When I was growing up, my daily school lunch was a defrosted sandwich. My mother worked full time, and would make ten sandwiches every Sunday night and pop them in the freezer. It was a genius shortcut, to help her manage her busy week, with just one minor problem.
Defrosted sandwiches are soggy. They are a little bit disgusting. I ate soggy, disgusting sandwiches for around six years of my life.
So now, as a working mother myself, I made a pledge that my own children would never know the horror of damp bread, or sweaty cheese.
But I have my own shortcuts, little tricks I use throughout the week to get my kids fed, clothed and relatively clean, my house ordered and relatively clean, and my work done (and relatively on time).
- I pop everything in the drier. Everything. And because of this, I buy my kids clothes one size too big, because I know that they will inevitably shrink after a round in the Sackville laundry.
- We use doonas, not blankets and sheets. A doona can simply be pulled up in the morning and look perfectly 'done', unlike blankets which are all sorts of fiddly. And a doona has the added advantage of hiding pyjamas, toys, books, old socks and all kinds of detritus when unexpected guests come around.
- When the doonas need washing, more often than not I take them off the bed, wash them, dry them, and pop them back on. This leaves the other doona covers in the cupboard sad and neglected, but it saves a lot of folding.
- The school tuckshop is my friend. One of my best friends, actually. I am particularly intimate with the pasta and cheese (small), the tuna pita, and the juice boxes (orange).
- I have been known to allow the kids to skip baths every now and then. They really don't get that smelly anyway. (Once they hit the teenage years, this shortcut is no longer even remotely acceptable. There isn't enough water in the world to keep them fragrant.)
- On very rare occasions, when we have to get up particularly early, I have partially dressed the kids ready for the following day. Just tee shirt, perhaps, or leggings. When you have a child who takes half an hour to get one leg in their jeans, it is an excellent time saver.
- I virtually never iron anything. Ever. My kids have been taught to love creases. Just like wrinkles, they are a sign of a garment well lived.
- When I am stressed or tired or short of time or can't bear to stand at the stove for one minute more, I get takeaway. Sometimes I add a salad that I prepared myself. Sometimes I know that my kids ate salad yesterday and the day before, and that no-one will perish if we all sit around on the couch watching TV and eating something delicious I didn't make myself.
- I put my daughter's hair in a plait. Why is that a shortcut? Well, as any mother of a long-haired child knows, plaits keep the hair knot free overnight, so they are easy to brush and re-plait in the morning. Also they look nice. At least, that's what I tell my daughter.
- When homework is taking a very long time, I might – very, very rarely, and only under the most extreme of circumstances – help a bit myself. You know. *Assist* in looking up information on Google. *Suggest* correct spelling. *Hint* at answers to Maths problems. Not enough to actually do the work myself. Just get things moving a bit. So we can get on with dinner. Or, er, takeaway…
I don't feel guilty about any of my little shortcuts. Nor do I feel guilty about my house being a little untidy, or about my car being a little dirty, or about the convenience foods that frequently find their way into my supermarket trolley. I'm juggling. I'm doing my best. The kids are happy and healthy, and our home is full of love.
And besides, I've never fed my children soggy, defrosted sandwiches. That, my friends, is where I draw the line. And if I stay on the right side of that, then I'm doing pretty well.
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