Being a working mom is no joke. You’re pulled a million ways and it’s easy to feel like you’re not succeeding at anything. Then again, maybe that’s motherhood in general.
When I first became a mom, I had visions of doing it all: successful career, happy kids, strong relationship with my husband, clean house…. And while I’m still juggling, I’ve definitely dropped a few balls now and then.
I’ve learned and refined several working mom tips over the years, and I suspect I will continue to do so as my kids get older. I’m sharing what I’ve learned today not because I think I’ve mastered being a working mom. I certainly haven’t. But because I hope one of these working mom tips will resonate with you, and make your life a bit easier. Because let’s face it, as working moms, we need all the help we can get.
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Live and Die By Your Calendar
In our family, if it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist.
Dad texted you about Grandma’s birthday party? Put it in the calendar.
Dentist appointment? Put it in the calendar.
Need to stay late at work this Wednesday? Calendar.
You get the idea. With as crazy as life gets, it’s easy to double book, or to forget to tell our families about important dates.
Share a calendar and put EVERYTHING in it.
We even schedule chores, as I discussed in my post about whether you should hire a housekeeper.
My husband and I use Google calendars, but you can also set up a paper calendar at a family command center if that works better for you.
Besides avoiding double (or triple!) booking yourselves, the other big advantage of scheduling everything is that it keeps everyone on the same page.
My husband knows in advance when I have to be at work early and he’s on drop off duty. We can see when the kids have doctor’s appointments and figure out who is taking them.
If you schedule chores in your calendar, there’s no excuse that someone didn’t know what needed to be done around the house.
Scheduling everything takes a lot of stress out of a relationship because the burden of keeping track of everything doesn’t fall to one person. And that makes for a much happier and healthier home!
I am a lifelong list maker. Since I could write, I was making lists. It organizes my thoughts and I love the feeling of checking something off of my list.
I like to use an app for my phone to keep track of my grocery list and other to-do’s. That way, whenever I remember that we need peanut butter or dish soap, I can add it to my list.
Others have more luck by keeping track of things in their planners. Again, find what works for you.
Automate Your Finances
As a working mom, you’ve got a lot to keep track of: the week’s dinner menu, your grocery list, everyone’s schedules, birthday party invitations….
Don’t waste precious brain space on trying to remember when your bills are due. Automate your finances!
Set up automatic bill pay with your bank or whomever you need to pay. Funds will be withdrawn from your account on a date you specify and you never have to worry about late fees again.
For irregular payments, or bills you want to review before you pay, put reminders in your calendar so the due date doesn’t pass you by.
With many late fees starting at $20 and going upwards of $50, missing a payment can be one pricey mistake. Plus, it could result in a ding on your credit report. Save yourself the headache and automate your bill payments wherever you can.
Don’t forget about your savings either! Most of us have the best of intentions when it comes to saving money. But thinking about it and doing it are totally different things!
While you’re setting up your bill pay, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings or money market account. It could be once a month or after every payday. Find what works for you, set it, and forget it. You’ll thank yourself later when you realize you have a healthy emergency fund and you didn’t even have to think about it!
Have a Back-up Plan
As working parents, we schedule and plan our lives down to the minute.
But what happens when things don’t go to plan?
If you’re a working parent, you need a back up plan.
I commute into New York City for work and I have experienced my fair share of train troubles.
Because I knew I was at the mercy of the trains, I specifically looked for a daycare center that was open late so I had wiggle room if my trains were delayed.
But despite that, there have been times when I have been really stuck, frantic trying to figure out how I was going to get myself and my kids home.
If you have family or close friends nearby whom you would trust to watch your children if you’re delayed, be sure to put them on the authorized pick-up list at your child’s school or daycare facility.
If your kids are young, you’re going to have to think about car seats, and how someone else can safely transport them. You have a couple of options.
The cheapest is to make sure your family member or friend has a key to your car and knows how to safely install the seat. Then, he or she can get to your car, swap the seats, and pick the kids up. Just be sure to transfer them back so you’re ready for drop off the next day!
That’s certainly the cheapest route, but definitely not the most convenient.
Another option is to purchase a second car seat and leave it with whomever would pick up your child.
Now, if you break out into a cold sweat at the thought of purchasing ANOTHER car seat, I feel you, I totally do.
But don’t fret. There are several safe car seats that come in at a low price point. Here are some of the top (economical) car seats and boosters as recommended by Car Seats for the Littles.
