Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ten Ways to Streamline Life as a Working Mom

This MSNBC article by Laura Coffey says for working moms, it’s crucial to streamline and simplify pretty much every imaginable area of life. I dove into this article, as I can always use help with time management.

Expecting to hear much of what I've already heard (and don't do), the article offers a lot of good tips that I'm considering implementing. I've summarized it below.

In her new book, “Working Mom’s 411: How to Manage Kids, Career & Home,” author Michelle LaRowe notes that many moms with full-time jobs are left with about 40 hours a week to get all of these things accomplished:

  • clean the house;
  • do laundry;
  • shop for groceries;
  • take care of errands, which may include paying bills and handling financial matters;
  • help kids with homework;
  • be present at kids’ activities;
  • spend time with partner;
  • spend time with friends and family members;
  • pursue personal interests of any kind;
  • and “maybe — just maybe — sneak in an hour to go to the gym or to soak in a bubble bath.”

The following may not solve all time management issues, but will get you thinking about ways to manage your own unique schedule and circumstances:

Ten Ways to Streamline Life as a Working Mom

1. Have places and times for key items and tasks. Get bins for stuff such as backpacks, library books, anything your kids are always looking for. This totally works when everything has a home. She also suggests scheduling tasks in advance, i.e. bills on Friday, laundry on Sunday, etc.

2. Smooth out the bumps in your mornings. The suggestions here are: do as much as you can the night before, wake up one full hour before your kids do, and plan to arrive everywhere 30 minutes early. All well and good, but I'd like to add to that.

As part of Works For Me Wednesday, I found this post from BeyondJustMom about checklists for your kids. Awesome. Instead of firing orders at them all morning (Please get dressed. Please comb your hair. Please brush your teeth. Please put socks and shoes on. Please turn off the bathroom light. Please pick up the towel off the floor. Do you have your library book. Please get your backpack/coat/water bottle etc...) you just post a list of tasks and tell your child to "Check the List". This will be implemented soon in our house, with an a.m and p.m list.

3. Feed kids on your terms. Use a crock-pot. Do a simple menu plan for the week. Breakfast for dinner is A-OK. Remember easy options that kids love ....omelets, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches. Get your kids to help in the kitchen. Pack lunches the night before, with kids' help. Keep take-out menus in a sacred spot in your house AND your car.

4. Stockpile important gear in important places. She suggests keeping a bin in your car with the following items: baby wipes (whether you have a baby or not), tissues, paper towels, change of clothes for each kid, diapers if needed, snacks that don't melt or go bad, a big beach towel (it can double as a blanket), band-aids, toys and games.

5. Juggle kids’ after-school activities. While you just can't go to everything, pick the activities and occasions that matter most. When choosing activities, make sure the kid really wants to do it. Where possible, pick activities close to home. Make friends with other parents who may be able to give your kids rides in a pinch. Limit your kids' activities to simplify both your and your kids' schedules.

6. Make sure you’re not slipping at work. Keep your game face on in this economy. Take a personal day every few months to recharge. Use break times and lunch to catch up on personal business - be careful about doing it on work time. Find trustworthy allies at work where you can - perhaps fellow moms. Vent to them about your travails - not your boss.

7. Devise a system for tackling housework. Make sure your kids are pitching in. Sometimes — or, heck, much of the time — it may seem easier to do everything yourself so it will be done the way you want. But it’s good for your kids to have a share in keeping the house clean and neat. It will teach them the importance of teamwork and give them survival skills and beneficial habits that will last a lifetime.

Divvy up tasks with your partner. If you’re both working, you’re both tired — and it’s only fair that you should both share the work that needs to be done around the house. Play to each other’s strengths when deciding who will be responsible for what.

If you can afford it, do some outsourcing. Finally, don't be a perfectionist anymore. Let it go. You can have a spotless house once again after the kids go to college.

8. Carve out time for romance. Make arrangements for a date night, put that night on your calendar — and don’t break the date! Make it far enough in advance so you aren't stressed out about finding a sitter at the last minute. Another idea: Once or twice a year, coordinate personal days or vacation days where the two of you stay home together while the kids head off to school.

9. Maintain at least some semblance of a social life. Like date night, make plans with your good friends and put them on the calendar, well in advance. Give yourself down time to talk, laugh, and preserve important friendships.

10. Remember what matters most. Mother Teresa said it’s not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your son or daughter wants to talk, just take a deep breath, settle down and start listening. That pile of laundry can wait.

No comments: