Being a working parent is a challenge. It’s incredibly fulfilling, but also ridiculously difficult.
Working as a parent involves an insane tightrope walk between wanting independence, financial freedom and speaking to adults, but feeling like a part of your heart is missing when you’re away.
Yep, like we said, challenging.
As Senior Content Manager at Bolton SEO agency, The Audit Lab, and the mum of a zesty two-year-old, I know all too well about the challenges that working mums are faced with. As I’ve eased myself back into the working world, I have a few nuggets of wisdom to share about how to make the most of it, which I wish someone had told me way back when.
Plan, plan, and then plan some more
Plan like your life depends on it, because in a way it kind of does! Your calendar is your best friend in this scenario and everything should be on it. My calendar has columns for each person along with what they’re up to that day and which grandparent or educational institution is responsible for them. It also details everything from doctor’s appointments and birthdays to cake baking reminders and school project due dates. Get everything on the calendar and look at it regularly.
When are you shopping? When are your deadlines? Urgent reminders? Get it on there! Honestly, nothing is too small to have a place on your calendar.
Get your employer to work with you
It’s always best to work alongside your manager rather than feeling like you’re fighting a constant uphill battle. Don’t complain that you don’t have flexibility; go to your manager and chat to them directly about it. Stress that you want to give your all to the business without compromising your work/life balance (this is HUGE now) and they’ll probably be more than happy to work with you to make things easier. In the end, it doesn’t just benefit you.
More companies are now looking at how to attract working mums to their company, because they’re realising the benefits of having parents on their team. But if you can be the one to help open their eyes to why flexibility should be a key part of their recruitment strategy, then you’ll not only benefit yourself but also pave the way for working parents coming in behind you.
Be an early riser
If you’re a parent then chances are you’re an early riser already (#nosleepclub), but don’t you know that the early bird gets the worm? And by that we mean the early working mum gets stuff done.
Whether you rise with your kids or before them, make the most of the time before the rush starts in the morning. Whether that’s to have a shower and give yourself a little self care, or it’s to catch up on life admin or to throw a load of washing in, that hour or even 30 minutes can make all the difference to your day if you can get ahead of things.
Make use of your slow cooker
One of the biggest culprits of my mum guilt comes from food. Are my kids eating enough? Are they eating well enough? One way to get around that is to either bulk cook hidden veg meals at the weekend and freeze them, or make use of my new best friend – the slow cooker.
Whether it’s a spag bol or stew, throw in your ingredients and let it cook while you’re at work. Then when you get home after the school run or nursery pick-up, there’s a healthy and delicious tea just ready and waiting to be served. And the great thing about slow cookers is that there’s always more than you need so you can freeze more for later. Win-win!
Stay on top of things
The washing piles up and the dishwasher needs unloading. Staying on top of life in general is something I struggled with at first on top of everything else I needed to juggle, but it’s all about getting into a routine.
If you don’t have a cleaner – like me – then you might find something like The Organised Mum Method incredibly useful. I certainly did! Long story short, it works by allowing a single 30 minute slot for cleaning one room each day. Monday is for living rooms, Tuesday for bedrooms… and so on. And everyday there are ‘Level 1’ tasks which include popping on a load of washing, emptying the dishwasher and doing a hoover of high traffic areas.
This method changed my life. Of course, my house gets untidy when there are two small humans living there, but it’s not dirty. And by doing 30 minutes each day, with nothing on weekends, I find staying on top of cleaning a lot easier.
Set realistic expectations
There will be times when you catch yourself feeling like you’re failing at something, or dropping one of the many balls you’re trying to juggle. Maybe you’ve missed a few texts from your mum, or maybe you reach bedtime and have suddenly realised the TV has been on since you got in so you could work. Tea might burn or you might miss a conference call. Mistakes happen, in all areas of our lives.
Remember to cut yourself some slack and be realistic. Set realistic expectations with yourself, your family and your work. If some days or times are off-limits then you need to communicate that to parties involved. There will always be mum guilt or working mum guilt to work with, so block out time in your calendar for family time or to deal with life admin that piles up. Respect your own time the same as you would a meeting with the directors.
Book in family time
When I first started doing this, I felt like I was a bad mum straight away for having to “book” in time with my family in the first place. But then I realised that these blocks of time need to be treated as just as important – actually, more important – than work meetings and tasks. Whether it’s your time in the morning or after 5pm up until bedtime, block out time in your calendar and set your phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ so that you know your one and only focus is your family.
Then once that time comes around, put everything work-related aside and just focus on playing, bathtime or even just watching the last 30 minutes of Toy Story. You won’t regret it, I promise.
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