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It is hard work being a working mum. So I have put together a list of 26 practical tips for working mums to help you stay organised and keep stress at bay.
‘Working mum’ is such a neat little descriptor that still has connotations of choice about it. But many of us working mothers need to go out to work or want to go back to work after maternity leave because we’re smart, talented and don’t want to kiss goodbye to the careers we’ve spent time and effort building before parenthood.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to set ourselves crazy high standards of being amazing earth mothers, domestic goddesses and career high fliers. Not least because these standards are often bestowed on us by society and the media.
And as a result we can end up feeling guilty and a failure when we don’t succeed at all three at once.
Not to mention feeling overwhelmed, drained of energy and like we’re trapped on a neverending hamster wheel of stuff that needs doing.
THE CHALLENGE OF BEING A WORKING MUM
Let’s face it, it is hard work being a mum full stop. But there are challenges specific to going out to work once you become a mother.
There is a certain glib saying that goes something along the lines of…”You can do it all, just not all at the same time”.
But unfortunately there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all every day of the week, unless of course you kiss goodbye to sleep.
Whether you go out to work or work from home, you will have a certain number of hours you need to work each day or week. These hours don’t always fit well with the requirements of being a mum.
One of the biggest keys to looking after your wellbeing as a working mum is to be honest with yourself about your limits.
You simply can’t do it all. Well not without a lot of money and a lot of help.
And that is one thing to get straight right here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with paying for help if you can afford it.
However, there are many simple things you can do to better organise your life so that you make sure you aren’t just surviving, but thriving as a working mum.
Having a killer organisation strategy is the key to minimising stress, anxiety and tiredness as a working mum.
It can take a bit of time and effort to get set up, but having been through it myself, I can wholeheartedly say that it totally pays dividends.
FINDING PRACTICAL WAYS TO BE ORGANISED
Setting up a basic organisation framework is the best way I know to stop yourself collapsing with exhaustion on a Friday evening.
It can be really hard to set up a framework, especially if you are chronically disorganised after months or years of muddling through.
And of course, there is no one organisation framework that is going to work for every working mum. You will need to find the one that works best for you and your family’s needs.
So with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some of the most simple but effective tips that can help make life flow more easily for working mums.
26 PRACTICAL WORKING MUM TIPS TO HELP YOU STAY ORGANISED
1. STRIVE FOR EQUALITY AT HOME
You agreed to have a baby with your husband/partner, not to become the housekeeper.
It can be a slippery slope from maternity leave into finding yourself doing the lionshare of the household duties. In fact more than this, it’s very easy for women/mothers to do the lionshare of what is beautifully named ‘emotional labour’, awww.
Not heard of ‘emotional labour’? Well, it’s all the work that keeps family life and family households ticking that goes unseen by everyone other than the person who is doing it.
So the first thing you need to do if you want to find a way to keep working mum stress at bay is to have a really honest discussion with your husband/partner about dividing up everything up.
There is a set of Fair Play cards that working mum champion, Eve Rodsky, has put together, however this could come across as a little confrontational, when actually negotiating is by far the best way to get the deal you want!!
So maybe focus on listing out all the stuff that needs covering off in the average working week and then have a go at dividing it up between you.
If you put the list together between you it will help to highlight just how much there is to do. Here’s a few things to add to the list ot get you started…
- Grocery shopping
- Cooking meals
- School/childcare management
- Afterschool clubs/homework
- School packed lunches
- Social diary
- Looking after family pets
- Household maintenance
- Family admin – banking/bills/annual renewals
- Family holidays and weekend activities
2. PROACTIVELY PLAN AND MANAGE CHILDCARE AND ITS COST
Childcare can be one of the most stressful aspects of being a working mum. Put aside the emotional side of it for a moment, as I’m going to focus on the practical side of it.
Your options for childcare when you first go back to work are likely to be:
- Nanny share
- Managing between your husband/partner and yourself
The UK Government website has a section on childcare, how to establish how many free nursery hours your child is eligible for and the help you can get with the cost of childcare from the age of two.
Once your children are older there is also the option of hiring an au pair and/or making use of school breakfast and afterschool clubs. However you will also have to consider childcare for the school holidays.
The cost of childcare is super high in the UK and sadly often causes many women to leave the workforce.
