- Get up early. Check.
- Finish the dishes. Check.
- Pack lunches. Check.
- Fold a load of laundry. Check.
- Drop off the kids. Check.
- And on. And on. And on.
If you're like most working moms, your morning, evening, weekdays, weekends probably look something like this. Full days, full hands and a head that spinning from how to get it all done. I've had more than my fair share of people ask me how to make being a working mom work.
Well, they don't always asking that way. Generally it's more of a cry for help in my Facebook inbox or a frazzled plea from across a crowded break room. Most people who know me as a working mom, who completed a masters degree while raising FOUR daughters see me as a bit of an expert in squeezing it all it.
And while I am pretty good, I have to be honest and say no one, not even me, is perfect at the juggling act that is modern day working motherhood, but there are some things that tend to work well. Here are my favorite tips for getting it all done. I know using even a few of these will make a huge difference in your life.
Give up the idea of perfection. This is THE most important one, because without it everything else will seem like a failure. We come up with perfect pictures of our lives and then these little people enter it with their own ideas, needs and feelings. We spend too much time looking at what other people are doing and then we compare and feel horrible. Unless you've got a white backdrop and circle light around your head at all times, your life is not a Pinterest board or your Instagram feed, so while there will be perfect moments, don't waste your time expecting everything to be perfect. The moms I coach who are the most miserable are overwhelmed by the idea of "should".
- I should be able to handle this.
- The kids should get to do this.
- I shouldn't need any help.
Choose quality over quantity. It's the moment you dread. You've spent the whole day caring for students or clients and then you forget to bring the right snack for the afterschool club. Then your child, the one you love the most, shows up feeling defeating, because instead of his favorite homemade granola bars, you had to settle for the store bought variety. Of course life happens and children have to learn to accept disappointment, but that look he gives you breaks your heart. Knowing your children, and their love language, can really help you make the most of your moments together. choosing to do the one thing that each of them really values will keep you from running around like crazy, accomplishing nothing.
Over the years, I've missed practices or even games with my kids, but the important ones were non-negotiable. A little planning helps you know which is which and saves hurt feelings in the future. My 11 year old's love language is quality time. I can fill her tank in some super simple ways like cooking together, cleaning her room with her or even watching a movie beside her on the couch. I can also usually tell when her tank is running low if she's been a little more moody or her behavior is off, and that keeps me from having to be a nagging, punishing mom when all she really needs is my time.
Set your battle plan. Paper planner, online planner, phone calendar, whichever you choose, winging it will rarely feel like a mom who gets things done. Leaving room for some spontaneity is always nice, but some of the biggest mommy fail moments come from a lack of planning. I like to start small then work my way up.
Here's an exercise to help. Sit in a comfortable chair, in a quiet space and envision how you'd like to feel on a good day. Not your beach vacation day, but a regular life good day. Chances are words like peaceful, calm, ready or even happy will come up. What won't come up is rushed, frustrated or overwhelmed. Now right down your regular daily schedule. All the things you do from wake up to bed time. Circle all the things that give you your desired feelings and add those to your battle plan. Sometimes I pencil them in my book, other times I put a reminder in my phone. Either way, this is your plan, stick to it. Anything that doesn't fit has to go. Plain and simple. If you don't have enough slots in your day, you don't have time to get it done.
When I had all four kids home, an exercise like this was part of why we never let our kids have more than one sport and one activity at a time. I did not want to feel like a chauffeur, so I chose to limit some things that they wanted to do. Now that I've got less kids at home, I can stretch that out if I want, but I keep my eyes on my goal and not on how great the event or activity could be. If it causes me to rush or feel overwhelmed it's just not worth it.
Draft your team. Say this with me,
I cannot do this by myself, and it doesn't help my family to try.
I know a lot of moms who truly believe they should be able to work full time, cook organic from scratch meals, shuttle the kids to all the activities, volunteer non-stop and do all the household chores. They've bought into the idea that being a good mom is the same thing as being a superhero and they turn themselves into being a crazy, screaming, miserable mess while they try and do. The truth is chores, or having your kids contribute to the household, can actually improve their self-esteem, their intrinsic motivation and the connection to the family.
My momma always said, start out how you can hold out, and in this situation it applies perfectly. Kids who know that they are expected to contribute, will. Kids who expect that their laundry magically makes it from their floor, back folded and clean in their drawers will continue to expect that. Don't set yourself up for failure by thinking you have to do it all, because you'll also end up resenting your family.
Start in the house handing out duties to you family members. As much as I hate to say it, I'll give you this little pearl of wisdom as well. You need to ask/tell your husband what you want/need, don't expect that he knows or assume the eyes on his head will tell him the same thing yours tell you. If you really want the yard done before Sunday afternoon, say that. You may need to negotiate that between you, but it's by no means something you should assume.
Once you've got the family on board and especially if you've tapped all your personal resources, don't be afraid to hire some help or use a convenience service to make your life easier. I started using my grocery stores curbside service and even have used Instacart delivery and it's amazing how great I feel not having to spend hours walking through the store. Happy moms delegate.
Make yourself a priority. Have you ever looked at your to-do list and realized that there is a little bit of everyone on there except you? I don't know why we think we somehow become better moms by falling on our sword. Truthfully, that's the worst thing we can do. There are few worse things you can do than teaching your daughters to be yes women or your sons to expect that of their wives. Make sure your kids know that mommy is human and she has needs as well.
At this point, my 8 and 11 year old can actually make several meals for themselves, but I started them years ago knowing that they could get their own cereal on a Saturday morning so mommy could sleep in. Maybe what you really want is a bath alone, teach your kids what an emergency is and then set them up with a quiet activity so you can rest or unwind. You're actually helping them when you teach them that self-care is not selfish.
Most of all, give yourself a break so you can actually enjoy the days you have with your kids. All too soon they will be gone and you'll be missing having them here.