I get GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's gushy newsletter on life, style, food, spirituality and travel (G.O.O.P. are her initials). My daily reality as a mom of three boys, however, is not her reality, and I admit I mostly read it occasionally for a spoonful of gawking and nostalgia for a time when I myself had disposable cash for travel and eating out, and trips to New York and London -- although obviously not as much as she does.
Even for Gwyneth, though, last week's newsletter was something. In the attempt to show her readers how "to find a good balance between having a career and being a mom," she got together two of her friends -- a prestigious venture capitalist and fashion designer and Beatle-daughter Stella McCartney -- to join with her in telling a story of a normal "manic" day and offer some tips for finding balance.
The results were hilarious, especially if you're a regular (read: non-famous, non-wealthy, non-staffed) mom. In the spirit of camaraderie, we decided to offer some frugal, time-saving mom tips of our own:GOOP Tip: Shop for Clothes at Key Moments of the Year: Paltrow pal venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny (the name of a regular mom if you've ever heard one, eh?) recommends doing this in the fall and the spring. de Babigny says to do this, explaining that she only shops in the fall and the spring for her wardrobe, "I plan my key pieces, order, and then I can forget about it for six months. Also, find a great alteration person. Twice a year, I meet with her, review my clothes, sort out my closet, plan key looks for travel, weekend, evenings, and holiday." This is a great concept, without the alteration person, without the shopping, without the "key pieces."
Tip for the Rest of Us:
Two or three times a year, my friends and I go through our closets (if we're lucky, with the help of a sister or an older daughter) and plan key looks for, umm, ok, we don't plan key looks. We find what doesn't fit us anymore, or what we never wear, and bring the extras to a Naked Mama party -- a clothing swap where we try on each other's clothes and take home whatever we like. It's fun and entirely free.
Oh! And I also go thrift store shopping at "key moments"; at the end of the summer and in January, when people like de Baubigny are purging their closets. It's the only time I spend money on clothes.
I also try to go for walks or ride my bike on gorgeous Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings in the summer, after garage sales have ended and the free boxes have taken their place. One of my "key pieces" comes from such a free box; I replaced a broken zipper with a satin silk tie and added a pocket. I get compliments every time I wear it.
GOOP Tip: Get Your Girlfriends Together and Have Them Bring Their Fabulous Products. de Baubigny has these examples of restorative nights out. "I try to organize a girls' night once a quarter and do something really fun together. It's also a great way to introduce amazing women. For example, my friend Olivia Chantecaille came to visit and we had a makeup party-lots of champagne, makeup lessons and laughs. I did the same for Philip Lim and had a trunk show with my friends." We'll give her a pat on the back for offering the alternative of a "potluck supper and a glass of wine," by which we suspect she means, inviting her favorite internationally-famed socialite chefs over for dinner along with some winery owners.
Tip for the Rest of Us: Chances are your girlfriends aren't creative directors of makeup lines so exclusive you have never heard of them. We're just going to assume that none of them are critically acclaimed fashion designers, either. But maybe one of them knows how to make soap, or something simpler: deodorant, or skin salve. Have everyone bring one ingredient -- coconut oil, shea butter, essential oils, herbs from your garden, little glass jars to put it in -- it will be cheaper to buy in bulk. Then, grab a couple of ($5) bottles of wine or some fancy teas and have a fun, creative party where you come home with a goody bag that no one shelled out top dollar for.
GOOP Tip: Plan Your Weekend Menu on Friday. Gwyneth cooks a lot, she says, "especially on the weekends (maybe her personal chef takes the weekends off?) ... Obviously stores and websites that deliver make this a dream. In London I use Ocado. Also James Knight, my favorite fishmonger, will deliver. Having all of the ingredients means I'm prepared even when I don't think I am." Let's just assume that Gwyneth's grocers and fishmongers may be a little above your grocery budget. But you can use her general philosophy of keeping food on hand and cooking with what's in store.
