Mighty Life List
Mar 20 2012

Parenting in Five Minutes or Less

This post is sponsored by Clorox. Help stop the spread of germs with Clorox disinfecting products.

If you have a young kiddo, you know about the dramatic time morph that happens when they arrive. Tiny chunks of freedom take on new meaning. One minute? That’s a shower. Two minutes? Dinner. Three minutes? It’s possible you could re-tile the bathroom.

Here are a few of my parenting hacks for saving time, or finding a little for yourself, in the spaces between heart-shaped pancakes and bedtime stories.

One Minute Sock Fix
When Hank was a baby, I could never find a pair of matching socks. They were so tiny, one was inevitably missing. I know, I know — I could have solved this issue by buying all white socks. But! Those are not as cute; so boo on that. Instead, when I took Hank’s socks off at night, I’d take a minute to pin them together before I threw them in the hamper.

I still keep a little bowl of safety pins in his sock drawer next to the hamper. Now socks rarely go missing, and I don’t have to pair them out of the wash. Next I shall turn my attention to resolving all conflict between nations. I’m pretty sure the solution involves safety pins.

Two Minute Sand Trap
Speaking of socks, when we get home from the playground or the beach and it’s time to take off sand-filled shoes, I fold the top of Hank’s socks down until they cover the opening of his shoe, then remove his shoe and sock simultaneously, so the sock traps the sand. Before this stroke of genius, I was perpetually walking around with a thin layer of sand clinging to my bare feet. Glargh.

Three Minute Mani Pedi
I give Hank a bath every night before bed, and while he’s filling and emptying jars in the bathtub, I do an incremental mani-pedi. On night one, I remove old polish. Night two is filing, night three base coat, and so on. Once a week or so, Hank asks me to paint his nails, and I oblige. Then some kid in class says “nail polish is for girls,” and then I explain about rock stars, and then I paint his nails extra. With intent.

Four Minutes of Solitude
This no longer works for me, so caregivers of the four-and-under set please listen up. Hide-and-seek is your closest ally when a kid is too young to grasp that you might prefer a New Yorker article to a Dora the Explorer marathon. So send the kid off to hide, and then open your magazine. Wander around in the wrong rooms while reading. Occasionally yell “Where is Johnny? I just can’t find him!” “Wherever did Ava go?” while you learn about how Truman Capote held New York society captive with his Black and White Ball invitations. Eventually you should gather up the child, tickle them, then send them off to hide again. Ooo! Joan Didion.

Five Minute Dinner
All right, this last one is so simple I almost feel silly mentioning it, but it changed the way we eat. Every once in a while, I make a huge pot of soup and then take a few minutes after dinner to divide the leftovers into individual servings. They keep for weeks in the freezer and are just as good upon reheating. Once I have a few different types of soup stored, I can skip dinner prep a couple nights a week without ordering out, and we can still eat healthfully. It also saves me from having a quesadilla every day for lunch, which is too bad because quesadillas are so good for my bum.

So those are a few of my tricks for keeping our little family running on schedule. If you’d like to see what other parents are saying, you can check out Clorox’s Facebook page and contribute your own ideas — they’re putting together an e-book of tips as part of this project.

Meanwhile, what do you do to save a few minutes here and there? Let us know in comments.

21 Responses to “Parenting in Five Minutes or Less”

  • Sheryl Says:

    Safety pinning socks? That is just BRILLIANT.

    Batch cooking is one of my favourite things. There’s nothing better than knowing that your freezer has enough (prepared, yummy) food that will keep you fed for several days when you’re just not up for it.

  • Kelly Says:

    Food prep – cut up lots of veggies on a night you have time (onions, carrots, celery, etc- like what you did when you turned your fridge drawer into a salad kit) and store in the fridge (or freezer) for meals the rest of the week. This works for my garden or CSA produce too. My husband and I take our lunches to work so I put dinner leftovers away in sizes ready to go for lunch the next day. Including the fruit and veggies I’ve cut up earlier in the week.

  • Stephanie Says:

    Aaahhhhhhh!!!! I absolutely love the sock idea!!! That is quite possibly the most brilliant thing I have seen in a while!

    Maybe I should get out more often…

  • Kate @ Savour Fare Says:

    Safety pinning socks works when they’re babies, but the Nuni tends to remove her own socks. In varying locations. And never at the same time.

