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The Kaizen Parent: How to Have More Time for Fun at Home

Posted by Maggie Millard

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May 21, 2015 2:00:00 PM

11141118_10153256833184083_8506963818478253131_n3Parenting efficiently is increasingly important in our society where roughly 92.8% of fathers and 70.1% of mothers with children under 18 are in the workforce. The key to establishing a successful work-life balance is eliminating all possible waste, on both fronts. This gives you more time to spend doing things you enjoy with the people you love. 

I spend a lot of time at work thinking about Kaizen and waste reduction, so I guess it’s only natural that I’ve applied those principles to my home life as well. As the mother of an 8 month old daughter, I’m learning a lot on the fly about how to eliminate waste at home to make our days more efficient. This allows me to have more time to do more important things with my kiddo, like pet cats and wave at cars.

Here are some things I’ve come up with that can help if you too struggle to find time for the things you enjoy:

GOAL: Feed the baby

How to feed your newborn is a controversial conversation these days. Breastfeeding went over really well in my house... but not necessarily for the reasons you're thinking. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about the health benefits of nursing these days… but for us, the decision to breastfeed was really all about efficiency. I’m a walking, talking dairy farm. We don’t have to heat or mix or pack or forget or sterilize anything. Plus, it’s hands-free with a baby carrier, and I can do it in my sleep.

The day the bambino started needing more calories than this mama can provide was a sad day for me. Not because of the emotional connection, as you might imagine, but because I finally had to start putting some effort into feeding my kid. That’s when I learned about baby led weaning - aka the lazy mom’s feeding method (that’s totally safe and amazing for other reasons, too)

How to feed a baby a banana, the Kaizen way: 

  1. Unpeel the end of the banana (not the whole thing, because if you do the baby is guaranteed to not eat any of it - waste of money).  

  2. Hand the banana to the kid. If you’re lucky, they’ll pick it up and gnaw on the right end. Mine likes to chew the peel if given the option, which results in wasted effort (hers) and wasted time (mine).

  3. Hold the banana yourself so the baby will gnaw on the right spot. Wasted time, yes, but it’s faster than your next option:

  4. Give in and cut the banana up. Bonus points if you can manage to get the kid to eat it in sticks so you don’t have to go so far as to cube the darn thing. Tip: If you squeeze a banana gently, it’ll separate into thirds and not be as slimy, saving you some cleaning time.

  5. Last resort: mash the banana and feed it to your baby. 

GOAL: Get the baby to sleep

After many, many months of trying EVERY sleep method on the planet, I was reminded too late of the Kaizen principle of making small, low-cost, low-risk improvements. It’s not my fault - I was desperate for sleep, so I threw every possible solution at the wall to see what would stick. The result? Here’s what my kid now MUST have to fall asleep: 

  1. Sleep sack: $20
  2. Annoying singing puppy: $20
  3. “Lamby” the star projector: $25
  4. “Kitty” the stuffed animal: $15
  5. Sound machine: $25

Additional costs: Checked baggage fees, sleep training books, and my sanity.

Learn my lesson, folks. If you need to get your kid this stuff to make them sleep, introduce it ONE ITEM AT A TIME until you find what works. You’ll save money, and you won’t have to bring a second car to carry the kid’s nap gear. 

GOAL: Diaper the baby

This is an example of a time that you’re going to have to accept "better" rather than expecting "best." When it comes to diapering, you can either waste time, or waste money - and on both counts, it adds up painfully fast. 

At my house, we opted to waste time with cloth diapers. It’s an awesome choice because after the initial cost (spread amongst our lovely friends and family who gave them to us), it makes diapering free. I try not to think about how much time I spend each week washing, folding, and putting away the diapers. There are some Kaizen things you can do to save some of that time, though: 

  1. Our washer is in the basement and no one gets enough sleep, so we forget the diapers down there a lot. Hanging a reversible “DIAPERS!!!” sign on the door would be a visual reminder to go get them before it’s too late.

  2. Having the right tools for the job are critical to cloth diapering success. For example, might I recommend a diaper sprayer. I’ll spare you the details of what that’s used for.

  3. If you have the all-in-one diapers like I do, you’ll save a ton of time if you don’t assemble them completely before storing them. Why do all those snaps to store the diaper, and then undo them to put it on the baby? Think about that at your next 3am diaper change.

Of course, disposable diapers are an option too. The earth would cry “Wasted materials!” if it could, but as a parent, I know that you have to do whatever gets you through the day with your sweet, stinky, sticky baby. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a well-hydrated kid prone to diaper rash, you’ll need a second mortgage to fund that convenience.

That’s all you need to do, right? Feed, sleep, and diaper the baby? HA. Tell me what Kaizen principles you’ve implemented in your home to help free up some family time! Seriously… leave a comment. I need help.

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