So think carefully about the costs, work out how to cover the cost of childcare between you and your other half (the costs shouldn’t all come from your salary).
Think about whether paying for expensive childcare in the shorter term means that you will be able to progress your career faster and further, meaning that life will be easier as family in the long-term.
Plan in school holiday care well in advance to avoid last minute stresses. Holiday clubs and activities get booked up very quickly. Put reminders in your diary at the start of the year to get things in ahead of each holiday.
Make sure to share the responsibility for getting the kids to and from childcare – or if it falls to you, negotiate how your other half will pick up a different area of family life to take care of.
3. KNOW THE HOURS YOU WORK
Make sure that everyone who needs to know is clear about the hours you work.
This includes yourself.
Being clear on the hours you work each day and each week and sticking to them is likely the biggest change to working life that you’ll experience post-baby.
Goodbye presenteeism, hello super-efficient working woman with kids.
4. FLEXIBLE WORKING
You have the right to ask your employer for flexible working hours.
Of course, just because you have the legal right to ask doesn’t mean that your employer has to give you exactly what you want.
However, in the UK (note that Northern Ireland has its own set of rules) your employer does have a legal obligation to consider your request. They must assess the advantages and disadvantages and hold a meeting to discuss the request with you.
Think carefully about how you can find a pattern of work that suits you. A good place to start is by working out how much money you need to earn each month. Then look at how many hours it takes to cover off servicing your existing clients and finding new clients.
Be realistic about your working pattern and try to stick to it.
Having a set routine can help you to feel more grounded.
5. BE FOCUSED
Unless you have a really high-powered job with a paid support team in place to look after your kids and the family home, the hours you work each week become more or less finite once you become a parent.
They may change from year to year as your child grows and starts school, but they will be pretty static month to month.
So employ simple strategies that allow you to focus and use your time well.
I’ve put together a post on the practice of monotasking versus multitasking. It’s so easy to get sucked into trying to juggle several things at once, but in reality, it’s so much more efficient to focus on one thing and get it done.
Read the post here: Stop multitasking start monotasking
If you work from home it is worth considering if this still works for you once you are a mum. Would you be better served by finding a shared office space near your home where you can focus?
If you can’t afford an office space, libraries can make a good quiet place.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week. The best way to end the day feeling as stress-free as possible is to take time at the start of your day to prioritise.
What are the five most important things for you to get done? It could be all work-related stuff, it could be a mix depending on the day. Make a note of them and work through them from the highest priority to the lowest.
Tick each one off as it’s done.
I use TRELLO for all my project management, both work and family related. I get a smug feeling every time I move something from the To Do column to the DONE column.
I’ve written about how I use TRELLO for family admin management if you fancy giving it a try yourself – it’s free to use, which makes it even more brilliant.
7. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR COMMUTE
If you commute to work you can make use of your commute time to lower your stress levels.
Either use it as scheduled in family admin time, when you tick off a bunch of emails that need responding to or invites you need to send out.
Or use your commute as your chance to do something that is just for you rather than just mindlessly scrolling through your phone.
I have a library of podcasts that I listen to – I really like Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Spinning Plates amongst others.
8. HAVE A MORNING FAMILY ROUTINE
Mornings have the potential to be the most stressful time of the day for working mums. So it is well worth planning your weekday morning routine out – and in fact ensuring that some of it gets done the night before.
Morning stuff you can move to the night before:
- Packed lunches – make sure packed lunches are prepped the night before – this is a great chore for older kids
- School bag and homework check – make sure everyone’s school bag is packed ready before they go to bed and check that all homework has been completed
- Check the diary for after-school plans/activities and make sure they are all organised
Set up a morning routine checklist or chart for the kids. For example:
- Brush teeth
- Wash face/shower
- Get dressed
- Eat breakfast
- Get coat and shoes on for school
I found this lovely personalised morning routine chart for kids on Etsy.
9. CLEANING AND TIDYING
Unfortunately statistics still shout loudly and clearly that women are still more likely to have to do most of a couple’s housework and childcare.
Accordingly to a 2021 YouGov poll, two in five women who work full-time and have a partner (38%) say these tasks mostly fall on them, compared with only 9% of men in the same situation.
So read it here now. You don’t have to accept this as standard. Divide and conquer when it comes to chores. And I’m talking about involving kids as soon as they are old enough too.
