Coming back to work full time after being a stay-at-home mom for three years was a tough decision. There is always a part of me that questions whether I’m doing my family a favor or a disservice.
For me, a big decision maker to going back to work full time was the flexibility and location of the job. I knew that I did not want a long commute, but I also knew that I didn’t want to work at home full time. I needed to be amongst professional colleagues that would inspire me, but I also wanted the flexibility to be able to still participate in my kids’ lives.
After much soul searching and interviewing with different companies, I’ve found that maybe you can’t have it all, but you can have a good balance if you find the right company that understands your situation.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the past year to help balance my life as a working parent with young kids. (This is in no particular order.)
#1 Merge your calendars.
I used to like to keep personal and work life separate, but in order to keep my head straight between my kids’ activities and work priorities, I had to merge. That ensured that I didn’t double book and miss any important dates.
#2 Communicate more.
This is probably one of the most important things you can do. Communicate with your personal support team (spouse, nannies, grandparents, teachers, etc.) and your professional support team (manager, colleagues, clients, etc.). Setting expectations and letting people know what’s going on is always appreciated. When people know the circumstance, they may be more flexible of what is expected and may even want to help you out. Which brings me to my next point.
#3 Accept help.
Yes, you may have always been the one who took control and did things on your own, but when you are juggling a busy schedule between kids and work, it’s probably best to let that pride go and accept the help that people offer up—and in some cases, ask for help. In my experience, it’s pretty much impossible to do it all on your own. And, if someone can help, why not? It will make it less stressful for you.
#4 Plan ahead.
This mostly has to do with chores at home, but of course always helps with other activities as well. Use your weekends to plan out the week. Yes, you may have a ton of weekend activities to attend, like soccer games or ballet classes, but it’s important to spend a few hours planning out your meals, doing your laundry, and helping your kids figure out what they need for the rest of the week. Trust me, it will save you from last-minute meltdowns and scrambling when they can’t find their soccer jersey because it was never washed.
#5 Schedule me time.
People tend to forget this when they are juggling family life and work, but time for yourself is critical. Schedule time for your own needs—whether it’s taking a yoga class or taking that long bath, make sure you get alone time to decompress. Without this, you will burn out and that wouldn’t be helpful for your colleagues or your family.
#6 Let it go.
Lastly, let it go (as Elsa would say). The perfectionist in me always wants things in order, however, what I’ve learned is that it takes a lot of time to keep on top of everything. Prioritize what really needs to be in order, like your work files and emails or maybe even your pantry, but let everything else go. If your house is messy 80% of the time (cringe), let it go. Take a breath and know that sometimes using any extra time to sit and read a book with your kids or getting a workout in to decompress is better for your wellbeing, and your family, colleagues, and clients will appreciate it!
So far, these guidelines have been working for me most of the time, but of course, life is never perfect. I still find myself running around like a chicken without a head quite frequently because things ALWAYS pop up unexpectedly, but that’s just life!