I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work." So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you! That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)! Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and "join the conversation" in the comments.
(More from me on being a working mom and all the posts in this series here.)
(More from me on being a working mom and all the posts in this series here.)
Today, I am excited to be introducing Nichole - a full-time middle school math teacher at a Judeo-Christian school and the proud mama to Sofie Ann (11/15/11) and Keira Meadow (9/7/13). Since we are getting close to the end of this series (although, don't worry, I've still got a few more great posts up my sleeve for ya), I asked Nichole to sort-of "sum-up" with a list of practical tips and tricks for working mom, and she totally rose to the occasion. Enjoy!
First off, I am SO honored to be asked to write a post for this awesome series. I am proud that I am a working mom and I love being part of this community.
Second, I just deleted my entire first paragraph... the whole thing. See, I felt the need to explain why I choose to be a working mom and the journey that led me there. After going back and re-reading my post; however, I realized that by explaining my journey (FOR ME) it felt like I was somehow trivializing the experience. So, with that, we are going dive right in folks to the nitty-gritty… Here are MY practical tips and advice for working moms. (In list form because as a type A, oldest child, math teacher I am a list maker by default:
1) Routine – working moms are busy (correction: ALL moms and dads are busy), and we have limited time at home. A simple routine helps me stay organized, and lets the kiddos know what to expect. When we get home in the afternoon, it is playtime with the girls. Then, I cook dinner; and, after dinner, my husband cleans up. While he is cleaning up, I usually put together the lunches for the next day (often leftovers from the dinner). Then, it is bath time, books, and bed. We also use a weekly schedule that I type up on Sundays to keep track of who is picking up and dropping off the girls as well as what our dinner plans are.
2) Compare and Despair – I learned this lesson the hard way the first 6 months of parenting (I actually keep on re-learning it) -- the more you compare your child, your situation, your life to someone else's, the more you fall into a cycle of despair. Let’s drop the hatchet ladies and stop comparing lives! I feel like there is an unspoken chasm between SAHMs and working moms where we think the grass is always greener. Sometimes I do get caught up in the 18th month old who potty trained themselves and the 2 year old who can count to twenty in both French and English or even the kid next door who devours organic broccoli at dinner and drinks a chia seed green smoothie for breakfast (social media does not help us at all). But, when I feel myself wishing my girls could name all 50 states and capitals in alphabetical order or that I could stay home with them all the time, I just have to step back and rely on gratitude and perspective. If I look at my life and see all the blessings in it, it helps me battle those insecurities and see things in their true light.
3) Coffee & Concealer – this one-two punch is my weapon against those LONG nights and early mornings. My morning Joe needs to be strong with half and half and sugar. Starbucks is the jam but definitely not an everyday treat. I have a cup (or two) of coffee every morning… pregnant, breastfeeding, does not matter. Also, sleep deprivation is not a pretty look for anyone, so invest in some good under eye concealer... I have been liking Benefit cosmetics Fake up Concealer lately.
4) House Cleaner – this is probably controversial with some folks; but for my household, it is an absolutely necessity. To be perfectly honest, we had a house cleaner even before the girls. In fact, she predates our marriage. We lived in our place for about 4 months before we came to the realization that I have exceedingly high (unrealistic) expectations for cleanliness, and this was a solution that made us both ridiculous happy. She comes to our house every other week to mop, dust, scrub and vacuum but what she leaves us with is less fighting and resentment and a wonderfully clean smelling house.
5) Me Time – When I first went back to work after my first daughter was born, I had a hard time finding my balance, my groove. I felt like I was gone all day at work so I needed to spend all my afternoon and evening hours with my daughter imparting her with critical knowledge and love. However, I soon came to the conclusion that depriving me of my recharge time left me irritable and mean and not the wife and mom that I liked. My solution was early morning workouts. Yes, I get up at 4:45 am most mornings (now you know why #3 is so important) but while the girls are dreaming of princesses and ponies Mommy is sweating and moving at the gym or boot camp. The thing is, I have no will power when it comes to food but I love a good work out. I also truly credit having two relatively easy deliveries and recovery to my workouts. We all need time for ourselves, and I think it is important to make ourselves a priority. This also means that my husband gets the girls up, gets them ready, and takes them to my in-laws or babysitter (He is the BEST). I also treat myself to the occasional mani–pedi. Nothing better than a foot massage and reading a trashy mag.
