Being a working mom definitely comes with its challenges. Keeping up with work demands while managing the home front is no easy feat. It takes planning, organization and efficiency.
I have been back at work full-time for almost four months now since having my first child. To say that it is a big adaptation is an understatement. It is only recently that I have begun to feel like I am getting somewhat of a handle on things and settling in to my new life as a working mom.
Here are some of the strategies I have found to be helpful when it comes to managing family and full-time work:
1. MEAL PLANNING: plan ahead and keep it simple.
If you enjoy cooking and don’t mind preparing meals on weekends, then this is a great way to prepare your meals for the week. Just freeze the extras and take them out as you need them.
However, if you are like me and dislike cooking, the thought of spending time preparing meals during your hard-earned weekends is a major downer. So I have found another way of doing things. Instead, plan your meal for each day of the week, make your grocery list accordingly, and head to the grocery to get everything you need before the new week begins. For this to work, be sure to plan meals that are simple and take no more than thirty minutes to make (this includes preparation and cooking time) and leave the gourmet cooking for the weekend (or for never in my case).
2. EVENING PREP: prepare what you will need for the next day the night before.
Make sure all lunches are made, everyone’s clothes are picked out, and pack everything needed for the little one’s day at daycare. Also, plan for extra time in your morning routine because you just never know when your toddler might have a tantrum for trying to dress them, throw their bowl of cereal on the floor during breakfast, or have a poop explosion just as you are heading out the door. In other words, plan for the unplanned. Having extra time will help you keep your calm, avoid rushing both yourself and your little one and ensure that you stay on schedule (most days).
3. CHORES: a little bit goes a long way.
Do a little bit everyday and avoid leaving all your chores to the weekend. For example, I try to do a load of laundry every night or every second night. I use the same approach for cleaning: pick up daily, clean the bathroom one night, pass the vacuum another, etc. By doing just a couple of chores every day, you won’t spend your entire weekend cleaning house, doing laundry, and preparing your meals for the following week. Instead, you will get to spend some quality time with your family.
4. ENLIST YOUR PARTNER’S HELP: share the load.
Parenting and running a household is a team sport, especially when both parties are working full-time. For it too work, the home responsibilities need to be shared. So don’t take it all on alone mammas! Your partner should be helping you. Divide the tasks and responsibilities to make for a balanced workload that works for each of you. And moms, it won’t be done your way, but as long as it gets done, who cares!
5. OUTSOURCING HELP: sometimes you need an extra helping hand.
If you have a bit of extra cash to spare, you may want to consider hiring help with household responsibilities. This can take a major weight off your shoulders and free up some time that can be better spent with your family. For example, you may want to consider hiring a cleaning company to take care of the house cleaning, have some weekday meals prepared by a catering company, or order your groceries online and have them delivered to your door. Whatever you chose, just checking one thing off your “to do” list, big or small, is that much less for you to worry about and frees up time to spend how you want to spend it rather than how you have to spend it.
6. LEAVE WORK ON TIME: it will benefit you and your family.
Before having a baby, work was probably your primary responsibility. Having children means that other important responsibilities await you when you get home. Every additional hour spent at work is an hour you are taking away from attending to your family and home responsibilities. Just like your performance would deteriorate at work if you were too frequently absent, there will be a cost to your absence on the home front as well if you are often away. Ultimately, it’s about balance. So my advice to you is this: do your work, do it well, do it within your working hours and make a habit of leaving on time.
7. BABYSITTER BACK-UP PLAN: because your child will get sick.
If you plan on sending your baby to daycare when you are at work, you need to plan on them getting sick…. and often. Inevitably, you will miss work to stay home with them when they are sick. However, how much work you miss can be tempered if you have help. If you have family, close friends, or anyone you trust that can babysit for you when you need a hand, this will allow you to miss fewer days of work all the while giving you piece of mind that your child is in good hands.
8. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF: you need it.
Whether it’s taking a bath, enrolling in a class, seeing friends, or engaging in a hobby, make time for yourself. Do it regularly. You will need this time to recharge your batteries. By taking time away from your many responsibilities, you will be more efficient, present and available when you return. It’s a win-win!
9. MAKE TIME FOR YOUR PARTNER: your relationship depends on it.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life and trying to balance work and family, it is easy to take your relationship for granted and forget to nurture it. However, any relationship that is not cared for is certain to fail. So make the time. Plan date nights, an activity to do together or get a babysitter and spend a day or a weekend away every now and again. Whatever you choose to do, do it without the kids. It is so easy to let date nights fall way down our “to do” list, but don’t let it. The success of your relationship depends on it.
10. LEARN TO LET GO: It’s for your own good (and your family will benefit too!).
Let go of the idea of things being just so. Relinquish control. Being somewhat of a control freak myself, I know first hand that this is often easier said than done. However, it is in your (and your family’s) best interest to learn to do this. Whether it be the dishes left in the sink, toys lying around the house, bed sheets a week overdue for a wash, the dog not getting walked for a day, the grass not being cut, etc, just don’t sweat it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really no big deal and it will get done eventually anyway. So let some things slide, identify your priorities, pick your battles, let go of perfection and learn to be content with good enough.
All this being said, no matter how together you think you have it, some days will be hard. Some days you will fall behind and other days you will feel overwhelmed and like you are failing. However, the truth is that everyday that you push through you are succeeding and each day that goes by, things will get a little easier. Motherhood has a way of evoking strength and resilience we never knew we had. So remember mamma, you are awesome and you got this!