This past month has been overwhelming and exhausting for me. I've been a working outside the home mom for years, but for some reason the stages my kids are in right now and just this busy September have made this one particularly challenging. We're getting through it, figuring out what works and what doesn't. One day at a time, right?! So goes motherhood.
Hope these ideas help you a little!
(sometimes imagining myself on the beach in my happy place from summer helps me get through my busy work day! ha!)
Here are my tips for surviving your working mom adventure:
- Get the sleep you need. I go to bed at 7:45 p.m. randomly when I can feel I'm snippy and not focused at work, not keeping up with the kids in the afternoon. All I need is one night of great sleep and then I can adjust myself again.
- Get myself ready first. I try to get up at least 15 minutes before the kids need to get up so I can be entirely ready, including my breakfast, so when they are up I can focus on getting them ready.
- Pack lunches on Sunday for the week. This works for daycare, not sure how it would work for when my son goes to school next year, but for now it's working for us.
- Leave daycare bag there. My kids have a bag at daycare and a bag at preschool that stays there. I have about 3 sets of clothing in it, hats, sweatshirts, etc. there so I'm not carting an extra bag around daily. I take it home about once a month to change out sizes and seasonal clothing.
- Crockpot Sundays. I cook chicken in there while we're home cleaning the house or hanging out. It takes care of lunches for the week or at least a meal or two.
- Eat simply. We LOVE leftovers. I know some families who toss them out and I can't figure out how they cook that much! We don't mind eating things for lunch that were last night's dinner. Saves on what I have to cook. We eat breakfast once a week because it's easy (always on the night that my husband has a meeting and I'm flying solo that night.). Meal planning the last year has helped me tremendously as a working outside the home mom. It's so much easier walking in and knowing what we're eating instead of thinking up something when we get home after a long work day.
- Remind myself "you're a mom until you get to work to be an employee." My co-worker taught me this a few weeks ago and I LOVE it. She reminded me that yes, I need to get a routine down and get going to work, be there on time, etc. work IS important, BUT I'm a mom until I get there, so just be mom, slow down slightly and do what I can.
- Drink an entire bottle of water before I get to work. I read about this in the book French Women Don't Get Fat. Love that book! It's about how when we're sleeping we get dehydrated, so we need to replenish that for good skin and overall wellbeing to start our day, we're more focused and alert also when we drink up. So I drive a half hour commute to work and daycare drop offs, so I make sure I'm sipping the whole time and finish before getting to work.
- Write things down and do it right away. For example, if my daughter accidentally pees on her pants at school so they send them home to me to wash, I get home and immediately go up and take out another clean pair of pants, put that in her school bag for the next day, so I don't forget they need more clothing. If it's the weekend of the month to wash the sleeping bag for preschool, I try to do it right away when I get home on Friday afternoon so I get a jump start on it and am not scrambling around Sunday night trying to dry that thing.
- Everything ahead of time. This means filling up the sippy cups of milk the night before, setting my lunch bag on the kitchen table and filling my water bottle, putting the preschool check in my bag for Fridays, etc. Every little thing is done ahead of time, so in the morning we're literally showering, getting dressed, shoes on, eating, etc. out the door quickly.
- When at work, WORK. I'm 100% focused while at work. I check my phone periodically to make sure daycare hasn't called in an emergency, but for the most part at work I'm working. I love my job, so that makes this part much easier for me personally. I found after maternity leave the #1 thing that helped me was to do as much as I could as fast as I could at work, so I could leave it all behind and get to spend time with my kids at home. I still live by this philosophy of "work smarter not harder." I found ways to do things easier, quicker, better, more efficiently at work, so that my time at home could just be family time. I do work at home, but it's after kids are in bed. I write to do lists at work and update myself Sunday evenings with emails, lists, etc. so that I go into work on Monday morning refreshed and ready to take on the week. I also encourage moms who have to work to find something they at least enjoy a little bit. Find something in your job that you like so that it's easier to leave your baby.
- Chores a little at a time but not a lot during the week. I like to do chores a little at a time. If my bathroom looks messy on a random day during the week while I'm giving kids baths, I clean it up while in there. I don't wait until the weekend. However, lately I'm finding we are so busy that Monday-Thursday I'm barely doing any chores right now. I'm just getting through the week! I maintain things like cleaning up kitchen after dinner, throwing in a load of laundry, etc. but not any extra chores. I try really hard to do most chores though, including most of the laundry, by the end of Thursday night. I zip around doing floors, unloading dishwasher, etc. Thursdays so that my weekend is not focused on cleaning up from the busy week. Of course I do more laundry on weekends, but I try to make sure most things are done Thursday so the weekend is FUN with the family.
- Partnership. My husband and I developed the BEST system of teamwork after our second was born. We are 50-50 on all the chores at home and I love it! After kids go to bed each night we zip around for 30-60 minutes and take different parts of cleaning up, then we retreat to our computers to do things for work individually, then spend time together watching TV. I could NEVER do this working outside the home mom thing without him.
- Fully stocked diaper bag in the car. This helps a lot for after work when we're stopping at the grocery store or dentist appointment, or playground, we have everything we need all the time. Extra clothing, socks, sweatshirts, hats, etc. Wipes, too! Working outside the home moms are always on the go to some meeting or errand, etc. so being prepared is key.
- Prioritizing. Making choices. Using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We utilize the Habits at my job - being proactive, setting goals, etc. and it works wonders in my work habits as well as at home. I highly recommend this book! It teaches all about doing what's important first, then putting in the other things later (like scrolling Facebook!).
- Talk it out. I get stressed and overwhelmed with the crazy routine of drop off and pick up from daycare, making lunches, never having enough time to myself or to work out, etc. I need to talk that out to my partner, best friend, etc. and it really does help.
- Have FUN. Some mornings we're stressed rushing around, kids melting down. So I insert fun and regroup us (even if running late, oh well!), and we sit and read a book together, all snuggled up, or we tickle and laugh. It's important to feel connected before I drop them off all day at school. It helps me get through my day. When we get home from school it's PLAY time. Chores wait until later after they are in bed typically or while they are playing independently. We spend tons of time outside. We make sure weekends are super fun, too, to make up for the time we aren't together during the week.
- Do NOT feel guilty. I hate hearing moms say they feel so guilty working outside the home. For us, it is what it is, we need a two-income situation to survive. I also happen to love my job, so that helps with not feeling guilty. The way I see it, we're teaching our kids great skills to see us juggle things, manage our days and schedules, be independent workers, etc. I know my kids are well-loved and cared for at their schools, socialization is wonderful for them. Sure, would I love to be home with them for every sniffly nose day or would I like to make sure I have their birthday off from work, yes, absolutely. But it doesn't make me a bad mother if I'm working.
- Make time for YOU. I also encourage working outside the home moms to take time for yourself without feeling guilt either. At least once a month I'll leave work right on time some afternoon, head to my favorite store, and shop for an hour alone, for ME. I'll pick up one child and take her to Target while my son is at preschool. I'll pick up my son first instead of my daughter. Yesterday I took my daughter to an after work party, while my son was at preschool. I knew he was having WAY more fun at school, outside on the playground, digging in the sand, instead of sitting still in a restaurant with me. I work out on Saturday mornings while my kids are watching cartoons or making pancakes with dad. It's important for me to be healthy, too. None of this makes me feel guilty. I do what we need in that particular moment, and sometimes that's time alone, there is nothing wrong with that. Make time for YOU, hard working mommas. You deserve it!
YOU CAN DO THIS, HARD WORKING MOMMA!
Keep up the good work! More tips to come in part two.