Tuesday, November 14th, 2017
I haven’t met anyone who says being a working mom is easy. While we all acknowledge that there are ups and downs, I don’t often see anyone writing about how they make it work. When I do find those types of posts, the authors often either work part time, or work from home. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I don’t find it overly applicable for my life. The only blogger I can think of offhand who is a mom, works full-time outside the home, and actually discusses how she makes it work, is Sherry at Save Spend Splurge. I know of other working moms who blog, but they rarely talk about family life. If you know other ones, please share! I’d love to hear your suggestions.
I originally wanted to do something like this to recap my first year with the munchkin, but apparently that post is buried somewhere in my drafts folder. I think I’ll finish it up and post it shortly (better late than never!)
I definitely don’t have a complete lock on work life balance, but this is a list of things that have been making things work around here.
When I was on maternity leave, for better or worse, I did my best to do all of the night waking sessions and early mornings myself so that my husband could go to work somewhat rested. As I stressed out about going back to work, my husband reminded me that he was there, I don’t have to do it all myself, and he’s more than capable of parenting as well. What this has evolved into is that my husband and I alternate who gets up with our son in the morning. One person will get him up, change his diaper, take him downstairs and get his breakfast started. The other is given an extra 5-10 minutes to wake up slowly and laze a little. The next day it swaps, save for sick days and other extenuating circumstances.
Our son eats oatmeal every morning during the week. Since he’s not overly skilled with a spoon yet his food needs to be finger friendly, so I whip up a batch of baked oatmeal every Sunday. It’s convenient, because all I have to do to serve breakfast is cut a slice out of the pan and cut it up into small pieces. The flavour changes every week to prevent monotony, and we’ll usually slice up a bit of fruit for him once he starts eating it. I’ll post the recipe for you guys soon, it’s too easy to keep to myself.
I was clued into this by a friend a couple months ago. When I was growing up, you ran the dishwasher through when it was completely full, not before then. As a result of this habit, I often found myself pulling critical items out of the dishwasher to wash and use before the dishwasher was full, or I’d be cleaning up from a meal and not have room to put everything in there. It’s not that I’m incapable of washing dishes in the sink, it was just more effort than was strictly necessary when I was already exhausted. One of our mutual friends looked up the water consumption of his dishwasher and filled his sink with an equivalent volume of water. It didn’t even fill their sink. We replaced our dishwasher recently, and when I checked the specs on our dishwasher I found it it also uses less than a sink full of water. It takes more water to wash our dishes by hand than it does to use the dishwasher. It runs every night now, even if there’s a couple cup spaces left, and I start every day with everything I need clean and ready to go.
This doesn’t happen every week. The weeks this doesn’t happen I feel like I’m constantly running three steps behind. I try to come up with a handful of meals I want to make on Friday so that I can check the pantry and fridge for missing components. Saturday I try to integrate grocery stops into whatever it is we’re doing so I have everything in the house by that evening. It makes it easier when I’m making things like almond milk or beans where you have to soak the components in advance. Sunday I try to prep and pre-cook any components (like the oatmeal) that I might need for the following week. By the end of the day the fridge is full of assorted containers, along with munchkin’s lunch.
Took a page from the Frugalwoods book on this one. Costco sells two packs of gluten free cheese pizzas for $14. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried ordering take out gluten free pizza before, but you can’t buy one full size gluten free pizza for $14, let alone two. The days that I’m completely done and anything more than takeout seems like too much effort, I throw one of these in the oven. Sometimes I dress it up with roast chicken, BBQ sauce, diced tomato, etc… but sometimes it’s just plain. This has saved us a reasonable amount of both time and money.
Kids can come with a lot of stuff if you’re not careful to avoid it. For the most part we’ve kept it down, but there are definitely child specific items in our cupboards. We tried having “just enough”, but found we ran into instances where having an extra one would make life easier. We had one lunchbox for our son, which worked fine, but it meant I had to wait until they got home to make his lunch. As a result, I would be making his lunch at 8 or 9 pm instead of doing it when I was preparing dinner when it would have been more convenient.
We have enough drink cups for three meals, and an extra stainless steel one for travel. We have two bottles for daycare, and one for at home that gets used in case daycare forgets to send one home. We have one set of Tylenol/Orajel/Vitamin D/nail clippers for home, and one for travel. This way we’re not constantly searching for these items trying to figure out where we had it last, it’s either in the bathroom or in his backpack. If we go out of town for the weekend, we pack one outfit and one pair of pyjamas for each day, plus one extra. This works for us.
I fully acknowledge that this is a luxury, but it has been one of the best decisions we made with me going back to work. One of our friends started a house cleaning company so that she could stay home with her young son most of the time. We pay her to come in every two weeks to wash the floors and clean the kitchen and bathroom for us. It’s a win-win: we help her stay home with her family, and she allows us to spend more of our weekend playing with munchkin instead of cleaning. It sets us back $40-50 every two weeks, and I don’t have a problem with that. I’m spending time on my hands and knees to play with my toddler, not scrub the shower.
I have more vacation time than my husband does, and a week of his vacation is called for with his annual motorcycle trip. As a result, I have two weeks of vacation that we can’t use together as a family. This has turned out to be quite a boon. I ran myself ragged the first couple months back at work, because I wasn’t making time for myself. It was other people, all the time. I’m slowly learning that I can’t do this and retain any semblance of my sanity or general health. Now, every month or so, I take a day off all to myself. I run a hot bath and have a spa morning with bath salts, candles, masks, moisturizers, the whole nine yards. I have coffee and a nibble at a fancy coffee shop. I browse and/or purchase clothing for munchkin and myself. I read. Basically, I do whatever I want. This usually lasts until 2pm, when I get the urge to catch up on stuff around the house. When I head back to work I’m refreshed, and I’ve gotten a head start on whatever needs to be done around the house that usually gets left behind.
They’re little, but all together these have been game changers for me. Finding that elusive work/life/family balance is tough, and I’m still working on it.
What do you do to install balance in your life? What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve?