Working Parents’ Guide to Maximizing Free Time

Posted on



Michiko Morales

Did you know Americans work more than workers in any other industrialized country? Born and raised in Japan, I was taught to believe that the Japanese worked the longest hours, but that is not the case anymore. The fact is, Americans work the longest hours, take less vacation and retire later, too. Surprised?

Having worked in the U.S. at various marketing and PR firms for the last 15 years, and especially as a mom over the last 10 years, I know how hectic lives can be for working parents. It’s hard to catch my breath sometimes. Days are filled with endless to-dos, responsibilities and obligations while looking after the entire family. This is especially true for working mothers. Various studies, including a Pew Research study, found that women still complete the majority of housework and parenting–even in dual-income families. On average, mothers spend nearly double the time than fathers – 16 hours per week – on these tasks.

So how can we better balance work and life to spend more quality time with our family and find a little peace and happiness? A new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science says that valuing time over money brings you greater happiness. So the answer is to figure out how to make the most of your free time so that you can spend more time doing what’s really important. I’ve been trying to find the answer for quite some time now, and here are some ideas that have worked for me and I believe are worth trying:

Outsource your housework

I’m a big believer in asking for help and outsourcing household chores and tasks that are not a productive use of my time. For example, instead of spending most of the weekend doing house and yard work, why not outsource these tasks to make time for the activities that bring you joy? In my case, I use the time to take my sons to the library, play soccer with them or try a new recipe with my husband. In our busy lives, time is money, so think hard about what you can outsource and don’t feel guilty about it! Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Cleaning – I have been using a cleaning crew I found on Angie’s List for the last two years, and it’s the best money I’ve spent. Thanks to them, I’m less stressed and am no longer cranky when my house gets messy. The feeling of “I don’t have to do everything” is so liberating. Search online to look for reputable cleaning companies with good reviews. I promise you won’t regret the decision.
  • Lawn care – In my household, my husband takes care of our lawn on weekends throughout the year. Free up this valuable weekend time for family outings and other activities by outsourcing lawn care. Find a reputable lawn care provider on Angie’s List or ask your local nursery to see if they provide services, such as mowing, edging, fertilizing and weed control. Think of it as the outdoor equivalent of a house cleaning service.
  • Groceries delivery – Check if your local grocery stores offer delivery services, such as Safeway and Peapod by Giant. I use Peapod often, and it’s easy, convenient and saves me at least an hour every week. Plus, I can avoid carrying heavy grocery bags since these services deliver groceries right to your front door! New services such as Instacart and AmazonFresh might be available in your area as well. Instacart promises delivery of groceries from several grocery stores, such as Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and Costco.
  • “Ready-to-Make” meal delivery – My colleagues gave me a gift certificate to Blue Apron two years ago, and I’ve tried the service several times since. Overall I’m impressed by the quality of the ingredients and the creative recipes with international flair. It not only saved me time coming up with what to cook for dinner, but also turned dinner into a fun activity the entire family wants to participate. Other similar services include HelloFresh, Plated and Home Chef.
  • Handyman service & tech support – Handyman referral services such as TaskRabbit, HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List are great time saver for busy parents. These services can quickly recommend trusted, skilled individuals and professionals for the jobs that need to get done around the house. My husband and I are Angie’s List members and had great experiences using their recommended contractors, painters, HVAC technicians and foundation experts for numerous home improvement projects. For tech support, Online Owls offers affordable on-demand tech support.

Work out at home

I have a gym membership at a local community center, but I rarely go there. Like many other working moms, I simply don’t have the time. Luckily, my company (Gabriel Marketing Group) offers a yoga class every week at work, so I try to take advantage of that. Researching what more I can do at home, I found some great at-home workout options/apps I want to try this year. Here are just a few examples:

  • Daily Burn – At $12.95/month you get to work out with any Daily Burn trainer whenever you want. What I think is great is the variety of the workout options they offer, from Core, Pilates or Yoga to a total-body sculpting program. It’s convenient and a great value for the money!
  • Yoga Studio – Offered at $3.99, this is the No.1 yoga app on the App store. It includes 65 ready-made classes for all levels (beginner, intermediate or advanced), and you can create your own and unlimited class time. You can turn your bedroom into a yoga studio with this app!
  • 30-day Squat Challenge – I first read about squat challenges on my friend’s Facebook feed. What intrigued me were the dramatic “before and after” photos of the people who went through the challenge and how easy the instructions are. So my colleague and I will be starting this challenge this month. We will see how it goes…

As the New Year begins, our minds are already filled with a long list of this year’s resolutions. Figuring out how to make the most of your free time is probably a life-long journey, but take it one task at a time to see if it can be outsourced or accomplished quicker by using the technology at your fingertips. You will be surprised by how a small change can make a huge different in your life. What are your productivity tips for busy working parents? Please send us your tips!


From the Blog

Leah Nurik