Working whilst you’re a Mum is hard. It doesn’t matter if you work outside of the home or you’re a stay at home, work at home kind of Mum. There is so much to juggle, so many commitments and things to remember and it’s a lot on your shoulders. I struggled too until I found ways to make everything a little bit easier.
Check out these 14 helpful tips for the working mum and see if they might help you too!
Are you struggling?
I worked before I became a Mum, I worked during all my pregnancies and I still work now that I am a Mum! It’s hard, very hard at times. People say it’s a struggle, constantly spinning lots of plates and trying not to drop one. Knowing that people rely on you, from your boss and colleagues, to your partner and the most important but smallest people in your life, your kids.
We all know it’s difficult and for those of us who have returned to work after a career break, holiday or maternity leave, we think we’ve got it sussed and can do it… only to find that it’s one long drag, a constant and unrelenting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week kind of struggle.
It gives you no break, no breather and no time out to gather yourself, assess the situation, recharge your batteries and power on through.
Are you exhausted at the end of the day? Do you take it out on your partner, be irritable and argue? Do you have too much to remember from PE kits, dentist appointments, organising the dog walker, to forgetting about a deadline for a big work report or a meeting with your boss? Do you have no time for yourself or quality time together as a family?
Then you’re definitely not alone!
Here is a list of ways which I’ve found have helped me. I hope that they help you too. If you’re a stay at home mum (which is just as hard but in different ways) please read on, as you might find some of these ideas helpful too.
1. Look at your home finances and do a budget
There are loads of free resources on the internet that you can use. Put together a chart or planner. Include your household income.
Go through all your outgoings such as mortgage, rent, utilities, car expenses, childcare etc and put these down but also include things like food, clothes and going out.
Be realistic, don’t underestimate your spending and use your bank statements to work out how much you actually spend on each area.
Once you have your home finances set out in front of you, work out whether you actually need to carry on working as you do – do you need the salary or could you afford to drop a few hours (even in the short term) if your employer would agree?
Maybe you could sacrifice an unused monthly gym membership to save money? It may be that you find you are in the red each month and need to increase your hours or go for a job with a higher salary.
But, at least you know where you stand with your money, you know the bottom line and you know what you can afford to change and what you can’t. You can make decisions based on this.
Check out my post on how to simplify your finances.
2. Returning to work after maternity leave and flexible working arrangements
Take a look at any recent law that applies to you regarding returning to work after maternity leave and opportunities for flexible working.
Again there’s loads of resources on the internet if you look at what’s relevant to you and your situation. Talk to your partner and discuss the options. Speak to your employer to find out what’s available.
There are a number of ways in which you can make it slightly easier on yourself at particularly difficult times like when you have a new baby or very small children. Consider options such as working fewer days for a period of time, reducing your hours, doing longer days but less of them, working from home if your job and company allows it.
3. Go minimalist and simplify your home
There is so much to write about on just this one topic, but the summary is this – go round your home and spend time throwing out anything that you haven’t used, takes up space but you’d forgotten about, anything that doesn’t serve a purpose, you don’t need, and/or doesn’t bring you happiness.
Get rid of the clutter and stuff.
Go through every room in the house from the bathrooms, bedrooms, wardrobes upstairs to the kitchen, living room, kids’ toys, hallway downstairs. Be intentional with what you want to keep and throw away, donate or recycle anything that you don’t use regularly or doesn’t have a purpose or bring you happiness.
- How many times have you spent time picking up endless toys from the living room floor when you could be playing with a select few with your children?
- Have you spent ages trying to keep the kitchen clean when there’s so much stuff on the worktops that you can’t even see the space?
- How many times have you looked in your wardrobe first thing in the morning only to find that you can’t choose what to wear because everything is stuffed in and it’s a dumping ground for other items that you don’t know where else to put in the house?
- How many times have you gone into your child’s bedroom to find toys everywhere, but you know that they’ve not really played with any of them. Rather they’ve just thrown everything out to find the one or two they were looking for? Kids usually play with the same old favourites, don’t they? Choose a few that you know they always play with and toys that will encourage their imagination and interaction.
Anything you don’t want to keep then just throw, recycle or donate. If you’re unsure then put it in a box in your garage for a couple of weeks and see if you use it. If not, then get rid of it.The theory behind decluttering - if you have less stuff in your home then there’s less stuff to tidy up, put away, keep clean and more time for other things. Click To Tweet
Even with a small home you can find a place for everything. It’s easy to maintain, all it needs is for you to go round with a laundry basket at the end of the day, collecting everything up and returning it to its rightful place.
