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Does the thought of returning to work scare the wits out of you? Have you already returned to work and are struggling to keep it together? Here are some lessons I learned the hard way to make sure I was a functional working mum.

Functional working mum tip #1: Know what your work obligations are

Your boss may offer you flexible working arrangements, such as flexible office hours, or work at home times, but keep these for emergencies, such as sick kids. Keep to the hours you work in the work and stick to it. This will make the rest of your life so much easier. Your entire routine will be thrown out of order if you continuously stay late and therefore delay the rest of your day.

Work obligations

I plan my workday out and cross everything on my checklist. If there’s something leftover, it carries over to the next day.

The key here is to allow plenty of time to meet deadlines at work so you don’t feel obligated to spend hours after your nominated finish time in the office.

Learning to say ‘No’ (in a constructive way) or to compromise will make life so much easier both at work and when you leave for the day. Something like “I cannot guarantee that I can get this finished by x due to my own work commitments, but I can do y.” when you’re asked to do additional work.

Setting boundaries from the start make it so much easier to maintain a work-life balance.

Functional working mum tip #2: Meal plan.

Who wants to be known as the ‘organised mum’? I think all semi-functional working mums aspire to be the ‘organised mum’.

You have to be, otherwise, everything falls apart… especially when it comes to meal times.

We have a weekly meal planner to help us stay on track. This helps make the leaving work, picking Ella up from daycare and cooking dinner part of the day so much easier.

Most of the time it’s a matter of, once we get home at 5pm, chopping all the vegetables and meat (if I didn’t cut them and store on the weekend) and cooking the meal. I cannot function without my meal plan. It makes food shopping easier, it makes meals during the week easier. I think I will continue to meal plan once I’m on maternity leave with #2.

Functional working mum tip #3: Have a morning and evening routine with the kids.

Kids thrive on routine.

If they know what comes next in their day, you’re likely to avoid timely arguments about something they don’t want to do.

Straight after dinner, we clean the kitchen while Ella has a shower and then it’s story time before bed. We also have a weekly routine. Thursday nights are for grocery shopping, while Friday’s nights are for the trip back home after picking Ella up from my mum’s. Ella knows that daycare days are “dinner, shower, story, bedtime” nights.

Functional working mum tip #4: Make time for mommy dates with the kids.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a babycino with marshmallows at the kitchen table while we chat about anything and everything. But making special one-on-one time with kids helps them feel connected to you and that connection helps deal with any issues that might come up throughout their day/week.

I’ve found that setting specific mummy dates also helped me alleviate some of my “mummy guilt” about being a working mum. It’s all about quality time rather than quantity of time spent with kids. However, you can’t “buy” quality time with gifts to compensate for lack of presence.

When I was a stay at home mum, the time I spent with Ella wasn’t necessarily quality. I was bored at home, I just did housework and spent time with her around all of that. I struggled to provide a thriving and stimulating environment for her and as a result, we both struggled. Being a working mum has forced me to realise what’s important.

Fifteen minutes of hugs on the couch or a quick chat at breakfast make all the difference for kids.

Being a time-poor working mum forces you to seek meaningful interactions with the kids, rather than taking the interactions for granted because you have all the time in the world.

Meaningful interactions with kids make all the difference and as long as you have those, it doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom, working mom or a work-at-home mom. It definitely makes me a more functional working mum because I don’t feel racked with guilt constantly about work. And it’s these lessons that I learned as a working mum that will allow me to continue the meaningful interactions once I am on maternity leave.

Functional working mum tip #5: Have a cleaning schedule.

If you’re not up for hiring a cleaner (I’m not at a stage where I want to justify the expense), then have a weekly and monthly cleaning schedule.

Allocate each monthly task a day of the week within the month and allocate it to a particular family member. Then decide which day of the week is best for your family to do the weekly cleaning tasks.

Allocate weekly tasks to all family members so everyone pulls their weight.

By breaking your cleaning schedule down in manageable tasks each day, you won’t need to spend one of your precious weekend days doing a big clean. I’ve used both printables and a digital planner to schedule cleaning in. If you’re not up for a printable one – Cozi is a fantastic app to keep track of it all.
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Functional working mum tip #6: Get into a good sleep routine.

I swear by going to bed at the same time each night. I might stretch it an hour later on weekends and sleep an hour later but a general routine is fantastic for combating drowsiness. Especially if you’re like me and have to be up for work by 5am and out the door by 6am. Once your circadian rhythm is regular, you should have mornings down pat, which should make you a more functional working mum.

Related post: 5 hacks to make your morning routine a breeze.

5 easy hacks to make your morning routine a breeze

I actually go as far as tracking my sleep cycles now. For the longest time, I never slept well and I wanted to see what my night actually looked like.

Most activity trackers, such as a Fitbit or Garmin can track your sleeping patterns to help you figure out where you’re going wrong if you are waking more tired than when you went to sleep.

Functional working mum tip #7: Don’t hit the snooze button

I used to be a shocker for this. Especially in the first trimester of pregnancy when I needed to take ondansetron just to get out of bed (or else I wouldn’t stop vomiting).

But hitting snooze and potentially sending yourself into another sleep cycle can send your body into a sleepy spiral and make you groggy and disorientated as you get ready for the day.

An article I read on the Huffington Post also mentions how hitting snooze can throw out your natural waking times.

Not exactly what you want if you want to be a functional working mum.

Let me know what are your favourite tips for being a sane and organised mum. And don’t forget to download my printable pack to help you be a more functional working mum.
7 ways working mums can be more functional

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