Convertible seats are the perfect choice for secondary caregivers because they can be used both rear and front facing. That means you can use them from the time a child is an infant through the toddler years, giving you a lot of bang for your buck.
Multimodal seats are usually a bit more pricey than convertible seats, but not only can they be used rear or front facing, they also convert to booster seats. Conceivably, you could use these seats from the time a child is an infant all the way through him graduating out of a booster seat. One seat to rule them all, as it were.
If your child is past the rear-facing mode, a combination seat is a good option for you. These are forward-facing seats that transition to a booster.
- Graco Tranzitions
- Graco Atlas
If your kids are past car seat age, then you’re in luck, because you know booster seats are much cheaper than car seats. Here are some good bets, in both backed and backless options:
- Evenflo Big Kid AMP Booster (this is what we purchased for my in-laws to cart my big kid around!)
- Evenflo Big Kid Sport
- Safety 1st Store and ‘n Go Sport
- Cosco Topside
- Chicco GoFit
As always, before you purchase a car seat or booster, make sure to check the latest recall information.
I have an amazing boss that let’s me work from home two days a week and let’s me work through lunch so I can leave an hour earlier. Both have been total game changers. I can pick my kids up from school earlier, and get a few things done around the house while I’m on conference calls.
I am upfront with my coworkers about my schedule. I am a workhorse during the day, but at 4:00 p.m. sharp, I am outta there. They know not to come to me at 3:58 with a problem because I will practically leave them mid-sentence when the clock strikes 4.
I am unapologetic about my schedule. I know I put my time in, and because I don’t want to jeopardize the arrangements I made with my boss, I don’t spend a lot of time chit-chatting with coworkers. Sure, I am friendly and engage in pleasantries about the weekend, but you’re not going to find me dishing about the latest episode of the Bachelor for half an hour.
I do my work, and leave at 4, unless something is truly time sensitive or important. Keeping firm on my boundaries makes me a better employee and a better mom.
In my last post, I talked about how my husband and I were thinking about hiring a cleaning service to come in every couple of weeks. We still haven’t committed to it, but we’re getting close.
With over forty hours of our week dedicated to commuting and working, we already feel pressed for time with our kids. I hate feeling pressured to spend a couple of hours on the weekend cleaning when I could be playing with them.
We’ve realized that we spend a lot of time making money. So why not put that money to good use and hire someone to help us? We already do it with our lawn care and it makes a big difference. Not having to worry about mowing the lawn every week is a huge weight off our shoulders, and another hour we can spend with our kids, or with each other.
If you have the means to hire help around the house, do it. Let go of any guilt you might have and do what you can to make life easier.
Other ways to outsource might include:
- Having your groceries delivered
- Hiring someone to tackle a home improvement project
- Subscribing for a meal box service
- Picking up a few prepared items for big holiday meals
Sure, these things will cost more money than doing them yourself, but you need to budget for your time as well. If you have the means to outsource a task or two, it’s worth considering.
Shopping is never something I really enjoyed. I don’t like crowds, I hate trying on clothes, and I get impatient waiting in line to buy things. That’s why shopping online is my cup of tea.
What makes online shopping even better is that it’s really easy to save money through cash back programs like Rakuten (formerly Ebates).
Rakuten was definitely one of those money saving programs that I thought was a total scam when I first heard about it. Get paid to shop? What’s the catch?
There’s no catch really. Rakuten gets a commission whenever you start at their site to shop online. They pass some of that on to you. It’s that simple.
I don’t do a crazy amount of shopping but I’ve earned close to $200 through Rakuten. Just by shopping like I normally would. For me, it’s a no-brainer.
Amazon is also a life saver for me. By using their Subscribe and Save program, I can sign up to have the products I use over and over again delivered on a schedule I set. Because of Subscribe and Save, I never run out of nighttime diapers, dishwasher pods, or my favorite coffee.
We have enough on our minds. If Amazon is going to make it so I don’t have to remember one more thing, I am happy to take advantage of it!
If you shop on Amazon regularly, be sure to check out these seven amazing hacks to save every time you shop!
It’s Okay to Say No
Our schedules are jam-packed. We can’t possibly do everything, nor should we feel like we have to.
Sometimes we can’t take on that extra project at work. If you have the leeway to decline, do so.
Maybe one more meeting will put you over the edge. If so, decline the PTA.
Perhaps you’ve been craving a quiet weekend at home, and then you’re invited to a dinner party. Send your regrets.
