Let's be honest: parenthood is hard.
There is a never-ending list of things to do (ugh, tax season, anyone?) and housework always seems to be one of the most pressing. There's always something that needs to be picked up from the floor. There's the laundry, the dishes, and don’t even get us started on the bathroom.
The truth is, though, the world probably wouldn't end if those socks stayed on the floor until morning. And you know what’s better than picking up socks? Doing something that could make us feel better about life in the long run.
Here are ten things busy parents should consider doing instead of housework.
OK, it sounds a little weird, but try giving your partner an extended, belly-to-belly hug without talking. Continue the hug until you feel both your bodies relax. The parts of our nervous systems that determine connection are primitive, explains John Howard, relationship therapist and educator at Ready Set Love.
When we spend time apart or feel disconnected from our spouse, he says, “Our nervous system has to recalculate whether we’re safe with this person, whether they’re in a good mood or not and whether we’re still connected.” So, don’t let chores and housework get in the way of what really matters: your most important relationships.
Get out of the daily grind and take a moment to remember your big-picture goals. Take a few minutes to write down where you want yourself, and your family, to be in one, three, five and even 10 years.
If you have the time, turn it into a vision board. Include your kids and hear them out on what they want to accomplish in the short and the long term.
An ethical will is like a love letter to the important people in your life. What family stories do you want to pass on? What morals and lessons do you want your kids to cherish?
This doesn't have to be morbid. You can leave this letter for them in a vault somewhere for them to read after you’re gone, but you can also share it now and turn it into a conversation today about what matters most to you—and to them. Definitely more meaningful than vacuuming the living room.
If you don't have one, this could be a good chance to go ahead and create a will. Not only does a last will and testament dictate who should get your belongings if the worst happened, it's also an opportunity to designate who should look after your kids.
Fabric lets you write a free online will—the median time to complete is only seven minutes. You'll get an easy checklist of steps to make it legally binding. Instead of doing dishes, you could be helping to protect your family's future.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, parents are even more burnt out than non-parents, on the whole. Taking the time to look after your own wellbeing is vital, and it doesn't matter what activity you choose—yoga, kickboxing, whatever.
Apps make working out easier and more affordable than ever. Check out Aaptiv, 8fit, Freeletics, Asana Rebel and more. There are tons to choose from. If what you really want is to center yourself, check out mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace and Calm. Taking just 10 minutes for yourself can alter your mood for the rest of the day.
Yes, we're suggesting art because you have kids, but also because it's fun. Adults need to be creative, too.
For younger kids, you might turn to a coloring book or Play-Doh. For slightly older kids, you might try making unicorns out of paper tubes or embark on a T-shirt project (or just decorate a shirt with glitter glue). For older children, you could find a more complicated, adult-level project on Pinterest (like, say, an “enamel” box made out of old CDs).
If there aren't many museums near you, check out the online collection for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including the interactive timeline of art history. Check out the Tate Galleries online collection of artists, and the American Museum of Natural History. Whether in person or online, it's time well spent with your kids.
Saving for college can be daunting, but you don't even have to contribute any money to take the first step. Start by taking some of that newly reclaimed time when you’re not doing laundry, and instead spend a half hour or an hour reading up on the basics of saving for college.
Maybe, just maybe, you even open an account today, which you can always start funding and contributing to later. One step forward now means it’ll be easier to take the next step later.
So many of us multitask in our daily lives, and music is often just in the background. But studies show that multitasking isn't actually that great for us.
If pausing your day, putting on headphones, closing your eyes and just listening to music for 10 minutes seems impossible, think of it as a musical meditation. Ask your spouse to watch the kids for a bit. Your mental health will thank you.
Depending on your children's age, this can actually be educational: fine motor skills, fractions, math and even just reading the instructions out loud. If you're like a lot of people, you might find baking calming, too. Plus, you get to enjoy the fruits—or chocolates—of your labors.
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