Okay, so to start I feel a major case of imposter syndrome even writing that title. Let’s just be clear up front. I, like most everyone, have no idea what I’m doing and at best have just gotten really good at making it up as I go along. That being said, let’s also be clear that everything I share here might not work for your situation because your situation might be completely different than mine.
A few details that might be helpful in discerning whether or not these things will work for you:
- Neither my husband or I have jobs that require crazy overtime or need us to bring work home with us.
- We have a short commute – on a good day it takes us 15 minutes to get home (30 mins for me if you factor in a short bus ride).
- We live close by lots of things: 10-15 mins away from medical care, our jobs, shopping, etc.
- Our childcare situation is unique as we don’t currently need to use full-time care.
- Though we are busier than we used to be we don’t schedule things every night of the week, as the kids get older this won’t be as much of an option so I’ll be back in 5 years to talk about life in that stage. 😉
So with all that on the table these are my hints on how to be a working mom without losing your mind. I came up with this list not solely from my measly six years of experience, but also drawing on my experience growing up in a house with a working mother – there’s a lot I do and don’t do because I’ve reflected and learned from my childhood experience.
- First and Foremost the Ever Elusive Work/Life Balance – you have to be constantly looking at your work/life balance. You can’t give 100% to EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. There are seasons in life and sometimes it’s our responsibility to say no to things in the best interest of our family life. If you work in fields that have options for different schedules, part-time work, etc. always keep them as options. If you’re not 100% dedicated to your field of work, consider other lines within or outside of that field that might help the work/life balance. It’s hard to look at something you’ve worked hard for years at and realize you need to bow out for the sake of your family, but that’s being an adult. You are not your job and you are not your achievements on paper. That being said you are also not 100% your family, though they are critically important, you might have talents that are needed right now and small sacrifices might be worth the longterm goals. I can’t ever say what decision is right or wrong, just that looking for balance is so helpful and sometimes that balance comes with sacrifice.
- Your Family is Your Team – Your family is not your waitstaff or your hobby. Your family is your team – as parents, you are the head of the team, but your children are part of that team too. A team works together. Do not focus on making things equal (i.e. counting number of diapers changed or dishes washed to make sure you’re equal), focus on individual strengths and weakness. Is someone good at deep cleaning and someone else could at clearing the clutter? Excellent! We don’t need to be doing the exact same things to be contributing. Kids need to contribute too according to their ages and ability. Parents, you are NOT their servants and every hand counts even if you’ll live for the next 5 years without the towels folded *exactly* the way you like.
- Clean Up and Clutter Out – If I’m going to be a hypocrite about anything here it’ll be this one, just because this is a huge stumbling block for me. I’m bad at cleaning up and getting the clutter out. But my team is constantly working at it and we have learned over the last few years how much happier the family is when things are clean and clear of visual clutter. I put this here not because I’ve achieved perfection here, but because I realize that it’s important. I know you want to optimize your time together, but an extra 10 mins tonight is NOT worth the meltdown that a sink full of two days of dirty dishes will cause tomorrow. Once again, this is something I’m still working on and it’s hard to do!
- Simplify – Your house doesn’t need to look like a magazine, you don’t need thousands of options of clothes or each night with fancy, complicated dinners. Simplify your life for the sake of sanity.
- Stay Organized – Yep, this is important – really important. You need to find a way to stay organized and communicate. Remember Step 2? Remember you have a team, it doesn’t have to be mom doing all of this. One person can handle school communication, one person can make sure bills are paid, but it needs to be organized and communicated well to the other team members.
- Self-Care for Everyone – Not just for moms, consider what your kids need to center themselves, what your husband needs to feel calm or balanced. This does not need to be complicated and we need to remember that it’s different for everyone. Some need to socialize, some need to isolate, some need to veg in front of the TV and some need time away from screens. Don’t force your type of self-care on others, but also remember you’re not the only one who needs it. But also, self-care is not a reason to let the things above be shoved off on others or totally ignored – do not let self-care mask laziness (and I say this from experience, trust me – big ol’ lazy person here).
- The BIG ONE – The best bit of advice is simply this. I don’t care if you’re a SAHM, a FT Working Mom, a PT Working Mom, a Work From Home Mom or whichever combination you might be. You don’t have to do it all. Delegate work to other parts of the team when you can. Turn down committees, teams, and extra projects. Say no to extra things and do be afraid to hire out work if and when you can. You’ll kill yourself trying to do everything – we’re not made to do that and the fact that society has decided one person in each family can be a caregiver, educator, nurse, chef, chauffeur, and maid is a tragedy. The “Stand Alone Mom Mentality” is impossible to live up to and can be downright dangerous to our mental health and well-being. It’s okay to turn down an extra project at work, at school or at church, especially if you really don’t have the ability to commit to it. Let someone else take up the slack, the world will keep turning.
