Do you have anything that works particularly well in your childcare situation?
Having a nanny two evenings a week where I am not responsible for the evening childcare routine has been a game-changer. I really cherish this time to focus on fitness and my own friendships, plus be available as a work overspill for those weeks where I need to put a few more quiet hours in to feel on top of things. The kids also really enjoy having our nanny on these days, they look forward to telling her what they’ve been up to and showing her some of the latest things they have done / learned. I think it’s great for them to have these additional adult relationships in addition to those of us as parents and wider family members.
What have been the most impactful things you've done to save time/energy in your family?
We have a housekeeper who comes in three times a week for two to three hours each time. She is self-directed and spots what needs doing – cleaning, laundry, ironing, watering the plants etc. This means I don’t have to worry at all about keeping on top of the house during the week. It also doesn’t matter if I leave the house in a mess in the morning, which often happens!
What principles have served you best in your parenting?
When I was near the end of my first pregnancy and preparing for maternity leave a colleague recommended to me a great book “The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau. The overall principle from this book that has served me well from the beginning, is that it’s worth the effort to create habits and routines that work for your baby / child but also crucially work for you as a parent to get the space that you also need to rest and recover. In the early days this was about getting my babies to nap in a cot (rather than on me) so that I could then use that time for what I needed. Nowadays that translates more into having good bedtime routines so there is some evening time left between the kids going to bed and me going to bed, and as mentioned above using TV to create short chunks of time for myself if I need that when we’re all at home together.
Is there a primary parent in your household or do you split the parenting evenly?
My husband Nick is currently working on the other side of the country, so I’m solo parenting through the week. From a practical/hands-on perspective I am very much the primary parent during the week and then we focus on collective family time at the weekends.
If you answered 'other' please tell us a bit about the parenting model you use and how you make it work.
We have worked together to figure out how Nick can support from afar, so he takes the lead on things like planning for the weekend / holidays and researching specific things we want to do for the kids eg finding sports activities. At the weekend Nick usually gets up early with the kids so I can have a break from the early morning routine.
What is your process for updating your parenting model as a child's needs or a parent's needs change?
We sit down and talk about what’s changing, what the consequences of that are and how we can set ourselves up for success. We do this ahead of big changes e.g. before Nick was embarking on his current one-year role away from home, but also more ad hoc when we feel like we need to flag that we need support from each other e.g. when one of us is feeling run down or tired.
What is your most life-changing parenting purchase under $100?
We love mountain biking and Max has also taken to cycling. To help us be able to do more as a family we found a product called Towwhee, which is a bungee tow rope that means you can assist kids pedalling up hills. This is great as then doing longer rides and more downhill descents (the most fun part) is possible. You can feel confident that if he gets too tired then you can pull him home.
How do you bring play and fun into your time with your children?
We love doing sports and keeping fit. We found a great sports club to join that is designed to be a place you can hang out as a family and all do something you enjoy. There are kids sports lessons, other kids activities eg Lego clubs, adult sports sessions and a swimming pool. When we go and hang out there for a few hours we can do a mix of activities, some together and some individually. There’s also a healthy cafe. We’ve found this is a great way to spend time together, and certainly much better for us as parents than carting the kids around to activities for them where we have to sit and watch.
What piece of advice do you give to all new parents? What advice should they ignore?
Get an electric cargo bike! Commuting around a city with kids in a car is a nightmare, using a cargo bike is awesome. I have to navigate the city centre with drop offs in two locations and then go onto my office. Having a cargo bike means I waste no time sitting in traffic and can ride right up to the nursery/school gates, which saves loads of time that would otherwise be spent walking a toddler/small child from a car park to the gate. It’s also great for more than one child and still works when you have bags to transport with them. I got one after having seen how commonplace they are in Copenhagen where my brother lives – we can learn many things from how the Scandinavians approach parenting!
Blog reproduced with thanks to Lyndall Schreiner. For more interviews with working parents, visit Parenting by Design.