Despite my best efforts, I’m completely trumped by mothers whose home are always neat and tidy. They are always well-groomed, poised and prepared. Their two or more kids are disciplined, well-mannered and accomplished. To top it off, these women work full-time, either holding prominent positions in distinguished companies or running their own businesses.
How do they do it? What’s their secret? Here are some strategies that I gleaned from my conversations with them.
Time is a precious commodity to any working mom. Good time management is synonymous with the ability to set goals and prioritize. Click here to find out how good is your time management skills. Also, check out these time management tips from Kelly Services.
2. Learn to Say No
With all the personal, family, professional and social commitments on your plate, time is a luxury that moms do not have. Set realistic boundaries on the time you can spare for work or play, and share how much time you have allotted to the activity. Sharon, a mother of two boys said that she always tell her colleagues how much time she has for the meeting or alert them by saying “can we wrap this up at 5pm?” For those of you who find it difficult to say ‘No’, you may find this excerpt from Professionalizing Motherhood helpful.
3. One Hat At A Time
It’s difficult to be mom and career woman at the same time. Many moms who rejoined the workforce initially find it difficult to straddle the two spheres. The trick is to focus on one at a time. Adelene, a mother of three and a lawyer who has a flexi-work arrangement with the government agency she works for, advises: “have clear child-free blocks of time to focus on work that you need to concentrate (eg. when the kids are in school or asleep at night) and have clear work-free blocks to focus on the kids.”
4. Focus On The Task At Hand
Mothers are the supreme goddesses when it comes to multitasking. Doing the marketing, sending kids to their extracurricular classes and shooting out professional emails – easy-peasy, RIGHT? Research shows that women feel stress when they try to do multiple things at once. They especially do not enjoy when their multi-tasking is a combination of work, household chores and child rearing. Studies are also showing that while some forms of multitasking are ok, doing too much at one time may lead one to become frazzled, make mistakes and eventually burn out (Source).
5. Get Organized
Most of the moms I spoke to agree that the secret to efficiency for busy moms is organization. Keep everything in their place. For example, paints, drawing paper and colouring tools are kept at the artwork corner while sports gear are kept in another. This reduces the amount of time spent searching for items. All members of the family should be aware and abide by the “rules of placement”. Cecilia, a PR professional, syncs her children’s activities with her work diary so that she is better able to plan and prioritize her schedule.
6. Delegate Tasks
As with any successful organization, find the right staff and train them to help you with the daily management of the kids and the house. Efficient moms have an entourage of people to help them – helpers, grandparents, aunties, friends, childcare, or network of mommies your children’s friends. So, create a network of people who can help you – have neighbours who will be happy to take your kids in for playdates a couple of times a week or friends who don’t mind ferrying your kids to and from activities. Corporate executive Stephanie Yu, admits that she is a weekend mum and is very grateful to her own mother who helps ferry her three girls aged 9 to 14 to their various social, enrichment, and after-school activities in the afternoons while she is at work.
7. Be Flexible And Creative
Organized moms share that keeping a sense of humour is a must, especially during trying times like learning homework or delays in schedules. Adelene shares that if you need to revise work with your kids, find interesting ways to do it “on the run” eg. singing the time-tables or spelling words in the car. She also does admin stuff like scheduling or making to-do lists during waiting time.
8. Discipline Your Kids
This is a tough one for many working moms who have to assuage their guilt of not spending enough time with their children. But moms of disciplined children know better. It takes MORE time to sort out episodes of a child’s temper tantrum than teaching and disciplining your kid to understand the consequences of misbehaviour. Kay, a marketing professional at an international IT firm shares when she and her husband work from home, their two girls, aged 5 and 10 understand and respect their parents’ working space. The girls have learned that when the office door is closed, mom and dad are working and they automatically switch to indoor voices.
9. Stress Relieving Strategies
With such a full-load on our plate, it is essential to have stress relieving strategies to help you stay sane. Sign up for meditation, yoga, or exercises classes. Have regular sex and maintain a healthy relationship with your family and friends. Time-saving means like cooking delicious meals with slow cookers or having groceries delivered to your home will also help to reduce stress. Sue, a businesswoman with 2 teenage daughters and a 9-year-old-son reveals that when she started her business 10 years ago, she had to work long hours and business travels come with the territory. She said she relied heavily on her helper at that time to supervise her kids. A good relationship with the kids, her helper and a healthy expectation helped her.
10. Go To Sleep
Moms don’t get enough sleep for obvious reasons – the kids wake up in the middle of the night and moms get to bed late, using this precious time for their personal downtime. But efficient moms know better. Sleep deprivation affects your physical and emotional wellbeing, and pose a real threat to your health. So, do yourself a favour, establish a good sleep routine and get your daily required dose of zzz.
There you have it. The secrets of a working mother and how she does it to have it all.