6 Ways to Make Your Life Easier
How parents can use child caregivers to lighten their loads.
Everyone's busy, especially when you're juggling work, kids, school schedules, activities, hobbies and possibly a pet. But some weeks are more hectic than others, prompting you to ask for and expect extra TLC from your nanny, partner or online services.
"The number one job is the kids," says Rachel Mott Keis, a part-time family medicine doctor in Boston who found her nanny, Rhina Velasco, on Care.com for her children Liam, 6, and McKenzie, 3. "But, if someone is napping or the kids are at school, caregivers should be able to manage the extras." Tip: If you didn't hire your nanny with these expectations in the job description, you should sit and discuss the new tasks, revise your nanny contract and consider a pay increase.
Below are five ways you can make your life easier by leaning on those reliable helping hands a little more.
And for more tips, check out Care.com's Guide to Managing Stress.
- Line Up Laundry
Laundry is the kind of chore that when it's done, your household feels organized and sane. "People do get swallowed up by laundry," says professional organizer Francesca Verri Gove, founder of Verri Organized, a company in Pepperell, Mass.
Ask your caregiver to help out with the kids' laundry and determine a "laundry day" that works with everyone's schedule. "Try to do laundry at the same time weekly," says Verri Gove. "If there is a lot of laundry, do a load or two every day. And, be proactive with your time. When you can, plan your at-home tasks around laundry time."
- Give Kids One-on-One Time
It's the classic issue with multi-child families: How do you give each child Mommy/Daddy-time? Whether you're a working mom or home (working) with the kids, everyone can benefit from a nanny or babysitter giving you some solo bonding time. Plan a day every month or so for an afternoon or dinner "date" and rotate whose turn it is. Another benefit of the backup sitter? Letting a baby sleep at home while you shuttle the older child to activities. This creates the one-on-one feel as well.
- Let Go of Grocery Shopping
If weekends are too hectic for grocery shopping, delegate this important task to your caregiver or an online tool. "Create a master list that includes specific brands and products, the size of each item and quantities needed, so there's no confusion," suggests Patty Stone, a working mom of three young girls in Winchester, Mass.
To develop an effective grocery list, write out a healthy meal plan for the week first, so you know what ingredients you'll need. Add in essential weekly perishables and staples for a well-stocked kitchen, and consider everyone's favorite foods.
- Ignite an Iron Chef
If you get home after 6 p.m., you'll need your nanny to handle dinner for the kids. But, what about you? When you walk in the door at night, you may jump right into bedtime or homework, leaving no time to cook a full meal from scratch.
Talk about your caregiver's culinary prowess during the initial interview to gauge and set expectations on both sides. If your nanny can't cook or is limited to a certain regional style, assemble your family's most popular recipes in a folder and explain them.
"One of my readers told me she took basic cooking lessons with her nanny while her husband watched their three kids," says Kathleen Flinn, Seattle-based online cooking instructor and author of the cookbook, "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School." "It helped her bond with the woman she had just hired, plus she got a strong sense of what her new nanny could do in the kitchen." Bonus: Asking your nanny to cook a family meal two or three times a week will help teach your children to eat more sophisticated foods!
- Set Up Seasonal Projects
Asking your caregiver to help out with seasonal projects (like switching over summer to fall clothes) helps you stay ahead of the game and feel more in control of the household. "When moms can find what they need in their house, without stress, everyone in the family benefits," says Verri Gove.
"Every season, I get out the big bins of clothes and ask my nanny to see what fits each of my girls. She puts the out-of-season clothes in the bin, which I store until the next year. Old clothes go to Goodwill or to my nanny, which she gives to her friends," says Stone.
Whether you are coordinating with your nanny, your husband or your children about staying organized, the most important tenet is understanding that everything must have a home, advises Verri Gove. "Don't give a home to things that are not being used, aren't liked or aren't needed any longer. This goes for clothes as well as for toys, so de-cluttering is always a first step," says Verri Gove.
- Ask for Extra Innings
Even if "date night" is an evening or afternoon with girlfriends, socializing on the town is important for your emotional well-being. Ask your caregiver to stay longer hours once in a while (at her hourly rate), so you can relax with your spouse, partner, friends or children.
"As a single mom, it is hard to entertain [clients] and take care of the kids," says Lorri Zelman, of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. "But, with my live-in nanny, I can comfortably go out two nights a week."
Make sure you compensate financially for special TLC, and show appreciation by treating your caregiver as part of the family. A gift from a business trip, sharing bulk produce from Costco or an invitation to a family gathering are often more meaningful than money and help to make extras seem second nature.
And don't underestimate your caregiver's natural drive to jump in and help the family. "I once had a nanny who proactively power washed all of the outdoor toys and furniture," says Zelman. "That was fabulous."
In fact, some caregivers like to be super busy and can juggle more than the mom. Hallelujah!