Twice I have gone through the gut wrenching process of putting my 4-5 month old baby into a childcare centre and returning to work.
It is TOUGH, and that is putting it lightly. Coming from experiencing stay-at-home parenting and full-time stints there is no mistaking my appreciation for parents that tackle either or both of these lifestyles. Each come with their pros, cons and some serious personal demands and sacrifices. For one, when you are at work, it is nice not being screamed at to wipe a small humans butt, or needing to play duck duck goose with teddies for 5 hours a day whispering “FML” under your breath, but at the same token you MISS those moments when you are stuck at a desk replying to 50 emails, answering calls of angry people.
Work/Life balance seems like a mythical creature that I am forever in search of. Which is why I settle for the idea that some aspects of life are more demanding than others at particular times and as long as I feel comfortable communicating this to family and am meeting their basic needs, I know that we can get back to the fun stuff afterwards.
I am only required to work part-time, but I have pointers that make life run a tad smoother while I juggle demands of being a working mum:
- This goes without saying; ensure the facility you leave your baby at meets your expectations. Research the crap out of them, ask every question imaginable. If you feel confident your baby is being cared for at a high level then obviously you will beat yourself up a little less. Check the centre’s National Quality Standard rating here.
- Lay out clothes the night before. No matter how tired you are, you will be more tired and remember less at 5 in the morning.
- Prep lunches/baby bottles/breakfasts as much as possible the night before. Zac gets a snackbox for snack time with any 3 of the following; “cheesy chips” (tortilla chips), Tamar Valley Yoghurt pouches, strawberries, blueberries, cheese cubes, cucumber, avocado, carrot, popcorn, Jumpy’s snacks. He then get a sandwich, and an apple for fruit snack time in the arvo. He always has his reusable water bottles in the fridge. We use Cambelback and Zak! bottles. This is all stacked in the fridge, as well as my lunch, ready for the zombie-morning version of me to grab.
- Set bags out ready to pack lunches into in the morning.
- Wake up before the kids. This is where I put my hand up and say I find this extremely difficult. I love sleep, and mornings usually scare me. No longer can I fulfill my selfish desire to use my doona as a cave to hide me from the morning. If I don’t get up and get ready before the kids it can ruin my morning -and day. I constantly remind myself of the shitty mornings where I turn into a panicked “yelly” mum because I am not feeling ready to take on the day. Reminding myself of the guilt of that, or alternatively the feeling of independence and pride I get by actually getting my shit together is normally enough to get me up.
- I feed the baby before I get the kinder boy out of bed. Then baby is dressed and fed, happy and playing so that I can dedicate some time to getting the older child ready.
- Prep a couple of dinners or draw up a meal plan. Try to have cooked or prepped at least one dinner in advance so you have quick go to for the night you are too exhausted to function. Or arrange a meal that is simple to put together. For example, steak with pre-made salad and microwavable Uncle Ben’s rice. It might not be organic, home grown, free from any sugar/salt or things that god forbid you may ingest, but it is better than rubbish takeway. Then the last option is to have the shitty takeaway, if it is within your budget, because life is too short to mentally punish yourself for not being a supermum that can do it all at once. Good on you if you can manage it all and not burnout, that just ain’t me. See earlier post about “dropping the ball”.
- Washing: if, like me, large washing loads give you nightmares put small manageable loads on quickly at night and in the morning. Smaller and faster to fold and put away! I use a drier too. Not environmentally friendly, or wallet friendly, but for me to cope better with my second child I decided I would use the drier and not beat myself up over it like I did when I had my first and thought I could be the perfect mother. Which, by the way, doesn’t exist as I am sure everyone knows by now.
- Make sure your cars fuel tank is filled before your work week starts. For me it works better this way. Each time I think it would be more efficient to fill up once I’ve dropped the kids off and head to work, traffic is at an extreme level of crapness and I don’t really have the time.
- Write lists. Or invest in a noticeboard. Even if it is to just get you started so you remember what needs to be done, what needs to be packed and in what order before you leave for the day, it is still a huge help and eventually it will all become habit.
- Online grocery shopping. Takes 10 minutes, you do it once and it saves your previous items so you can simply go to that section of your profile and quickly reorder if need be.
- COFFEE. Keep a generous supply in your house.
- When you get home quickly unpack the dirty dishes, dirty washing or bottles needing to be washed. If I leave it for later I forget and it snowballs into a mammoth effort at a time of night where my body and mind need to relax.
Each day presents new challenges. I would be lying if I said the above happens every single work day. It doesn’t. The morning after I wrote most of this post both of my kids woke at 5am and would not go back to sleep. That impinged my personal time and threw a spanner into my morning regime but I had to try and roll with it. The truth is that with kids you never really know what lies ahead, but you make the most of the time you do get to spend with them. These tips above allow me more time to do that. They allow me to relax and have fun with the boys at appropriate times rather than being frazzled constantly. Perfection is not the goal with my coping mechanisms but rather maintaining the purpose behind it and learning to go with the flow in between. Some days (like today) the “yelly” me appears, but by being organised I can move onto the next task faster and enjoy the boys without added overwhelming guilt of working. I no longer cry on the drive to work because now I know Judd is settled, I feel confident in his and Zac’s carers/teachers because I did my research and went with my intuition and I am able to focus on the tasks at work.
Good luck to the rest of you Mama’s that are returning to work – I hope this helped ♡