Hi Mamma! How are you doing today? If you’re like me you’re killing it with the work-life balance. You’re 100% caught up on all your work, paid all the bills, made it on time to your kids’ doctors appointments, packed a homemade special snack for your daughter’s birthday, managed to get your haircut, cleaned the bathroom and cooked dinner every night this week! Oh, wait – that’s me in my dream world. In my real world I have a stack of unpaid bills on the table (likely with multiple calls to the insurance agency), almost missed my daughter’s checkup because a work meeting ran over, had to bring store-bought cookies to school for her birthday, did get my haircut (for the first time in six months), swept the floor and called it a day, and had my hubby cook and/or ate frozen pizza all week.
I get it. Sometimes the working and momming and adulting feel totally overwhelming and you wonder how you’ll ever catch up. I know the feeling of being at the end of my rope, unsure how everything will ever get done. There are so many things written about work-life balance and I (clearly) have yet to master it all. However, I’ve come up with a few things you can do to help maintain a semblance of sanity during the early years of motherhood.
The single best thing I do for myself and my family is to create systems and schedules that we stick to regularly throughout the week. Most of this allows me to get my work done. Making a weekly meal plan and setting myself up for the week is critical to keeping the ball rolling.
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Here is my Mamma’s List of how to maintain work-life balance and sanity as a working mom, which really just means flexing between work and family priorities as needed:
- Create a schedule
- Determine WHEN tasks are going to get done
- Check in with your partner
- Adjust your weekly schedule (and meals) based on work priorities
- Loop in your boss
Create a Schedule
This is super important because it allows you to separate work and family time and helps you re-prioritize as things come up, both at work and at home. A work schedule is fairly easy if you have a traditional job and go into the office. Being in at a certain time and leaving at the end of the day make a clearer schedule. This is more challenging if you work for yourself or work beyond traditional office hours at home.
If this is the case, try to set a rough schedule of your time outside the office. You can set expectations of when you’ll be with your family or doing other things, and when you’ll be working. Everyone sleeps so it isn’t realistic to set the expectation that you’ll be working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. without a break.
For instance, I typically leave the office about 5 p.m. to pick up my daughter. We come home and have dinner and our bedtime routine. I’m able to work again from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. After 9:30 or 10:00 I usually watch an hour of TV or do some online shopping. Since my husband knows I need to be working during this time we get chores and other tasks done on this schedule.
Determine deadlines for tasks
See my previous point. Since we’re all busy and have a million and one things to do, putting a firm deadline on a task is often as important as putting it on the list. I schedule most of my time, so if we are planning a trip, researching a big purchase, or looking at something for our daughter, we’ll set a day to talk about it. Then we’ll prioritize it accordingly. If you never set a deadline, even things that are important are likely to get pushed to the back burner. Also, binge-watching reality TV is so much easier if you don’t feel the pressure to get something done!
Check in with your partner
In the face of all the scheduling in the world, things will come up and priorities will shift. Check in with your partner at the beginning of each week and see what needs to flex based on how your week looks:
- Do you need to shift drop off or pick up routines?
- Who will take your child to after school/work activities?
- Does someone need to go to work early or stay later than normal?
Although schedules may even shift daily, many of the items above throw a monkey wrench into your week and can be planned in advance. It is SO much easier to shift childcare responsibilities a day in advance versus a last minute phone call to your spouse. It also cuts down on a lot of fighting as well 🙂
Adjust your schedule based on work priorities
This is an important one because it allows you to pulse in and attack big work projects when needed. If you have a 9-5 and don’t work outside the office, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, things will come up that need our attention outside traditional office hours. Building flex into your work schedule will help with this, but if you know a big deliverable is coming up that will require additional time, you can certainly plan for it. Allowing myself flexibility is one of the biggest things I’ve found that helps achieve a work-life balance that is sustainable.
If you know something big is coming – don’t plan to cook a four-course dinner the day before it’s due. Pizza your spouse picks up is perfectly fine for that one day. It’s a good idea to talk about this during your check-in conversation, and adjust your drop off or pick up responsibilities that week. This allows you to get in the office earlier or stay later and get some extra work done.
Loop in your boss
Finally, a critical piece of this work/life puzzle is your boss. Some are going to make it a whole heck of a lot easier than others. What I will say is that being upfront and over-communicating is almost always the best strategy. If you have a doctor’s appointment for your little one, let him/her know you’ll be out of the office a couple of hours. If someone in your house is sick and you can’t go to work, let him know if a deliverable is going to be late – and see if there is any possibility of moving the deadline.
Although some of these instances mean you’ll be working later to accommodate your time out of the office, there are many cases when it’s just as easy to do something the following day. However, I can promise you that you need to have the conversation first versus just being late.
Balancing all that comes up between work and motherhood is no easy task, and I don’t even know if work/life balance is an appropriate term. At times it can feel more like work/life survival. However, by implementing a few strategies and systems into your routine and schedule you can drastically cut down on the unexpected events that make you want to pull your hair out. And if that doesn’t work, come have a glass of wine with me 🙂
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