Being a working mom was never part of the plan for my family. When my husband and I decided to have kids, we both agreed that I would put my career on hold. I wanted to focus solely on our children. It was important to both of us. And, frankly, I was relieved to be quitting my job (I was working as an attorney at the time and hated it).
Unfortunately, six years into being a stay-at-home-mom, my husband suddenly passed away. I was left with a lot of harsh realities that I wasn’t prepared for. Becoming a working mom was one of them. With as much as my kids and I had lost, I knew I didn’t want to put them in daycare full time if I could avoid it. So I have been working hard to make a living from my home. It has been an uphill battle, but it is still so important to me that I honor my husband’s and my plan to stay home with them for as long as I can.
Working, either from home or in an office, while also being a full-time mom, is tough. But it can be done! Here are some tips that I have discovered are very helpful in maximizing my time as a working mama.
7 Tips for Maximizing Time as a Working Mom
1. Establish reasonable working hours (and stick to them!).
Clearly, there is no way in heck I’ll be logging eight hours a day while raising a toddler and a grade-schooler. For now, part time is really all I can do. Even so, it’s hard to get even those amount of hours in to my schedule. I have found that the only way I can get any work done is by setting a strict schedule for myself. For instance, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I spend 2 hours editing for Baby Chick. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I spend a couple hours on legal work (yes, I still practice a bit) and my writing for my blog. Some weeks I have to change things up a bit because life still happens (especially with kids around), but at least I have working hour goals to keep me focused and motivated.
2. Don’t be afraid to say “No.”
After I started working again, I had a lot of trouble saying “no” to the things I used to say “yes” to. Like when the PTA asked me to join and help out in the classroom. Or when my son’s pre-school asked for help making Valentine’s Day gift bags. I would happily volunteer for things like that before, but now I just didn’t have time. Recently, I have learned that, as hard as it may seem, simply saying “No, I can’t do that” without any further explanation (because, honestly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation!) is the easiest thing to do. Saying “no” has helped to save my sanity and that is more important to the health of my family than being a chaperone to the museum, in my opinion.
3. Set reasonable daily goals and write them down.
Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t stay organized without my day planner. For me, there’s nothing better at helping me remember to do something than physically writing it down. I have a very effective system (read: perfectionistic weird Type-A list making) that keeps me organized.
My favorite planner is the Brilliant Undated Monthly/Weekly Planner (you can find it on Amazon). I love it because it’s undated so if I miss a week (oops!), I’m not wasting any precious planning pages. I also love that the week is set out on the left side of the open planner. While a blank page is on the right. That is where I keep a running list of To Do’s. With this planner system I can easily see how my week is laying out. And then check off tasks on my list as I get them done (so gratifying for this Type-A list lover!). So, whether you like to use an app or a paper planner, start writing down your week and your tasks to help keep you organized.
4. Turn off social media and/or personal emails.
This tip is still hard for me to do. I will forget to silence my phone or close my personal email on my computer before starting work and before you know it, I’ve been scrolling Facebook for 5 minutes or sending random funny memes to my sister when I should be responding to a client’s email. It’s hard not to get distracted by the fun stuff of life when you’re trying to get not-so-fun work done, but it will save your sanity if you force yourself to focus during your designated working hours.
5. Hire a VA if you can afford it.
I am not in a place where I can hire a virtual assistant to take on any of my tasks, but I sure do dream about that day! My sister, who started a subscription box company, recently hired a Virtual Assistant to source products to go in her boxes. It saves her a lot of time and allows her to focus on the things that no one but she can accomplish for her business. If you are in a place to hire someone and delegate some tasks, DO IT! This also applies to things like picking up your grocery order or running packages to the post office. If you can hire a responsible teenager or another mom looking for extra cash, that would be an even better situation to get some affordable help and streamline your weekdays.
6. Get good sleep.
This tip really goes for every mom, working or not. Sleep is so essential to how well you handle stress. If you’re not getting quality sleep at night, you will be tired, cranky, less organized and less able to handle common tasks. Try to improve not only how much you sleep (8 hours is the standard recommendation), but also the quality of sleep by incorporating these habits into your daily life:
- Avoid chemicals like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine four to six hours before bedtime.
- Make your bedroom a quiet, dark and cool environment.
- Lighten up your evening meal.
- Don’t watch the clock.
- Establish a pre-bedtime routine that may include a bath, some reading (not on a device!), some stretching or meditation.
- Set a consistent bedtime hour and stick with it.
7. Invest in “me time.”
If you’ve ever flown in a plane, you know that the airline attendants tell you that if the oxygen bags deploy, you are supposed to give yourself oxygen first before giving it to a child. You know why this is, right? If you’re not feeding yourself life-giving air, you won’t be around to give life to the people who depend on you. The same goes for scheduling “me time.”
I will be the first to admit that I didn’t truly appreciate the importance of “me time” until recently. Often, I burned the candle at both ends and refused to take a break for anything as silly and superficial as time to myself. Which caused me to burn out. I knew I was going to have to invest in myself on a regular basis because my kids needed me to thrive instead of crash and burn. These days, I regularly take hour-long baths and read. Or I’ll drop the kids at a sitter’s house just so I can go window shopping alone. I take time to meet friends and family for lunch or happy hour. These things feed my soul so that I can pour life and love and laughter into my kids.
Whether you work from home, work in an office, are a single mom or have a partner at home, these tips will help you to create a better work life balance as a working mom. Believe me, I know how hard it is to wear ALL THE HATS on a daily basis. But you are doing what needs to be done to give your family a good life. You are a rock star. And I need you to hear that you are appreciated and your work is valuable! Good job, mama!