Ah, time-saving tips. Supposedly a godsend for frazzled working parents, and a feature of every women's magazine, newspaper lifestyle supplement and any published pamphlet, leaflet, article, book, magazine, website or written word of any kind produced for parents.
Time-saving tips remind me in general of the following: when my girls were babies and I was on my own with them and both were crying at the same time, I was convinced there must be some special sort of trick out there that people use with twins and triplets. There had to be things people had learned, to manage more than one distressed babe on those occasions when both (or three - shudder) were equally in need of some comfort - if ONLY I could JUST find out what they were! I called my 'new parent' contact at our twins club and asked her "What are some things you can do when both are crying at once?" She said "Well, I just used to always make sure I had someone else around at all times." Okay then!
Now as it happens as you go along you do manage to find some little ways to juggle two screaming babies – and these things will actually work sometimes. But not all the time. It took me awhile to accept the truth: there is no trick. You can rock both in their rockers or pop one in a swing while you cuddle the other, or you can lie on the floor and cuddle them both (sort of works), but there are some times where the only option is to comfort one and let the other cry. Heartbreaking, stressful and sad at the time – but sometimes just can’t be helped.
So back to time-saving tips. They can remind me of the advice in the little history above, because they are either of little use, are unrealistic, or if not they are things you’re already doing, or are unsuitable for your own situation.
There are the tips that sound good but aren’t:
“Cook double quantities of meals so you have some to put in the freezer”.
Yes, that works well with my special double-sized mixing bowls and double-sized pots and pans. I do do this on occasion but also never quite escape the feeling that it hasn’t actually saved me a huge amount of time.
“Get up 15 minutes earlier”. What, earlier than 5.30??
“Only check and respond to email twice a day”. Hmm, what company do these writers work for? Not mine! I seriously wonder how many people can get away with this one.
There are the frankly unrealistic:
“Make a list of staple foods to keep in your cupboard to help save time on weekly shopping”. Um, yes, I will definitely find time to do that.
Then there are those that seem to be there in order to make the list of tips a decent size, but are nothing you are not already doing:
“Chop up vegetables while the pasta is cooking” Good idea! Otherwise I would have just stood around while the pasta was cooking!
“Turn on your oven half an hour before you need to use it, to ensure it is hot” Yes this is called pre-heating and is already mentioned in my recipe thanks very much.
“Double up on appointments where you can”. Excuse me, does anyone who has to take time off work to get kids to a specialist and a cat to the vet actually need to be told this? Or maybe it’s like, the first thing that comes into my head when I am planning my appointments!
The rest are good ideas but are just not achievable all the time. All those suggestions to lay out clothes and prepare bags in the evening, plan family meals a week ahead, do your grocery shopping online, make and freeze a week’s worth of sandwiches – you can have a nice little routine going doing these for awhile until some Unforeseen but Inevitable Event occurs which means you don’t do it one night and then you’re thrown out of whack for the rest of the week. Or month. Or six month stretch!
The truth? It is impossible. You cannot save yourself lots of time. You can’t cheat the universe and be that organised. Working and child-rearing and the hundreds of household and administrative tasks that go along with them are time-consuming and constant. You will be tired and falling behind and will never have enough time. And that is called… Life!