I’m not gonna lie. Simultaneously managing a household, raising children, supporting a spouse, and working outside the home has the potential to get crazy and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are my top tips to keep working motherhood manageable and avoid losing your mind.
1. Know your priorities. I know you want to do everything. You want to make all your baby food, cook all your meals from scratch, coupon so you can feed your family on $25 a week, volunteer in your child’s class, work out 6 mornings a week, keep a weekly date night with your hubby, maintain a spotless home, make homemade gifts for your kids’ teachers, and get 8 hours of sleep each night. Oh, and you also want to be successful at your job. Here’s what everyone tells you but nobody wants to accept: you can’t. While they’re all great things, you need to decide which are your highest priorities. Those are the things that you spend your energy on. When the energy runs out, the rest of those things slide. You need to let it go.
2. Communicate with your partner. I’m not going to tell you to “ask your husband for help” like you might hear from others. Asking for help assumes that you’re responsible for all the tasks at hand, and that your spouse is pitching in to bail you out. That’s not what should happen at all. The management of a household and the raising of children are shared responsibilities, and mama, they do not rest squarely on your shoulders. Instead, you should have structured, intentional, honest communication about your division of duties and figure out what works best for your family.
3. Set clear boundaries. Work when you’re at work, be home when you’re at home. For a better explanation check out this article, specifically item #2 near the end. When everything bleeds into one another, you have no true, guilt-free leisure to give you the healthy mental & physical rejuvenation you need to maintain balance, and it’s hard to be completely present with your family. Even if you have negotiated some work-at-home time, try to find ways to put clear parameters around your at-home work time to keep it from eating up all your free moments.
4. Use your lunch break. The clear boundaries you’ve set up include honoring your lunch break. You were given one because it’s good for you. Don’t give it back to your employer as free labor. Use this time for whatever will help you maintain balance. The way I’ve used mine has changed throughout the years, and still changes with the seasons. I used to skip it completely to go home an hour earlier. At another point I cut it to half an hour to avoid part of a nightmarish commute. More recently I’ve used to exercise, clean my house, run errands, read, or blog. Whatever you do, it’s your time – use it however you need. And also, eat lunch.
5. Be intentional with your time at home. I tend to do this when I have extended periods at home, but I’ve also found it’s helpful to have this mindset in the evenings and on the weekends, too. If I don’t use my “downtime” (and as a working mama I use that term loosely) wisely to get things done, enjoy my kids, and take advantage of intentional, planned leisure then I find my non-work time slips away, I don’t return to work rested and rejuvenated, I feel I’ve shortchanged my kids of quality time, and I get a general overall feeling of imbalance and regret.
6. Do laundry during the week. Working mamas, I know what Saturday is in your house. It’s Laundry Day. It’s the day when mountains of dirty clothes take over your entire living space to get sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away (Or they just make themselves at home on the back of your couch for easy accessibility throughout the week. No judgment here.) The lazy Saturday you crave all week gets eaten up by grocery shopping, laundry, and housekeeping. An easy way to reduce your Saturday workload is to do a load (or two, or three!) of laundry during the week. Fill a laundry basket with a load at night. In the morning before work, throw it in the washer. When you get home, throw it in the dryer. And if you watch a little TV after the kids go to bed, use that time to fold the laundry. This is seriously painless, and you’ll thank me on Saturday when your mountains are more like gently rolling hills.
7. Get organized. Oh, you knew this was coming, didn’t you? I’m so sorry, but I haven’t yet found a way to avoid this. The good news is that your whole life doesn’t have to be super organized, but some parts do. Like, specifically, the parts related to eating. At least in my family if I don’t effectively plan mealtimes, evenings get crazy. And then they also have the potential to get expensive and unhealthy if we start defaulting to packaged foods and takeout. So spend some quality time doing strategic meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prep so you can get through the week stress-free!
What other tips do you have to keep working motherhood manageable?