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You don’t need to be Ferris Bueller to realize that time moves pretty fast these days. And for parents, that can lead to feelings of stress, exhaustion and burnout.

In this episode, I’ll walk you through 5 actionable steps you can start taking today to get more time back into your days and weeks. And then, once you’ve found these extra minutes or even hours, I’ll help you take stock of what matters most. So you can be intentionally spending this newfound freedom on things that fill up your tank and allow you to show up as the best version of yourself – for you and for your entire family.

Dr. Sarah (00:00):

Our relationship with time and parenting, I think, is very linked to fear. I’m so afraid to invest time upfront now because I’m so aware of how little I have and how precious it feels, and I’m afraid to let go of it. But what happens is when we skimp on those upfront time investments, we pay so much more in the long run.

Dr. Sarah (00:24):

Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.

Dr. Sarah (00:57):

Do you sometimes feel that while you love parenthood, it’s also overwhelming, messy, confusing, and not exactly what you thought it would be. Do you wish you could stop worrying if you’re doing it right, and just feel confident, trusting yourself. If that sounds like you, you are not alone. I kept hearing the same thing over and over in my clinical practice. And that’s exactly why I created The Authentic Parent: Finding your confidence in your child’s first year. Whether you’re a brand new parent, or maybe you’re thinking about how to approach a second or third child with a different set of skills, in this six week virtual course, I will teach you the fundamentals of psychology, neurobiology and child development. And I’ll walk you through integrating this new knowledge into your own unique family. I will help you learn to tune out the noise so you can feel confident responding to any parenting problem that arises, connect authentically with your child and truly enjoy parenthood. Because this is a guided course, with access to me as your coach, enrollment is very limited. Make sure to sign up for the waitlist and you’ll get access to register for the course before doors open to the public. Go to my website, drsarahbren.com/tap to sign up and learn more. Knowledge leads to power and power leads to confidence. Don’t miss your chance to take part in The Authentic Parent and learn to confidently move through parenthood during your child’s first year.

Dr. Sarah (02:27):

Parenthood can be really challenging. The expectations that are put on parents to just manage a household, manage the schedule, manage their kids’ behaviors. And just to generally always be able to “know what to do.” It’s unrealistic, frankly. And if you add to that, that we are a generation of parents that are dealing with a pandemic and within that pandemic a tremendous amount of burnout. But I actually think if you zoom out beyond the pandemic, I really think that you’ll find traces of burnout well before COVID ever happened. And I think one of the reasons why parents really have kind of for a while now been experiencing such tremendous signs of burnout is that they put so much on their plate. In fact, if anything, I think one of the silver linings of COVID has been that it slowed us down and forced us to do less.

Dr. Sarah (03:32):

We were over-scheduled and just completely undervaluing the amount of time things really take not just to do a task, but all the buffer times that really need to go before and after a task, especially if you have little kids, because I think we can really easily underestimate just how much time they need for transitions. So between all of the overload, all of the pressure, all of the expectations that we perceive from others that we place on ourselves and not to mention all the time that we spend second guessing ourselves, searching for parenting information and finding all of this contradictory information that’s overwhelming and time consuming to sift through and vet. And then, also getting derailed by potentially preventable emotional breakdowns that take up a lot of time, be them, our child’s emotional breakdowns or ours. I really think if you could add up all of that time, we would be pretty blown away by just how much time all of that stuff takes up in our lives.

Dr. Sarah (04:47):

So in the honor, in the service of getting some real time back for parents with a goal of helping you to really slow down, really take stock and take inventory of how you’re spending your time and where there are inefficiency and how we can really actually be quite a bit more intentional with the way we use our time. I have sort of collected five different categories of ways that we as parents can actually start to reverse that time more and start getting meaningful minutes back, how we can save time in our parenting. And trust me, these, some of these are small wins, but they really add up, others are pretty big. So I’m really excited to share with you these sort of five ways that we can get time back as a parent.

Dr. Sarah (05:38):

So the first one is to build in buffers for transitions. This is probably one of the most important things that I coach parents on when they come to me and are talking about how we cannot get out the door. We always seem to have a lot of breakdowns when we’re in a rush. And I think the reason why is because our kids feel that pressure and they feel our stress and they literally feel it in their body to the extent that they shut down a little bit, they go into fight or flight. They kind of dig their heels in out of a state of, you know, distress or dysregulation or discomfort and feeling our anxiety, feeling our pressure, feeling our rushing energy. And so we know that our nervous systems are a bit contagious. So if we want our children to move quickly out of the house, move quickly from one activity to another move quickly through bedtime routines, any time that we have like a transitional moment where we’re asking a child to stop doing one thing and start doing another one is just a big ask for a kid and they may need more support than we realize in achieving that task.

