Sharing time-saving tips for working parents



As a slightly older than average, full-time working parent of a demanding eight-year-old girl, I’m always on the lookout for ‘low hanging, easy cheats’ that give me more quality time with my family and help me feel less guilty that I work.

I attended a breakfast seminar where leading females in business were talking about how they have succeeded. One in particular made a lot of sense. She stated that when a business looks at becoming more efficient and requires certain regular processes to be performed, they often look at outsourcing as a solution so she decided to look at what she could outsource for her personal efficiency.

She also said that she had found that women often don’t like to acknowledge that they do ‘outsource’ as it is seen as not being able to manage work and family life so she had started to share her ’personal outsources’ with other women in her business and this led to a far more open culture of sharing tips and tricks and, even in a couple of cases, a cleaner!

It’s all about permission!

It is OK not to be super woman or superman but to know where you are best to channel your energy, skills and focus.

Over the last few weeks I have been speaking to working parents within my organisation as well as whilst at various roundtable events to start the conversations and open up this area of life hacks.

So far this is what I have collected and, yes, it’s OK to admit that you use these to manage the balance. Some are more around thinking ahead rather than outsourcing, but none are meant to patronise!

Let’s start with outsourcing:

  • A cleaner – Yes, a good one can be tricky to find, but it’s definitely worth the effort and if, like me, you are also aware of other working parents locally through school you can often get good recommendations or even ‘share’ a good au-pair.
  • There are now numerous ironing services available that also pick up and deliver, even during the weekends.
  • Shopping delivery – Most of us have stable requirements over a 1-2 week period ie eggs, cheese, potatoes, bread, milk, cereal and various store cupboard goods. Set these up as regular delivery at a time to suit you. Again most suppliers offer a wide variety of delivery times.
  • Homework help -We all lead busy lives and sometimes we just don’t have the time or patience to do the extra bit of ‘tutoring’ or homework help that is needed. Look for a local student, perhaps the son or daughter of a neighbour or friend who would be able /happy to give some extra help or find a local ‘tutoring company’ as these individuals will be correctly security-checked.

My own personal coup was finding someone who taught my daughter how to ride her bike. I didn’t shout once and I didn’t have to run alongside her or even break into a sweat…Have I missed out on a lifetime experience? I don’t think so! What we have now is a lovely memory of how she learnt to ride her bike and we even made a friend we didn’t have out of the ‘bike’ teacher who now pops in for a chat and bike ride when he can!

These next two are a little indulgent, but if it makes you feel good and, after all, you are working hard, you can allow yourself the odd luxury

  • Get your hair blow dried once a week – after a while you will only need to have this done once a week (obviously dependant on what extra activities you may get up to!)  and you will always feel ready for work knowing you look your best.
  • Nails are also a quick easy fix with nail bars and mobile technicians easily found on every high street. No more chipped nails when holding that key business presentation or meeting that new client.

Now some thoughts around efficiencies:

When cooking, cook in bulk and freeze, most homemade dinners are healthier and more cost-effective than take away and ready meals! The usual suspects for this are:

  • Bolognaise – this can be used on any shape pasta as well as on rice or with jacket potato
  • Chilli – best with rice or jacket potato
  • Soups – hearty, filling and great for using up old veg!
  • Casseroles – make double and freeze!

But you can also do the same with homemade chicken escalope and fish cakes etc.

I was talking to a colleague about the volume of washing that her family generates and I asked her how many times a week the washing machine goes on. She said it’s on everyday so we started to speak about why that was. It became clear that by simply buying double the amount of underwear for the kids that she would feel she could wash less often. It sounds crazy but she has done that and now feels that she can relax a little in the evenings as the ‘underwear’ washing can now wait for the weekends and if, by chance, she doesn’t get round it to it’s not the end of the world as she knows it!

With school uniforms, I personally find that three of the key items is the best …. One on, one off and one in the wash!

Nothing I have mentioned here is rocket science and I do understand that not all working parents are on the same salaries, but what I’m trying to get across is that, regardless of what level you are or how much you earn, it is absolutely ok not to do everything and you should give yourself permission to use some tips and tricks without feeling guilty.

*Michaela Poust is Head of Recruitment at Costain. All views here are her personal ones.

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