It’s okay to say no to your kids too. If you can’t fit swim lessons, soccer practice, and scouts into the schedule, let them know they need to choose one or two and let the others go.
Saying yes to everything and trying to do everything isn’t sustainable, and it’s not good for our mental health. It’s not like you’re being a slouch. Sometimes, you just need to prioritize what’s important and ditch the rest.
Keep it Simple
Gone are the days where I cook a meal with much more than five ingredients.
My work makeup is often just foundation, a bit of powder, and some brow liner.
I only use a couple of products to clean my entire house.
And every time I buy new clothes, I try to get rid of at least the same amount, if not more.
I am not a true minimalist but I have definitely been trying to minimize the amount of stuff I have and the number of things I do.
It’s amazing how much time clutter and extras take up. Less stuff means less to clean. Fewer ingredients means I can get dinner on the table faster. A quick get-ready routine means I can sleep for a few more precious minutes.
Take a look at your routines and figure out what you can simplify.
Also look at your schedule. Are there commitments you have that don’t do much for you? Hobbies or activities that seem more like an obligation than something that you enjoy? Ditch it. You likely don’t have enough time for yourself as it is. Don’t waste your precious time on things that don’t bring you joy or aren’t necessary.
Okay is A-OK!
I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.
I love all of the ideas I can get for decorating my home, saving money, getting my kids to behave, and on and on.
But I hate it because if I don’t make those adorable cupcakes for my kids’ birthdays, or have this beautiful wrapping for a Christmas present, I start feeling like a giant slobby failure.
For at least two years of my older son’s life, I refused to look at any baby/kid related pins, because I didn’t want to start comparing myself to other moms.
I’ve loosened my stance a bit because I have discovered Pinterest is a wonderful resource for crafts and science projects. Not being overly crafty myself, these ideas have been a lifesaver when I want to get the kids away from the TV.
But to this day I am careful about not falling through the Pinterest rabbit hole.
I am completely confident my kids will turn out just fine if they don’t have snack bags that look like butterflies in their lunchboxes.
I am doubtful they will even remember their fourth birthday parties, let alone a customized cup I might make to match the party theme.
And while I am happy to contribute treats to a school party, store bought or regular homemade cupcakes will do just fine. I don’t feel the need to spend hours on a complicated treat that will be devoured in seconds.
Remember that our kids don’t care about most of this stuff. They’re not the ones scrolling through Pinterest and seeing all of the possibilities. It’s us that put unreasonable expectations on ourselves and feel our kids will be disappointed if they don’t have the perfectly coordinated party or the most creative snack their teachers have ever seen.
Release yourself from this nonsense and use your valuable time playing with your kids rather than trying to be the perfect Pinterest mom. That’s what they will remember.
Having your house cleanish is clean enough. The dishes hanging out in the sink for an extra day won’t kill anyone. Make peace with not being perfect and you’ll be a much happier mom.
Take Care of Yourself
I saved what could be the most important of my working mom tips for last.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not big on self care. I don’t know if it feels too indulgent to me, or that I think I’m tough enough to not need it or what.
But a saying recently drove home the importance of taking care of myself first.
You know when you’re on an airplane and they’re going over the safety announcements? They explain that if the cabin loses pressure, masks will come down. They then tell you that you should put your mask on first before helping others.
At first blush, this sounds outrageous. Of course I’m going to put my kids’ masks on first! My job is to keep them safe so if we’re in danger, they’re going to be my priority.
But here’s the deal: I can’t help them if I’m passed out on the floor. Put your own mask on first so you can help others.
The same concept applies (much less dramatically!) with taking care of yourself. You can’t take care of your family and be the good, fun mom you want to be if you don’t take of yourself.
I’m still struggling with self care, but at least I’m finally accepting how important it is.
Strive to take a few minutes a day to do something just for you: read a book, take a bubble bath, go for a walk. Whatever works for you, make it a priority.
As working moms, we make our families and our jobs our priorities, with ourselves becoming a distant third, if not fourth or fifth! It’s okay to make ourselves a priority too, and we, and our families, will be better for it.
And don’t think you need a day at the spa for self care. Just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference. Need some ideas on how to get started? Check out my guide on self care for working moms!
You Got This, Mama
Like I said in the beginning, being a working mom is a tough gig. We’re constantly juggling work, home, and everything in our family’s lives. I hope these working mom tips will make your life easier. And I encourage you to continue the conversation and share your best working mom tips in the comments below. After all, we’re all in this motherhood thing together. We might as well help each other out! Be well, mama.