Dr. Sarah (07:07):

But also those times tend to be not always, but very often paired with a time crunch, right? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m always rushing out the door in the morning. I always miss guessing how long it actually takes to do things. And so I, I, you know, building in a buffer of time before a transition takes place to help my child prepare for that transition has been something that has actually saved me a tremendous amount of time in parenting because when we slow down and we do that upfront investment of time to take a few deep breaths, to tell our child head of time, we’re going to be getting out the door in a few minutes to asking them how you can help them to speaking really slowly and calmly and using really sort of slow and calm body language. It is a small time investment upfront might take you an extra five minutes to get out the door, but that actually is likely to give you more time and more path in the end because it can really help a child move smoothly through a transition so that they’re less likely to become dysregulated, to dig their heels in, to throw their shoes on the floor, to run away from you to do all these things that tend to really delay us. So building in buffers for transitions for our kids while it is an initial time investment upfront, I believe will save you a significant amount of time in the aggregate as a parent.

Dr. Sarah (08:46):

Number two, use caregiving moments for fill up times. When we use time that we are spending with our children, we are already spending this time with them. We are already changing their diaper. We are already giving them the bath. We are changing their clothes. We are feeding them. We are getting their pajamas on and getting them ready for bed. We do these things. They need us to do them. So we’re physically present. If we can be really intentionally, emotionally present during these times, this builds up their connection to you. It fills their cup. It helps them to have a regulated nervous system. So it helps them to stay emotionally regulated and more on task one, and two, when we are not in the caregiving moments, when we are, you know, outside of the diaper changes and the feeding and the getting ready for bed and the bathing and the getting dressed right, when we’re doing all the other tasks that we have to do throughout the day and hoping that our children will do some play or some independent stuff, our kids are far more likely to be able to tolerate either being separated from us or spending time in their own world, which is another form of separation.

Dr. Sarah (10:07):

Even if they’re sitting, you know, in the kitchen while we’re making dinner for them to be right next to us, but in their own world, doing their own thing that requires them to emotionally be separated from us. And our kids are more capable of separating from us effectively when they feel very filled up emotionally. So when we utilize caregiving moments, as our fill up time, we are taking a time that we are already going to invest the minutes in and using it as our fill up time using it, intentionally making that diaper change. Again, it’s kind of like before with buffers and transitions, you put a little investment in the time upfront, but it pays off in the long run. So for example, instead of rushing through a diaper change in you know, I could change a diaper in like 30 seconds. And I definitely sometimes do. But if I take three minutes to change that diaper, to play with my child in that moment to invite them to participate in the task, even if it takes a bit longer to really, you know, focus in on my child and let them know that I see them, that I’m interested in what they’re doing and thinking, and feeling, and want to collaborate with them in these tasks, the tasks themselves might take a few extra minutes to really slow down and fill them up in this way.

Dr. Sarah (11:37):

And then the reward, the benefit, the efficiency of that is that after these caregiving moments they’re filled and they’re more able typically to go off and play, giving us time, giving us time to get the other things done, reducing clinginess, reducing separation resistance, reducing, you know, the kinds of things that slow us down that seem to take up a lot more time. Not always, you know, sometimes kids just, they really need you and they need you the whole day long and they can’t separate, but those tend to be moments, pockets of time, usually paired with like a brain leap or, you know, some type of milestone development, you know or sleep regression. Like it’s not all the time. I think we sometimes remember those times and hold onto them and it can distort our perception of how much our kids can be sort of in that needy phase and that clingy phase.

Dr. Sarah (12:32):

And they certainly can be. But typically, if we are putting in time during caregiving moments, we might find that there is more time outside of those moments where our children can tolerate being separated from us and engaged in independent play engaged in sort of being in their own worlds, which again, gives us time back as a parent important time back. So that’s another example of, you know, a small investment upfront because it does take longer initially, but the payoff is time.

Dr. Sarah (13:07):

Okay. Strategy number three, to get time back as a parent is to take tasks off your plate. This is called triaging. And when you have a brand new baby, triaging is critical. But I think it’s a strategy that serves you all the way throughout parenting, which is recognizing and fully accepting that you can not get everything done. And so you have to sort of be flexible in the moment to decide what’s the most important stuff.

Dr. Sarah (13:38):

And what can I really let go of if there are things in your life that are required, time requirements for you that take up your time that you do not have to do. Take them off your plate. Things like getting your groceries delivered, hiring task rabbits, to, you know, get odds and ends of things done around the house that you might otherwise spend a tremendous amount of time on because it might not actually be your skillset. Getting help in any way that you can and delegating in any way that you can, maybe you do a meal delivery service, or you know, a grocery delivery service. Maybe you can get a neighbor to help with the yard work. If they’re already doing their yard, see if you can get them to help you do yours and, you know, barter some type of other things that you’re already doing in return.

