It was Mother’s Day this Sunday, the one day in the year dedicated to celebrating all of the mothers in our lives. If you are a mother yourself, you will know that one of the hardest parts is trying to balance working life when you have children. So, how can you juggle life as a working mother?
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Life Hack
The majority of SBMs are women and a good chunk of those are also mums. The SBM role is very demanding and can take up a lot of time; trying to juggle a never-ending to do list as a mum, and another list for your role as an SBM, can often feel overwhelming.
Being committed fully to work and family is an impossible task that working mums have to take on. It can be exhausting and thankless, being perceived as not fully present as an employee or a mother. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
It is possible to pursue a fulfilling, full-time career while taking an active role as a mother, if you learn to find a balance that works for your life. These tips will help working mums to make juggling the two sides a little bit easier.
Let go of the ‘mum guilt’
Some women don’t have the option of being a stay-at-home mum, while others choose to go back to work because they don’t want to give up their careers. Whatever the reason, deciding to be a working mum is a choice that should be admired, not judged or shamed. If you are feeling guilty about not being with your child all the time, it’s time to let it go.
Focus on the positive things that your work life is contributing to your family. Be confident that you are making the best choice for your whole family, including yourself, and your child will feel the extent of your love and understand your sacrifice.
Use time-saving hacks
To get the most done in the least amount of time, use shortcuts and plan strategically. Order your groceries online and form a pick-up plan with other parents to alternate lifts; these strategies save time and can ensure that you don’t forget anything.
Schedule work calls during your commute and get quick errands done during your lunch break to free up more time during the week. Prepare outfits and lunches the night before so that you can enjoy your morning instead of rushing to get out the door on time.
Find childcare providers that you trust
Knowing that your child is cared for is crucial to having peace of mind when you are at work. Find a nursery, nanny, or someone you know that you trust with your child.
A quality nursery should have flexible hours, a low teacher-to-child ratio, a clean and spacious environment, and up-to-date licenses.
For nannies, look for one with extensive experience and great references. Have at least one trial day to observe if it is a good fit and make all of your expectations clear from the get-go. If possible, keep in contact throughout the day and ask for updates and photos of your little one.
Maintain open communication with your manager
Being a working mum does not mean you will be a less productive employee; however, changes will definitely occur. Mothers are, typically, the primary parent when a child is sick or has an appointment, and is the one responsible for picking up the child after work – so working mums often need more flexibility in their schedules.
But working mums are some of the most committed employees out there! From skipping lunch breaks to working on the weekends, these women do not use their children as an excuse to slack off.
The important thing is to make sure you communicate to your manager what your needs are, as well as how you will continue to do your job well. Hopefully, your manager will be understanding and appreciate your transparency and dedication to both your family and your job.
Reduce distractions and time wasters
Time is such a precious commodity when you are a working mum.
At work, be mindful of the time you are spending socialising with co-workers if it is affecting your productivity. Limit long lunch breaks and surfing the internet so that you can get the most out of your work time.
When at home, focus on your partner and your child, rather than your ‘phone or the TV, to ensure that the time spent together is meaningful and intentional.
Reconnect with your partner
The key to a happy home starts with a happy relationship; make your relationship a priority because it will have an immense impact on everything else.
If possible, find childcare and go out on regular date nights, doing things that the two of you enjoyed before becoming parents. Plan something other than dinner at your usual place, like a painting class or trivia night. Have an honest conversation with your partner that doesn’t involve work or kids and really listen to what they have to say.
Create special and meaningful family activities
Make the time that you spend with your family really count by planning activities that everyone will look forward to and enjoy. Organise a weekly family game night, make dinner together, or go and play mini golf. Ask for ideas from your kids and let them get involved in deciding where to go.
Stay organised using calendars and lists; plan ahead
The mental load that working mothers must take on is a responsibility that no-one else can understand. You are the one in charge of keeping track of doctor’s appointments, signing permission slips, remembering birthdays, writing cards, staying on top of clothes, knowing what’s in the fridge, never letting the house run out of toilet paper, to name just a few.
Use planners, apps and other resources to keep track of your never-ending to-dos and let go of some of the mental weight; plan ahead as much as possible so that nothing is left to the last minute.
Share the housework
The burden of the housework should not fall solely on the woman’s shoulders. This is an area that is easy for your partner to get involved in, especially if you have specific tasks that only you can do (eg. breastfeeding).
If your children are older, delegate simple tasks to them so they can learn to build good habits early on and play an active role in contributing to the family.
Another option to consider is spending money on a cleaning service. It can be hard to justify spending money on something you can do yourself but, if having an unkempt house is a major source of stress, it would be money very well spent.
Say ‘Yes’ to less
You don’t have to say ‘Yes’ to every single party invitation or extracurricular activity if it is causing you more anxiety than enjoyment.
Determine how much your schedule can handle and choose the activities that your child will enjoy the most. Don’t feel bad about saying ‘No’ to the rest. Over-booking takes all of the fun out of the experience, and leaves no time for much needed rest.
Lower your expectations
A lot of the pressure that mums have – for example, to cook healthy and delicious meals daily, maintain a perfectly clean house and be the perfect parent – are expectations that you put on yourself. No-one else demands as much of you as you demand of yourself.
When you lower your expectations, you will find a lot of the unnecessary stress can be eliminated. Your house does not need to be spotless every time a guest comes over, especially if the guest also has children.
Buying biscuits instead of baking them yourself does not make you a bad mum. Home cooked meals everyday is a great goal to strive towards, but leftovers and take out will also feed your family just fine.
Make time for me time
Finding time for yourself is crucial in maintaining inner peace and balance within the hectic environment of work and home life.
Mums have a bad habit of putting their own needs last in order to take care of everyone else first but, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of anyone else well?
Find the time on a regular basis and an activity that will allow you to relax and recharge. Some ideas include meditation, yoga, exercise, reading, writing, catching up with a friend, or pampering yourself.
Connect with other working mums
You are not alone. There are millions of working mothers who are going through the same thing you are on a daily basis.
Full-time mothers have more flexibility during the week to arrange meet-ups, but working mums can also have that same type of community. Seek out co-workers who are also working mothers; these are women you will be able to relate to on a whole different level. Co-ordinate playdates and mum groups on the weekends or take walks together after work.
Laughing together, sharing stories, and finding your community will show you that you don’t have to do this all by yourself.
Best of both worlds
Can a working mum have both a successful career and a fulfilling family life? It is absolutely possible. It may not look exactly like how you pictured it, but don’t let that deceive you.
Recognise, and appreciate, all of the great things you do have – and just take it one day at a time.