It can be done. But it can also have you melting into the corner of your room in a flood of tears. That’s what balance is all about – the up and the down, the good and the bad. We have to accept that both will be a part of the programme. Once we acknowledge that things can’t always be perfect, it becomes a lot easier to be imperfect.
That’s probably one of the most profound things I learned in the last 19 years of this juggling act called motherhood. Here are another five tips for balancing mom life with work.
1. Be Gentle With Yourself And Your Kids
If I ever had to give another mom advice on how to deal with the challenges that come with raising children and also holding down a powerhouse career, this would be the most important tip. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be these invincible beings, but the truth is that we all have thresholds, and we need to recognise when we hit them. We also need to accept that it’s okay to hit them and do nothing about it.
With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many of us had to resort to working from home (not new to me) and home schooling our kids (total new adventure). If there was ever a time to work on balance, that was it. I know that many moms share my sentiments, but there were days when I just couldn’t face schooling my kids. There were days when my kids just couldn’t face me teaching them. And that was okay. Rather than dissolving into tears or screaming blue murder, I resigned myself to the fact that some days I would not get it right. I would try again the next day.
When you find yourself faced with a wall, take a breath, count to ten, step back… whatever your method of removing yourself from the situation is, use it. Sometimes that’s all it takes to calm yourself down before you start berating yourself or shouting at your kids. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, chances are that they do too. A lot of the time we are not coping simply because of our responses to what’s happening around us. When we calm ourselves down, let go of our expectations, and simply deal with everything at face value… it can become so much easier to deal with.
2. Prioritise Your Day
The days that have a little structure to them definitely tick more items off the to-do list. Plan what you and your kids need to do for the day the night before. If you’re home-schooling, identify which lessons need to be covered, if you’ve got meetings, work everything around those and use the moments in between to check that everything is on track. If your kids are physically present at school, try and plan your most pressing responsibilities for those hours when they are away from you.
Having a plan will reduce the mental load for you, which will naturally help you operate more smoothly. From there on out, it’s a case of ticking off those tasks, one by one.
- Make it easier for yourself by using calendars on your phone
- Set reminders and block off sections of the day for your different tasks, even fetching kids, making lunch etc
- Make use of planning apps or make lists on your phone that you can distribute easily to the family
- Put a physical calendar up in a place where can see it and clearly mark what everyone is responsible for each day
- Helping everyone organise their own days will help free up time for you. If everyone is focused on their own tasks there will be less need for them to be asking you for assistance
Write out a priority list with everyone’s most important items at the top of their individual lists. Don’t get over-ambitious, maybe start with two or three items each. Everything else can be secondary to that, but if everyone can aim to complete their top tasks, it leads to a feeling of accomplishment. Feeling like you’ve achieved something for the day helps reduce the feeling that you’re completely failing at life.
3. Order Online
Dinner, groceries, a last-minute birthday present. Order them all online when you need to. The convenience is there for people just like us, so why not take advantage of it? There are days when I have to work late and it’s my turn to cook. The kids are only too happy to get takeaways on those days. It’s not a regular habit, but it helps me stay focused when I really need to be in the zone.
If it’s a crazy week and I know that someone’s birthday is coming up, I’ll either scour the web for inspiration so that I can go straight to the shop to get that exact item without wasting time. If I’m really strapped for time, I’ll buy it online and have it delivered to my door. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish from your desk chair and how rewarding it is when it is something you can tick off your to-do list.
4. Get The Family Involved
It’s not as easy with little kids, but you can still start encouraging healthy habits around the home. Simple chores spread across the whole family reduces a lot of the responsibility for you.
- Let everyone take turns washing the dishes, stacking the dishwasher, emptying the clean dishes, and keeping the kitchen clean
- Let everyone be responsible for making their own beds
- Each person should be responsible for keeping their personal spaces clean, including bathrooms
- If your kids are old enough, everyone in the house can take turns making dinner or at least help with preparation, setting the table, or clearing it afterwards
- Turn household chores into incentives for pocket money. You’ll soon have kids begging for more jobs to do
5. Ditch The Guilt
This is really similar to point number one, but I feel that it deserves its own stage because it’s so important. You are not going to screw your kids up if you make mistakes. You are going to help them become more well-rounded humans. Provided you still love them, appreciate them, and show them how much you care and are trying to help them… they will be fine.
When I had my first two kids, Amber and Cameron, I was 24 and 26 respectively. In retrospect, I was still a baby myself. I hadn’t yet figured out the ways of the world, I was so emotionally immature, I had no confidence, and I was filled with self-doubt. I was scrabbling together personal training, pilates, and office jobs to make sure I could make ends meet. The only thing I knew how to do properly was love them.
I messed up so many times in my mind. Was late for school. Late to fetch them. Couldn’t afford all the most nutritious food. I couldn’t buy ballet shoes for Amber and had to buy the cheapest soccer boots for Cam. When the pressure was on for me financially, I cried, I shouted, and I felt so guilty for it lying in bed late at night. But every time I thought I had blown it, I would apologise. I would tell them how I felt and how it was affecting me, and I would hug them and squeeze them and remind them how much I loved them. There were moments when I was positive I had traumatised them for life, but I hadn’t. That was just me putting the pressure on myself again. I look at them now at ages 19 and 17, and they are such beautiful, confident, happy, sensitive, and compassionate humans… I definitely did not screw them up.
If you don’t get it right, try again another day, but most importantly, ditch the guilt. If you are feeling judged by other moms, ditch them too or at least ditch the impact that their feelings have on you. That’s not your judgment to worry about, that’s theirs. Dropping the ball is normal and is also a great teacher. Help your kids learn with you as you are experiencing these things. Telling them what emotions you’re feeling and why is possibly one of the best contributors to their emotional wellbeing that you could offer.