Typing “back to school” into Pinterest yielded the following panic-inducing results:
- 20 Easy Clean Eating Back-to-School Breakfast Recipes
- Create a Mobile Homework Station!
- 12 Back-to-School Hairstyles to Make Mornings a Breeze
- 40 Bento Lunchbox Ideas for Back-to-School
- 17 Study Tips That Will Get Your Kids Straight As!
In this back-to-school frenzy we have to ask… how are you doing, mama? Every August we are inundated with back-to-school tips, tricks, hacks, advice, and DIY projects that are “guaranteed” to make our kids emotionally articulate geniuses by October.
Enough, already. We’re parents: our entire lives are DIY projects. No one else is going to “DI” for us (can we make DIFU a thing?). We worry about our kids and forget about ourselves. With back-to-school comes a rigorous schedule of school, after-school activities, and shuttling our children to their social commitments while completely neglecting our own.
We do this while balancing careers, romance, friendships, and our personal care. Balance is what parents seek and crave more than anything. All too often when searching for tips on how to achieve balance, the “tips” are more things we need to be doing: spend Sunday prepping slow cooker meals, make a chore chart for everyone in the house, create and maintain a family calendar, have backpacks prepped the night before, AND don’t forget to make time for yourself, spend time with your partner, and exercise!
We scoured the web for the most practical advice we feel all overburdened moms, like ourselves, can benefit from as we collectively seek balance this fall.
The 5 Most Practical Tips for Balancing Work and Motherhood
1. Let the guilt go.
Easier said than done. Mom guilt creeps up on us when we’re having the worst days. Instead of beating yourself up, think about how your job benefits your family. Focus on:
- the example you’re setting for your kids by working hard to provide for your family. One day they might say they got their work ethic from you.
- how your job helps your family afford luxuries like living in a nice neighborhood, swim classes, educational opportunities, travel or emergency fund savings.
Accept the good and bad days and stay focused on your immediate priorities. Most importantly, remember that you’re not alone. It might be beneficial to join a local online support group for working moms struggling with the same issues. Check out Facebook and local mom blogs.
2. Communicate your needs to your employer.
If you know there’s a way to do your job well — or better! — with a more flexible, family-friendly schedule, draw up a plan and present it to your boss. If working mothers want to reshape the workplace, we’re going to have to be vocal and ask for the changes we need.
Go into the meeting with a clear and specific plan that includes a timetable. Find someone in management who is also a working mother and ask them to review your plan ahead of time to help you refine it. It can also be helpful to have a mentor to help you navigate your career.
3. Do less.
Simplify your family life by scaling back on activities and commitments. If your child is invited to two birthday parties in one weekend, pick one to attend. Two extracurricular activities are more than enough for kids. Keep an eye on both your children’s schedules and your own. Are you and your partner over-committing to school functions? If you feel the need to participate, pick two events to volunteer for each year. On that note, buying baked goods for a bake sale is a perfectly acceptable contribution.
4. Rethink your budget.
Go through your family’s budget line by line. Analyze your credit cards and see where all your money is going. Mint.com is a free app that helps you budget with ease. Spend money where it counts: on things and services that make your life easier.
Sometimes when you take a hard look at your budget, you will discover subscriptions on auto-pay that you forgot about. Maybe you’re spending too much on cable, which you might not use, and that money could be better spent on date nights with your partner, a housecleaning service, or takeout when you’re just too tired to cook.
5. Lower your expectations.
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Let it go. How clean does your house need to be? Do you need to do all those dishes tonight, after you’ve had a long day, or can they wait? Cut back on your standards and drop the cleaning, laundry, and house maintenance routines. Clean it when it’s dirty, do laundry when you feel it’s time, and mow the grass when it’s long.
A frozen veggie pizza is a perfectly healthy dinner option. An old fashioned PB&J and a juice box with an encouraging note might be more thoughtful than molding their lunches into the likeness of an octopus. A store-bought cake for a birthday party is fine. The beds don’t have to be made every day — or any day if you’re stressed to the max.
Our kids want us to be in the moment and enjoying ourselves and their company, not slaving away over a complex Pinterest tutorial worthy of Martha Stewart Magazine. That’s the best part of having a family of your own: they love and appreciate us for who we are. It’s time we took a look at what we’re doing and why we’re actually doing it. More joy, less scheduling!