  • Maggie Mason Says:

    Kate, hush your mouth. I’m hoping I can teach him how to wield safety pins and walk over to the hamper before the day he stops sticking his feet in my face to remove his socks for him. I figure I have until he’s twelve or so.

  • Elizabeth McQueen Says:

    We’re big fans of the park potluck picnic in this house. If it’s nice outside, which is often is in Austin, we’ll scrap the sit down dinner or lunch and head to the park with whatever finger foods/leftovers we can round up. If we’re meeting friends we all pool our foods and relax while our kids eat a little, play a little. Inevitably our kids eat way more than they would at home, and get worn out in the process, thus cutting down on interminable goodnights.

    And now I think it’s time for me to try the safety pinning sock trick…very smart.

  • Jennyroo Says:

    Ugh, don’t you just want to smack the other kids that tell your boy something is for girls…. Playing with dolls, the colours pink and purple, etc. Drives me BONKERS! As a mama of 3 boys, I want them to explore whatever they like, not what they perceive as masculine enough to warrant their attention! I think I’m going to go paint my boys nails, now. :) There was a bit of a hub-bub with the J. Crew style director Jenna painting her son’s fingernails a few months ago. People are so small minded!

  • Cecile Says:

    My tips:
    * Get a crockpot! They are sanity saving for working parents.
    * Bathe the kids just a few times a week, not every night. Unless it’s summer and they’re rolling around in the sand and dirt all day, my daughters don’t generally get THAT dirty.

  • Laura Hamilton Says:

    Cecile, I think that works better for daughters than for sons. My two boys are so astoundingly filthy at the end of every single day, we can almost never skip baths.

    Ditto on the crockpot. And frozen batch meals.

    For keeping kids busy, nothing works better than an iSomething stocked with educational fun free games. My kids started off with a cheap 2nd generation iPod (first gen has no external sound, not good), and now have graduated to stealing my iPad at every opportune moment, but man, it sure does keep them QUIET, and they are actually learning, not just zoning out.

  • Elizabeth Says:

    “Then I explain about rock stars, and then I paint his nails extra. With intent.” Possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever read here. :)

  • Lori Says:

    I used to do the pins for my socks when I was single. My husband insists it’s bad for the washer, pulls the socks…. Any thoughts?

  • Hannah Says:

    When I worked wardrobe in theater each person had their own lingerie bag for socks and small items. Then they all stayed together!

  • Amanda Says:

    You are a genius! I almost wish I had kids so I could put these tricks to use straight away. Instead, I’ll have to remember them for the future.

  • Carrie Says:

    Great tips! You know, I found this site on Pinterest (I heart Pinterest!) where you prep several meals and then freeze everything but the wet items and write the directions on the bag. Then you just pop them in the crockpot with whatever wet items you need and bam, done. Awesome!

  • Bethany Says:

    I so have done the “incremental mani-pedi” over the course of a week, ha!

  • Calypso Says:

    While my little man is taking a bath, I tweeze my eyebrows.

  • DeAnne Olguin Williamson Says:

    OMG that sand trap idea just rocked my world. We have sand and wood chips from the playground ALL over our house. Great tip!

  • Martha Says:

    My mom did something similar for socks back in the 80s, but with plastic doo-hickeys designed for just that purpose. No fear of accidental pinsticks.

    Amazon reveals a bunch of modern versions, i.e.: http://www.amazon.com/Evriholder-SockPro-Sock-Holders-Red/dp/B003E6DK4U/ref=pd_sim_misc_2

  • Victoria McManus Says:

    I’m already pretty familiar with the ingenuity that is the 3 minute mani pedi during bath time. Hide and seek is now set to become my new favourite game :)

  • Kathryn Says:

    OK Maggie (and everyone), now I want to see some favourite soup recipes for freezing. I’ll start: http://www.girlsgonechild.net/2011/02/eat-well-split-pea-cauliflower-soup.html

    Gotta love Rebecca Woolf’s Mom. I freeze it before adding the cheese, and I leave out the dill because we find that a bit strong. Your turn!

  • Cordelia Gennings Says:

    I just bought this and it is authentic. I even registered it with [...] and it worked so that’s how I know it’s real. Others that bought counterfeit ones probably bought them from amazon sellers and not amazon.com.