I’m a working mom. That’s not a secret. Because of this, we have to juggle life. There are times I hear people say “I don’t know how you do it.” Well, truth is, some days I don’t either, but we just have to. We don’t have a choice.
It’s overwhelming having to run a household, as well as having a career. You have two jobs to worry about – work and family. I know of a few moms who have headed back to work recently, and some who are about to be first time working moms, and have been interested in ways to make the adjustment, tips on how to make life easier.
So, while I’m not an expert, these are things that work in our house to make it run smoothly.
- Set boundaries. This is one of the most important tips I have. We all have different types of jobs that dictate how much we need to work. I am so fortunate to work in a job where I’m not required to put in a ton of extra hours. If my job calls for additional hours (which it does at times), I prefer to put those hours in by working through my lunch or letting Zach drop the kids off at school so I can head in early. When 5:00 comes, I go home. I realize not everyone can do this, but I do think you can be firm in how you handle extra hours. Know what your “drop dead” time is to leave work and stick to it. You have to make your family your number one priority.
- Meal plan. One of the hardest things for us is getting home and getting dinner on the table quickly! Reed eats a very early lunch so by 5:00 he is STARVING. We can’t feed him immediately but we need dinners that can be fixed very quickly. Knowing what we are having each night is key in this. It also eliminates the “What are we having for dinner question and cuts down on the impulse eating out. We plan the meals but may switch around what we have on which night. I also try to do what I can ahead of time for meals to help. If I make a pot of spaghetti sauce, I’ll make extra to freeze enough for 1 or 2 additional dinners. Same thing with chilis, soups, etc. A lot of casseroles go in a 9x13 pan and we never eat all of it. Split into two pans and freeze one for a quick dinner one night! I’m a HUGE advocate of making meals to freeze because they are so easy on a busy weeknight! Another lifesaver is my crockpot! I LOVE putting cold, frozen food and raw veggies in before we leave and coming home to a hot, perfectly prepared dinner!
- Housework. Man, it’s SO easy to fall behind on this. We HAVE to stay on top of this or it gets out of control. We do a load of laundry at least every other day, if not more. Sometimes we will use the delayed start on our washing machine to help have laundry done at the right time to move into the dryer first thing in the morning or right when we get home. We pick up as we go. We run the dishwasher every night and unload it every morning. We pick up almost every evening (You would think not being home all day would result in a cleaner house but, no. Kids can destroy a home in seconds.) I desperately want a housekeeper but have yet to give in to one. We typically clean on Thursday evening, or first thing Saturday morning. If we’ve kept the house picked up, the cleaning doesn’t take that long. Doing a little at a time really does go a long way! Also, I’m so fortunate that Zach helps with this. We are definitely a team and it makes it so much easier.
- Make mornings run smoothly. By this I mean, do as much in advance as possible! We make lunches for the next day the evening before. This is less we have to handle in the morning and it makes it easier! We also pretty much have everyone’s various bags packed and ready to go. I want to sleep as long as possible so we just make sure to have everything ready to go before we settle down to relax for the evening. I also try to get up so that I have enough time to get ready before the kids wake up. Even though I do the exact same things, it seems as though it takes longer when I have to tend to the kids in the middle of getting myself ready. We also set the kids clothes out the night before. Having it out for Ava means she can just go ahead and dress herself. I also make big batches of things like pancakes or sausage balls and freeze them. These are easy breakfasts we can heat up quickly and they are getting a “warm” meal before heading out to school. Of course, there are MANY mornings this planning ahead doesn’t work. Zach typically leaves the house about 15-20 minutes before we do and when he leaves, all that is typically left is me loading the car. SOMEHOW, if things fall apart, it happens after he leaves. ha!
- Household “chores”. On top of working, cooking, cleaning, we have other things that have to be done to make our homes run smoothly. I try to run errands on my lunch hour. This eliminates the need to drag the kids all over after work or on the weekends. I also try to set aside time on lunch hours for doing my checkbook, budget and paying bills. This is necessary work but I hate doing it during time I could spend with the kids. We typically do two grocery trips a week. We always go to Sam’s because we buy milk, meat and certain other items there. We usually make this one a family trip. We also do a Wal-mart run and usually one of us will go with one kid and the other will do work that needs to be done at home.
- Write things down. This is so simple but so important. Out of sight, out of mind. If something is in front of you, you are less likely to forget!
- Make time for you. Being a mom is hard, no joke. As a working mom, you’re already away from your kids, and personally, I feel guilty being away from there during our time if it’s not necessary. I don’t like to do it a lot, but I have learned taking time away from them for me is okay, and it usually results in a happier mama, and therefore a happier family. Sometimes I do time for me during my lunch hour by having lunch with girlfriends, going to browse Target, or just eating lunch at my desk and reading! We work hard – we deserve time to ourselves!
- Be flexible. Things with kids change in an instant. I’m so fortunate that my work is understanding about situations that come up and that they are pro-family. There’ve been times I’ve taken my lunch hour at 9:00 a.m. so I can attend something for Ava’s school. Employers are happy to work with good employees, so be flexible and don’t be afraid to ask for things. All they can say is no!
- Make normal moments special. When you work away from your children, it’s definitely about quality time, not quantity time. I love to make normal things (like eating dinner or driving to school) special in some way. If i’m a big goofball on the way to school, over-exaggerating a song or something, and my kids are laughing and giggling so hard they can’t breathe, that’s what matters. It’s easy to do and it makes us all so happy.
- Give yourself grace! It is SO hard trying to juggle a job and family. Know that it’s okay if things aren’t perfect because they might not be! Don’t beat yourself up if you have a super important meeting the day a kid is sick. If Daddy can stay home, the child will be perfectly cared for. You can’t always be at home and you can’t always be at work. Don’t let the guilt eat at you. Just do what you can when you can.
I would love to hear any tips you might have as a working mom! Do you know anything that will make my life easier?! I think the most important thing to remember is that as parents, if our kids feel loved and happy, we are doing something right. Figure out what works for you and your family, and then run with it!