I’ve been working full-time since I graduated from Iowa State University. I worked through graduate school and through babies number one and number two. Although there are certainly times when I feel like I am furiously trying to keep my head just above the water, I am now almost six years in of juggling motherhood and career. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way that have helped me make my sometimes overwhelming life of being a working parent a little easier.
1.) Meal Planning
I’ve learned the hard way that meal planning is THE only way to survive working full-time and making sure my kids get more than Goldfish crackers and a tube of yogurt for dinner. You have to find the right rhythm for your family, but what I’ve found helpful is we typically sit down on Sunday and plan out the week and make a grocery list accordingly. Some families like to extend it to a month, and if that works for you, do it! I either send my husband to the grocery store (with a very detailed list), or recently, we have been doing the Hy-Vee Aisles Online, which is an absolute LIFE SAVER! By planning ahead, I can plan for my late night at work (mac and cheese night!) and ensure I have healthy, yummy lunches for me and Sophia. There is nothing worse than all of us arriving at home at 5:30 to look at each other and ask, “What’s for dinner?”
2.) Cleaning Schedule
I’ve also learned the hard way that keeping ON top of the cleaning is the trick. We decided about three months ago to hire someone to come in monthly to do the deep cleaning. Hands down, THE best money we’ve spent in awhile. It helps me tremendously as I now only have to maintain the cleanliness by doing a quick sweep or vacuum through the house or other small things throughout the weeks. I also have learned a few tricks to “fake” a clean house by
- cleaning off all the counter tops in the kitchen (including those dirty dishes in the sink!),
- fluffing/arranging throw pillows/cushions on the couch, and
- running a quick vacuum.
These three steps literally take me 10 minutes after we all get home from work and school/child care. If hiring someone isn’t your jam, then finding a cleaning schedule/routine that works for you is key to keeping on top of cleaning and maintaining your sanity.
3.) Laundry Schedule
Oh, dreaded laundry. I despise you. I see you looking at me, mocking me over in the corner there. This is one household chore that I really abhor. And why? You throw it in the wash, switch it to the dryer, it practically does its own thing! But the folding? And the putting away? Oy vey. Again, I think this is something you have to decide what’s best for your family. For our family, we tackle laundry on the weekend. We don’t touch it during the week, otherwise I know it will be left sitting in the dryer, in a basket, or worse, on our bedroom floor. As soon as Saturday morning hits, load number one hits the wash. This way, I can leisurely start a new load, switch it and fold it and put it away throughout the weekend. This routine works for us, but it might not for you. Some people do at least one to two loads throughout the week to stay on top of it. That just didn’t work for us, and I found doing it on the weekend was what worked for us.
4.) Taking Advantage of Kiddos’ Bedtimes
Would it be nice to hit the sack as soon as the kiddos go to bed? Sure. And there are days that I would love to do that. But I’ve found that taking advantage of an 8 p.m. bedtime generally leaves me almost two and a half hours of ME time. I use this time to work out (I stream workout videos), write, veg on the couch, and catch up on The Bachelorette and Hart of Dixie on Netflix. I am more of a night owl and would rather stay up late than get up early. I know that if I can be in bed by 10:30, I can still wake up at 6 a.m. (with a little help from coffee), ready to go! Some people are opposite and would rather wake up BEFORE the kiddos wake up to carve in their self-care time. Whatever you prefer, taking care of yourself and carving out what little time we do have for ourselves is so important!
5.) Being Creative with Your Work Schedule
This one does depend on the kind of work environment you have. For me, my schedule is pretty flexible, and although I generally have an 8-5 schedule, those times can shift depending on client needs. I usually like to take advantage of my lunch break and make any calls/schedule appointments, look at my planner and make sure I have my head on straight, and do a little writing if I can. If you have this flexibility, using lunch breaks is a great way to do some of those errands/tasks that you might not have time to do otherwise.