Start off by reading my post on how to create a realistic cleaning schedule that actually works.
Once you’ve found a system for cleaning and laundry that works for you and your family, you can brief everyone else in on it, so that you share the responsibility as a family.
The alternative is to choose to divert cash towards paying for a cleaner. Now you may just simply not have the money to do this.
However, it is worth considering if there are other things you/everyone in your household is willing to cut back spending on in order to fund a cleaner.
You don’t have to have a cleaner in weekly, even having someone come for some hours once every two weeks is a help.
10. MINIMISE WEEKEND HOUSEWORK
Tackling the bulk of the housework at the weekend is not exactly the most enticing prospect at the end of a busy week.
So rework your housework schedule.
Divide the housework up into small chunks that can be spread out over the course of the week.
Plus, as I’ve said above, if you share the family home with a partner and older children, make sure that the housework is divided out between everyone.
There is still such a massive imbalance when it comes to who takes on the bulk of the housework duties in a family home.
Be part of making that change.
Oh the joys of laundry and the often mistaken assumption by others in a household that there is a laundry fairy.
First up, if you are going to be the one doing the laundry, make sure that this is taken into consideration when dividing the household chores equally amongst everyone in the household.
For example, I do all the laundry in our household. But my husband does the majority of the cooking.
12. SET DISHWASHER RULES
The dishwasher fairy is apparently a cousin of the laundry fairy. She comes along and takes all the dirty dishes that have been left near the dishwasher and puts them in it.
Ok, so we all know that the dishwasher fairy doesn’t exist. So here are some simple but effective tips for minimising the time spent doing the dishes.
Load dirties straight into the dishwasher, this goes for everyone in the home who is old enough.
Make sure everyone in the household understands that leaving stuff neatly near the dishwasher is NOT helping and does not get stuff clean.
Start a rota for loading and unloading the dishwasher. Any child over the age of ten is perfectly capable of taking on this chore, either at breakfast time or after the evening meal.
13. MEAL PLAN
Meal planning is also one of the four steps in my guide to putting together a weekly grocery list quickly and easily.
If you are really pushed for time you could try using a recipe box delivery service.
I am signed up with a couple of recipe box delivery services.
My favourite is Mindful Chef, because it offers such healthy meals. They are paleo-inspired, low G.I, use really high quality ingredients from high-level suppliers.
I’ve got a post with lots of ideas for school lunch boxes, because I know how hard it can be to keep inspired and come up with healthy ideas to make sure your kids eat a healthy lunch at school each day.
Finally, don’t forget to look after yourself by eating healthily throughout the day.
Read my post on Health Snacks for Tired Mums post for a list of low sugar, low GI snacks that will keep you going all day without a blood sugar crash.
14. COOK DOUBLE
If and when you do have time to cook a really delicious meal, cook double and freeze half of it.
There is nothing more delightful on a tired weekday evening than knowing getting dinner on the table is as simple as defrosting something you made earlier.
15. KEEP A WELL STOCKED FREEZER
16. SLOW COOK OR TRAY BAKE
Let me evangelise about the wonders of slow cooking. It makes life so easy. Particularly in the winter months.
Simply stick the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it and know it will be ready to serve that evening.
I have an Instant Pot, which serves as a slow cooker as well as doing a whole bunch of other brilliant things – it cooks the best rice ever.
17. DO YOUR SUPERMARKET SHOP ONLINE
Forget traipsing around a supermarket trying to ignore your low blood sugar pushing you to the confectionery aisle.
Start doing your grocery shopping online.
Now before you head to any old supermarket that offers home delivery, let me tell you something…
Not all online supermarket shopping is equal.
In my opinion, there is only one true saviour of supermarket shoppers and that is Ocado.
I’ve used Ocado for years and I literally could not manage without it. I have tried other online supermarket offerings and I also have friends who use others, but from what I know and from what I have experienced, Ocado is the most reliable. Yes, it’s not the cheapest, but at the same time, if you are smart with the way you shop, it can be really cost-effective.
I pay an annual fee for the Ocado Smart Pass, which means I can schedule a free delivery every day of the week if I want to.
Clearly I don’t do that, but I do have a regular weekly delivery slot set up and I then add in an extra delivery as and when needed.
