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Starting (or heading back) to school means a busy season is about to begin. During the summer, the family has a bit more freedom, but the fall months bring more structure and routine to everyone's life. While you can't change the amount of tasks on your to-do list, you can incorporate some hacks into your day to lessen the overwhelm and make processes smoother.

From outsourcing some must-dos (looking at you groceries) to keeping your car prepared for those days you simply forget the kids had after-school activities, here are some of our mama-approved back to school hacks that'll save you time—and a whole lot of stress.

1. Outsource groceries + snacks

Everyone is running around from place to place during the school season and sometimes you just don't have time to make it to the store. We love outsourcing groceries and snacks for those busy weeks as it ensures the pantry and fridge is stocked without having to spend an hour or more at the store.

Boxed is amazing for non-perishable goods, household supplies and snack staples your kids love. Instacart and Fresh Direct can fill in for fresh produce, milk and meats directly from your local grocery store. And, when in doubt, Amazon Prime it.

2. Pre-organize your purse

Work, girls night out, date night, school drop-off—the list goes on and on. You probably spend way too much time switching out bags and the items you need for each event. While there's no one bag that does the job for everything (if you find one, let us know!) there is a nifty solution.

ToteSavvy was created to transform any bag into a diaper bag, but you can use another one to keep all of mama's top pieces in one place—makeup, wallet, keys, band-aids, etc. We love this one from a collaboration with Fawn Design because it's compact enough to fit in almost every bag we have. Simply load it up then pop it into whatever bag you need.

3. Let technology take some of the mental load

You can automate just about anything with smart devices, and the tech is only getting better. A few of our favorites? Assignable reminders of the Google Assistant—you can create reminders for everyone in your family so you don't have to. Try asking your Assistant, "Hey Google, remind Sophie that she's going to do great on tomorrow's test" or "Hey Google, remind Ben that he needs to complete his chores tonight." And, if you can't seem to make time for those activities you want to do (think: family time or date night) your Google Calendar can schedule goals for you, blocking out time on your calendar to do what matters most to you.

If you have an Amazon device instead, you can create morning routines for both you and the kids. With an Echo Dot Kids Edition, you can tell them breakfast is ready or customize alarms or checklists to guide them. Even better, add their favorite character to help them wake up in the morning (Disney's Moana, for example!). We love digging into new features, like the Chompers skill that provides brushing tips, reminders and jokes for the full two minutes they should be brushing.

4. Have a ready-to-go bag in the car

If you're going to be running around, you might as well use your car's space to your advantage. Grab a large bag and fill it with items that your family always seems to need.

Some items to get started:

  • Extra set of clothes for the kids
  • A pair of flats,
  • Flashlight
  • Wet wipes
  • Plastic baggie
  • Baby's favorite pacifier or toy
  • A $20 bill

Keep it in the trunk of your car and refill it as you use things from the bag. This will save you a trip back home or an adventure to the store.

Pro tip: A canvas bag is perfect to have on hand for a quick trip to the grocery store, too. This tote from The Little Market is large, sturdy and customizable. Plus, it's eco-friendly and handmade by women in Bangladesh so your purchase gives back to other women.

5. Sync calendars with your partner

Sometimes life can get *so* busy and the best of people can forget important tasks, or you have to switch up schedules last minute so your partner needs to pick up the kids from daycare when you usually do.

Find a way to manage a calendar that works for you both and sync it up every Sunday so everyone knows who is doing what and going where. Paper planners or whiteboards in the kitchen are great, but we like doubling up with digital calendars because it'll send an alert or reminder.

6. Create snack bins

Get a bin or a box that fits in your cabinet or pantry that's only for school snacks. Make sure it's ready to go at the beginning of each week and encourage your kids to pick out two items to go in their lunchbox. This will not only save you time, but will get your littles involved in helping out with packing lunches.

Even better? Create a sandwich section in the fridge where you pre-make sandwiches a few days in advance. Children can grab a bag, two snacks, and be ready to head out the door.

7. Establish a command center

If you've ever spent an extra 20 minutes searching for your kid's homework folder at 7 am or looking for your keys, you're not alone, mama. Mornings are often the craziest time of day for any family.

Set aside an area in a common space that serves as a command station. Maybe it's a mud room, or you have a designated spot in the kitchen. This is where keys, phones, chargers, homework, notes that need signed, and anything else important needs to go.

Get the family in the routine of putting everything there when they get home so you never waste time looking for things. If you're limited on space, an on-the-wall organizer like this is a great solution.

8. Prep meals in batches

While most parents would love to take the time to make a fresh meal every night, it's just not realistic in a busy season. First, give yourself grace to order pizza or pick up to-go food. Then, plan ahead and prep batched meals.

Put chicken and veggies in one freezer bag for a sheet pan dinner, toss sauce and pasta in another for Italian night, or have potatoes, beef tips and carrots ready to throw in the crock pot. You'll save tons of time of prep work and only need to thaw it out in the morning, then cook it all together in the evening.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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