It’s the one day that every new mom dreads: the day you have to rely on someone else to take care of your little baby; the day you have to go back to work. I remember crying for days, no, weeks, before going back to work. Not only was I anxious about not being there for my little Bean 24/7, I was worried that I would never be able to do it all in one day. How was I going to manage our household, be a mom, a wife and go to work? At that stage I was at home all day and I was barely able to put dinner on the table, let alone get dressed (nicely, not simply leggings and a t-shirt), work (well) and still take care of the Bean and my husband.
Luckily I did survive and although I struggled in the beginning, I did learn to manage it all. Here is my list of survival hacks:
Plan and plan and then…plan some more
Being a working mom is hard and there are a lot of things one needs to juggle. In my experience, the only way to manage all these things is to be organised:
Set up a detailed meal plan and a detailed routine for the baby as well as for the rest of the family. Plan your shopping trips in advance and always go with a list (there is nothing worse than forgetting something and having to go back). Whether you have a cleaning lady or not, set up a cleaning schedule as well as a schedule for family chores.
Whatever needs to be done: it needs to be planned and put in a schedule. Write the schedules down and make sure that everyone involved is following them.
Online shopping is officially my new best friend. After I set up my meal plan, I make a shopping list and I order what I need online. When doing this, I take into consideration the time it takes to deliver so I never order at the last minute (again, it’s all planned). I also buy all our clothes online.
A big positive for this type of shopping is that I am not rushed (so I do not forget things) and I do not buy unnecessary things while browsing (saving money). Best of all is that I can do this in the comfort of my own home, in front of the TV, with a glass of wine in hand.
Do a little every day
One of my Gran’s favourite sayings is: ’Was du heute kannst besorgen, das schiebe nicht auf morgen’ which translated means: ‘never push onto tomorrow what can be done today’. It does not help to procrastinate as tomorrow will have a whole new set of priorities which will need to be attended to.
So, I do small things every day: for example, I do a small load of washing every day while washing up bottles (to prevent it from turning into a huge pile which will take days to wash, dry and iron), I wipe the counters every time after cooking or preparing something in the kitchen and I pack toys away as they have been played with. These small actions take hardly any time at all and just keep everything neat and tidy and organised.
I prefer to make home cooked meals for my son and while I was on maternity leave I had enough time to cook separate food for him. Now however, time for cooking is limited and so I plan our meals in such a way that whatever I cook for my husband and I, can be given to Bean as well. It means that often our food can be slightly bland but a little bit of salt and pepper can fix a lot.
There are of course meals for Bean which we do not necessarily want to eat ourselves and meals for us which he cannot eat – so for these meals, I cook in bulk and freeze. For the bulk cooks I also buy all the vegetables pre-cut to save time.
Have a support structure
I have a domestic helper and nanny to look after Bean and to help around the house while I am at work. She is a huge help and luckily Bean loves her.
We also stay very close to my husband’s family so if the nanny is sick, or my husband and I are both stuck at work, there are enough people in close proximity who can help.
Establish boundaries at work
Before I was a mom, I was always working until late at night or on the weekends. After Bean was born however, I soon realised that I simply could not work longer hours than necessary as I now have a family to take care of at home. I of course still work to the best of my ability while at work, but when it is time to go home, it is time to go home. My family is simply more important and I have accepted that I cannot put all my energy into building a career and into being a mom at the same time.
Be flexible with your working hours
Having flexible working hours is of course not always possible but having a baby brings with it certain time related problems at work (for example the baby is sick and needs to go to a doctor in working hours). In times like these it is important as an employee (and an employer) to be flexible. In the example at hand, you could take your child to the doctor and work from home for the rest of the day, or you could work in a couple of extra hours at night after the baby is asleep. Either way, be flexible with your time, making sure that your work is done.
As clichéd as this may sound, going back to work and by default leaving your baby in the care of someone else is hard, no matter what the circumstances. It is hard trusting somebody else with a life you hold so dear, it is hard realising that you will not always be able to be there when the baby needs you and it is really hard to know that you will possibly miss out on a number of firsts. In order to prevent this situation from becoming more difficult (for yourself and your baby) than it already is, it is important to stay strong, push through and adapt – it will get easier.