The Smart Pass also gives me priority Christmas delivery slot booking (Christmas deliveries are the only ones that come with an extra delivery charge). This is a complete lifesaver in the madness that is the run up to Christmas.
The other big benefit is at least 10% saving on big brand names.
I’ve got the Ocado app on my phone and that’s how I tend to do my weekly shop.
I add in stuff through the week, then take 20 minutes to check the final shopping list against my weekly meal plan before the cut-off deadline, which is the evening before the delivery is due.
Ocado offers some pretty chunky discounts of a first shop, so give it a try and see how much easier it makes your life.
18. MAKE USE OF AMAZON PRIME
Shopping on the high street can take up so much time and there is no fun doing it at the weekend with a child or two in tow.
Switch to shopping online and sign up for the online mother’s little lifesaver that is Amazon Prime Membership.
I use it for everything from buying endless kids’ birthday gifts, to household essentials, to stuff for the home… the list is endless.
Try Amazon Prime for 30 days for FREE – it includes Amazon Prime Video, which is a nice little bonus!
I’ve touched on this early with regard to keeping the house clean and tidy. But I’m coming back to it again, because it is important.
If you are working full-time it really is worth trying to find a way to afford to have a cleaner.
Take a look at your spending overall.
Is it possible to cut back on spending in other areas – ditch takeaways or curb your takeout coffee habit?
I realise that hiring a cleaner can’t be a reality for every working woman, but think about the benefits and really think about how you could make it work…
Having someone else do the chores so you can spend quality time with your family is invaluable.
20. PARENTING ROUTINE
Routine, routine, routine!
Have a set time for homework for school-age children.
Bedtime is sacred, especially on school nights.
Kids need sleep.
Well-rested children are happy children.
Happy children mean balance and harmony in your family household.
Of course, kids aren’t automatons, there will always be things that come up, but if there’s a good rhythm in your household, it’s easier to cope when your kids need you more than normal.
21. SET YOUR BEDTIME
It’s not just kids who benefit from good sleep patterns.
Try and stick to a regular bedtime and no tech after 9pm works a treat for quality of sleep and waking up feeling rested.
In fact, a few months ago I decided to get more mindful about my daytime habits to help me get better sleep each night.
The resulting change in the quality of my sleep and my ability to get to sleep came around pretty quickly after making some simple changes.
Pop over and read my post on Simple tips for better sleep if you regularly find yourself on your knees due to lack of quality sleep – or any sleep at all.
22. SCHEDULE FUN AND FAMILY TIME
Yes, this sounds sucky!
But it’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘doing’ and forget about simply enjoying being with your kids.
We have a weekly family film night and Friday after school is always earmarked for simply hanging out together, usually with some kind of foodie treats involved.
23. TECH ETIQUETTE
Ban all tech during family mealtimes and family hangout time.
Define screen time limits based on kids’ ages and remember that modelling good use of tech is the best way to ensure you kids don’t turn into digital addicts.
It’s also a great way to ensure that you engage and connect well as a family and cuts down on arguments.
24. LEARN TO SAY NO AND MEAN IT
No is a very powerful word and some of us can be a little scared to use it, especially with family and friends!
But there are so many benefits to saying no and there is a real art to saying ‘no’ really well. Here are some tips:
- Actually say ‘no’ and be really clear that you mean it, don’t waver and go back on it
- Be courteous but be assertive
- Learn to understand other people’s tactics, including those of your children, for getting you to say ‘yes’
- Set your boundaries so that over time you don’t even need to say ‘no’, people just know not to even ask!!
25. SHARE YOUR WORKING DAY WITH YOUR FAMILY
It can feel very alien for working mums to talk about their working day with their kids. But it’s a great way of involving them and helping them to understand that your work is important – not more important than them of course, but important.
If kids feel involved then it doesn’t feel like there is such a big ‘them and us’ situation, work and family are all part of the same big melting pot of life.
26. HOW TO CREATE MORE ME TIME FOR YOURSELF
It may be a cliché but even just a couple of hours of time to yourself, to do whatever you want with, will lift your spirits.
Happy mum equals happy children!
So pop over to my post on how to create more me time for yourself each week and see if you can start to make some positive changes.
I really hope you’ve found this list useful. Have a go incorporating some or all of the tips into your life and see how you get on.
I have also put together a post on School holiday survival tips for working mums that you may want to read if the school holidays are looming!
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Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.