Dr. Sarah (14:41):

You really it’s, there’s no right or wrong or one list of things to do, but you know what tasks you have on your plate that you could potentially delegate, or maybe even just say, it’s not going to happen this week, right? Like I’m not going to fold the laundry. We’re going to pull clothes out of the bin, the clean bin as we need them, because I’m not gonna waste my time folding laundry when I’m really, really otherwise not giving myself the fill up time that I need, like that can wait, deciding what things can wait, what are not urgent, what are not pressing, if you can delegate fantastic. If you can’t delegate, what can just be put on pause temporarily and not feel guilty? You know, really not say that I’m, you know, doing something bad or irresponsible by saying, I’m not going to get these tasks finished.

Dr. Sarah (15:37):

If it allows you to be more present either for yourself or for your family, then it’s better for your whole family. If you guys don’t have folded laundry. And I think that that’s okay, you know, there’ll be another season in life where the laundry will always get folded or the beds will always get made. And if that’s something that’s really important to you to have those things done, then those aren’t the things that come off the list, right. It’s really about, I’m kind of betraying what doesn’t get done in my house. Right? Everyone has to figure out what they want to cut. So there’s no like column of things that everyone should just kind of broadly cut. It’s more like thinking about what are the things that you really don’t need to do and can get rid of with zero shame, zero guilt, zero remorse, and to feel actually that you’re serving yourself and serving your family by actually opening up time that you will then use, we’ll talk about this at the end of this list, but how to take the time that you have and not squander it not lose it again because we have a tendency, I think in this day and age to not notice that time might slowly slipping through our fingers when we need to learn to be incredibly intentional with our time and view it as sacred.

Dr. Sarah (16:55):

All right, strategy, number four, schedule a family meeting with your partner at the beginning of every week. Now this can be 10 minutes. It could be an hour. I find that 30 minutes is a really nice amount of time. 20 minutes even could be enough every single week at the beginning of the week. And in this meeting, I want you and your partner to forecast the week ahead, look at your calendars. Look at the kids’ schedules. Look at the weather, look at everything and really get on the same page, come up with a game plan. This reduces redundancies, tasks that you both might be doing on top of one another. That can be a huge waste of time and a big suck. It also helps make invisible work visible. So what’s invisible work? Invisible work is when you are like, for example, if I’m sort of the person in the family that always does the grocery shopping.

Dr. Sarah (18:04):

So that’s visible work. Like going to the grocery store is observable, it’s an observable activity that one might notice I do. But the invisible thing that comes with getting the groceries is all of the stuff I have to hold in my head, the mental load that I have to hold in my head at all times to be able to execute that one task. So for example, I have to sort of always keep a running list of all the food that is in the house, all the food that’s running low, all the food that needs to be replenished at the next grocery store run, right? That’s invisible work. And the problem with invisible work is that we tend to feel unseen and unappreciated. And yet it taxes us just as much as visible work. What this tends to result in, if there’s sort of this chronic load of invisible work, that’s not being seen by your partner is that we can start to feel resentful and we can start to burn out. Two things we really don’t want to do.

Dr. Sarah (19:10):

So in order to make the invisible work visible in these family meetings that you’re going to have every week. Talk to each other, talk to each other about all the tasks that you have to do, acknowledge the amount of work that goes into that acknowledged for your partner, the amount of work that goes into what they’re doing and show authentic gratitude, right, and receive authentic gratitude. And this can really improve the quality of the relationship. It can even out imbalances and it can reduce resentment, all good things. And if that means that we’re less resentful and less passive aggressive and fight less, that also is a time-saver, we’ll call that a bonus. But the meeting itself, again, small investment of time upfront, but it’s going to save you so much time in redundancies in miscommunications and just human error. Like, oops, I forgot to have dinner planned for tonight.

Dr. Sarah (20:07):

And I thought maybe you were doing it, but nobody’s done it. So now we have to scramble to make something, it’s going to take so much longer than we thought, because we don’t have the stuff, or maybe we’re going to order in and it’s going to take a long time for it to get here. This is time. This is time. It moves all the rest of the scheduled activities that come after dinner later. And then, you know, that means the kids go to bed later, which means you get less time in the evening to unwind. And then you get this accumulative loss of time for you. Time for you is so important. You need that Philip time. You need to be able to, to regenerate. You need to be able to have time away from the responsibilities of the day. So it’s important to make sure that you are reducing things that are unexpected interruptions or unexpected derailments.

