Recent ONS studies suggest that the pandemic has had a massive impact on working parents. But it should come as no surprise that women spent more time on childcare than men, alongside working from home and home-schooling.
9 out of 10 mums surveyed by the ONS stated that their mental health had suffered due to difficulties balancing working from home and caring for their children during lockdown. Furthermore, it is still the case that women are more likely to take a cut in hours and pay to balance parenting and working. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t stay-at-home dads or fathers who go part-time to do the school run – but overwhelmingly, this is still expected to be the domain of mum. Consequently, more parents are willing to speak up about their everyday challenges and I, for one, am here for it.
As a working mum of a temperamental six-year-old and a high-maintenance two-year-old, I am unafraid to own up to my fair share of breakdowns and tantrums (arguably worse than my kids) due to the societal pressures of balancing motherhood and a career.
Sometimes, coming home from work to screaming kids demanding continuous episodes of Peppa Pig and 500 snacks is unbearable.
Regardless of how stressed out we may feel, there’s a high expectation that parents should work long hours and juggle home life with ease and without complaints. In addition to the endless household duties and relationships that need maintaining – balancing work, life and kids can be incredibly challenging.
Despite the demands, us mothers recognise the importance of giving everything we have into parenting – after all, we chose to bring them into this world! On the contrary, being productive at work and feeling mentally healthy is also extremely crucial.
The first step to coping is understanding that it is MORE than OK to admit you are struggling. It is more than OK to vocalise that you’re overwhelmed (and want to lock yourself in a cupboard away from your ever-demanding family). And it’s certainly OK to reach out and ask for help.
Through 6 years of teaching myself to find sanity in the madness, I have collated 8 of my best tips for adopting a positive mindset, efficiently organising your duties and taking care of your children guilt-free.
- ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE
It’s cliche but done correctly – implementing routine into your and your family’s lives is massively effective. Not only is it psychologically proven that children thrive and behave better following a set routine, but settling into a routine also helps you stay organised. The less organised and unstructured your home and work tasks are, the harder it is to manage – resulting in even more spiraling and breakdowns. For the sake of your mental health and your kids wellbeing, set aside some time to plan meals, cleaning schedules, school runs, self-care activities and playtimes. And finally – set a consistent, early bedtime for your children, trust me – you’ll appreciate the quiet downtime to help you distress!
- Get organised and save valuable family time
When the kids need to be in childcare for 8am and work begins at 9am, it often feels like there isn’t enough time in a day to physically get anything done. Wasting time on life admin also eats into precious time that could be spent with family. Personally, I find the following organisational methods to be incredibly useful:
– Invest in a slow cooker: the easiest, time-efficient way to get dinner on the table once the family is home. Chuck a couple of ingredients in, keep it cooking on a low setting all day and come home to the smell of hearty food!
– Lists, lists and more lists: my phone’s note section is littered with lists and reminders of all types. Whether it’s a list of outstanding admin duties, or a list of birthday presents you need to buy – having this feature easily accessible helps to declutter your mind.
– Utilise Apps: technology provides us with an impeccable range of apps to help in every situation possible. I use a variety of apps to organise my finances and monthly budgets, household chores and work tasks.
– Online shopping: the ability to order food and necessities through a click of a button has never been so advantageous. Having an online account to complete your weekly food shop cuts out an immense amount of time (and stops you from spending money on useless bargains scattered around the shop!)
- Find the right balance
One of the hardest elements of being a working parent is forcing yourself into the correct headspace at the right time. It is essential to remain focused and productive during work hours, yet equally vital to make the internal switch once that time is up. Take care to segregate career mode from mum mode – that way, you can dedicate time to your little ones once 5pm hits and that little metaphorical switch is clicked off. It is crucial to adopt the mindset that working on your career and ambitions is good for you and your family. It’s so easy for ‘mum-guilt’ to eat away at us, however, by understanding that you CAN achieve work goals AND family goals, adopting a positive mindset becomes easier.
- Make time for playtime
I cannot stress enough how beneficial it truly is for all parties involved to prioritise bonding. By committing just one hour (at least, where possible) of undivided attention to your children, the wellbeing and happiness of both you and your family will be instantly boosted. Understandably, it may not be possible to allocate family time on a daily basis. However, a simple bedtime story will always suffice and bring a smile to your faces and eradicate any stresses endured that day.
- Regularly partake in self-care activities
I mean this one – let your hair down and grab yourself a wine… or 3. I strongly believe in the importance of self-care and the power of a short vacation away from motherhood. There is absolutely no shame in allowing time to exercise, socialise or practice hobbies. A happy mum equates to happy children. If you feel swamped or mentally drained, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for time to yourself. You cannot possibly give 110% to parenthood and your career if you’re running low on energy and enthusiasm. If the opportunity arises to take some time out – grab it… HARD!
- Don’t neglect your partner and/or friends
It is unfortunately quite common for women to lose touch of their identity, becoming robotic and tuned to perform only essential ‘mum duties.’ I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to remind yourself that you are still a person with a life outside of work and home. Our friends bring out the best in us and there is nothing like a get-together with the people who knew us before having kids. Equally, taking care of your relationship will inevitably improve the family dynamic and communication. Get the kids off to their grandparents and arrange a date night – you guys deserve it!
- Communicate with your employer for additional support
Being open about your responsibilities and requirement for support is nothing to feel guilty about. Fortunately, I recently landed a role with the most flexible, supportive and understanding employer. By being open about my situation, I was able to adjust my work life accordingly. Most employers are understanding of the high demands of a working parent and can often offer flexibility where possible. It is also essential to educate yourself on your legal rights within the workplace, as this will enhance your ability to discuss any concerns you may encounter.
- Talk about it and ask for help
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – never feel guilty for admitting that you are struggling. There are plenty of online support groups and parenting classes full of mothers in the exact same boat. Where household and family responsibilities become too much on top of work duties, do not be afraid to ask for help. I’m an avid believer in equal parenting. Whether you live with your partner or have co-parenting arrangements – be sure to split the responsibility. In 2021, the archaic notion of women looking after the house and kids should be well and truly dead. Do not rise to these patriarchal expectations and definitely do not settle for it. Speak to your loved ones for support. Whether it’s for childcare help, a simple rant or advice with something personal – there will always be someone willing to take your hand and help.
Repeat after me: you CAN manage and you WILL
Always remember, your children are only little for such a short amount of time. The cleaning can wait, your babies and work opportunities cannot.
Now, book yourself a friend date, cuddle your kids tight and take charge of your career with courage and strength. Don’t let anybody ever tell you you can’t have it all!