By Nina G.
It feels like an endless cycle sometimes, doesn’t it?
You wake up at the crack of dawn, rush through your morning and scramble to drop the baby off with childcare. You hop into an insanely long commute only to spend at least eight hours at work. While at work, you lug your pump and bottles and hope no one notices the pump sessions you’ve penciled into your schedule.
You’re back on the long commute and come home to chores that can’t seem to go away: cooking, cleaning, and child care duties. You play and read with the baby before it’s time to rock him to sleep for the next hour and crash for the night yourself. You wake up several times in the evening to put the baby back to sleep, and before you know it, your alarm is beeping, signaling yet another day to do this all over again.
And you wonder, “Is this how my life is now?”
No one wants to feel like they’re stuck in an endless cycle of no sleep and lots of stress, yet somehow you can’t seem to escape this loop. But you don’t have to feel stressed all the time. There’s a way to get out of this mess and attain a semblance of work-life balance:
#1: Get your partner to do stuff.
I honestly couldn’t function if I did everything for my family while my husband got a free pass. Raising kids with no support isn’t easy: the most direct way to ease the burdens off your shoulders is to pass them along.Think of the most stressful part of your day and get your partner to assume those tasks. For instance, if:
- You’re so over the middle-of-the-night feedings, alternate waking up with the baby.
- You’re frazzled with drop offs and pick-ups, arrange your schedules so one parent drops off while the other picks up.
- You can’t stand the thought of cleaning your house, write a chore list and divvy the tasks between the two of you.
- Remember: dads are co-parents, not babysitters. The responsibilities of caring for your kids and maintaining your home should fall on the both of you.
#2: Be 100% at work (and 100% at home).
Here’s the thing with work: it needs to get done. And unfortunately, sometimes this spills into hours after we’ve already left the building. The best remedy is to develop routines and habits that allow you to be as efficient as possible while you’re still in the office so that none of the work carries into your home.
Then, when you are at home, truly be at home. Turn off your work phone and resist checking emails. Being 100% devoted to both work and your kids when you’re present will keep you from feeling guilty at work for not making it home in time for your kids, or feeling guilty at home for not picking up the slack with your job.
#3: Involve the kids in your life.
I used to think doing everything in the evenings when the kids were asleep was the way to go. After all, how else are you going to cook a meal, figure your finances or deep clean the bathtub with kids in tow?
And for many tasks, this is still the case. But for others, don’t be afraid to do them while your kids are awake. You’ll save time by doing chores with your kids instead of anxiously watching the clock waiting for bedtime just so you can get things done already.
You may not be able to do all chores with kids around, and you shouldn’t focus so much on chores that you end up shooing your kids away or ignoring them. But you may surprise yourself (and save time) when you take care of stuff even with the kids around.
#4: Request a flexible schedule.
The nine-to-five, Monday to Friday grind may not work for everybody. Maybe you have a long commute, or you hardly spend time with your kids. Talk to your boss about a flexible schedule that works for both you and the company. Some ideas include:
- Telecommuting one day of the week (or every two weeks)
- Working an earlier or later shift
- Reducing your hours to part-time
- Coming in to the office for four 10-hour workdays
If all else fails, schedule your vacation days strategically so you have at least a few days of the month to simply be home with your kids.
#5: Use efficient time hacks.
Some time hacks can make all the difference between frazzled and frustrated. Check out these tips to save time during your day:
- Cook meals that can sit for a long time and doesn’t require you to stay in the kitchen (for instance, slow cooker meals or meals that bake or simmer).
- Sneak in errands when you can, such as during your lunch break or before you pick up your kids.
- Do stuff on the weekends to lessen the load during the week. Even picking out your outfits for the week or taking care of laundry can be a big help.
- Get a low-maintenance haircut. I still have long hair but I don’t need to style it in the mornings for work. Or save the fancy hairstyles for important work days.
- Outsource tasks you’d rather not (or don’t know how to) do yourself such as landscaping and gardening, cleaning, or pool maintenance.
- Do simple daily cleaning instead of deep-cleaning. Don’t burden yourself with maintaining a spotless home. Just make sure your home is tidy and sanitary and leave the heavy-duty cleaning for once in a while.
- Schedule calls during your commute. My husband would schedule conference calls while he was dropping off our eldest and heading to work.
- Prep the night before. You know how you feel super tired in the evenings? You’ll be even more tired in the mornings. Get everything you’ll need to make your mornings run smoother: pack the lunches, pick out your clothes, gather everything you’ll need to get out of the house.
#6: Reconsider your job.
I hesitate writing this tip because I don’t want to make it seem like it’s as easy to do as packing your lunch at night or having the kids help with chores: “Oh, having a hard time at the job? Then find a new one!” As if it were that easy.
But sometimes… burnout is real. And if your job is the major factor in your work-life off balance, then it may be time to reconsider your job. Maybe you need to switch to a new department with a more supportive boss. Or propose more efficient routines and habits to get everyone working on the same page.
Or find a job closer to home, one without the hour-long commute.
We can do all the time hacks in the world, but if your job is causing significant stress, then it might be time to find other options. Not saying this is easy or will happen in the next few weeks, but keep it in mind when it feels too stressful.
