Dad life is gruelling. The key to staying on top of things is a routine. Yes, the same routine that you thought was boring (it is, but it now is a powerful ally).
Benefits of the routine
Having a routine ensures that the family moves to the same beat daily. Anna and I are both lawyers with demanding schedules. We have no choice but to be organised. Our routine helps to avoid being late for work (or to see friends), being behind at work, having an empty fridge and even having sleeping issues for the little ones. The only downsides are that a routine (a) requires discipline and (b) gets repetitive. My advice is just to embrace it. It is a rewarding process.
• 6.30 am : wake up and get straight to the kitchen to clean up the dishwasher while one of us wakes Louise up and prepares her milk bottle.
• 6:45 am : have our breakfast the three of us. I usually make a homemade oatmeal mix with boiling water, an apple and top it off with some peanut butter and almond milk (Louise gets hers with real milk). We usually listen to a French radio station during breakfast to catch up on the news.
• 7:15 am : one of the parents will clean up while the other showers and cleans Louise.
•7:30-8 am: shaving and getting dressed (I organise my clothes in a way that I can make an outfit very quickly).
•8:15 am: we are on our way to work.
•9:00 am: we each arrive at our workplace after having dropped off Louise at kindergarten. We are fortunate to have the kindergarten within walking distance to each of our workplaces. We put much effort into securing a spot at that kindergarten.
•9:10 am to 12 am: morning work session. Focus is at a peak here. I try to take care of the most mentally draining tasks in the morning as I am more focused than at night.
• Lunch break: I always use my lunch break to be productive. I either have a 30 mins intense workout (going for a run or doing a cardio boxing session with our firm’s private coach), or I go grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket and then store some of the items in our office’s fridge. Grocery shopping during lunch break helps to stay on top of the grocery situation. I then eat a quick meal at my desk. I socialise either at the gym or during (short) coffee breaks in the afternoon work session.
•1 pm to 6 pm: afternoon work session. I try to stay very focused during that time to avoid having to finish work later.
• 6 pm: leave work and meet Anna on the way home. We catch up on the day and decompress on the way home. We have a rule (which has been signed off on by our workplaces) that we only pick up work once Louise is in bed.
• 6:30 pm: as soon as we arrive home, we get to cooking. Either we reheat last night’s leftovers, or we cook from scratch. We try to cook in more significant portions to be able to eat the leftovers the next day. Another crucial point here is to keep it simple. One protein, one carb and one vegetable. No need to get fancy for a weeknight meal. Our go-to meals are quiches, pasta with veggies and slice of ham, or even turkey breasts with carrots and quinoa.
• 7:30 pm: after eating, Anna will take care of preparing Louise for bed while I clean up the kitchen and dishes (and also to pop some clothes in the washing machine). I also try to clean up a bit the apartment (like rugs or vacuum the living room if I have some minutes to do so – the Dyson cordless vacuum is a lifesaver here as I just need to pick it up and it works). I make sure that I can get a dishwasher cycle done every night. This way, we never delay our routine by having to wash dishes before we can eat.
• 7:50-8 pm: We all brush our teeth and read one French and one German story. Louise is now ready for bed. We tuck her in, and she drifts off to her dreams.
• 8:10 pm: Anna and I open our laptops and catch up on work, or if nothing urgent has popped up at work, we try to take care of outstanding items like bills or other decisions. If there is nothing to take care of, we watch a movie, read or just wind-down for a couple of hours.
• 10:30 pm: we try to wind the day down and get some rest.