Easy to Implement Tips and Tricks for the Working Mom
Tina Fey once said, “I think every working mom probably feels the same thing. You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.” Working mothers do accomplish the impossible, but many people fail to acknowledge the extent of the physical and mental challenges when doing so.
Working moms encounter real-life problems every day and are often expected (by the society we live in) to rise to the occasion and continue to carry out their duties at home and at work. Solving common issues like mom guilt, mom burnout, and back-to-work anxieties is crucial because they negatively impact the mental health of working moms.
Fortunately, many working mothers are now offering advice for overcoming the challenges they face. If you are a full-time working mom, we see you, we hear you, and this list of tips and tricks is for you.
What Do Working Moms Struggle with the Most?
Working moms face daily struggles that make their lives at home and work hard. What are some of the biggest challenges that working moms deal with on a daily basis?
- Working moms often struggle with maternal separation anxiety and mom guilt when they go back to work. It is not easy for a mother to leave her child at home or in childcare during the working day. Mothers may worry that their children will not bond with them anymore or that they will be closer to their new caregiver. If you feel this way, it is normal.
- They also struggle with unsolicited opinions from their friends or their mothers. Not everyone will support mothers going back to work and leaving their children with another caregiver.
- Working parents will always be attempting a balancing act. It is challenging to maintain a work-life balance as they juggle career and family duties.
- Many working moms would rather be stay-at-home moms, but that option is just not available for everyone. This can cause some mothers to feel unfilled at their day job.
- They feel overwhelmed when contemplating the realization that working fathers will never be judged. People blame moms for everything that goes wrong. On the other hand, working dads are admired if they even help a little with the children. The patriarchy is alive and well! Mothers can feel this in a very real way.
- Breastfeeding while working is challenging. Many women struggle to balance the time between finishing their work responsibilities and pumping or breastfeeding at work.
- Working moms need to find someone they can trust to leave their precious children with. However, finding a good babysitter is hard.
- Unfortunately, paid maternity leave is usually not enough. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, maternity leave is essential for the health of mothers and their babies. It is even more crucial nowadays because of the pandemic. However, the United States does not provide enough paid maternity leave, forcing working moms to go back to work when they are not ready mentally or physically. This can often have detrimental impacts on their emotional and physical health.
Tips and Tricks for Dealing with the Realities of Being a Working Mom
Here is a list of practical tips and tricks, and states of mind you can try to settle into that can make life that little bit easier if you’re a working mom.
1. Ditch the Mom Guilt
You may be feeling guilty for leaving your child to go back to work. However, this guilt that you carry is making your life much harder than it should be. Yes, you may miss a few of your children’s milestones, but going back to work is not always a choice. If it was your choice, you should never feel ashamed or let anyone judge you. Many moms are excited to go back to work, and that’s great. Being a mom is a big part of who you are – it is not everything you are.
Unfortunately, there are some people who may make you feel like you abandoned your children. Ignore their comments. They’re wrong. You can overcome the guilt by surrounding yourself with people who understand what you are feeling and thinking about the positive aspects of going back to work. Below are just some of the benefits of returning to work:
- A second income is great for the family. You will be able to provide more for your kids. And if you’re a single mum, you are a hero for going out to work and simultaneously managing the burden of organizing childcare.
- According to Harvard Business School, research proves that kids benefit from having working moms, especially those that work outside the home. The children of working moms are more likely to have jobs in the future. Also, daycares help in building children’s independence and learning skills.
- Being a mom equips you with many practical skills that can help you to be more qualified for many jobs out there.
- You are modeling gender equality to your kids by being a working mom and you are a great role model for your daughters.
2. Escape the Motherhood Penalty
The challenges that working mothers have at work that other women without children do not face are sometimes referred to as the ‘motherhood penalty.’ According to the Gender Action Portal, some of these struggles include less pay and an expectation of being less committed to the job.
However, according to the Institute for Family Studies, research proves that becoming a mother makes you more efficient in your job. So, avoiding the motherhood penalty is critical if you want to work in a good working environment. Avoid this penalty by voicing your concerns. If you need more flexibility to be more productive at work, then just ask for it. Only give a ‘yes’ to a task if you know you can complete it before the deadline. By asking for flexibility and being transparent about your rights, it will be easier for you to complete more tasks efficiently and end up in a job that supports your lifestyle.
3. Practice Time Management For a Work-Life Balance
Balancing work and family life is very crucial if you want to stay sane. There are days when everything will go wrong but know it’s okay if you are just making it through.
Time management is key to creating a balanced life. Here are some time management tips and tricks for busy moms.
- Start your day with a to-do list. This can help to organize your day and prepare you mentally for what is expected from you. Make sure to add only achievable goals.
- Set boundaries at home and work. Make sure you know your working hours and only work during those hours. Do not take work back to your home.
- Go easy on yourself and do not look for perfection. We know, that’s easier said than done. But as John Steinbeck said, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect...you can be good.”
- You cannot give a “yes” to everything someone asks you to do. Saying “no” is okay.
- You must create equality at home. If your children are older, then give each child chores to do. Each family member should have responsibilities at home – the house chores should not all be done by you only.
- If you commute, you can use that time to cross a few things off your to-do list. You could take calls or work on your laptop if you're not the one driving. On the way back from work, consider using the commute time to listen to headspace or a podcast – whatever helps you relax at the end of a stressful day and will help you transition into the busy evening that awaits you at home.
- Many time-saving hacks can help with the balance. Some examples include ordering groceries online, running errands during your lunch break, and preparing meals overnight.
- If working outside the home takes a lot of time, you can be a stay-at-home mom and still earn extra money. You might be able to tutor at home, babysit kids while taking care of your kids, or work online.
