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.
You work and commute ten hours, five days a week. After getting home at 5:30pm, you clean the bottles, change the baby’s diaper, and nurse her. Then it’s dinner and preparing baby food for the next day before squeezing in an extra pumping session.
Somewhere in those moments, you find time to play with the baby but still feels guilty that it’s not enough. By the time you’re finished eating, cleaning, showering, and preparing for tomorrow, it’s 9:30pm—and you’re just about ready to knock out for the night.
It’s no wonder you’re finding it difficult to manage your job along with household tasks and caring for the baby. Keeping up with work, caring for the baby, and doing anything else for that matter feels impossible. But as demanding and stressful as this is, you still enjoy your job, and can’t imagine giving it up (especially for financial reasons).
So, you feel stuck. You have no idea how to juggle your professional and personal life, much less have time for yourself.
It doesn’t help when you see others who somehow manage their home and kids and still lead a successful career. You love and envy their situation at the same time and marvel at how they do it.
Circumstances and priorities aren’t the same for everyone. But how can you feel inspired to keep going with your job without neglecting the kids or feeling guilty for working?
Your working mom survival guide
Every working mom is at a different stage.
You’ll have the mom who just got back from maternity leave, sleep deprived and delirious. Or the one with the busy schedule who wakes up at 5:20am and doesn’t sleep until 10pm at the earliest. Some have one baby while others have four or more kids.
No matter the circumstances you’re in, you can feel organized and ahead, not frazzled and frustrated. By being mindful of how you focus your time and attention, you can balance work with spending time with the kids.
1. Be efficient with your time
Here’s the deal: no working mom “does it all.” Every one of us has a finite 24 hours in the day—we just need to make sure every minute is spent wisely.
One of the best ways to do that is to be efficient with your time. To start, limit or get rid of distractions, both in the office and when you’re at home. Break errands throughout the day, like going to the bank during your lunch break or the store before school pick up.
And drop anything that isn’t helpful or doesn’t make you happy. How might you better spend your time? What are the activities that suck your time and leave you right where you started? What can you do with your time so you can get more done?
A few ways to hack your time include:
- 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. Slow-cooker recipes work well, as do 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, staying on top of everything is key.
Free printables: Need a way to organize your weekly recipes and shopping lists? Join my newsletter and get a 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!
2. Put off anything you can do until the kids are asleep
Do you prepare dinner, wipe the table, take out the trash, and fold laundry, all while wishing you could be spending time with the baby? Ease the guilt by doing tasks you can do after she has been asleep so you can devote the time she’s awake to being with her.
For instance, 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.) Clean later in the evening after the baby is asleep, and fold laundry while you watch television or listen to a podcast.
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.
3. Change your work schedule
By far, this is one of the biggest reasons I was able to balance work and family.
Ever since my eldest was born, I’ve worked a flexible schedule, starting with part time, when I reduced my hours from 40 to 32. I also worked from home, both full days or a few hours in the afternoons and evenings. I’ve had schedule shifts, where I came in and left work earlier.
Flexible schedules don’t work for everyone—you need the right job, a willing employer, and the discipline to work from home. But 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.
4. Get your partner on board
If you have a partner, he or she 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 comes home earlier to handle bath time with you. He can work from home a few days, or handle daycare drop offs.
We need to stop assuming that child care falls only on our shoulders. Let your partner cover responsibilities as well so you’re not delegating duties, but parenting equally.
5. 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 daily 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.
6. Make the moments count
“Birds!” my then-two-year-old said while I changed his diaper. The changing table sat near the window where he liked to point out the birds he saw outside. We’d 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, so make the moments count. Reconnect with her while you feed her dinner, sing songs in the bath, and sneak cuddles when changing her into pajamas.
Time spent with her 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.
7. 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 there’s no need to bring the pump and all its parts and bottles to work.
Not only is she more independent, you’re also learning and improving. You’ll find better ways to manage your time, and know how to soothe her to sleep. You’ll learn to laugh at the crazy moments, and put things in perspective. However challenging you find your circumstances, know that it’ll get easier.
I’m still amazed I was able to pick all three kids up from school and survive the evenings with them, alone. If you had painted the scenario to me when I first returned to work, I wouldn’t have believed it.
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.
Thankfully, 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, and 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:
- Top 16 Books for Working Moms
- How to Work from Home with a Baby (And Actually Get Things Done)
- The Working Mom Pep Talk: What Do You Tell Yourself to Keep Going?
- Flexible Work Arrangements for Working Moms
- 8 Leadership Qualities of a Mother
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