I generally don't use a menu, though I have a family meal guideline I generally follow (Sunday, roast or hamburgers or grill; Monday, rice and beans, vegetables, potatoes; Tuesday, tacos or enchiladas; etc.). I buy meat in large quantities and share with my parents and sister -- in December, we bought 1/4 cow together at a huge savings -- and I get seasonal vegetables and fruits and a standing order of bagels and pitas and cheese through a friend's buying club. That, along with a well-stocked pantry of preserved tomatoes, jams, pickles and chutneys, means I'm usually prepared for any sort of weekend gourmandizing. I always cook beans on Mondays so I'll have them to use throughout the week for tacos, nachos, or chili. On Fridays? I defrost, or go to my "fishmonger": a shelf of my home-canned Oregon tuna.
GOOP Tip: Schedule All the Kids' After-School Activities At Once. Gwyneth tells us, "Thursday is the one day of the week that I do not pick my kids up after school. They go straight to an activity and I am able to really maximize work stuff [in this case, talking to the 'friendliest DJs on the planet']. I always feel a bit guilty (obviously) about it, but it means I can focus fully on them when they get home instead of trying to do two things at once." You might not be able to afford the sort of activities in which Moses and Apple engage; I'm guessing the ballet tuition is in the thousands. And your movie star mother may not be taking them.
Tip for the Rest of Us: yeah, duh, Gywn. We know about the scheduling. But after-school clubs are usually great bargains, and it's a great idea to schedule your kids' activities on the same day so you can work later, or focus on projects or errands, those days. LEGO club for my eight-year-old was $45 -- total -- for two days a week all fall; next year, I'll be sure to have an activity picked out for my five-year-old, too (ironically, I could have signed him up for a $30 Parks Department ballet class at that time), so I can pick them up together and get a little more writing done. Here's a hint for busy moms: volunteer to bring snacks or supplies, but don't volunteer coach; it could end up making you feel crazed and resentful.
GOOP TIP: Cuddle with Kids BEFORE Dashing Off to Celebrity-Studded Dinner: This part from McCartney's day was especially adorable. "I head back home and put the monkeys to bed. They are all in pajamas. We sit on the bed and read, and I demand my usual cuddles. Jen [the nanny] leaves at 6:30, so I try my best to juggle the three monkeys and keep them all in one piece till bed time. Then get ready for dinner, head off to meet Gwyneth, mother of all GOOPs!"
While I admire her for keeping her children in one piece after they get their pajamas on, and before they fall asleep (those must be some treacherous cuddles), I can hardly afford to pay my sister once a week to watch my boys while I go to writer's group, let alone that sort of round-the-clock nannying.
Tips For The Rest of Us: Instead of heading off to girl's night out while my night nanny takes over, about once a month I'll announce impromptu neighborhood post-bedtime shindigs. I'll invite a few mamas over whose husbands are, variously, working late in the home office or playing Wii, and we'll make a fancy nosh and dream up creative cocktails (lavendercello + rhubarb liqueur with strawberry puree?) from whatever liqueur I've most recently finished steeping. We can't drink too much; after all, the kids will be up before 7 no matter how much our heads ache; but the unhampered conversation is worth the temperance and we always wish we could do it more often.
GOOP Tip: Condense appointments: manicure, pedicure and facial at once; accupuncture at 9:30 p.m. We couldn't help bringing this up once more. While de Baubigny thinks it's smart to get her pampering all out of the way in 70 minutes, or her Eastern medical procedure done "at the end of the day," we think it would be amazing to condense all our "appointments," too, but we don't have money for any of them. So let's condense some other things; self-care and playdates.
Tip For the Rest of Us: If you and your friends have girls, you could have moms and daughters over for a night of Disney movies and pedicures; if they're all boys, maybe Avatar: The Last Airbender and t-shirt painting, or, if you're ok with such things, temporary hair dye (a nice flame red? Raven's wing blue?). I've been meaning to make myself a hipster-mom dragon tee, after painting a knight's costume for Halloween. Or maybe a knitting night (half the 10-year-olds I know have more WIPs than me).
Her 9:30 p.m. accupuncture appointment might manifest itself, in your life, with post-bedtime meditation, yoga, or even a good run. Wear your reflective vest, mama, and skip the advice to return phone calls with hands-free devices in the car. Without a staff or a wealthy family to back you up, your kids need you. Stay safe.
Gwyneth's Real Mom Tips Need Some Frugal Reality