I need a mental break from ALL THE THINGS and the very heavy writing I’ve been doing here about dystopias, corporatist takeovers, the end of Roe, and grieving Uvalde, so I’m going to seriously mix it up with a list of 10 things (not in order of importance) that make my life a little better. Caveats: I say over and over that there’s no life hack that’s going to fix what’s broken about motherhood in America. There is no app or purchase that will undo the racist, capitalist patriarchy we are surviving under and there is no shortcut to building meaningful communities or working towards generational systemic change. Nothing on this list will address the big things that would really make our lives substantially better.
So now that you know what I’m NOT promising from this list, let me tell you what I do promise: nothing on this list is sponsored. Several things on this list are not purchasable, and for those things that are, I didn’t get anything in exchange for recommending them. Going forward, I intend to keep this newsletter and community as one of the very few places on the internet aimed at moms free from corporate sponsorship and influence. There are no offer codes, I get no referral credits, so you know everything is 100% genuine. Access to your attention, preferences and your buying power is not for sale.
Onto the list of 10 things that make my life (a lil) better:
The Public Library – Many people use the library to check out kids’ books. Since a huge new central branch opened in downtown Durham last fall, in addition to kids books, I use it all the time for books for myself. I admittedly have a stack of half finished books by my bedside table, but I really need non-challenging contemporary fiction in the rotation to unwind after a long day. I also use it for non-fiction books I think I don’t really need to own. I love using the hold system so stuff is ready for me to pick up, although I enjoy occasionally browsing the stacks. No, the new hotness bestseller isn’t always available, but I have no trouble keeping myself fully entertained.
Purple Mattress – I probably don’t have to tell you that sleep is so important. It seems like the mattress advertising space is as weirdly competitive as ever, so I’ll share that about 5 years ago I went down the rabbithole and ended up buying a Purple mattress. My husband and I adore it. When we moved to NC we upgraded to a king size one and kept the queen for a guest room. I have literally never slept on a better mattress in my entire life, and since we got it, whenever we go on trips, we always have to adjust to mattresses in other places not being as transcendent as the one we have at home. 10 stars. They also have great customer service.
Tick Tick - This is the most used home organizational tool for my family. It’s a simple checkable to-do list app that you can make shared lists to collaborate on with people. It also syncs with your calendar if you want. We use it for packing lists, grocery lists, ‘to discuss’ lists, and my husband and I can share and edit them. We also use with our twins’ caregiver. We pay for the upgraded $27.99 per year version so we can have unlimited lists and I've probably used it nearly every day for 2+ years.
The Business Meeting – once a week for 30-45 minutes Wednesday midday, my husband and I get together with our phones and computers and go over family business. Credit card transactions, landscaping progress, pre-school research updates, assign who’s taking charge of new tasks and update each other on old ones. This cuts down on constant rolling check-ins, trying to communicate important info over a chaotic dinner with three children or giving reminders at bad times. I keep a Tick Tick list of what I want to cover. This is completely separate from a more enjoyable, non-agenda filled way to connect, called Date Night.
Date Night – Yes, most people would agree that date nights with your partner are important...blah blah... but it’s hard to schedule them regularly... blah blah. One thing that has made my life immeasurably better is guarding our date night like a sword-wielding dragon slayer as a virtually non-negotiable part of our lives. We have built in weekly date nights every Friday for the last 3.5ish years, including through most of the pandemic (even when we just drove around and ate takeout on the grass somewhere.) With the help of my MIL and shifting our regular caregivers’ schedule a bit later on Fridays, we make it happen weekly. I can’t imagine getting through many, many weeks without it to look forward to at the end.
Calendly – I started using Calendly, the meeting scheduling tool, at the start of the pandemic and I don’t want to think about how much time I wasted before that on back and forth emails for scheduling. If you do any amount of regular work meetings as a freelancer or business person where people you work with don’t have access to your company calendar, save yourself so much time and get this.
Greenlight – Instead of using cash, we set up a Greenlight account this year when we decided to give my 6 year-old an allowance. First of all, we never have cash, and this is easy to set up with your bank account for automatic transfers, distributed however you want into spending, savings, and charity. He’s extremely proud that gets his own debit card that he can use for in-person or online purchases (you can set limits on where, if you want) and we can check how much money he has in his account with an app when he’s at a store and wants to buy himself something. We also got a card for our caregiver for incidental expenses. I’m a big fan.
Instacart for Costco – I resisted the grocery delivery/Instacart train for SO long because I was sure it would balloon our already big grocery bills. Instacart totally got me in a moment of weakness at the start of the year when they were running a promotion with our credit card company to waive fees to give it a try. I am now obsessed and will never go back. I no longer have to find a way to fit multi-hour trips to Costco every two weeks like a game of logistical jenga, their customer service is lightning fast and easy on refunds when the shopper made a mistaken purchase. Even with a good tip for the delivery person I’m somehow spending less on groceries.... Seems impossible??... Well, until I realized shopping on Instacart has totally eliminated my impulse purchases. #Winning!
Marco Polo – I started using this video messaging app when my twins were first born and it became a wonderful social lifeline during the more isolating times of the Pandemic. And I still use it regularly with friends locally and far away. I often leave and listen to video messages while multitasking on a walk, driving around or doing dishes. Friends can listen at their convenience and send one back when they have time. It’s a great way to stay in touch. It’s more intimate and expansive than texting, and has none of the impossible scheduling serendipity needed for a phone call. PS: I don’t use the paid version, the free version is just fine.
TSAPre – In Spring 2019 before I got pregnant with twins and when I thought I’d be doing a lot of business trips in the coming years (HA!) My husband and I jumped through the hoops needed to apply for TSAPre which involves an online application and making an appointment to get fingerprinted in person. It costs $85. I only got to use it twice before COVID, but now that I’ve traveled on an airplane a few times since the pandemic started, I’m so glad I have it. If you foresee yourself returning to a more regular travel schedule it is so worth it, especially with how nutty plane travel is these days. Bonus, kids under 12 get to go through the pre-check line with a TSAPre adult and without having to take all the liquids and electronics out of the bag etc etc. So if you are having panic attacks about traveling with kids and long security lines, the investment might be worth it alone just to ease family travel.
If you liked this palette cleanser of a newsletter and would like me to occasionally do more lists like this, LMK. If you want to support keeping this space free from corporate influence, consider becoming a member of The Double Shift. It starts at $5/mo and you also get an audio version of this newsletter and access to virtual and IRL hangouts.
PLEASE NOTE: We'll be taking off from the newsletter next week as we prepare for the relaunch of our membership program!