As a working mother, life can often feel like a balancing act. You have to stay on top of your career and your work responsibilities, and you also need to support your kids and spend quality time with them. They won’t be little forever! If you’ve been struggling to wear “mom” and “employee” hats at the same time lately, these tips should help.
Keep a Running To-Do List
Many working moms struggle with a constant list of tasks running through their heads. This makes it really difficult to focus on whatever you are doing in the moment. It limits your productivity and keeps you from actually enjoying the time you spend with your kids.
The best way to deal with these tasks is to get them out of your mind and onto paper. You won’t worry that you’ll forget to do something if you know it is written down.
There are many ways to keep a to-do list, but the simplest strategy is often to keep a running to-do list throughout the week.
On Sunday night, write down everything you can think of that you need to accomplish during the following week. Keep this list handy all day and cross items off as you complete them. Similarly, add new tasks to the list as you think of them.
At the end of the week, set aside 2 or three hours to tackle any tasks you have not yet accomplished. Then, make a new list. Keeping your mind clear by writing down your must-do tasks will help you be a more engaged mother and employee.
Hire Someone to Clean Your Home
Housecleaning can take up so much of your time! Rather than staying up late to clean and then powering through the next day exhausted, simply hire a housecleaner. Having someone clean for you once a week will take so much pressure off.
You can play games with your kids without worrying that you really should be vacuuming the carpet (and you won’t panic every time someone spills a sticky drink on the floor).
Set Boundaries with Your Employer
When you’re home with your kids, you should be focusing on your kids — not responding to work emails or taking calls from your manager. In some industries, there’s no way around being on-call to some degree.
However, with most jobs, you can and should set better boundaries with your employers if they are consistently demanding your attention after work hours. Schedule a meeting with human resources to discuss this or simply stop replying to emails after work hours. You’ll have to pick the best strategy based on the overall climate in your workplace.
Use Your Lunch Breaks for Self-Care
If you take better care of yourself as a mom, you’ll be better able to care for your kids. Squeezing in things like working out and getting your hair cut can be tough when you have little ones whose needs always come first. Try to do these things on your lunch break.
Pack a sandwich or something you can easily eat in the car, and then spend your lunch squeezing in a quick workout, getting your nails done, or having your hair cut. You’ll enjoy arriving home knowing these things have already been done and that you can spend the whole evening focusing on your family.
Hire a Teen to Babysit When You’re Working from Home
Working from home can be a blessing and a curse when you’re a mom. It’s nice to be home for your kids, but it’s also hard to work productively while you have little ones requesting snacks and asking you to play with them.
A good solution is to hire a teen to babysit when you need to work from home (this works best when you just need to get a few hours of work in and is not a long-term strategy for moms working from home 5 days per week).
While you may not typically leave your kids at home with a 14-year-old, having them babysit while you’re in your home office works well. They can keep your kids entertained and fed so they don’t distract you, and this allows you to get your work done faster. If there is a real emergency, you are around the deal with it.
Buy More Partially Prepared Meals and Ingredients
One of the biggest struggles among working moms is arriving home and knowing you have to put dinner on the table for a gaggle of hungry kids. As much as you may love the idea of cooking from scratch, it’s simply not feasible. This doesn’t mean you have to feed your kids frozen chicken tenders and fries every night. Search your grocery store for partially prepared meals and ingredients that allow you to get meals on the table in a half-hour or less.
Bags of frozen stir-fry veggies are a great buy. You can toss them in a pan with some diced chicken breast or lean steak, add sauce, and enjoy a healthy meal minutes later.
Frozen ravioli is another good option. Boil the pasta, top them with some tomato sauce and serve a green salad on the side. It’s also a good idea to keep sandwich ingredients on hand for nights that really get busy. You can throw together sandwiches in minutes, hand everyone an apple, and know everyone has had a filling and balanced meal.
Assign Chores to Each Child
Parents often think assigning chores is a way to teach kids responsibility — and it does. However, assigning chores is also a good way to take some pressure off you as a mom. If you assign a task to your child, that means you can cross it off your own to-do list. Plus, reviewing chores and helping your kids learn to do them is a good opportunity to interact with your little ones.
Handy chores to assign to little kids include:
- Feeding pets
- Folding laundry
- Putting their clothes away
- Sweeping the floor
- Watering plants
Older kids can easily wash clothes, load and unload the dishwasher, wipe down counters, or weed the garden. As your kids become used to doing chores, they will learn that in a family, everyone has to work together to get things done. This mentality will benefit you, overall, as a working mom.
Balancing the demands of work and motherhood can be really tough. Of course, you need to work and bring home an income, but you should not have to sacrifice quality time with your kids. The tips above should help you balance it all and keep your head on straight as a busy, working mom.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.