Dr. Sarah (21:04):

And one of the ways that you can do this is in this family meeting. Also things like it allows you to plan sort of the meals for the week or any carpooling or drop-offs or pickups that have to happen. So people are being efficient with their scheduling. That’s also a helpful part that comes out of this weekly meeting. And also when there are really big gaps that you didn’t anticipate in like coverage or, you know, other plans that can also create a lot of chaos. So preventing going into crisis mode, preventing, scrambling, preventing, you know, sort of flustered parenting all of that helps just make life more pleasant and also save time.

Dr. Sarah (21:46):

All right, final strategy, number five, ask for help and find a good support system. Things like childcare. Whether it’s a mother’s helper, a babysitter, a daycare, a friend, a mother-in-law, anybody. Having people to come in and help share the responsibility and the load of taking care of your children is a good thing to be able to do.

Dr. Sarah (22:13):

It is healthy for our kids to be cared for by people. Other than us, it won’t change their love for us or their attachment bond with us. It allows us to have an important break that allows us to show up more present with our kids. We need breaks. We cannot effectively parent 24/7. It’s okay to involve some form of childcare and support in your life. It doesn’t have to be full-time all day, every day. It can be. But even an hour a week, it’s really light. If you aren’t, if you aren’t getting more than an hour, a week of help, you need to start to really think about what are the blocks to that being the case. And if it’s financial, what are ways that you could even do? Like partnering up with a mom friend where, you know, basically you share, like I’ll watch the kids for a couple hours today.

Dr. Sarah (23:16):

And then maybe in a few days you watch the kids for a couple of hours. And it’s a trade, it doesn’t cost any money, and it allows you both to get a break. That’s always really helpful also in maternity leaves where, you know, whatever childcare you might be planning before, when you actually go back to work might not be happening yet, but you still need a break. So pairing up with somebody and sort of trading off a few hours of watching the kids like a reciprocal time spent with one another’s kids can be a really good way of getting that break. Also kind of under this umbrella of finding a good support system and asking for help is to find ways that you can really authentically process your own feelings. Whether this is having a group of friends who you chat with or see, regularly having a moms group, or having a therapist, being able to really explicitly talk about identify, process your feelings, as mixed as they might be.

Dr. Sarah (24:25):

The wonderful feelings, the terrified feelings, the exhausted feelings, everything, the whole, every range of feeling because nothing is more, I think, emotionally volatile than parenting. We can be welling up with joy one second and holding back tears of grief. One second later we can be at our wit’s end just over and over and over again throughout a day. So being able to take a place, take the time to find the place to dedicate weekly, probably at least weekly, to be able to process your own feelings is going to save you time in parenting. Because when you do that kind of work on yourself, you will be better able to show up for your kids. You will be better able to take care of yourself and other responsibilities that you might have. And so, you know, making sure that you are taking care of and prioritizing your mental wellness, your physical wellness.

Dr. Sarah (25:38):

Again, there’s a theme emerging. It’s an investment of time upfront. And I think this is one of the issues is, it’s an investment of time upfront for a bigger time payout afterwards. And the reason why this is so challenging is because we often parent from this top plate, our relationship with time and parenting, I think is very linked to fear. I’m so afraid to invest time upfront now because I’m so aware of how little I have and how precious it feels and how much I am almost afraid to let go of it. That I want all these shortcuts. I want all these quick fixes. I want all these, you know, I won’t deal with my own needs here. I put all that aside because I can’t, I don’t have the time. But what happens is when we skimp on those upfront time investments, we pay so much more in the long run because our kids are having meltdowns.

Dr. Sarah (26:29):

When they’re trying to get out the door or we’re having emotional distress, that’s getting in the way of our functioning. We’re not sleeping, so we’re more tired and then we’re not focused. And then we’re making big mistakes that slow us down. You know, these are things that when you invest in the time upfront, the payout is there and kind of in that same vein of like finding that support system where you can process your own feelings, you know, if you can’t do therapy every week, or do a mom’s group. Think about taking a parenting course or think about finding, you know, some place to get information from a trusted resource that gives you a sense of like, I’m getting information. I’m not having to go all over the place, looking for this stuff. I’m not spending hours Googling and reading, you know, 10 different blog posts that all say something different.

