SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

November 2013

Time-saving Tips for Busy Mums

It’s 10pm and the kids are finally in bed. The living room, strewn with toys and books, looks as though a tornado has swept through, and a pile of dirty dishes await you in the kitchen sink. After clearing the chores for the day, you barely have time to rest before the whole cycle repeats itself the next morning. If this sounds like your typical day, read on to find out how some busy mums manage to juggle work and family life without the assistance of a domestic helper.

1. Teach your children to be independent

Ever since her two children were three months old, Mdm Goh, 45, started training them to have “playpen time” to play or read alone. When they started schooling, these slots of “independent activity time” enabled Mdm Goh to spend solo time with each of her children to coach them in their school work.

Her children, now aged nine and 13, were also taught to learn independently and to complete their homework without supervision. They only approach her for help to check through completed assignments or when they have questions. This frees her to attend to her other responsibilities during the day.

2. Cook one-dish meals

Mrs Y. P. Lim, 35, has a five-year-old son and an eight-month-old baby. Despite working long hours at a hospital, she still cooks dinner for her family. She experiments with one-dish meals using the crockpot or the oven as these take less time and effort to prepare. Soups, stir-fries and casseroles can also provide a balanced diet of meat and vegetables in a single dish. Recipes for Asian and Western one-dish meals are readily available online.

3. Break down large tasks into manageable portions

Large tasks may appear daunting and require more time than is available. In order to make full use of little empty slots of time, Mrs Lim breaks down large tasks into smaller ones which can be completed in 15 minutes. For example, rather than to try and clean the entire house in a short window of time, she focuses on a corner and continues the next time she has an available time slot.

4. Get your child to pack up

It takes less effort to tidy up the house when children are trained to put things back in their proper places after using them. To get her five-year-old into the habit of packing up, Mrs Lim gave him a large toy box to contain his toys. She tells him that “the vacuum cleaner may accidently suck up your toys if you leave them lying about” and he hastily complies.

Little housewife Helping At Home

5. Involve your children in housework

Over the years, Mdm Goh had to care for her aged father-in-law in addition to her responsibilities at home and work. She had also nursed her mother-in-law and both parents back to health whenever any of them underwent an operation.

Despite the challenging demands on her time, she felt that this was a good learning experience for her children to understand what it means to care for one’s family members. As she roped in her children to help, she found that they “learnt even better and were able to help out more because they understood the importance of giving mummy time off.”

Starting with age-appropriate chores, she shares how she got her children involved: “I train them to start with simple tasks such as bringing the clothes to the room to be folded when they were three; setting the dining table when they were four; cooking rice at the age of six; taking care of their rooms by the age of seven; and travelling to and from school on their own by nine. My elder child started preparing breakfast when he was 10. He learnt how to iron clothes and operate the juicer and washing machine at 12. My housework is getting lighter with more hands helping out!”

6. Get tips from housekeeping websites

In order to do her household chores more efficiently, Mrs Lim refers to housekeeping websites for tips. Online resources ( such as Clean Mama ( provide suggestions on the “best practices” for housekeeping. For instance, to save on ironing, Mrs Lim buys clothes that are made from crease-resistant materials or stretch fabric.

7. Cook and freeze batches of food

When both her children were infants, Mrs J. Yeo, 34, used to cook, puree and freeze batches of baby food. She found it more convenient to warm up the required amount rather than to prepare every meal from scratch.

8. Split the task of ferrying children

Mrs Yeo and her neighbour take turns ferrying their children to and from school. This frees up some time for her to attend to her chores and freelance work. It also saves her the hassle of bringing her younger child along, especially in bad weather.

9. Invest in a dishwasher

Mrs Yeo finds her dishwasher a great help. With the time saved on doing the dishes, she has more time to spend with her family. “Since the dishes are washed at a high temperature, all the tough food stains are washed off. There is no need to scrub. I also did not need to sterilise my baby’s utensils after they had been washed,” she shares.

10. Stay focused on the task

Amidst the many competing demands on our time each day, we can easily get side-tracked from what we have planned to do and either end up taking a longer time to complete the task or leave it unfinished. While there will always be more things to do than time allows, Mdm Goh suggests selecting specific tasks to accomplish each day and encouraging yourself when it is done. She shares, “If I had planned to exercise with my children today and achieved it, I consider myself a successful mother for today. Be happy with little things, especially time spent with your children.”

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Time-saving Tips for Busy Mums