy home cooked food whenever I can. Sometimes it is just not physically possible for me to do this and I've had to chose quality time with my kids over healthy food. To prevent myself being overly harsh on myself for failing to meet my own standards as a mum, I've found an alternative. Again, it's simple but can make such a difference at the difficult end of the day for me when children are hungry and demanding and my own pain levels are peaking and the last thing I need to is stand over an oven cooking!! So when I do cook, I cook on a larger scale than normal and portion up the remainder and pop in the freezer. We did this as mothers when weaning using ice cube trays - I just do it on a larger scale in containers! Then, when I'm on a high pain day, or when I know I'm going to struggle physically and won't have the energy to cook from scratch, I can pull these out the freezer and all are happy!! Meals like cottage pie, lasagne, spagetti bolognese work especially well.
- Organising toy storage - to help encourage the children to tidy their own toys away. Everything has it's home meaning the house stays relatively tidy and those endless calls of "Muuumm! Where's my ......" and the associated ransacking of the house in the hunt for said toy are minimised. They still happen..... just less frequently.
- Planning our day - this can sometimes be a bit tedious if you're a spontaneous type but I've found it a useful tool to help with the sense of 'control' over tasks within a day. This doesn't have to be too regimental and can be a fully democratic family process but it does enable you to limit screen time (and the associated guilt as a mother) and balance indoor and outdoor play - and rest!!
- Setting expectations - this is very much linked to planning the day. I have to be honest with my children and express whether I'm able to do the park, woods, etc today or whether today is a den building day at home for example. Being honest from the start prevents unrealistic expectations of yourself and from your children. We spend a lot of time at home and can be fairly creative in what we do so it doesn't get boring. As a family we class adventure parks / soft play as a treat rather than an everyday activity - something to be looked forward to or a reward for something.
- Creating a Summer List - full family involvement in coming up with ideas of what anybody might like to do at some point over the summer holidays!! Activities on our list include: having coffee and cake in a cafe, picnics in the park, specific craft ideas, going to the garden centre and camping in the garden. Everyone can put in ideas and it can help you each morning on a wet or dry day to decide what to do - just tick it off the list!! This link goes into this in such better detail - as a planner I love the detail but you can use as much of this approach that works for your family (or not!) How to - Summer Fun Focused Plan!! or a more fun and certainly more pretty idea is here. We did the latter last year and the children have asked to do it again this summer!
This post hasn't taken the form I thought it would. I've gone with it though as it helps me to remember what works for us in practice and may help another mum in my situation. I by no means have all the answers and am still finding my way in this 'new world'. The main thing many of us need to be remember is to be kind to ourselves. In the endless struggle to do the best we can for our children we can sometimes overlook our own well being - and what would happen to our children if we crash and burn?! Hmmmm.... worthy of some thought and a great excuse to grab a coffee in a favourite cup and sit down with your favourite mag in the sunshine when you can.