If you’re facing the end of your maternity leave, chances are you’ve found childcare and discussed your imminent return with your co-workers. But have you really considered the ins and outs of what it means to be a working mom, and how you’ll handle the various—and often conflicting—demands of being a career woman and a mother?
From getting out the door in the morning with your sanity intact, to how to handle the inevitable days when your child is sick, read on for important tips on how to juggle work and family.
Lay out your next-day outfit before going to bed.
Until you’ve had to shower, do your hair, and feed, clothe, and change a fussy baby—all while keeping an eye on the ticking clock—you’ll never really appreciate how simply having to choose what to wear can put you over the edge. So, eliminate one of those stressors by getting your clothes ready the night before. And while you’re at it, leave your shoes, keys and purse at the front door—along with your well-stocked and pre-packed diaper bag, if your child is in daycare outside your home—so you don’t have to hunt for them during the morning rush.
Don’t prep your snacks in the morning.
Does the thought of juggling a crying baby while trying to slice vegetables sound like fun? Even though it’s probably the last thing you want to do after a long day, try to take a few minutes after your child is in bed to prepare your snacks and lunch for the next day. Extra points if you can prep an entire week’s worth of vegetables over the weekend—store each day’s fixings in their own airtight container in the fridge so they’re ready to go.
Make a list of people to call when—not if—your child gets sick.
Sure, the best option is for you or your partner to be able to stay home with a child who’s ill, but if neither of you can work from home or take the day off, you need someone to call in a pinch. If grandparents or other extended family aren’t an option, perhaps you can call on a trusted neighbor or friend, or a tried-and-true sitter.
Grab some exercise at work.
Finding it hard to fit workouts into your hectic day? Leave a pair of running shoes at the office and head out for a walk at lunchtime. Yes, it can be tough to do in today’s hectic work culture, but if you establish your daily routine from the get-go, you’ll be more likely to stick to it—and your co-workers will come to expect it. Need more reason to lace up your shoes? Research has shown that participating in just 15 minutes of “relaxation exercise” during the workday, such as taking a walk in a park, brings a greater sense of well-being (read: less stress) at the end of the day.1
Give up control over your kids’ outfits.
Store this one for future use: Toddlers and preschoolers are notorious for wanting to put together their (often cringe-worthy) outfits. Rather than having to run to help your tot pull hangers off the out-of-reach closet rod, consider installing a second rod at kid-friendly height. Store the clothes you’d rather keep control over on the top rod and fill the bottom one with items that your little creative dresser can have free access to.
Leaving your baby to return to work can be an emotionally draining experience, and one that requires forethought and patience—and, often, creative solutions. Rest assured that it will get better with time … and until then, we hope these tips will make your days run just a little bit more smoothly.