6) Flexibility – I have always been a planner, a post note, check it off with red pen, kind of gal but I have learned that as a mom not everything goes according to plan and you need to be able to roll with the punches. I also think it is fun to have some spontaneity in your life, to add a little excitement and pizazz! I still think that #1 is important and that a routine and organization are essential but balance is key.
7) Working Dad – think about it… you never hear someone say they are a working dad. This brings me back to why I feel being a working mom should not require an explanation. Yet I digress, my point here is that, for our household, we are team! Like, a serious team. We really truly need each other to make our lives for the girls what we want. Neither one of us can do it alone.
8) Keep it Simple – we are a culture of the busier the better. When I am feeling overwhelmed by the birthday parties, music classes, grading papers, teacher conferences, runny nose …hamster wheel of life, I try to get OFF. During the week, I plan simple dinners that the whole family should enjoy (our once adventurous eater has hit that lovely I will nothing anything green, healthy stage) that I can have on the table FAST. I lay out clothes for myself and the girls at night (in all honesty sometimes in helps to try on the outfit at night, this prevents the inevitably I hate the way my butt looks in these pants let me try on 18 pairs in the 5 minutes I have to get ready in the morning), my makeup routine consists of eye concealer, pressed powder and some lip gloss, and the hair is usually pulled back in a pony. KEEP. IT. SIMPLE!!
9) Meal Chaining – this is a fancy term for “dressing up leftovers.” Here is an example of my fave meal chain: Monday evening I grill up a large package of thin chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and some Italian seasoning. I just use a cast iron grill pan on the stove top. Then I dice up all the chicken:
Monday – grilled chicken spinach salad with avocado, black beans, and grape tomatoes
Tuesday – use the grilled chicken and spinach in quesadillas (hope toddler does not find spinach in-between ooey gooey cheese)
Wednesday – sauté an onion and add grape tomatoes, add chicken broth and more of the SAME grilled chicken and serve over whole wheat pasta
Thursday – get overly priced take out because you do not feel like cooking that night (in all seriousness, meal chaining really does saves us time and money by using the ingredients in different ways - so, we can afford to splurge once in a while.)
Friday - take any ingredients left over and put them on some pizza dough. Lately, I have been taking the chicken and mixing it up with some pesto before adding it to the pizza - very yummy!
10) Random Products and Tips – a couple of additional things that help me stay on top of my game:
- Name Bubbles – were great when I labeled Sofie’s bottles, cups, pacifiers and clothes for her babysitter’s house
- When I pack breakfast and lunch for Sofie I use a piece of blue painter’s tape and a sharper to label the contents. Also works great to label ounces on breast milk bottles.
- Skip Hop Studio Pronto Changing Station - I like having my purse and diaper bag in one so instead of using a “purse” during the week and a “diaper bag” on the weekends I just put this lovely contraption in my purse and voila it becomes a diaper bag. I also keep a change of clothes in the zipped pocket for both girls.
- Online Shopping - from Amazon Mom to Diapers.com (we use Honest Diapers now) to Gap and Old Navy, I love the convenience and ease of online shopping. I am also a HUGE fan of Zulily.
- NetFlix – the hubs purchased this for me for Xmas 2012 and I hardly ever used it all year UNTIL I had our second daughter… OMG I can watch movies, TV and documentaries on my phone or Ipad while nursing! I have watched the ENTIRE parenthood series. Any suggestions on what to start next? I am debating between Scandal and Breaking Bad.
- Keep a phone charger at work and a work laptop charger at home – I know… DUH…but seriously the more chargers the better and I loathe clutter.
- Clorox 2 Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid – discovered this magic potion this weekend (on sale at Costco) and all I have to say I have a toddler who loves pens and markers and an infant who is notorious for diaper explosions and ALL stains are GONE!
Every family is different, but this is what we have found works for us! Hope you picked up a tip or two!
P.S. Next week's Working Mom posts are going to be all about pregnancy/maternity leave/ and breastfeeding/pumping at work. If you are an expecting momma or plan to be some time in the future, you won't want to miss it! (There is even going to be an exciting pregnancy announcement from one of my readers... Stay tuned!)