#7: Remind yourself it gets easier.
I find it much easier now that my kids are older than when they were infants. During those early months, you’re in the throes of breastfeeding, pumping or washing bottles. You’re might prepare homemade baby food whereas an older child can eat pretty much what you would eat. And you’re less likely to be sleep-deprived when your kids are 5 years old than 5 months old. It does get better with time.
#8: You don’t have to do everything.
And lastly, moms: you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to shuttle the kids to every extracurricular activity. Ordering in pizza is not going to brand you as the Terrible Mom. And coming home late and not being able to tuck your kids in bed doesn’t mean you love them any less.
Instead, find what works for you. Find that balance that gives you the pride in a job well done, both at work and at home.
From Los Angeles, Nina is a working mom to three boys—a 5-year-old and toddler twins. She has been blogging for five years at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes about parenting and everything she’s learning about being a mom. Be sure to check out more of her posts about working moms.
39 thoughts on “8 Essential Tips Every Mom Needs for Work-Life Balance”
I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a flexible schedule – even then I’m still frazzled. Thanks for this post. These are great reminders.
Love my flex schedule too, Sara! Gives me the opportunity to work AND spend a good amount of time with my kids.
Great tips! I had to break down and ask for some flex in my schedule given I also have a very long commute. It was killing me! That one day working from home saves my sanity. I also agree with getting your spouse to help. My husband is knee-deep in laundry, cooking and childcare as well. When you have both parents working full-time, it’s a must.
Right on, Kerry! I can’t imagine running the household by myself for no good reason either! Such a huge help when both parents are on board.
Great read! Always need these reminders and tips.
I love all of these tips. Especially get your partner to help more. This one has really worked at my house!
Our household would be extra stressful without my hubs doing his part, for sure.
Great tips! I’ve definitely learned to outsource, scale back, and involve the kids more.
Involving the kids is huge for me too Lisa. I used to put my life on hold until they were asleep or I could get a sitter, but involving them into my day has made me feel extra accomplished.
this is such a great list, I agree with all of it.. tweeting now
Thanks for the tweet, Lauren!
Fantastic tips! I speak about some of these with my moms…especially outsourcing if they can. I will share this on my blog and with my community!
I think my biggest challenge is being 100% present at work and at home. I always feel like I need to get one more thing done and feel guilty about it. Thanks for some excellent tips, Nina!!
That’s always the trouble with a lot of people, especially when you bring work home, isn’t it Kristi! They blend in too much sometimes. I try to focus 100% on work so that I can leave guilt-free, and same with kids—no work while I’m with them so I can be fully present.
Great post, and great tips! Though, sometimes I feel like a flexible schedule can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing … I can never escape work.
So true, Jenn. Definitely comes with its own challenges, namely, separating the two!
When my husband helps, it’s like Christmas! For some reason I always hesitated to ask because he’s the breadwinner and I’m really not. However, I wind up doing domestic stuff AND work because I do work.
Yesterday I was showering and we were running late and he was just checking his email. So I said, “Will you help get Des dressed?” And he readily agreed and did it. The burden was lightened!
Yup, Tamara! One person making more money doesn’t mean he or she gets it easier, in my opinion. I sometimes think that if one parent is still doing ‘work’ stuff like taking care of kids or washing bottles, the other parent should pitch. Usually, they should only be able to kick back and relax when the other parent can too!
Excellent article! These tips are crucial to having work/life balance. My husband and I both work full time outside the home and we divide and conquer when it comes to household duties, errands, even paying bills. With that being said, I still feel like I’m struggling to keep my head above water at home and at work. If my husband and I didn’t share the load, I would be drowning for sure!
Thanks, Renee! Glad to hear you’ve got great teamwork at home. What are your biggest obstacles?
My biggest obstacle is feeling like there is never enough time. I also feel like I’m never enough – as a wife, mom, and at work. I feel like I’m spread very thin and that no one gets the best of me. I’m guessing that I’m not alone…?
Definitely not, Renee 🙂
Great list, but not easy to accomplish, especially depending on your job – which is why #6 is there, I suppose! I helped build a site that lets working women rate their employer’s support for things like flexible work schedule, telecommuting, maternity leave, family growth, etc. If anyone is interested, it’s at http://www.InHerSight.com
Great tips, and I think many of these apply to moms who stay home (working a job at home or just trying to get things done at home) as well.
Thanks, MaryAnne! Completely agree that it can apply to the home as well (especially the part about involving the kids in your life rather than waiting until they’re asleep to get anything done).
It’s tough to be 100% at work and 100% at home if you don’t take time to recharge. I think that moms have to make sure that they don’t end up depleted. Hire a cleaning service, pick up a frozen lasagna, get out of the house. You can’t give from an empty shelf.
These are great tips. I know the one I struggle the most with is being 100% with my kids when I’m with them and even 100% at work- because I work from home! This makes it a challenge to focus on work and also a challenge to focus on them. Having a schedule helps, as well as finding times when my kids are engaged in something else. Love the points abut getting other family members involved- as moms we want to take on so much and seem to have a hard time asking for support. Thanks for the reminders!
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