Before Livia was born, I thought that adding another person to our family would be an easy transition – really, how hard can it be? It turns out a lot harder than I thought. Seriously, working outside of the home for 40 hours a week, plus the commute time, is hard, way harder than I imagined it would be. I spend most of the day at work so ready to get home, but my real job is much easier and less stressful than what I have to take care of at home. It’s almost like I leave my easy job at 5:00 to go to my crazy one at home. I’ve spent the last 19 months working to create some sort of balance between work, home, family and personal time. It’s never easy to spread yourself thin – but with a few “hacks” I’ve picked up over the last year and a half, it can be a little bit easier.
I’ve split these into three categories: Meals, Home and Kids. Plus a few extras at the end.
Meal prep as much as possible. Whether it’s batch cooking on the weekend, chopping veggies for a later meal or plating a week’s worth of lunches at once – eliminating tasks, therefore time, when cooking each meal can add up to extra time at the end of the day or before supper is ready. Doug and I bring leftovers for lunch pretty much every day, eating out for lunch or grabbing a frozen dinner aren’t viable options for both health and money reasons, so keep the number of leftovers you need in mind when meal planning and cooking.
Utilize kitchen gadgets (aka: slow cookers and Instant Pots). I know that everyone and their mom has at least one slow cooker in their kitchen, but they are easily one of the biggest time savers for getting supper on the table with minimal work. Personally, I prefer the Instant Pot. They are great for preparing staples – rice, hard boiled eggs, and broth. But, are used for so much more, they are the ultimate one-pot, time-saving solution for supper time woes (man, I should have been an ad copywriter).
Have a list of easy, quick meals and keep the pantry stocked with the necessary ingredients. For us, that’s Half Baked Harvest’s Caprese Chicken Bolognese, The Kitchn’s Sloppy Joes and rice and beans. Find something your family loves, takes less than 30 minutes to cook and is easy to keep the ingredients in the house. I’ve talked about some of my favorite meals before, here.
This is a rough subject for me. I’m not a particularly neat person (as my husband and parents can attest), so spending time cleaning is not high on my priorities.
Figure out something that works for you. Do you need to do clothes once a week? Every day? How often do you want to fold and put away clothes? What’s the best time of day to sweep or vacuum the floors? Who’s doing what chores? Ask yourself, your spouse, heck, even your kids, questions like these to figure out what cleaning schedule works best for your family.
Trade off with your husband. Do NOT try to keep the house clean by yourself, all you will end up doing is running yourself ragged and resenting everyone else that lives in your house. You both work full-time, you both wear clothes, you both eat supper, you both helped make those babies – make sure he’s an equal partner in all aspects of your life. Example: I cook supper while Doug plays with Livia. We eat as a family and after one of us bathes Livia while the other cleans the kitchen. I shower while he gets her dressed. Then I get her (and me) ready for bed while Doug has some free time. Then she and I go to sleep and he does whatever he feels needs to be done for the next day (at this point in my life sleep is more important than free time). Our evenings are busy, but not hectic since we’ve started splitting the chores, additionally, I appreciate him so much for taking an active role in keeping our lives flowing smoothly.
Have a Top 3 list. I normally have a running list of the most important things to get done for each day or week on top of our daily tasks. Sometimes it’s get groceries, wash sheets and mop floors. Other times it’s go through Livia’s clothes, clean out the fridge and hang up all my work clothes. I never write these down, but this list is always in my head. I don’t necessarily get to everything all the time, but I do my best to make progress.
I’m still really new at this whole parenting thing, I only have one kid, and she’s only 19-months-old, but I have learned a few things that seem to help keep our evenings less cranky.
Snacks, snacks, snacks. I know I’m not the only parent whose kid turns into a monster when she’s hungry. Livia could be the star of Snickers commercial – she is a perfect picture of hangry. Keeping easy, healthy snacks for her on hand has made a world of difference in our evenings. She currently loves pickles so I’ll give her five pickles to snack on while I cook supper or she will share a sandwich with Douglas (because adults need snacks, too). I really like Plum Organics snack bars, and their snack sticks, both are really easy for her to self-feed and I don’t feel terrible about giving them to her.
Quality time over quantity time. This is such a sticking point for me, I want to be with Livia all the time, but I can’t quit my job (for both personal and financial reasons – but that’s another story), so I end up constantly feeling guilty I’m not the one putting her down for her naps or eating lunch with her. It took a long time to realize that just because someone spends all day long with their kids, that doesn’t mean their entire day is true quality time. In the evenings when we are relaxing after supper, she is my main focus, I’m not worried about anything else and I do my best to keep distractions to a minimum. I appreciate every minute I have with her because I have so few of them. It took a long time and dealing with a lot of guilt to get to being okay with only seeing her for an hour in the morning and a few hours in the evening, but we are all happier this way.
A few odds and ends that don’t really belong well anywhere else or belong everywhere:
- Grace, not perfection. Perfection is unattainable, so give yourself a heaping helping of grace each day. Sometimes, Livia eats a Gerber meal for supper or I just don’t want to wash clothes, so I don’t. Instead of letting silly things ruin my mood, I give myself (and everyone around me) a dose of grace. It will really change how you view yourself, your spouse and your kids.
- Use the weekend to prepare for the week, but also use them to rest and recharge. Like I said before, working 40 hours a week is hard, and you need those two days to recharge before gearing up to do it all over again – but spending a few hours getting everything ready for the week ahead will make all the difference on Thursday when you are just done with everything. Balance – it’s important – find what works for you.
Working mama, I know it’s hard, I’m right there with you. Sometimes all I need is a jug of coffee, a margarita and a massage (maybe all at the same time), but know that you are doing a great job no matter how swamped or inadequate you feel.
Working moms, what tricks get you through the long work-week?