Since returning to work in full-time blocks this year (I work Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then have 7 days off), I have had to juggle family time, housework, and me-time more, and it certainly has been challenging some days! After doing this for a month though, we are finally starting to get into a routine.
My husband is doing his final teaching prac this term, and so where he used to work nights and weekends, he is now home during those times and away during the day. This is great for our family time, but means the mornings are even more hectic!
There are now 3 lunches to be made during the 5 days I work, and 3 people to get ready (though Brendan does a pretty good job of getting himself ready haha!) I drop Miss M at day care 2 of the 5 days and she is dropped at my mum's house on another 2 days, and on the final day, Brendan's mum comes to our house to look after Miss M, as she lives out of town.
Here are some tips that have been working for us (so far!):
1. Prepare lunches the night before.
If I happen to sleep in one morning, and if Miss M is proving challenging to get ready one morning, I need to know that the lunches are made and ready to go, which is one less thing to worry about. We pack fruit, yoghurt and sandwiches usually, or leftovers for lunches. We have a little cooler bag each and this has been working well. We held a mamabake a few weeks ago and it has been handy to have sweet and savoury items for lunches ready to go in the freezer - read about it here.
2. Work out in advance who will do the drop-offs and pick-ups.
I usually drop Miss M off and pick her up, as my school is closer to day care and my mum's house. But if something changes, like I have a meeting after school, Brendan and I need to be organised as to who will take the car with the car seat, and we need to do this ahead of time to save confusion!
3. Meal plan!
When I get home from work, I am usually exhausted, especially in the heat. The last thing I want to be thinking about is what we will eat for dinner. Meal planning works so well, and it means that you know exactly what you will have for dinner, and you have all the ingredients ready to go. This means that you have to be organised to do a full grocery shop each week, instead of running to the shop each afternoon. You can read my most recent meal planning post here.
4. Use your slow cooker.
If you can be prepared the night before to get your slow cooker ingredients ready, you can easily just turn it on in the morning, and have your dinner ready when you get home from work. There are heaps of delicious slow cooker meals on the internet, and it can be fun to experiment too!
5. Make sure you are strict with family time.
If this is one of your priorities, and it certainly is one of mine (as at 14 months, Miss M is changing constantly and I don't want to miss anything!) you need to create a home/life/work balance that works for your family. I am happy to work through my lunches at school if it means I can come home and spend the afternoons with Miss M and Brendan. I may need to do some planning after she goes to sleep at night, but this is kept to a minimum (I work really hard, and I try to work as smartly as possible, and use my time-wisely!) If you aren't strict with family time, it may be the first thing to go. We also make sure weekends are family time too, and are keen to do more 'family activities' now that Miss M can do more.
6. Put aside time for yourself.
'Me' time is so important! Lately I have been getting into reading (I was a huge reader as a kid, but as an adult I haven't read as much) and I've really been enjoying it. I also try and relax during Miss M's sleep during the day, after I've done a few chores and housework jobs. I think as mothers we often forget about ourselves!
7. Ask for help if you need it.
This is so important and I need to remind myself of this - Brendan and I are a team, and I don't have to do everything by myself. Lately we have been sharing jobs of an evening - e.g. while I cook tea, Brendan feeds Miss M, or takes her outside while he is watering the garden and spends time with her, and after dinner, Brendan might bath Miss M, while I clean the kitchen (or vice versa). It really helps to get everything done, and it means we both get to spend time one-on-one with Miss M.
8. Make sure you get enough sleep!
This can be very tough, especially with kids who still wake during the night. It may mean going to bed earlier, or having a nap of an afternoon. Without sleep, the juggle between work and home life can be totally unachievable!
9. Drink lots of water, and eat healthy most of the time.
These are necessary for anyone, but a working mum needs all the good fuel she can get! Healthy foods will give us more energy and for longer periods of time than snacking on junk continually (don't get me wrong though, I have a sweet tooth, and love the odd treat!) and if need be, have a stash of healthy go-to snacks, such as bliss balls, or cut-up fruit so that you avoid the 3:30 crash!
10. Find time for exercise.
I cannot stress this enough. I know almost how impossible it can be to feel like there's no time for exercise once you have a baby, but getting out in the fresh air for a walk with the pram, or taking some time out to find an exercise you enjoy (I've recently started doing Pilates each week on the reformer machine - I love it!) will feel amazing both physically and mentally.
As I have 7 days off each fortnight, I make sure I get lots done in those 7 days (as well as spending time relaxing!) such as washing, cooking freezer meals, housework, decluttering etc. I also make sure Miss M and I do lots of activities together such as playing, going to the library, going to playgroup, and having playdates.
At the end of the day, you just have to find something that works for you and your family. I didn't ever think I'd put Miss M into day care, but the 5 days a fortnight were offered to me, and I was flattered, and it's been excellent. And Miss M loves playing with the other kids at day care! Hopefully some of these tips will help your family find a good balance between work and home life - you'd don't need to have or do it all, just work out what suits your situation best! :)
[Top image from anthillonline.com]