Perfect parenting hacks from Radio Aire presenter Caroline Verdon

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As a parent, it’s easy to pile on the pressure - you want to be perfect and set a good example, writes Radio Aire presenter Caroline Verdon.

The trouble is, it becomes second nature to feel like it’s important to have a tidy house, to cook a wholesome tea from scratch, to impeccably dress your children, to be a high performer at work, to be a good partner, to be constantly giving your kids fresh opportunities and broadening their minds. I get it, we’ve all felt it from time to time. The thing is, no one on this planet is that parent because it’s impossible to be. In my three years as a mum I’ve learnt that you only need to be one thing. Creative - but not in the way you might think. You don’t need to turn yourself into an early years practitioner or a Blue Peter presenter, you simply need to find ways to cut corners. If you’re not familiar yet with how to be a truly cunning parent, here are some examples from my own life.

Let’s start with school bake sales. At some point, you are going to find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to get involved in a bake sale. You’re knackered, you’re not a great chef and the bottom line is, you really can’t be bothered but somehow you have to find a way. The solution? Ms Molly’s fairycakes. You can buy a pack of 12 in most supermarkets for about 75p. They look completely homemade and all you need to do is mix some icing sugar with water, bung it on the top and then pour over some hundreds and thousands. Even better, get the kids to do the last bit and voila. Homemade cakes for the bakesale. Once you’re adept at this, if you really want to go for it you can buy a whole host of large cakes in Costco that are just begging for you to pass off as your own.

Okay, gardening. I absolutely hate gardening. If there’s a nice day where the sun is out I want to be sitting in the garden or playing with the kids, not weeding or pruning or watering. At the same time, I also don’t want to concrete over the grass and I want somewhere the kids can play safely with their friends. The solution? A dinosaur garden. Take your flower bed or plant pot, remove all plants and cover the mud with plastic sheeting and some shingle. Now here’s where it really gets good. Go online to Amazon where you’ll find a pack of fake succulents, a bag of large stones and a bag of dinosaurs all for within £15. Shove the fake succulents in the ground, add a carefully placed rock or two and then sit the dinosaurs on top and there you have your very own dinosaur garden that even Jurassic Park would be proud of. Not only do you not have to weed or water it, but also it doubles up as a creative play area for the kids. Win win!

Next up, let’s deal with dinners. Firstly there are loads of great, healthy ready-made meals that are perfect to use. Ravioli with a cheese and passata sauce is a firm favourite in our house and it’s ready in less than five minutes. When it comes to something a bit more hearty, I buy most things prechopped. I know it’s lazy but I really don’t get any pleasure from chopping up an onion and I’d much rather be playing trains with my son than donning the goggles in the kitchen. If I’m doing a quick Bolognese then onions, mushrooms, peppers etc are all easily bought. Shove them in a pan with some mince and a few tins of tomatoes and whilst you’re pretending to be Thomas the Tank Engine it’s cooking itself.

Finally let’s talk about homework. While they’re at nursery and the homework is to make an Easter bonnet or decorate a Christmas jumper then the answer is simple. Ebay. £20 might seem like a cost outlay, but trust me on this: next year when you come to sell it, include a fake first place certificate and you can sell it for about £5 more and actually make a profit. Parenting at its finest.