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Parenting Secrets to Getting It All Done

You haven’t washed your hair since Tuesday, your house is a mess and your kid is eating chicken nuggets for dinner, again. How the heck do others pull this parenting thing off?
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Updated
October 20, 2021
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Image: Adrienne Hulme

For parents, it may often feel like the to-do list is never-ending. No matter how hard you try, things are bound to fall between the cracks—you feel like the house is never organized, you wind up forgetting your toddler’s “wear a costume to school” day or you realize you can’t remember when you last got your haircut. Wondering how other parents ever get it all done? You’re not alone! We tapped a parenting coach and real life parents just like you for their top tips on how to manage it all.

What Busy Parents Need to Know About Getting It All Done

So how can you accomplish everything on your to-do list? The very simple and truthful answer is you can’t. “[This concept] is totally unrealistic. The reality is that we will never get it all done. Never! It’s impossible,” says Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC, a parent coaching consultancy. “I believe there are some things we can get done at that moment or cross off our list and soak up that sense of accomplishment of getting it done. But, as a parent, there will always be something to do. Getting it all done shouldn’t be the goal.”

As a society, we constantly feel pressured to tackle the next thing—even busy parents who already have so much on their plates. “We’re so busy being busy, we don’t sit long enough to be proud of what we have actually accomplished,” Lockhart says.

To help change that mindset, Lockhart recommends seeking out supportive communities that can lend a helping hand or provide a sympathetic ear. She also reminds us to be kind to ourselves and show compassion. If we keep attempting to do it all, “We’ll continue to stress ourselves out and believe we’ve fallen short,” she explains. “Take the time to enjoy life and engage in activities that bring [you] joy. Spend time with people who are important to you. Take care of you.”

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Secrets to Getting It Done: Tips From Parents

Feeling a bit liberated? You should! Of course, we can’t fully escape from our to-do lists. But there are small things you can do every day that may help make the workload feel more manageable. Below, some tips from other parents on the things that helped them find a sense of accomplishment.

• “I have a weekly to-do list. It helps me put one chore, one fun thing and time to exercise on one day’s schedule. When I finish a task, I delete it. It’s fun to delete things!” — Andrea B.

• “I just do one thing a day. One day, I’ll do the laundry; one day, I’ll vacuum, etc. If it gets done, great. If not, oh well.” — Marcela K.

• “Everything gets done during naptime or after the kids go to bed.” — Jessica G.

• “I encourage my two-year-old and four-year-old to clean up after they’re finished with everything. Also, I don’t say no to people helping me with my newborn—like my mother. And I have a part-time babysitter.” — Alexis M.

• “I just keep myself moving! I also declutter as much as possible. I don’t always get it all done, but being organized has been the biggest step in the right direction for me.” — Brittany M.

• “After I learned about babywearing, I finally managed to vacuum my whole house at once!” — Lisa S.

• “I have a lot of sticky notes on the fridge—it’s just as satisfying to pull down and crumble a sticky as it is to cross something off a list.” — Natalie S.

• "I have a wonderful husband who helps, and I don’t get out that much, hah!” — Adeline C.

• “I bought a planner, spread out everything I have to do over the week and have decided it’s going to be okay if some of the things don’t get done.” — Jennifer M.

• “I stick to a strict sleeping schedule for baby and plan everything else around it. I plan out my day every morning, and if I don’t get to everything, I add it to my list for the next day. I also have a great little helper who is learning to clean up her toys and help with the dishes and laundry.” — Tane S.

The overarching lesson? While it can feel frustrating to not be able to accomplish everything you want to, remember to set realistic goals and show yourself compassion. You’ve come so far and are doing so well. Keep going!

About the expert:

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a parenting coach, the president and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC and a mom to two kids. She received her doctorate in 2006 from the Arizona School of Professional Psychology and, after working in military clinics and hospitals for 10 years, opened her own practice in 2016.

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