So that seems like a lot doesn’t it?
I know it does – if you’re drowning in your life right now don’t look at that list and think you have to have it all in place by Tuesday. However, if you’re drowning at home, always too tired, too crabby and no one’s happy read through the list until you hit on one that’s not being done well at home and work on that one first. The others will wait.
In my experience #4 is our downfall – when we start getting crabby and yelling 9 times out of 10 we’ve let the house become a disaster and getting things cleaned up and visually in order helps our mental faculties and patience. When we’re all just so tired and “hangry” and crying or yelling all the time it’s usually a sign we’ve committed to too much and need to let go of an activity or a side project. Work on things bit by bit.
Things That Help Me Right Now:
- Laundry Schedule: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are laundry days. Friday is usually for washing sheets and larger items. I start a load either first thing in the morning if it’s my day off or immediately on getting home and try to get it all done by the end of the day. I try to get it all put away by the end of the following day. Laundry pretty much never ends but after years of waiting until it was a stack so large and old that it was developing speech and rudimentary weapons a schedule was for the best.
- Meal Planning: I’m officially an old, fuddy-duddy woman now, but meal planning has saved my sanity as we’ve gotten busier. Sidenote: Meal Planning has also meant that even though we’ve added two little humans to the mix our food budget has not drastically increased so far because I’m spend close to the same amount, but spending smarter. We have a rough schedule that we follow and…. dun, dun, dun…. I don’t cook every day. All cooking and no play was making me a very dull girl and honestly resulting in a lot of food waste since we don’t have ravenous teenagers yet. It looks something like this:
- Monday – Home-cooked meal, not fancy.
- Tuesday – Anything Goes Night
- Wednesday – Quick and easy usually home-cooked sometimes premade meal
- Thursday – Home cooked meal, more time intensive (this is the night my husband is home so I have the backup to focus on things that require a little more effort and concentration – I enjoy cooking so I like having one day a week to take my time and explore something new).
- Friday – Husband Day or Pizza Night. Ben will cook something, usually in a big batch that can be reheated easily on Saturday or used for a few days of lunch options. I get the night off. It’s glorious.
- Saturday – Anything Goes Night/Leftovers/Date Night. Leftovers from the week or the previous batch cooking, breakfast dinner or a meal out.
- Sunday – Home-cooked meal, not fancy
- Help with Meal Planning – I’ve recently started using Emeals and have found it worth the investment, the range of meal plans and the ability to switch between is very helpful. Their sheet-pan meals are perfect for my “not fancy” nights. I’m not an affiliate currently, so if you’d like to try the program you can click thru here, but I wouldn’t have shared this it wasn’t something I used and standby.
- Target Subscriptions – Another recent game changer for me as I was searching for ways to stay out of the store to save money. I’m signed up for regular delivery of household staples (Diapers, Wipes, Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Laundry Soap, Cat Litter and Cat Food, etc.) and it’s so nice just having it show up. We also have an Order Online Option in our area where I can place my order from my home, say during nap time or my lunch break at work, and in two hours it’s ready to just run in and pick up.
- Flylady – If I need to say it again I will: I am not a naturally tidy person. I’m constantly trying to improve on this area in my life particularly after discovering with the birth of my second how much a clean house helps me relax and be a calmer parent. I’ve been utilizing the weekly Zones and what FL calls the “Home Blessing Hour” to try to help get control of the clutter and keep things in a more manageable state. I would definitely recommend it, though the website is a bit hard to navigate and I can’t apply all of her suggestions to my life. The app is handy as well, but I just take a little bit of time once a week to map out my plan in my planner. One thing to note: this is a system that is meant to be implemented overtime, you won’t have a 100% clean house by the end of the week, but I see improvement after tackling 3 zones in general.
- Family Night and Free Weekends – One thing we’ve developed since our oldest started school is Family Night, every Friday we watch a movie, play a game and sometimes break out the video games (Classic Nintendo or Rock Band most often) and just have dedicated time together. All of the above suggestions are put into place with the idea that we have to spend the most minimal amount of time on the weekends cleaning, organizing or just resetting things.
- Handy Apps – Chatbooks and Shutterfly Apps are also big time savers for me right now, both upload right from Instagram or my phone respectively and help me actually keep track of photos and even have physical copies which the kids love.
This is what I’ve got in my life so far, it helps, but please remember I’m not perfect – my house gets messy, my laundry gets behind, we eat fast food on nights I just can’t even and it’s all a learning process for me too.