This working Mummy’s guide to life

The Friday Club

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.

Top Tip

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.

Plan meals

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.

Be True

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.


  1. whatshappeningatmyhouse

    Great post, Gemma. I remember having to take annual leave when my son was poorly and couldn’t go to nursery, but this was over ten years ago (public sector too – how unenlightened?). Can’t believe in this day and age that this still happens. It’s so wrong, on so many levels, to have to use annual leave time for children being sick. Should have been stamped on years ago. IMHO, obviously. PS on a couple of occasions, I actually lied and said it was me who was ill.

  2. Lesley Bown

    Wonderful post, oh how true. The snot on the black trousers is a common problem when i get to work, I once delivered a whole training day without realising i had sick (reflux baby) down my back. I like the prepare prepare bit as well, I’m terrible for that and everything is such a rush in the mornings.

  3. Maria

    Fantastic post Gemma – it sounded like you were talking about me!! I was ill a few weeks back and routine (what routine) was all over the place and when you are working full time its all about being organised and prepared. Its all about the balance – balance is like a dream to me at the moment!! My life is completely unbalanced at the moment with a full time job and a part time job, a 2yr old and a partner who works the hours I don’t but i’m hoping to get there. 5 days of the week i’m responsible for making dinner and it stresses me out if I haven’t planned it all before. Or we don’t eat and hubby has to have take out!!
    Love it I think I’ll have to read it again!!!

  4. mizmummytwoshoes

    Loved this! Once babytwoshoes arrives, i’ll have a few months with him and then i’ll be submersed into the world of the working mum. I found this post informative and humerous, well done Gemma, keep em’ coming! x p.s i’m @chollabean on Twitter x

  5. Kathryn

    Great post. Our morning routines sound very similar, and I have learned to avoid protracted negotiations (arguments) by saying ‘it’s shreddies for breakfast this morning’ rather than ‘what would you like, shreddies, cheerios or weetabix? no you can’t have custard for breakfast.’ The Tell It Like It Is at work is also so true. Luckily I work in an organisation with a workplace nursery, so it’s quite common to do the leaving the meeting at 4.45pm thing en masse with other parents, while the child-free look on sullenly (but then go on to their nights out for cocktails or cinema trips. Grr.)

  6. Make do mum

    Excellent tips. I found that my clients are fine about me leaving early to get to the childminders so long as I’m upfront like you say. My downfall is wanting an extra 10 minutes in bed if I can and then I end up running round like a lunatic trying to get ready.

  7. notsosinglemum

    Great tips! I remember trying to get my daughter ready for school while trying to get ready for work and often I let my well made plans slide, leaving just more work and stress for me. When I eventually get back to work, I’ll have to look at your post again!

  8. Jacq

    I am a WAHM and I relate to a LOT of what you are saying. Our mornings work best when we stick to a timetable. If I take my eye off the clock , it all goes wrong very quickly.

  9. Domestic goddesque

    Sage advice which i am frankly grateful I no longer have to follow, since I will be a SAHM for a while. I do remember when I had a memory though. And an alarm clock. It was nice.

  10. Don't step on the cracks

    I really should print that out and use it as my rules for life!! Especially the two handbags. Far worse things than squashed raisins lurking in my bag. ‘shudder’ Yes definitely two handbags

  11. CherishedByMe

    I love the two handbags idea, that is brilliant! Although I don’t go out to work, yet, mornings here are dictated by the clock too with station, school and nursery runs. 🙂

  12. Blue Sky

    Agree that these are great ideas. And you sound much more organised than me! I often wonder now how I got through my 16years as a working Mum….mainly by getting up very very early!

  13. Not a Notting Hill Mum

    Hi Gemma
    Proper useful tips – don’t know if you saw the not remotely tongue in cheek work life balance piece on an A list actress’s blog.
    Anyway it was tweeted about a bit apparently. I did my own take on it – and if you don’t know about the original blog – it’s by Gwynnie Paltrow !

  14. southoftherivermum

    lovely post. Really helpful. Since my third child I only work part time now so it’s not so stressful as I work from home and only have to travel in for meetings. I love the idea of a work handbag though as my handbag if full of broken pretzels and penguin wrappers which doesn’t really give the right impression in meetings!

  15. Maria

    Brilliant – totally resonates (constantly cleaning out my raisin-ridden handbags) but needed that guidance to help drill it in properly! Feel like I’m forever trying to organise, tidy, plan…. Loved reading this – and looking forward to reading Goop-inspired Not a Notting Hill Mum’s post!

  16. helloitsgemma

    I’ve had so much wonderful feedback to this post (which I was a bit worried about posting – because it was long, because you wonder if your advice is worth it (I know!!)). It has been truely fab receiving so much feedback, sharing the ‘difficulties’ reading other peoples experiences. Thanks to everyone. X

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