A year ago, I returned to work from my maternity leave and officially became a working mom. Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about that transition and how extremely hard it was. Not only was it hard emotionally because I missed Aidan so much while at work, but it was hard mentally and physically too because I had to learn how to juggle having two full-time jobs at once: I had to get my job done and get it done right even though I was getting very little sleep, and I had to learn about the mental load of motherhood and how to manage it.
My first year of working motherhood was hard, so hard, in so many ways. But I’ve learned a lot along the way that I want to share in hopes what I’ve learned can help another struggling working mom out there. My biggest struggle with working mom life was feeling like I never had any time to get anything done; something I’ve been focusing on is learning how to manage my time better, so most of the tips below are related to time management and can hopefully help make any working mom’s week run a little smoother. Here are my top 10 tips for working mamas:
- Pack everything the night before. After I put Aidan down for bed at 7pm every night, I head to the kitchen to prep his bottles and solids for daycare, as well as pack my lunch and pump bag. Our packed lunch bags go in the fridge and my purse and pump bag go on the dining table along with anything else I might need to bring with me to daycare drop off in the morning, like more diapers, wipes, or spare clothes. I can’t stress enough how smooth this makes my mornings run! If you can, do other things the night before, like shower or run to the gas station to fill your tank if it’s low. Anything you can do the night before helps. UPDATE: I’m no longer pumping at work so I don’t need to deal with bottles and pump parts anymore!
- Create a 5-minute makeup routine. Having a simple, quick makeup routine will come in handy for those hectic mornings when you’re running late and need to get out the door ASAP. My 5-minute makeup routine is face powder, blush, lip gloss, and mascara. I keep all these things in a makeup bag in my purse because some mornings are so hectic, I end up having to do my makeup at stoplights on my way to work! I’d also recommend keeping a travel-size can of dry shampoo in your purse as well. Dry shampoo = a mom’s best friend
- Utilize your commute time, lunch hour, and PTO. This one is huge because it’s a great way to squeeze in time for self-care. I have a 30-minute commute to and from work; I used to listen to the radio, but now I listen to audiobooks during my commute. I love to read, but don’t have a lot of time to sit down and read a book now that I’m a busy mom, so listening to audiobooks has been a great way for me to catch up on my to-read list and keep my mind learning. I’ve been loving podcasts, too, especially ones on motherhood. As for my lunch hour, I use this time to catch up on my never-ending to-do list, like errands, scheduling appointments, etc. But once in awhile, I’ll take a long lunch and go to a nearby cafe and treat myself to lunch or meet a friend for lunch, which is such a treat these days! Finally, I’ve started really utilizing my Paid Time Off. If work is slow, I’ll take a Friday off and get cleaning done around the house while Aidan is at daycare. Chris and I even took the same day off once and went on a date! In my opinion, this trick is pretty genius and I wish I had started doing it sooner.
- Keep extra pump parts and nursing pads at work. This is A MUST if you’re breastfeeding and pumping at work. I’ve lost track of the number of times this trick has saved me. There have been times when I’ve washed my pump parts the night before but forgot to transfer them to my pump bag the next morning, but luckily, I had backups in a drawer in my cubicle. There have also been times I forgot to put nursing pads in my bra while getting dressed in the morning. Mom brain is real, ladies. Save yourself from yourself!
- Keep weeknight dinners simple and quick. Some of my favorite advice I got from a podcast about working moms was don’t focus on recipes during the week, just keep dinner simple. For me, this means a lot of crockpot dinners, leftovers, the occasional frozen dinner, and takeout on Friday nights. Once I started keeping the expectations for weeknight dinners low in my household, this area of my life got a whole lot less stressful. I make up for our lazy weeknight dinners by making nicer meals on the weekends!
- Focus on quality of time with your kid, not quantity. My aunt taught me this (who was also a working mom) and it’s something I try to practice all the time. I don’t have a lot of time with Aidan during the week (about 3 hours a day), but I try to make those 3 hours the best 3 hours I can with him. We read books, play with his toys, and eat together before I go to work and when I get home. I also make sure not to look at my phone much during those hours. My phone can wait until when I’m at work or until he’s in bed for the night.
- Delivery. Delivery. Delivery. Before I became a mom, my co-worker, who is also a mom, told me that she buys EVERYTHING online, even groceries. Now that I’m a mom, I finally understand her reasoning for doing so. I don’t have a lot of time to run errands during the week, so if I need something, I’ll just order it on Amazon and it arrives in 2 days, sometimes even less. I also used Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Fresh when Aidan was a newborn. I really can’t stress enough what a godsend Amazon has been to me this last year!
- Don’t be afraid to tweak your childcare situation. I’ll admit, there have been times this last year when I wasn’t happy with our childcare situation, specifically, our daycare. I remember those were the days I hated going to work the most, because I was so stressed and concerned over Aidan’s care. We started looking into other daycares and found one we loved and felt way more comfortable with. It feels good to drop Aidan off at a place I trust because it gives me peace of mind when I’m at work.
- Re-evaluate your organization and time management skills. I used to think I was an organized person who could manage her time well. And then I had a baby. Since becoming a mom, the number of things on my to-do list has increased and the amount of free-time I have has significantly decreased, so one thing I have really focused on this last year is learning how to manage what little time I have better. I could write an entire blog post on all the time management tips I’ve learned in the last year, so I won’t go into it all, but I think all working moms can benefit from doing this step, because as we all know, our lives totally change once we have kids, so naturally, the way we manage our time and to-do lists will too.
- Ask for help. I’ll be the first to admit I have a really hard time asking for help, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is that sometimes I just need to put my pride aside and let people help me. As much as I want to do it all, I can’t. It’s literally impossible for me to work full-time, raise a little human, and manage a household all on my own. I need to rely on my partner, our families, and friends. I need to speak up when I need something, and I need to accept when they offer. They say “it takes a village” for a reason, so don’t be afraid to utilize yours.
If you’re a working mom, please share any tips you have to make working mom life easier. I’m always looking for more!