Before kids I was a career girl – I absolutely LOVED my job, I’d show up early, leave late and check my email in the evening. I loved being a self starter who went with the career tide and came out knowing exactly where I fit in the world.
In a similar way, motherhood is one of those jobs you go into without qualifications, and completely unprepared for. It was totally mind blowing, challenging, out of my comfort zone and I loved it. I still love it!
When the time came, I decided to go back to work because I had to, not because I wanted to… I had a bit of a sulk about it too, like the grown up that I am!
It was hard because I’d gotten to a point where I really loved being a stay at home mum, but the decider was needing more money, and selfishly, I wanted to discover what life is like juggling a career and family.
Overall it’s been good to put ANOTHER hat on, but it’s been hard too. And accepting I can’t do it all has been the key to my success.
Here’s how I make my life easier, and maybe it’ll help you too:
1. Figure out your new routine ahead of time.
Or be a geek like me and do a test run! I put Mackenzie into daycare a couple weeks before I actually returned to work. This meant I had a good shot at figuring what time I needed to get up to get myself ready, then what time to get her up, feed her, change her, give her breakfast and then leave the house. I underestimated this HUGELY the first time I attempted it. I shudder to think of my stress levels had I just winged it on my first day back.
Figure out all your logistics like who’s doing drop offs and pick ups, the best route to get to daycare and then onto work, and vice versa. Also decide what hours you’re going to work (if you have that luxury).
I’m lucky enough to work from 8am to 4:30pm so that I can get to and from work during low traffic levels, meaning I don’t waste time sitting in traffic and getting annoyed that I’m late for work or late to pick up baby.
Putting her into daycare early meant I had the added bonus of a few free days a week where I could do things like go to the gym, get my hair cut, clean the house and get myself prepped for returning to work (like getting all my work clothes in order.. oh the headache).
2. Get organised.
This should be my no.1 tip!!!!
You’ll have a few moments where you’ll think, why didn’t I do this ahead of time!? And you’ll get better, I swear.
The things I’m strict about doing every weekend are:
– Meal plans for the next week’s dinners, planning for leftovers for lunches
– One full grocery shop a week
– Food prep of our fruit and veges:
I slice mushrooms, dice capsicum, dice onion and garlic and store in plastic containers in the fridge, ready to pull out of the fridge for faster dinner prep. Plus I try to buy fruit that doesn’t need prep, avoiding watermelon and pineapple unless it’s cheap and in season.
– Baby food prep:
Get four pots going, two vege, two fruit, cook up some pork mince and couscous (or rice), then I mash and freeze in glass baby food jars, reusable food pouches or little plastic food tubs. Plus I make sure we have enough snacks like rusks, crackers, cheese sticks, vege sticks, cooked pasta bows, roasted veges, sliced ham and fruit slices prepared and in containers.
– Daycare bag prepped and by the door:
Spare set of clothes, sun hat, dummy, cuddly, teething gel, pamol included.
– Work clothes prepped:
Everything washed, dried, on hangers and ironed. I work with a stylish lady who’s even more organised and sets out her daily outfits for the week!!
– Handbag edit:
Is there anything that can be thrown out? Have I run out of snacks? Do I need to buy a new notebook? Do I have everything I need in my emergency stash (pen and pad, nappy, wipes, panty liners, lip balm, hair ties, bobby pins etc)?
– Every night, I walk the house, pick up stuff and tidy as I go. This means at the end of a long week I can sit on the couch and the house is in pretty good order.
– I put washing on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when I get home from work, and I hang it once baby is in bed. This means I can get away with not doing any on the weekend and when baby is awake I can focus on mama-daughter time.
– On Saturday I run around and clean the house, doing vacuuming, mopping, bathrooms and dusting (which I hate, but have to do in order to control my asthma). This happens usually when Mackenzie is napping so I can put on music and make the task easier!
– I wash my car (I cheat by doing a drive through), wipe down the fridge door, kitchen cupboard doors and window sills every few weeks (but more like, monthly), and I clean the skirting board quarterly (which is my most hated job).
3. Compartmentalise, if you can.
To do this, I make sure I mentally, and purposefully switch from “Mum” to “Career Lady”. I used to sit in my car on the way to work mentally wondering…
“does Mackenzie have enough food stocked in the freezer?
and do we have enough clean clothes?
and do we need groceries?
there’s so much housework needing to be done!
oh and we’re planning a family holiday next year so maybe we need to firm up a savings plan…”
and then I’d suddenly think,
“NO! No thinking about what needs to be done at home!! If you can’t remember it, write it down. You are going to work and that is where your head needs to be”.
I honestly believe that you are no use to anyone if you’re thinking about home at work, and work at home.
On the other hand, when I walk into daycare and she my little beauty’s face? Work is not on my mind until the next morning when I walk into the office.
4. Give it your best and acknowledge that your best doesn’t have to be “perfect”.
So you used the dryer rather than the washing line? or you heated up oven fries and chicken bites and microwaved some beans and corn for dinner? or you opened a new pack of socks rather than wash the dirty ones… who cares? If everyone gets to the end of the day fed, watered and HAPPY then you’re doing a great job.
On the work front, so long as I’m focused and committed, everything else falls into place. I make good decisions, I’m in touch with my staff, I’m relaxed, confident and can get through the day.
5. Celebrate how freaking badass and awesome you are at “doing it all”
Now that we’ve accepted its ok to not do everything perfectly you can start to see that just doing it is a feat of wonder!
Give yourself a break every once in a while. Have a fun family day and spend some quality time with your kid (or kids). Then later on, order takeout. Sit on the couch with hubby. Drink a glass of wine (or a bottle *cough*). Watch a movie and pass out asleep. That is my dream day, right now. Ha ha.
Do you know a mum that’s returned to work?
Here are some tips for you…
Firstly, don’t bloody ask her how she’s feeling – she’s worried about how her kid is doing and that she’s not with them. She’s sad ok? And now that you know, you don’t need to ask.
Second, be mindful that she’s got mum brain… Things that she used to do easily will take a little time to come back again.
Thirdly, be kind if she’s pumping to feed her baby. Stress means milk supply takes a dive.
Lastly, If you’re a friend or family member a reheat dinner meal or batch of baking would NEVER go amiss. As well as offering to be a backup for daycare pick ups. Or helping out if baby is unwell and she needs to be at work. Or recommending a great cleaner who is also affordable. ha!
And if all else fails? Tell her she’s doing a great job!
What are your tips for working mama’s?