4. Schedule "Me Time" and Focus on Your Mental Health
We know that this is easier said than done…but stay with us.
When creating a to-do list, make sure to add ‘me time’ and self-care practices to your schedule. Creating a balance between motherhood and self is very crucial for your health and the health of your family. You must take care of yourself first, and then take care of others. Fix up your oxygen mask before helping your child with theirs, as it were.
If you are not eating healthily, not exercising, and not having some quiet time each day, you will not be healthy enough physically or mentally to take care of others. Here are some things you might want to explore doing during your ‘me time’
- Meet new people on social media.
- Go on a walk.
- Attend a yoga class.
- Practice mindfulness, for example by using an app such as headspace.
- Take a warm bath and relax.
- Read a book.
- Go out with your friends.
5. Be Vocal About Bad Days
Talk about bad work days with your partner and kids. If you have a bad day at work and you’re vocal about it, it’ll be easier for your children to understand why your mood is a little off. If your kids are on the same page as you, they’re more likely to agree to take on certain home responsibilities that will help you. If your children are capable of doing chores, then let them. There are fun ways you can implement this, for example through sticker charts and rewards processes.
There are also fun ways you can spend time communicating your emotions with your younger kids. Pulling out emotion flashcards at the dinner table and giving everyone a chance to have a go can be a really healthy way of updating the whole family on your mood when you don’t feel like talking about the specifics.
7. Get Up Before Your Kids
Mornings are usually the worst for working moms. They need to get everyone ready before the day starts. Taking an hour for yourself in the morning can help you be more productive throughout the day. Your kids will also wake up to a happy, healthy mom. Although you’re likely feeling exhausted when your alarm clock goes off, and want to grab as much sleep as possible, feeling rushed in the morning can actually make you feel worse. Here are some things you can do in the morning before your kids wake up
- Make yourself your favorite drink, whether it’s a cup of coffee, tea, or refreshing lemon water.
- Take the time to choose an outfit that reflects your mood that day and enjoy the process of getting dressed.
- Put some makeup on if it helps you feel good, or accessorize.
- Read a chapter of a book.
- Exercise for half an hour.
- Create a to-do list for the day.
- Make your side of the bed.
Having a routine such as the above will help combat tiredness, and it will also remind you that you are a mom, but you’re also a human being, and that you need time to yourself first thing in the day in order to check in with your own body and emotions. What’s my mood this morning? Is my back hurting, do I need to schedule an appointment? Try a few breathing exercises while you sit quietly and run through each part of your body in your mind, taking note of all the aching parts and how you can take care of and honor your body that day.
8. Learn to Appreciate the Good Days and the Little Things
There are lots of ways that you can make appreciating the little things a part of your daily mindset.
- Consider scheduling a fun activity for the weekend in advance. This way, you and your family will be able to look forward to it during the working/ school week.
- Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Taking just two minutes at the end of each hectic day to write down one small thing you are grateful for that happened that day can really help set your mind straight before sleep.
- Remember to give your kids hugs when you get home from work. Many mothers swear that end-of-day hugs decrease the stress they take home from work. Try it, especially when you’ve had a particularly bad day.
9. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Pick a day of the week when you can plan meals for the entire week in order to help with time management. To efficiently prepare meals ahead of time, do the following.
- Start by creating a menu for the entire week. You can turn this into a game with the family where they all get to vote on their favorite dishes.
- Shop in advance for any of the ingredients that are missing. Consider shopping online to save time.
- You can cook the meals during the same night and place them in the freezer. If you lack freezer space, you could chop vegetables and store them in the fridge. Try to simplify meal prepping as much as possible.
10. Don't Let Being a Working Mom Interfere with Romance
It is easy to put the romance between you and your partner on the back burner when you’re a working mom.
According to the National Library of Medicine, having kids can negatively affect marital satisfaction. However, couples can prevent this and can use having kids as an opportunity to improve marital satisfaction by working on their marriage and prioritizing their relationship. Keep the following in mind
Try to go on a date night once every week.
- Put the kids to bed early so you can spend quality time with your spouse.
- Appreciate each other, and confirm it with words.
- Give random hugs and kind words in plenty.
11. Plan Ahead for Breastfeeding at Work
Breastfeeding at work can be difficult. However, with careful planning, it can become less challenging. It is your right to breastfeed your child at work, and your employer needs to provide you with a place and time to do so. Here are a few ways you can make breastfeeding at work possible
- Talk to your manager about where you can breastfeed and when
- Talk to your co-workers who have been through the same challenges about how you are feeling
- Store your breastmilk in a refrigerator or an insulator filled with ice packs.
12. Integrate the "Clean as You Go" Method into Daily Life
No one likes to go home from work and clean the house. It takes too much effort and time. Here is a list of smart tricks you can do to help make daily house chores easier
- Give your spouse and kids a list of chores to finish before you come back home from work.
- You should teach all your family members “the clean-as-you-go method.” If they see something on the floor, they should pick it up. Also, anyone who is capable should wash their own dishes or place them in the dishwasher.
- Do not clean everything all at once. You should set a specific amount of time each day for cleaning.
- Keep a basket in the living room for miscellaneous items. At the end of the day, return the items to their right places.
Try Out the TV Series "Workin' Moms"
Catherine Reitman created a TV. series called Workin’ Moms. It depicts the reality of being a working parent and the ongoing challenges mothers confront at work and home. Watching the series can help working mothers to realize that they are not alone and how important it is to voice their struggles to create a universal understanding of what working parents go through. The show also shows a variety of tips and tricks to create a balance between family, work, and love life.
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Halimeh is an experienced teacher who has worked in a variety of US classroom settings. She is highly experienced in curriculum development, educational technology, and creative writing.