We loved this article from Mandy Bowman via LinkedIn. How do you juggle childcare and full / part time working? Hopefully, these tips will help!
As a full-time working mother of two boys (5 and 2 years old) I’m often asked: “how do you do it?”. It’s a hard question to answer, as a Mum you just put your head down and get the job done and just hope that you aren’t letting anyone down.
This Friday is International Women’s Day and the theme is “Balance for Better”. To celebrate, I’d like to share a few hacks that I have found along the years that help me on a daily basis:
1. Over communication is the key to success
I cannot stress how important communication is to balance my work and home life, there are so many moving parts that everyone needs to know ahead of time.
- Family Wall Calendar – This helps to plan out the year’s events, ensuring that important activities aren’t missed. I also add diary appointments to my work calendar meaning I don’t book meetings during special events I would like to attend.
- School Events – The first year of daycare, I missed all of the special events. The school didn’t provide timely reminders and I’d already booked meetings etc. on the days that they were scheduled. The next year, I wrote down the school events for the entire calendar year ensuring I didn’t miss out on important things like buying a book week costume or Mother’s Day Morning Tea.
- Whiteboard – Each week I write on our kitchen whiteboard the events for the week for the entire family, it’s a quick and easy reference of what’s happening in everyone’s world.
2. Build a support network and don’t be too proud to ask for help
One of the early lessons that I learned as a working mother was that I couldn’t do it all, as cliche as it sounds you really do need a support network. With limited family around to assist, I needed to be creative with how I built my support network.
- Ask for help – I was really struggling with the morning routine and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to continue my career and manage to get two kids to school. The boys were getting anxious about “being late” and it was painful for me to see. I used a website called Juggle Street to find a lovely Nanny that comes to our house three days a week and helps the boys get ready and also drops them off to school. Although our budget was quite stretched at the time, some months it felt like I was working just to pay for daycare/nanny. By scrimping in other areas and finding the funds for the nanny meant that the whole family had a calmer and much happier start to the day and I could continue my career here at LinkedIn.
- Network – As daunting as making new friends seemed, meeting other parents at my son’s Primary School has been so helpful. Whether you work full time, you’re a stay at home Mum or just work a few days a week, we are all in similar positions and juggling life as best we can. When I found out that my son’s primary school had no after school care available, I knew another Mum in the same position to ask whether she would like to share the care between the two of us.
3. Decide on the non-negotiables and stick to them
The best advice I have received about balancing work and home life is to decide on your non-negotiables.
For me having dinner as a family is extremely important, this is a non negotiable. I do everything possible to make sure I leave the office on time to sit and eat as a family. My colleagues know that I generally don’t take meetings after 5pm and they also understand why I am the crazy person sprinting to the lift to get the train each afternoon.
Decide early on what your non negotiables are and make sure you stick to them to feel balanced at home and at work.
4. Don’t leave things until the morning
My children are mind readers. Without fail, every time I think “I will just do that in the morning”, I will be up all night settling one of my boys. They just know you have plans for the morning! I will end up exhausted and frantically trying to do that one thing that I should have done the night before.
Before putting the boys to bed, I make sure I do the following:
- Everyone’s outfits are out on the spare bed (including my own)
- Bags are packed – Is it library day? Do I need to pack my laptop into my bag? etc etc.
- Lunch is made, in the fridge and ready to grab in the morning.
5. Learning to Juggle
Being a full-time working mother is a constant juggle, I am always feeling guilty about something.
Learning to be at peace with the chaos was a big lesson for my Type A personality.
Dealing with a busy workload, kids being sick, being tired beyond belief, running from place to place, my life never feels perfect or in control. The reward for embracing the chaos is seeing my two smiling boy’s faces each day when I get home. Their love is endless and they are proud of their Mum who gets to catch a train to the city to work!
I realise this isn’t an option for all but having a Manager and colleagues that support me by providing non judgmental and flexible working arrangements has really allowed me to balance my work and home life. Without their support, I would find it really difficult to work full time while being a Mum.
If you are looking at changing companies, try and seek out a workplace that aims for gender parity, has flexible working arrangements and also has a strong representation of working parents (yes – both Mum’s and Dad’s).
I’d love to hear about any hacks that other people have to make their lives easier, please comment below so we can all help each other in our daily juggling act.