22 February 2017
These days, more mothers than ever are in the workforce. In fact, according to AmericanProgress.org, women now make up half of all workers in the United States, with nearly 4 in 10 homes having a mom that is also a working mother.
Good news, right? Maybe. Something we often hear from the full-time working moms of our pediatric patients is that they feel guilty and stressed because of having to divide their time and attention between work and family. What do we tell them?
The key to managing kids and work: organize and prioritize
First and foremost, that at Westchester Health Pediatrics we’re here to help, with advice and tips and a listening ear. Second, that we have an arsenal of tried-and-true strategies for better managing their work life and mom life, with maybe some time carved out for themselves as well.
Here are 10 tips for busy, multi-tasking, trying-to-keep-it-together working moms. May the force be with you!
1. Do work at home, do home at work, at least sometimes
Exactly where you complete the tasks you need to get done each day doesn’t matter. Pay your bills at the office during your lunch hour. Check your work e-mail at home while you’re waiting on the dryer to finish. Think of your day as a fluid river rather than rigid silos. The key is to know how you perform best. Sometimes isolation of work from home makes it easier to relax when you finally get home. Focusing on your work at your place of employment can also help to eliminate the interruptions that accompany all the other responsibilities you have at home.
2. Make your home office Command Central
Who says to work at home, you have to be cordoned off in a room far away from anyone who can bug you? We don’t agree. Figure out which location in your house provides some privacy while allowing you to still be accessible when needed.
3. Limit your morning expectations
Getting out the door in the morning (without anyone in tears) is the only thing you have to achieve before 8:30 a.m. Not everyday is doing to go smoothly but, if you don’t try to squeeze in too many things, the greater your chances of getting out of the house with a smile on your face.
4. If you have a sick family member, go with your gut
In my home, the rule is: “If there is any possibility that I might have to run out of work to pick my child up due to illness at school, my child stays home.” As a working mom and pediatrician, this always worked best. Rather than inconvenience patients and their families, if I needed to run out of the office to take care of my own child, I would either keep my sick child in an area of my office so I could keep an eye on him/her when I could, or I would call my staff to rearrange my schedule and work through lunch or later in the day to accommodate last minute babysitting arrangements.
5. Don’t obsess over things no one will remember in 5 years
In time, no one, not even you, will still be upset that you showed up with store-bought cupcakes for the class party when everyone else baked theirs. Or that your child was the last to be potty-trained. These will soon be way in the past so let them go.
6. Night-before, and even week-before prep
Since you’re probably exhausted at the end of each day, save yourself a ton of stress and time by doing some quick preparations at night to be ready for the morning. Depending on your level of comfort with advanced preparation, your day will be much easier if things that can be accomplished prior to the morning are set and ready to go. Doing one large shopping trip to pick up supplies to prepare meals throughout the week will save tons of time since you will only need to be on one checkout line and travel to the store once. No one appreciates a programmable coffee maker more than me. If you have time and energy to prepare double meal portions when you cook, serve one and freeze the other for later. Find a few recipes that you can quickly prepare with pantry and freezer staples. Trust me, most of the time it is quicker (and healthier) to come up with a few family friendly meals that can be made in a snap than to order take out.
Preparing lunches in advance is a huge time saver in the morning. My personal favorite…using a mini-crockpot which I fill with some of my prior evening’s dinner leftovers. Not only is it effortless to grab my lunch when I run out the door, it saves me the time to go out to grab lunch as well as the cost (in both calories and money) of eating out. Check the weather report and pull outfits out of the closet. Develop a clean-up routine at night before you go to bed where you gather up the clutter and put everything away, and get the kids (even if they’re toddlers) and your partner to help.
7. Streamline chores when possible
Schedule your bills to pay automatically or through your bank. Join a carpool for after-school activities to save driving time. Create a fully-stocked “homework station” at home so you don’t have to run around getting school supplies every time your kids have homework projects. Shop online for everything that makes sense, from groceries to diapers to soccer shoes. Even if it costs a few dollars more with shopping, you’ll be amazed how much time you can save, not to mention the frustration you may experience with long lines, traffic, etc.
8. Make lists
Don’t rely on your memory; chances are you have a million things on your mind at any given time. My favorite way to keep up with everything? A “reminder” app on your phone for things that need to be done at a specific time and a “notes” app or a pad and paper to write down what has to get done each day. Prioritize the items so if you run out of time, the really important ones get done.
9. Learn to say “no”
Most likely, you’re over-scheduled. Moms try to be everything to everybody, and it’s just not possible. Do not fear missing out! You don’t need to join every group, volunteer for every committee, sign your kids up for every activity or attend every event. Decide which things are truly important to you and your family and make them a priority. Every family has their own priorities. Know what is important to you and your children. Balance your obligations with what you may like to do if you have the time. Say no when you need to. Teaching your children to not obligate you to do an activity without asking permission will also help you avoid sticky situations. They often do not know the nuances of your schedule.
10. Take care of yourself first
You are one person who happens to wear many hats. You have responsibilities and needs, but if you do not take care of yourself, who is going to take care of everyone else? Find the time to exercise, even if it only means doing a short daily workout (7 minute workout apps are truly better than nothing and help get the blood flowing). Join a weekly activity such as a music lesson, a book club or a dance class. Having something to look forward to will make you happy as you anticipate your event. Schedule time to be with friends…without your kids if you like. Get your flu shot. Seriously, who is going to take care of your responsibilities if you are out for the count with fever, body aches, cough and stomach upset for a week?
And don’t forget your health maintenance, such as your annual mammogram, physical and 6-month dental check-up. I am always amazed at how attentive parents are to their children’s needs, yet forget their own. And yes, while the weight of all those hats can wear you down, we at Westchester Health Pediatrics urge you to be grateful for each one. Although your plate is very, very full doing so many things for so many people, we urge you to please remember to take care of yourself.
If you’re having a hard time juggling kids and work, please come see us
At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we understand the many challenges of raising kids while working. (We’re working moms and dads, too.) Please come in and talk with us if you’re stressed and want some help figuring it all out. Know that we’re here for you as well as your child, with advice and guidance. Together, we will find solutions so that you, your child and your family can enjoy this time together.