Dr. Sarah (27:27):

And then I’m just left feeling like I don’t know what to do. And now I feel bad about myself for not knowing or for second guessing everything. I mean, those, we, the amount of time we spent scrolling through the internet and second guessing ourselves, that’s also a tremendous amount of time. And so to be more efficient with our time, try to find, you know, one or two or three max trusted resources and allow those to be your sort of home base, whether it’s listening to this podcast or taking one of my parenting courses, or if it’s finding somebody else out there who you trust, you know, get your person, get your people, get your tribe, your, you know, the people around you who you trust, maybe it’s your pediatrician. Maybe it’s your mom, but find those people and surround yourself with people whose opinions and whose knowledge is trustworthy has validity.

Dr. Sarah (28:26):

And then you can save a lot of time when you do need help. When you do need answers, when you are struggling with something, to be able to go to that one-stop shop and just get those info, that information there that can also save you a lot of time. And so when you’re feeling confident, when you’re feeling like you have a place to get your answers, when you’re feeling like you are honoring your emotional needs as a parent, and working on yourself and working on your relationship with your kids, and when you’re prioritizing meeting your own needs and making sure that you have actually rested enough to have emotional bandwidth to share with your family and your kids. You’re likely going to find that you’re able to be more effective in your parenting and subsequently more efficient with your time as a parent. We’ve all been in that situation where we find ourselves negotiating and over explaining or over accommodating with our kids.

Dr. Sarah (29:21):

And this takes up precious time. And if we could instead sort of have that confidence and assuredness in setting and holding our own boundaries with our kids, we can save a lot of minutes that really add up. All right? So let’s review our strategies for getting our time back as parents one. And this is a really good place to start is to build in buffers for transitions. Additionally, giving caregiving moments are full and focused attention so that we’re really filling up our kids so that outside of caregiving times, we can have more time to do other things, take to do tasks off your plate, whether you’re delegating, outsourcing, or just saying not going to happen. You know, just go through that, to do list with a real critical eye and edit the crap out of it for set up a standing family meeting with your partner for at least 20 minutes, shoot for 30 at the beginning of every single week to plan the week out to avoid errors, miscommunications redundancies, you will save time and show gratitude in those meetings.

Dr. Sarah (30:45):

That’s important. And then five is ask for help, find a good support system, whether it’s childcare, a place to process your feelings or a parenting source of solid information that you can go to instead of spending all your time, kind of scrolling through the internet. You have a way of creating a system around you that helps support you, helps you take care of yourself, helps you feel confident in your parenting and just gives you the space to then refuel. So you can be there with your kids and feel like you have time to really give to yourself.

Dr. Sarah (31:27):

And one final thing that I want to kind of close with is after you’ve done all these things, and you’ve kind of found these little moments that you are collecting to take back as yours, how do you not waste them? I’m guilty of this for sure. Where I found myself with a you know, an unexpected 30 minutes and I blow it on mindlessly scrolling through my phone, a hundred percent have done that, probably did it today. But if that is a habit, if that is a pattern, if that tends to be what always eats up your free time, you have to look at your relationship with your phone or whatever other distractions are keeping you from having that intentional connected fill up time for yourself. Think about what your hobbies are, think about what brings you joy, think about what really restores you and make sure that you are doing and have the capacity to easily access some of those things. When you have pockets of time and do them intentionally, you know, really check in with yourself before you do it and say, this is my time. This is for me, feel what that feels like. And then enjoy that time. And it might be five minutes. It might be one minute. It might be 30 minutes. It might be two hours, whatever it is, enjoy it. Feel it, let it fill you up. Let this time that you have reclaimed be intentional. Don’t throw it away and let me know how it goes.

Dr. Sarah (33:10):

Well, there you have it. I hope these suggestions bring some precious minutes back into your life. And if you’re still looking for some more time saving tricks, imagine how many hours you’d get back. If you could stop searching through Google and scrolling and trying to get the parenting advice that you need, not to mention the time spent sifting through contradictory information, trying to figure out which so-called expert to trust. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and wishing there was a single place you could learn all you need to know, with trustworthy research-back knowledge, you are in the right place. I am so excited to offer you access to The Authentic Parent: finding your confidence in your child’s first year. It’s your one-stop shop to learn the basics of psychology, neurobiology, child development, and a healthy dose of parenting support.

Dr. Sarah (33:57):

In this six week virtual course, I will personally guide you through learning to calmly and effectively respond to whatever parenting problem arises to connect authentically with your child, and truly enjoy parenthood. To learn more about this course, to sign up for the waitlist (which by the way, there’s only 36 open spots. So sign up for the waitlist soon!) and to watch a free bonus module from the course that teaches you the fundamentals of attachment and fostering secure attachment relationships with your child from birth through adulthood, go to drsarahbren.com/TAP. That’s drsarahbren.com/TAP. Thanks for listening to this episode until next week, don’t be a stranger!

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16. Time Saving Hacks: 5 ways parents can get back time