How to Thrive at Being a Working Mom

How to kick-butt as a working mom!
Jo

“I have a knack for this working mom gig.”

It may not sound very modest, but I’ve very proud of this fact as I’ve worked extremely hard over the past few years to achieve this level of life balance.  To be fair, it wasn’t all me – my circumstances are very fortunate.  

There are two things I want to accomplish with my story.  First, I want to tell you HOW I do it.  How I initially struggled, but then how I manage to balance my work and personal life, serve a home-cooked hot meal every night, and still make my children feel loved.

But second, most importantly I want to tell you WHY I do it.  Why I believe working is best for me and my family.  

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The initial working struggle

Let me start from the beginning – I certainly didn’t always have it all put together.  Babies are tough, but newborns?  Im-freaking-possible.  

When I went back to work after each of my babies, I constantly had this feeling that I wasn’t in the right place.  It felt like when I was at home, my mind was at work feeling guilty that I wasn’t there helping.  When I was at work, I couldn’t get my baby out of my thoughts.  That equaled not being productive in either space and lots of feelings of failure.  

You know what didn’t help these feelings of failure?  Post-partum hormones and the fact I was sleeping in 90 minute increments (at max!).     

At work I couldn’t stay focused on the task at hand and simple things that used to take me five minutes took an hour.  My memory was shot, even worse than when I was pregnant, and I couldn’t carry-on a simple conversation without stumbling over my words.  

And the pumping… oh my gosh I freaking HATE pumping.  The whole process of setting everything up, rinsing the parts, and storing the milk is excruciating – especially when all you can think about is how you’d rather just be breastfeeding.  

At home things were just as bad, if not worse.  I felt out of control in my own house!  My house looked like a tornado had gone through.  Dirty dishes not only in the sink, but piling up on the counter.  There were piles of laundry and linens everywhere, and the worst part is that  I couldn’t tell you if something was clean or dirty.  

I was also learning that being a mother to a tiny infant was insanely difficult – attempting to figure out what each cry meant, struggling with breastfeeding, and trying to keep his head from falling off when I was getting him dressed.  You’re constantly questioning yourself.  Are they eating enough?  Are they gassy?  Are they burping sufficiently?  Am I spoiling too much?  Too little?  

And forget about trying to take care of myself, the only moment I had time to eat a meal was when I was at work.  Finding time to get dressed, shower, and put on makeup before work was impossible.  

Before kids, I loved to cook. After kids, it seemed like just another chore that I was unable to get done.  I used to take pride that I served nicely presented, healthy-but-delicious meals every night.  My husband used to have a lunch packed for him every day.  Now those days were gone.  I had freezer meals prepped before baby arrived, because that’s what people suggested.  But I’d be too rushed in the morning to remember to thaw them or couldn’t bother waiting around the for the hour it takes to bake.    

This wasn’t right, something had to change

People kept telling me to “enjoy every minute” because “these are the memories I will cherish forever”.  But everything just felt wrong.

So I started to experiment.  The problem was that I was trying to add a baby into my old life – but I realized that I had to create a new life with new routines and the new baby instead.  

Honestly the thing that made the most difference was when the baby finally started to sleep for significant chunks throughout the night (thanks to sleep training).  That gave me time to get some work done after putting them down.  

I tried to assign my husband different tasks – like doing the laundry and grocery shopping – but that didn’t work out as well as I hoped.  My mother-in-law would help tidy when she was over, but often things got put back in the wrong places and I couldn’t find what I needed.  

The hardest was cooking meals and I feel like I tried everything before I finally found a solution that worked for me.  The freezer meals I had stocked up required long baking times, and when I get home from work on late days around 6pm that doesn’t work.  My crockpot meals were overcooked and burnt, even despite using the timer and “keep warm” settings.  Meal delivery plans like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron had great recipes, but took too much time to prep when having to juggle a newborn and a toddler.  

Finally, we found a routine that worked.

It took the better part of a year after each of my babies were born, but we got our family into a new groove.

For starters, we live and die by our family routines.  We have a system that works and we stick to it.  First thing in the AM, I get up with the kids and get them dressed while my husband showers.  Then we switch and I shower and get ready while my husband feeds them breakfast.  I’m responsible for taking my daughter to my mom’s house while my husband drops off my son at his preschool.  I pick up the kids from school/daycare and get dinner prepped.  Before bed we often have a “dance party” where we all dance in the living room (right now my son is really into Pitbull, haha) to get some energy out.  Predictable routines are good for everyone, both parents and kids know what to expect on a daily basis.  

We also found cleaning habits that work – and we stick to them.  I do laundry at the same time every day.  My husband cleans up after dinner, and I unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning.  We reserve the more “child-friendly” chores for when the kids are awake to include them and try to make them fun.  Our toddlers, with assistance, are able to help pick up weeds/sticks outside, sort socks, vacuum, pick up toys, unload the dishwasher, make the bed, take out the trash, etc.  My husband and I have divided up the chores, leading us to be accountable for them (which reduces fighting over who is going to do what).  After the kids go to bed I prep things for the next day, do a bit of cleaning I can’t do when the kids are up, scrapbook, and/or pour a glass of wine for me and hubby and watch netflix.  

But my proudest accomplishment is how I am able to cook for my family again!  Maybe not the same as before, but I do serve a hot meal pretty much every night (including the ones where I get home late).  

Meal planning (along with my rice cooker and crock pot) is critical to my success.  In the beginning of the week I figure out how many meals I need to serve, and how many of those have to be “quick” ones (ie. less than 15 minutes from me walking in the door to putting food on the table).  I accomplish this by doing prep work the night before.  For example, at night I might start marinating some chicken.  Then all I have to do the following evening is cook it in the hot pan really fast, dump it over rice sitting in the rice cooker, cut up some veggies and BAM – a healthy and well-rounded dinner served in less than 15 minutes.  

However, even with all those amazing factors – being a working mom is a tough gig and it takes effort.  

I’m writing this as my son is 3, and my daughter is a year and a half.  Remember that right after my kids were born and still in that infant stage, I was a complete mess until I found a system that worked for our family.  Now?  I’m a full-time wife, mom, AND business owner – and thriving at all of it.    

You might be thinking this sounds like a lot of work – and it certainly is.  So why do I feel so strongly that being a working mom is the best thing for me?  Keep reading about the why I do it here.

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