My life is a timetabling nightmare – and I’m guessing I’m not the Lone Ranger there.

With two children who have school and extra curricular activities 5 days a week, I have two jobs and a partner who works the best part of 12 hours a day (when he’s not travelling) – let’s just say it’s TIGHT.

And that’s with two kids.  I know some people have MORE…. Lot’s MORE…. And even contemplating how those families keep all the balls in the air makes my mind want to explode!

One of my lovely friends wrote a Facebook post a few days ago, asking parents that work full time how they best manage it.  This got me thinking… what are the fundamental needs for parents who have busy lives?  What’s the most practical advice I could give?

Here are 5 ideas that I firmly believe must be in place for the cogs to keep turning.

  1. The WHOLE FAMILY needs to be organised… not just you. I make no secret of the fact I love visual organisers, like job charts and family planners.  It’s not just the shiny final product that is important though, it’s the process you take to get that point.  It’s essential that everyone in your family knows their roles and responsibilities and contributes to the ideas and discussions.  Starting with ‘Every day we have lots of things to do to get out the door… who can think of some of those things?’ is a powerful way to engage your family members.  Make it age appropriate!  If you have a 2-year-old, it may be as simple as getting dressed and eating breakfast.  Keep these charts and organisers visual and easy to refer to…. They may need re-jigging occasionally, but it will work.
  2. Problem solve ongoing issues. Perhaps there is one single thing that is continuously interrupting your day and causing stress.  This might be a child not wanting to get up in the morning, separation anxiety, refusal to eat a meal, bed time routines… whatever it is, problem solving can help.  Choose a calm time to sit down and state the problem, how they must be feeling (encourage them to share their emotions on this topic), how you are feeling and brainstorm ways to come up with a mutually agreeable solution.  This process might take 10 minutes, but again, it will work.
  3. Use ‘I’ messages. When you are feeling overwhelmed and under the pump, it is tempting to blame and accuse others in your household for not helping more.  Nothing is more annoying than seeing that towel on the floor when you’ve already mentioned this three times!!  It’s perfectly ok to let others know how you are feeling but keep it about yourself.  Be honest and authentic so that others around you can see the impact that this stress is having on you.
  4. Factor in ‘me’ time. I recognise that this can be a difficult task considering going to the toilet isn’t even personal sometimes!  However, if we only give, give, give… eventually there will be nothing left to give.  Be creative and work out how you can create time in your day for you and only you.  (Ideas – wake up early, listen to a podcast, accept offers of help from others, read a book, watch a trashy TV show… whatever floats your boat!)
  5. When it all seems too much, write a list. Every time another demand pops into your mind, write it down… it’s fulfilling to tick things off the list and feel like you’ve achieved something at the end of the day.

I wish there was a magic wand to wave to keep everything together!  I know personally how hard it is to keep things going when all you want to do is bury yourself for a day or so.  Don’t give up parents – these little people are looking up to you.  And know you’re not alone… for me there is nothing more therapeutic than organising a coffee with a girlfriend and have a good old-fashioned whinge!


Key to Kids offers an online course for parents who are described in this article – time poor and frustrated!  ‘9 Keys to Calm Kids’ is designed to fit into your busy lives and offer practical advice using real examples, including relevant resources.  Visit for more information.