Motherhood is one of the most fulfilling journeys life has to offer, but it can be exhausting. Keeping a tiny human alive and well is tough! Add working into the mix, and you may find yourself feeling stretched very thin.
As a mom who works full-time outside of the home, I can definitely say that’s how I’ve felt at times. When there are so many things vying for your time and attention throughout the day, it’s easy to feel as though you’re not excelling in any of your roles, at home or in the workplace.
While the perfect work-life balance may feel unattainable, here are some strategies I use to maintain my sanity and my purpose as a full-time working mom.
1. Set a routine.
This will obviously look different for everyone, but establishing some sort of morning routine can help start the days out smoothly.
For me, I make sure my alarm is set for a time that allows me to get myself and my one-year-old ready to leave the house by the designated time. Since my husband leaves for work at 5 a.m., I have to be strategic with time management while I’m solo-parenting in the mornings. Most days, my daughter is awake before the alarm, but it’s there as a fail-safe.
To avoid feeling stressed while getting ready for the day, try to do what you can the night before. One thing that helps me tremendously is packing my daughter’s daycare bag the night before. Doing this reduces the risk of being rushed and forgetting something.
2. Prioritize tasks.
Rather than thinking of all the things you need to accomplish in the near future, focus on action items with the highest urgency, and attend to those. Make a list of 3-4 tasks you want to get done that day and cross them off as you go. This act provides satisfaction since you are making progress and reaffirms the fact that you are capable of accomplishing multiple tasks in a day, both at work and at home.
3. Work efficiently.
As tempting as it is to take the occasional break to scroll through social media sites, especially if you work in an office or similar environment, do your best to resist. Decompress during your coffee and snack breaks, but try to avoid personal diversions when not on break. By giving your job your full attention while there, you’re freeing up time that can be spent with your family in the evening. (For strategies for efficient pumping while at work, check out this blog and these tips from BraveMoms.)
4. Be fully present.
When you work full-time, you only get to spend a few hours with your little ones each day. Since I’m a teacher, my work hours are totally inflexible. Depending on what time my daughter wakes up, I have an hour or two with her in the mornings before taking her to daycare and roughly an hour and a half with her after work before she goes to bed. Some days, I feel like I hardly see her. It definitely doesn’t feel like a good work-life balance when I’m at work for eight hours each day, commuting for an hour and a half, and often working for another hour at night.
Because of this, when my baby is awake, I am in full mom-mode; my laptop stays closed, grading remains in my bag, and my lesson-planning wheels stay idle. I make the most of the time we do have each day by giving her my undivided attention during our precious hours together.
5. Outsource chores.
Before I had my baby, errands didn’t seem like such a hassle. Nowadays, it often feels impossible to squeeze those tasks into an already demanding schedule.
Take advantage of the services available to you. Many companies, like Instacart, offer unlimited plans that make these services more affordable. Asking businesses if they offer frequent-visitor discounts never hurts either!
Doing a majority of my shopping online has made a huge difference. Amazon, Target, and even Costco offer two-day shipping when you meet minimum spending thresholds. Using these retailers to stock up on the everyday essentials frees up additional time you can spend with your kids.
6. Make the most of your commute.
Whether it’s for ten minutes or an hour, use your time in the car to interact with your kids. Depending on the age of your children, their enthusiasm for this may vary, but this drive together can be valuable bonus time for bonding.
Since my baby’s a year old, she’s only babbling, but I “talk” with her by responding to her silly noises and singing to her while we drive. Instead of turning on music or planning your workday, make a point of communicating with your kids during this time in whatever way you can.
7. Get sufficient sleep.
During the early stages of motherhood, nighttime sleep can be extremely unpredictable as it completely revolves around your baby’s sleep schedule. The frequent wakings and feedings cause you to be exhausted around the clock, which can decrease productivity.
If you’re back at work, I hope your little one is sleeping the majority of the night. My daughter’s sleep still varies from one night to the next; she may sleep 11 hours straight for a few nights in a row, then wake at 3 a.m. for the next two. Because getting enough rest is crucial to performing well at work, I call it a night fairly early, usually going to bed around 9:30 or 10 p.m. This ensures that even if I am awoken during the night, I can still get in the seven hours I need to feel energized throughout the day.
8. Reevaluate other commitments.
Learning to say “no” to people is important so you don’t overload your schedule and lose out on time with your littles. Obviously, you don’t need to turn down every work or social opportunity, but you do want to avoid putting so much on your plate that you can’t spend time with your family.
As much as possible, try to say “yes” to things that will allow you to bring your children along: get-togethers with family or friends, dinners at kid-friendly restaurants, and events that cater to all ages. Exposing your kids to different experiences can help them develop interests and practice their social skills.
In our family, we try to only use a babysitter when our baby is already asleep. Since the evening time together is already so limited, we try not to cut into it whenever it is avoidable.
9. Enjoy some time to yourself.
You might want to spend most of your time outside of work with your family. Even so, it’s important to sneak in a little alone time. Taking the time to relax and recharge can help you succeed as a working mom.
Consider what this looks like for you. For me, it might be scheduling a massage on a Saturday afternoon or sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying a latte. Other times, it may just be running a few errands solo without having to load up the stroller and diaper bag to take our daughter along. Thankfully, my husband encourages me to do this and is happy to have some one-on-one time with our baby. If you’re a single mom, take your friends or family members up on their offers to watch your adorable kiddos—you need a little break every now and then!
10. Soak in the snuggles.
Yes, it’s nice to have a little time to yourself, but the weeks, months, and years go by so quickly. When your job takes up most of your time, it’s even more important to relish your time off.
Personally, I love having slow starts with our daughter on weekends. The morning snuggles are my favorite as she’s extra affectionate at that time. Throughout the day, we play with her toys, read books, and go on walks when the weather allows. We get out of the house at least once each day to do something as a family. Sometimes, that’s just going to the store, but other times, we attend a child-friendly event or plan something with another family. Regardless of what your weekends look like, the important thing is that you are spending time together.
A final encouragement
Working moms face a unique set of struggles. We want to be the best mamas we can be to our children, yet our time, thoughts, and energy are divided between our responsibilities at home and those at work.
When I was growing up, my mom worked full-time outside of the home, and never once did I feel unloved or like I was missing out on anything. Keeping that in mind helps me feel at peace with my decision to do the same.
Remember that by doing what you’re doing, you are setting a great example for your children. Not only are you providing financially for your family, but you’re also demonstrating what it looks like to use your professional gifts and passions. From one working mama to another, I hope these tips help you feel confident in this challenging yet fulfilling journey.