These are my tips based on my life as a working mum, they are by no means comprehensive or fool proof and are very much my opinion. I’d love to hear yours and your opinions.
Two handbags are the way forward, opening your work diary to arrange the next meeting and removing squashed raisins is not a good look, people without children assume you are weird.
Prepare Prepare Prepare
Decide on clothes, yours and your child’s the night before and get them out. To many mornings, I’ve been late and trying to coax a toddler to eat from a distance whilst shoveling my way through a drawer of black items – screaming inside “why did I buy so much black” and “where IS that top I must wear today”. Do it the night before.
Add to that; lunches, bags for the child minder/nursery, anything needed for work, shoes etc organised and in a place beyond small hands who, for some reason, feel the need to sabotage your superb planning by moving stuff (no!!!!)
Remember having all the time in the world? I remember too.
In order to ensure we are out of the door by 8 am. I make sure other stuff is done by certain times, I have to be dressed by 7.30, and at 7.45 I get Noo ready. I give myself the minimum of time and try to do it with the minimum of fuss, and now he totally gets it. Shoes and coats on at just before and gone at 8.
What do I do with those 15 minutes between 7.30-7.45? Sometimes I am still drying my hair, sometimes I am head of myself and
I chuck stuff in the direction of the kitchen I clear up a bit. Sometimes I have a cup of tea and talk to my son, sometimes I resemble someone trying to do a triathlon without bicycle or water in a space 12ft x 12ft because I have not prepared, prepared, prepared.
A lunch time on-line
If I can buy it on line, I do. I find gives me loads of extra time. I took this to the extreme when I tried to be a door stop on line because I couldn’t face shopping for one. So this maybe not a useful tip. But I’ve found on-line supermarket shopping really time saving and easy once you get into the swing of it. I rather do that in a lunch time than actual shopping, at a weekend with an actual toddler.
I plan meals, which is very boring, I bore me. But, unless I have the answer written on the outside of the fridge I find “thinking” up a meal at the end of a working day whilst conversing with toddler beyond my capabilities. So I plan the week and stick it on the fridge, I also find I waste less food as I have planned more. We all eat together because we have been apart most of the day and because I can’t face cooking all over again once I have fed & bath & bed the child and I do eat far too much veggie sausage and mash. My diet is not nearly as interesting as it was pre weaning. Fact.
Do I look Good?
Reconsider your work wardrobe, really if you change it a bit – will anyone but you notice? and will it make your life easier?
I used to swan in wearing a different co-ordinated outfit everyday of the week. I work in the voluntary sector but am in ‘management role’ smart casual was my mantra.
When I returned from maternity leave it was important that to me that although my priorities had changed I wanted to look the part. Despite the fact that most other people wore jeans I wore smart tailored trousers (oh how I laugh now) then I realised that I was the only one wiping snot and weetabix off my trousers between the car park and the office. When I spent yet another evening emptying a the washing machine, I changed my mantra. I now do smarter more casual, and wearing the same thing a couple of days in a row, that’s more than OK. Actually, no one even noticed.
At Work – Tell it like it is
If you need to leave at a specific time, then say so. I often remind colleagues I have a non-negotiable leave time. Other meetings; I’ve found if I politely email and explain I will have to leave the meeting at 4.30 people are OK with that, often they will shift the meeting. Much better than trying to gather your bits and leave quietly as someone is in the middle of their big speech about the future of the organisation and you are squeezing behind their chair mouthing ‘child care’.
The memory game
Before birth. I used to live a bit of high life at weekends, but when I turned up to work on a Monday I could remember the week before. Since, I’ve had my son, I go to bed early I spend the weekend mindlessly pushing swings or slinging bread at ducks yet I get to work on Monday – NO IDEA what happened last week (why is that?). The only answer: Lists and notes. I say no more.
Christmas shop in early November, October even. Really. Leave it till December and you will find yourself battling with every other parent, the shoppers have doubled in number, the parking spaces are further away, the Christmas music is louder. No one deserves to go through that, especially someone who has worked all week. Leave your on line shopping till December and enjoy the benefit of regularly being late for work while you stand outside the sorting office, only to get home to find ANOTHER RED CARD because you Aunt has sent a package and so you return to the sorting office. No really, do it as early as possible and feel smug in December.
Annual leave is no longer a thing for holidays
Annual leave will become what you use when your child is sick. Plan accordingly. If you get to the end of year with some left over reward yourself.
Speaking of Rewarding Yourself
Being a parent is hard work, whether stay at home or working. Don’t be afraid to take days for you. Drop your child at day care and do what you want to do, everyone needs to re-charge their batteries
Time with a child is precious
This is obvious. Being organised can feel very boring, but it is so much nicer to have the time you have with your child to be about them and you. Doing their stuff. They haven’t seen you all week they want to have fun with you at the park, they don’t want to follow you round John Lewis. Well, mine doesn’t.
This may be obvious and I hope it doesn’t sound patronising. But be honest, when your child is wishing that you don’t have to go to work, think about how you respond. Its easy to say ‘I wish I didn’t too’, in child logic this equates to ‘OK, well don’t work then’. If you have to work or want to work; say so. Or you are giving them mixed messages.
For me my work life balance tilts more towards Life. Sometimes my ‘life’ because of child care impinges on work. On the upside, I think I bring different, useful skills and experience to the table. I think it’s always important to be confident about that. I make no apologies for having a child and all that entails. The next generation counts – that’s all.