10 minutes instead of 60 minutes! More time do other things.
Check out some of these resources on how to simplify your home…
4. Get up earlier
Magically create more time for yourself by getting up earlier, before the kids.
If mornings are difficult for you, set the alarm clock to go off 10 minutes earlier each week so it’s not such a shock to the system.
Getting up earlier allowed me to do the things that I couldn’t do so easily once my children were up – send a few emails for work, check my calendar for what I had to do that day, do some yoga, unload the dishwasher, put on the laundry, read a book, write in a diary, meal prep for the evening, make packed lunches, pack bags, have a shower and actually wash my hair. Or maybe all of the above!
Work out what you want to achieve in the morning and set your alarm accordingly. Remember that it doesn’t all have to be things that you HAVE to do, it can be things that you WANT to do. Whatever sets you up for the day, makes you feel calm and chilled in the knowledge that you’ve already done the most important things before anyone else wakes up.
Read my blog post on how setting up a morning routine saved my sanity.
5. Meal planning and meal preparation
I admit this isn’t my strongest point and it’s something that I have to force myself to be organised about, but yes, it helps.
Once a week take a look at your calendar so you know what’s happening for the following week.
Plan what meals you need based on that, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners for everyone in the family. Decide on which meals you’re going to cook, write a shopping list for what you need and order online for home delivery at a time that’s convenient to you.
When you cook, make a bigger quantity and freeze what you don’t need, and/or take what you don’t eat the night before to work with you the next day for lunch. Stock up your cupboards with things that won’t go out of date for a while and form the basis of meals you enjoy cooking and your family enjoys eating.
When your home grocery delivery arrives, take a while to prepare it if you can. Prep the vegetables you want to use for snacks, for example, by chopping them up into individual containers so your kids can take them out of the fridge and they’re all ready to eat.
By planning your meals and making sure you have the ingredients at home you are so much more likely to be able to eat healthily. You won’t be reaching into the freezer for chips and chicken nuggets (absolutely nothing wrong with this as part of a healthy diet)! You won’t reach for the takeaway menu or grab just toast and jam because you’re too tired to cook.
If I run out of something during the week I make a note of it on my phone and I’ve taught my children and husband to write it on the shopping list kept on the fridge door.
Check out my blog post on meal planning and meal prep made simple.
If you’re a manager at work you’ll understand the art of delegation! Businesses do it to ensure that every part of the business is run efficiently, so why not do it at home?
Run your home like a business! You can delegate to your partner and to your kids (in a way that they can understand). After all, why should you do everything yourself if it’s not just you who is making the mess or eating the meals?
Come up with a list of things that need to be done around the house, on a daily or weekly basis. Against each item, agree between you all who is responsible for getting it done.
For example, cooking is my responsibility in general (because I’m better at it!), putting out the rubbish and recycling is my husband’s and so is walking the dog every morning. My children are responsible for keeping their bedroom tidy and putting their toys away at the end of the day. Giving the children chores that are appropriate for their age is teaching them a skill that will set them up for the future. Read more about kids and chores over here.
If you stick to the rota and the routine then it will become second nature to them (and maybe your partner!) and they will just do it as part of their daily routine. Consider things like feeding the pets, loading the dishwasher, even hoovering!
7. Set up a calendar and make use of your phone
Set up and use a calendar on your phone to remember all your important dates.
I find this an easier and more reliable way of making sure I don’t forget things or double-book myself than a paper planner. You can also share your calendar with your partner’s so you know what his commitments are too.
Include things like after-school activities, appointments, time to do the weekly meal plan and order food online, birthdays, school holiday dates, play dates and so on. Make sure you set alerts on these events so you get reminders beforehand in case you need to prepare/buy anything. I also set timers and alerts on my phone to help me remember things throughout the day.
Simplify your calendar by saying no to commitments that you don’t want to do, or don’t align with you and your family.
Check out my blog post on 5 ways I use my iPhone to organise my life.
8. Have a bag in the car so you’re ready to go
If you have little kids then you know how difficult it is to go anywhere at the drop of a hat!
