Dear Dr. Debbie,

Maybe I’m expecting too much. I’ve been at this parenthood job three years now and with two children and a part-time job (which is done mostly from home), I can’t seem to find the time to get everything done. I can’t seem to stay up late or get up early – tactics I relied on to get through college while working part-time. It seems that was easier when I was younger.

One or both children will have me up at least once a night, so I try to hit the hay right after they’re both down and stay down as long as they’ll let me. My husband works full-time and commutes 45 minutes each way. So I try to protect his sleep, forfeiting mine.

I do “emergency” laundry loads ignoring all I was taught about separating delicates or not running the machine when less than full.

Forget meal planning. We eat a lot of PBJ and other quick assemblages of food. If I think of it in time, I ask Daddy to pick up something ready-made (and not too expensive) on the way home.
His help with chores on the weekends gets squeezed in around social events and other family outings.

I hear it gets better when the kids are a little older unless they require after school shuttling. Some of my friends with older kids say they manage by packing bag dinners to eat in the car.
How can I keep up a reasonable quality of parenting within the limits of 24 hours in a day? I don’t have time for a time management class.

Tempus Fugit

Don’t miss last week’s column Breaking stereotypes for a preschool boy who wants to dance — Good Parenting

Dear T.F.,

Indeed days with young children can feel endless without much to show for it. It’s best to hold reasonable expectations for yourself and strive to enjoy your children, and their amazing development, every day.

Reframe your impossible to-do list for running a household.

Promote the basics. Your staples need to include ready-to-serve or at least quick-to-prepare items that provide the nutrition your family needs. Snacks and meals are opportunities to teach your children about healthy food choices, as well as conversation skills and table manners. Well done if PBJ is on a whole grain bread, bun or cracker with no-sugar-added seed or nut butter and a no-sugar-added jam. Banana slices work, too. Veggies can work their way into a quick meal or snack as baby carrots (my favorite convenience food!), frozen peas still frozen (my son’s preferred snack as a youngster), or a wide variety of fresh or frozen vegetables that can be thrown into soups, salads, muffins or the juicer when you have a little prep time. When you have fun in the kitchen with your children, they are gaining skills and knowledge for life — a bonus to your parenting accomplishments.

Sleep (or Sleeplessness)
A good night’s sleep would definitely improve your energy level and outlook. Exhaustion negatively affects one’s ability to think which impairs strategic planning and problem solving. Thus you may be wasting time – and money – because you’re too foggy to think. Habit is a good way to bypass decision making. Think through some of your daily and weekly routines and refine those that aren’t productive. If meal planning is a daunting chore, get family approval for a rotating schedule of menus. House cleaning can also be done on a weekly schedule, as suggested by Liberating Working Moms. A routine frees your mind of having to decide which tasks to tackle on any given day. Plenty of other tasks can be done without much brainpower, such as watering houseplants, going for a stroller walk, watching the lightening bugs come out and rocking your children in the rocking chair. Put these in the schedule.

The Harvard Homemaker has suggestions for making laundry easier to manage – including training children from a young age to sort dirty clothes into different hampers. This mother of four also shares helpful tips for organizing spaces with hooks, baskets, bins and drawers. Things children need to get or put away are within their reach. One of her goals is to help her children contribute their energies to the housework. This is an investment that pays off for your time, their self-esteem as well as their future families.

Whenever possible, do two things at once. This applies to almost anything done with your children. Teach them colors, shapes and budgeting when you grocery shop. Beyond just putting them to bed each night, put great bedtime stories in your winding down routine each evening. Cleaning can be exercise for you and for them – especially if put to good music. Carefully consider which music to play or sing and your time spent cleaning is also an accomplishment in your children’s cultural education. Folk songs, pop songs or musicals can fuel your energy supply and become fun family traditions.

Make the most of these jam-packed days. Time does indeed fly when you’re having fun.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]