Balancing work and life can be a challenge! This working mom survival guide is a must-read for anyone struggling with getting it all done.
She gets home at 5:30pm, cleans the bottles, changes the baby’s diaper and nurses her. Then it’s dinner and preparing food for the next day before squeezing in an extra pumping session.
Somewhere in those moments, she finds time to play with the baby but still feels guilty it’s not enough. By the time she’s finished eating, cleaning, showering and preparing for tomorrow, it’s 9:30pm—and she’s just about ready to knock out for the night.
She wonders how in the world she can find time to work, play with the baby, and do anything else for that matter. Her job is demanding and stressful, but she enjoys it or can’t imagine giving it up.
So she’s stuck: She has no idea how to juggle her professional and personal life, much less have time for herself.
Working moms all over can relate to this story, including a reader who emailed me:
I am a mom of two (four- and one-year-old) and I work and commute ten hours, five days a week. I am finding it very difficult to manage my job with household and kids. And I am at the verge of quitting my job to meet the commitments to my kids.
But here I see you work, manage your home and kids and write a successful and effective blog as well. How do you do all that? I love and envy your situation at the same time. Circumstances and priorities are not the same for everyone, however it would be pretty helpful if you shared some personal tips and your daily and weekly routine, so that I can get inspired and keep going with my job without neglecting my children and feeling the guilt that I often do while working.
I won’t lie: those first few months after I returned to work were some of the most difficult. My day started at 5:20am and I wouldn’t sleep until 10pm at the earliest. It was rough.”
Your working mom survival guide
Still, it’s manageable. And the good news is, it gets better. For now though, here are my tips for working moms struggling to spend time with their kids.
Put off anything you can do until the kids are asleep
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We prepare dinner, wipe the table, take out the trash and fold laundry, all while we’d rather spend time with the baby. Instead, decide which of your tasks you can do when the baby is asleep and devote that time to her.
This is especially important if your kids are still babies. As kids get older, doing things around the house while the kids are awake gets easier. For now, save anything you don’t need to do right this moment for later so you can spend time with the baby.
Stick to the essentials, like putting your milk storage bags in the refrigerator (Don’t even worry about washing pump parts—stick those in the fridge for now). Cook later in the evening after the baby is asleep, and save anything you don’t need to do right now for the evenings.
Be efficient with your time
I don’t “do it all.” I, like everyone else, have a finite 24 hours in the day—I need to be as efficient as possible with every minute of it.
Limit or get rid of distractions. Since I can only write in silence, I’ll slip into the next room if my husband watches television. Lunch breaks and before pick ups allow me to run quick errands (I get quarters for the laundry on my way to pick up the kids from school). And I drop anything that isn’t productive or don’t make me happy.
Think of ways you can better spend your time. What are your time suckers that leave you right where you started? What can you do with your time so you can get more done?
Check out the following time hacks:
- Shop online. If you don’t have time to go to a physical store, look online. Read reviews and avoid those not rated well. Try them on at home to see whether you like them or not. And buy from stores with free shipping so you can return those you don’t like.
- Bring your baby with you around the house. If you saw my home when I had babies, you’d find a gazillion ways I toted them with me. I’d have infant bouncy seats in one room, a swing in the other. They had their cribs and bassinets and blankets galore for tummy time.
- Keep meals simple. I’m talking an hour max to cook. I won’t even consider any meal that takes longer than that. You can also stick to slow-cookers, or meals that sit in the oven or on the stove top and don’t need your constant attention.
- Cook just one dinner for everyone, including the baby. Once your baby has advanced to eating solids, don’t cook different meals. Prepare a milder or simpler version of the recipe, or blend it up for her. And don’t cook a separate meal for your older kids just because they’re picky. They’ll learn to eat the food you offer.
- Keep your baby items simple. If you’ve ever had complicated bottles with a zillion parts, you know what I’m talking about. Stick to baby items that don’t need a ton of washing or maintenance.
- Get organized. Whether you use online calendars or paper planners (I use an Erin Condren Life Planner), staying on top of everything is key.
Need a way to organize your weekly recipes and shopping lists? Join my newsletter and get my printable meal planner—at no cost to you! You’ll have an organized way to record your recipes and shopping lists—no more wasting time or feeling frazzled!
Change your work schedule
By far, this is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to balance work and family. Ever since my eldest was born, I’ve worked a flexible schedule. I’ve worked part time, reducing my hours from 40 to 32. I worked from home, both full days or a few hours in the afternoons and evenings. I’ve had schedule shifts, where I come in and leave work earlier.
You can adjust your work schedule in so many ways. Job sharing, working one day at home and cutting your hours in half are a few examples.
This may be the hardest one to pull off. You need the right job, a willing employer, and the discipline to work from home. Still, it’s worth considering. I miss out on mornings with my kids but am able to hang out with them in the afternoons and evenings.
Get your partner on board
If you have a partner at home, he needs to make the life changes necessary to accommodate your new family life as well. Maybe he wakes up earlier to prepare the milk and breakfast. Or he comes home earlier to handle bath times so you’re not alone. He can work from home a few days, or handle daycare drop offs.
We need to stop assuming that child care falls on our shoulders. Let your partner cover responsibilities as well so you’re not delegating duties but parenting equally.
Hold realistic expectations
I stopped bothering with messy house guilt. As we speak, I still have chores to do, and my home is not as clean as it once had been before I had kids.
I also don’t put as much time into my beauty routine. I stick to the basics and save the glam looks for special occasions.
Along the same lines, let go of the guilt by trusting your child care providers. They’ve had plenty of years caring for children—your baby is in good hands.
Make the moments count
“Birds!” my two-year-old will say while I change his diaper. The changing table sits near the window where he likes to point out the birds he sees outside. We’ll talk about them and anything else, from how his school day went to trading sweet smiles.
Quality time isn’t just about doing brain-enhancing or baby-bonding activities. Any time spent with your baby is a gift—make the moments count. Reconnect with her while you spoon feed her dinner. Sing songs in the bath. Sneak cuddles when changing her into pajamas.
Time spent with your baby is time you’re with her, from changing diapers to stimulating activities. Quality doesn’t depend on the amount of time you spend or the activities you do. Rather it’s your intention and purpose when you’re with her.
It gets easier
The proverbial advice, but I have to say it here: it does get easier. Older kids, while they have their challenges (ahem: tantrums) are also more independent.
You won’t lug a heavy car seat because your child will be able to walk to the car. She’ll sleep through the night, leaving you with a blissful stretch of uninterrupted sleep. You may not be pumping anymore, so no need to bring the pump and all its parts and bottles to work.
I’m still amazed I can pick all three kids up from school and survive the evenings with them, alone. And hats off to my husband for dropping them off, all while still being able to make it to work on time. If you had painted the scenario to me when I first returned to work, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here they are—much easier to handle than when they were infants.
That said, we can all agree that this is still hard. Juggling work with parenthood is a challenge for even the most organized working moms.
Still, it’s doable. Find those hacks that will make the most efficient use of your time. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Save non-pressing tasks for later. Maybe even change your work schedule.
And make every moment count. You don’t need to be in a mommy-and-me yoga class for your time with your child to feel special. Just a simple conversation about the birds outside the window during a diaper change will do.
Get more tips for working moms:
- First Day Back after Maternity Leave — Does It Get Better?
- The Surprising Factor that Gives You Work Life Balance
- Being a Working Mom Doesn’t Suck
- 8 Essential Tips Every Mom Needs to Do for Work Life Balance
Tell me in the comments: What are your biggest challenges with balancing work and parenthood? What tips can you give working moms?
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