Being a mom is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. Add a full- or part-time day job to the mix, and it becomes even more of a challenge.
If there’s anyone who can handle that task, though, it’s a mom.
The data support it.
““In every single time period, women with children are producing more than their peers with none,” an article on Quartz said about a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The study looked at the research of more than 9,000 economists – including a look at productivity, marriage status and number of children.
It seems counterintuitive, but if you want to be more efficient, statistics show that having kids may help.
Even with that efficiency boost, the struggle is real for a working mother. Day-to-day is a delicate balancing act that often leaves mothers feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
What every working mom wants is to feel as if she has her life under control – at work and home.
An office job may be 40-plus hours per week, but “momming” is 24/7/365. If you find yourself desperate and/or looking for a better balance between the two, try some of this advice.
Whether you believe it is or isn’t possible to have it all, you can surely agree that one cannot do it all, at least not all at the same time.
The early years of parenthood, in particular, are time to prioritize. You must consciously decide what is important to you now and what can wait until later when the kids are older, or when your career is better established.
Diagram what you want your life to look like, then look critically at your list. Is there room for all of it in your life? If not, what can you cut from your life to make room for your essentials? What needs to go on the back burner for now?
If you can take your plate from overflowing to just full, the day-to-day difference will be significant.
With prioritizing, it’s not just the big picture that benefits. Prioritization should be a daily habit.
Having trouble figuring out what to do when? Throw everything you need or want to accomplish on a whiteboard then sort it out.
Consider both importance and time constraints to determine what should come first.
Is execution where your plan falls apart? Try these time management methods:
< Calendar blocking – Schedule appointments on your calendar to accomplish specific tasks. Not only is it a great reminder for you, it prevents others from scheduling meetings during your focus time.
< Pomodoro – A trendy technique that followers swear by, pomodoro relies on working in 25-minute sprints to complete items from your to-do list. Take a three- to five-minute break before jumping back in and a longer 15-30 minute break between sets of four pomodoros.
< Hardest first – If procrastination is a problem, you may benefit by forcing yourself to first do that thing you’re avoiding – to get it out of the way.
< Quick wins – If hardest-first doesn’t appeal, try the opposite. Pick the easiest/quickest tasks from your list and knock them out first for some quick wins and to shorten your to-do list.
EMAIL HIJACKING YOUR LIFE?
One large roadblock to time management is email. Sixty percent of U.S. workers say, “The time I have to spend dealing with email is time I could be more productive,” according to a survey by Workfront, a work management platform.
Email is a valuable tool, but if you don’t carefully manage it, it becomes a burden.
The key to managing email is to establish boundaries.
It should disrupt neither your work nor your family time. At work, turn off email pop-up notifications to avoid mid-stream distractions.
LIMIT THE TIME
Establish times when you focus on email, then ignore it the rest of the time. If an email is truly urgent, there will be a quick follow-up by phone or in person when you don’t immediately respond.
Do the same outside of regular working hours. Some check email only at designated times on nights and weekends.
Others will check email frequently outside of work but not send any replies until back in the office.
Whatever system appeals to you, keep a tight leash on your email habits.
ASK THE BOSS
Do you ever think, “If my job would only implement X, Y or Z, I could be so much more productive?”
Have you ever asked for X, Y or Z to be implemented? If not, ask.
Maybe it’s flexible working hours, working from home once a week, backup child care options, etc.
You’ll never know what might be possible if you don’t ask.
Allowing for a little bit of overlap between work and home promotes flexibility and helps you get more done.
A quick phone call to the pediatrician between meetings, dashing off a work email in the school pickup line – these are manageable overlaps.
But when you’re messaging the nanny all day at your desk then up writing emails past midnight at home, you have a balance issue. Keeping your focus on the task at hand will make you more productive.
There will always be a little bit of home on your mind at work and vice versa, but keeping it to a minimum makes it easier to juggle the many hats working moms wear every day.
At home, choose your battles, give yourself a break
We live in an era where the bar seems to be set Pinterest high.
But just because that’s what you see on the internet, it doesn’t mean it has to be your standard when it comes to the home front. So if cutesy lunches and gourmet made-from-scratch dinners aren’t important to you, don’t do them.
When thinking about priorities at home, there are plenty of things you may not want to do, but must do – think laundry, cleaning, yardwork, cooking.
You may not be able to cut them out, but you might consider lowering your standards a bit, at least temporarily.
Making time to dust the baseboards and wash your walls (yes, that’s a thing) is tricky when every time you turn your back, the little tornadoes you call your children decimate the playroom.
So, choose your battles and cut yourself some slack when it comes to the rest.
Don’t take it all on yourself – outsource. Recognize the value of your own time.
Is there anything you can outsource to get some precious minutes or hours back to invest in something else?
Easily outsourced tasks include house cleaning, grocery shopping (pickup, delivery or meal kits), dog walking, yardwork and laundry/clothing (dry cleaning pickup, wash-and-fold service and clothing subscription boxes).
TINY FEET, BIG HELPERS
Don’t overlook the help in front of your nose, either. Is everyone in the house pulling their weight?
Even tiny children can – and should – contribute to keeping the household running. Kids love to do things and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Small children can dress and undress themselves, put away toys, carry dishes to the sink/dishwasher, feed pets, get their own snacks/drinks, help put away groceries and more.
Many times, you’ll be surprised what your kids are capable of doing when given the chance.
SHARING THE LOAD
What about your partner (if you have one)?
Moms frequently default to completing all of the “emotional labor” even when household duties are split more equitably. Employ a shared calendar to get everyone on the same page and push your partner to take on tasks you’d typically do.
Think: buying birthday gifts, packing lunches, trimming kids’ fingernails, packing gym clothes on gym day, reloading lunch money accounts – all those little details that moms just “magically” remember to do.
There’s no medal to be won for doing it all yourself. Accept help when offered, and if no one’s offering, ask.
Remember that friend who is always offering to watch the kids for a night out? Call her and schedule it.
A mother of two, Laura Pruitt is marketing and public relations manager at Liquid Interactive (www.liquidint.com), a marketing consulting services firm in Upper Macungie Township. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.