Try keeping a bag in your car (or your hallway so you can just grab it) that includes the things that you need to take. It might include nappies, baby wipes, a book/toy to entertain the kids, a snack bar, a bit of money in case you forget your purse. Include anything else that you know you usually need.
This way you don’t have to spend time getting these things together every time you want to go out, even if it’s just to get a pint of milk.
9. Keep a stash of important stuff
Do you ever remember it’s a friend or family member’s birthday at the last minute and realise you haven’t bought them a birthday card which needs to be posted that day? Or a stamp?
Keep a stash of things that you might need and which would save you time on another occasion. For example, bulk buy birthday cards, thank you notes, blank cards with pretty pictures, to save you having to go to the shops for just one last-minute card. Stock up on stamps, gift wrap, glue, sellotape, pens and pencils, post-it notes. You get the picture!
You could also make sure your medicine cabinet is full of stuff that you actually need and use, rather than out of date and empty bottles.
10. Set up a good morning routine
As well as just getting up earlier, a good morning routine sets you up for the day. Encourage and help your children develop a good morning routine for themselves which in turn can help you. Depending on their age, they might be able to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, get their bag and put on their coat and shoes and the other bits might just need minimal help from you. If your kids are younger and can’t help, just do what you can each day to help them learn and understand.
Establish a good morning routine for everyone in your home and you’re onto a winner for a more relaxed start to your day, with more time to get everything done and less likely to forget anything.
Check out my blog post on how setting up a morning routine saved my sanity.
11. Set up a good evening routine
Like the morning, evenings are a good time to get yourself ready for the next day.
It doesn’t have to take a long time, you can achieve a lot even in just 10 minutes.
A quick tidy up of the house, put the laundry on and/or the dishwasher to run overnight, make sure all homework is done, school bags are packed and laid out, lunches are made, yours and your children’s clothes are laid out so you don’t waste time in the morning deciding what to wear or finding matching socks for your kids.
Check out my blog post on why setting up a great evening routine can save you time and stress the next day.
12. Say yes to help
This is a biggie and one that I struggled with. If you have family and friends nearby then why not build up a support network, people you can turn to if you need help.
I used to think this was a sign of weakness, I was too proud to ask for help and if people offered then I would usually say no thank you as I thought I should be able to do it all on my own.
It’s silly because people are usually only too pleased to help, they normally wouldn’t offer otherwise! You can also reciprocate if it makes you feel better. But, you never know when you might need help, a close friend to collect your child from school if you’re running late, or a neighbour from whom you can borrow some milk if you’ve run out.
If your parents offer to take their grandchildren out for the day, or even just half an hour so you can chill out/run an errand, then say yes! You won’t win any points for being a martyr!
13. Create time for you
Have you ever heard the saying that ‘you can’t keep pouring out of a cup that’s empty’?
You are the glue that holds your family and your home together. What happens if you burn out?
Then you can’t continue to look after everyone that relies on and needs you, either at home or in the workplace.
It’s so important to take time out to look after yourself, even if it’s ten minutes every now and then or one evening a week – whatever works for you and your life.
By establishing routines, delegating, saying yes when people offer to help, simplifying your calendar and your home, you’ll be able to carve out time where previously you thought it wasn’t possible. You can then spend this time giving yourself a manicure, reading a book, learning to play an instrument, taking up judo. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it’s whatever self-care and ‘your time’ means to you.
You’ll be more relaxed, enjoying your life, looking forward to things, more balanced, because of it.
14. Always remember that it’s progress not perfection
Just do what you can with the time and resources that are available to you. It doesn’t matter if your house isn’t totally spotless as, let’s face it you, you have kids!
If you struggle with perfectionism and feel your best is never quite good enough, check out my blog post here on why it’s better to seek progress not perfection.
You’ve got this!
I hope all these suggestions help you as much as they’ve helped me. It takes time to implement and some of it won’t happen overnight but with time and dedication then you can make it work for you.
Remember also that if you can learn to balance and juggle all your plates in the air, both at home and work, in a more sustainable and achievable way then you can start to focus on quality time with your kids, your partner and for you.
Let me know if any of these suggestions resonate with you and please share your experiences. I’d love to hear from you!
Setting Up Routines Toolkit
Download my completely FREE 15-page Toolkit to help you work out which routines would help you most and how to set them in place. Your home will run smoothly with little effort from you so you can spend your time doing other much more fun things!