Motherhood can be challenging for many women, but there’s an added level of stress for working mothers.
As Annabel Crabb says in her book, The Wife Drought;
“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”
A recent survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, determined that most Moms feel rushed a lot of time, in particular, working Moms, and a huge 40% of moms asked reported that they feel rushed all of the time. On top of that, the same mums questioned also report that they feel that they aren’t spending enough time with their kids, with 6 in 10 Mums saying that balancing work life and family life is difficult.
“Working mothers (60%) are somewhat more likely than fathers (52%) to say it’s difficult for them to balance work and family, and this is particularly the case for mothers who work full time. In fact, one-in-five full-time working moms say balancing the two is very difficult for them, compared with 12% of dads who work full time and 11% of moms who work part-time.”
I am one of those mums. I run my own business working from home. I want to build it into something I’m really very proud of. I decided I needed a change of pace, so, two years ago, I quit my high-pressure job to take the leap of faith and start my own VA business. My son was just 3 months old at the time.
Working from home is great; there’s no way I ever want to go back to working in an office. There are many advantages to working from home, especially if you have a young family, but, working from home can, at times, be tricky waters to navigate. It brings certain challenges and it can be difficult to set the boundaries that are necessary for a good work/life balance.
Over the last 2 years working from home whilst raising my family, I have found it challenging at times, just like the many other working mums, however, I have developed a few strategies to help me overcome the challenges, reduce the stress, and give me meaningful time to focus on my family.
Here are my top tips for working from home with children (in no particular order):
I don’t know about you, but I instantly feel like a whole new person after a hot, refreshing shower. It can be a quick 5 minutes, or a longer, relaxing scrub – either one will leave you feeling refreshed, re-energised, and ready to take on the day. On days where I’m super busy, instead of bathing Bub, we jump in the shower together, killing two birds with one stone. This is such an easy tip to add to your day. It’s a really nice, close way of spending time with your little one and is an efficient way of looking after yourself. So often we, as Mums, look after everyone else and have no energy left for ourselves at the end of the day. Finding ways to look after ourselves is important too.
2. Me Time.
Early mornings or late night – Time for Me. I say either because it’s not every week my toddler sleeps in or goes to bed on time. The key is to adapt. Don’t be too rigid in your approach – if you do, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Flexibility in your routine will decrease the pressure on you, which, in turn, decreases the feeling of stress you put yourself under. It is so important to have some quiet time to yourself. I’m a morning person – I wake up at 6 am, before the rest of my family, which gives me some quiet time; time to catch up on my emails and have my coffee whilst it’s hot before doing the morning mom duties for my son. I also enjoy reading, journaling, and have recently jumped on the post cast wagon (which I will be sharing my favorites soon – watch this space!) Be sure to find time for the activities you love to do too. You matter! I utilise nap times and will usually schedule zoom or phone calls in the afternoons when my son sleeps to give me less distractions, although we all know that doesn’t always go to plan!
3. Tidy up before bed.
This is one habit I had to work on, but I’m glad I did. A messy house and a sink full of dishes greeting you good morning is not a great start to your day – it will create a negative feeling which can influence and impact the rest of your day. Try to start each day with a positive mind! You will find that your days will be much more positive. I now make an extra effort to clear the dishes whilst hubby does a quick tidy and vacuum in an evening. That’s another important factor – remember to share the load, where possible!
4. Lower your standards.
Your home is not a show house; it’s lived in and, naturally, it will look like it’s lived in. For me, if my house has toys everywhere at the end of the day, I feel satisfied that both me and my toddler have had a good day. We’ve had time to play, time together. By changing your mindset and seeing that mess as proof of time spent with your family, rather than a chore to be done, you can re-frame the task of tidying in a more positive light. Perspective makes a difference.
5. Have a dedicated workspace.
I’m so lucky to have a home office now, but that wasn’t always the case. During the early years of my business, we were sharing a house with family, which meant that my husband, child and I were confined to our bedroom – I had to make do with working from my dresser. I made the best out of the situation. Now, some days I will work in the backyard whilst my son plays, others I might work from the dining table, but where possible, I work from my office. That way, I have a clear distinction between work time and playtime, and when it’s playtime I can really be present and enjoy it. Working from home can distort the boundaries of work vs home life. It can be difficult to switch between the two, finding yourself working more than you would than if you worked from an office. Be mindful to stick to your schedule. Working in a dedicated room allows you to shut the door when the work is done, leaving it closed until the next day, and leaving you focused and present with your family.
6. Outsource, outsource.
For me, I don’t enjoy bookkeeping so that was the first thing to go as soon, as I was able. Recognize what tasks you are good at, acknowledge which you aren’t and outsource the task you aren’t so good at, where you can. Remember, we can’t be good at everything, so it’s really beneficial to delegate those tasks that we can’t satisfy so well to someone who can. We all have different strengths. By working to our strengths, we will enjoy our days more, and the work we produce will be of a higher standard all round.
7. Learn to say no (nicely but firmly).
One of the silver linings of Covid-19 restrictions is you don’t have to make up an excuse as to why you can’t do something that involves leaving the house! However, it is important to remember you don’t have to commit to everything just because you are asked. You are able and free, to say No. This is an area I have struggled with personally, as do many other women. I would feel guilt, feel the need to justify myself each time, or would push myself to the limit by not saying no, just so I didn’t disappoint, pushing myself to a burn-out point. It’s called “Superwomen Syndrome”. Women are wired to say Yes. We try to do it all, in a need to constantly prove ourselves. It’s not sustainable! It hurts personal boundaries and is a disservice to all involved. If something is distracting or taking you away from your plans/purposes, learn to say no thank you!
Choose your own well-being over the pressure to say Yes. It will be hard at first, but like anything, the more you do it, the easier it will get, and you will certainly feel the benefit.
8. Be kind to yourself.
The world is full of images of the “perfect women” – a physique only 5% of woman have. Added to this, magazines are full of unflattering pictures of celebrities with articles and headlines dedicated to shaming them for not looking perfect, kept, polished at all times. TV shows playing around the clock offer a huge misrepresentation of the world we live in. The message being that if we don’t look a certain way, live a certain way, act a certain way, there is something wrong with us. It can be hard, as a woman, to not succumb to the pressure to live up to these unrealistic standards that are thrown in our face every waking moment of our lives.
It’s not surprising to hear that 90% of 15–17-year-old girls want to change at least one aspect of their appearance (according to statistic brain).
The outlook we are trained to have on our bodies, our life isn’t healthy. We need to be kind to ourselves. We need to recognise and re-frame our qualities, our strengths, our achievements. We need to accept and love our bodies, just as they are. Those stretch marks – they are from growing and giving life to your child. Those wrinkles – you mean laughter lines from living a life full of joy and love. You need to accept the real you, warts and all, and accept your whole self with compassion. You must be willing to see your flaws in a different light. They aren’t flaws, imperfections – they are part of you! They represent a memory and experience.
Retrain your inner dialogue to speak only words of kindness to yourself. Be aware, and when that inner voice is throwing shade your way, silence it and take back control.
9. Take your breaks!
Grab a 10-minute coffee break around mid-morning. Have a real lunch break and go outside, if possible; we get a boost of vitamin D from the sunshine, which is great for our bodies and our minds. Being outside is good for our bones, our teeth, and our muscles. It builds and improves our resilience against illness. It even helps to lower our blood pressure, so there are plenty of good reasons to move away from your workspace, get outside and breathe in the fresh air in the sunshine every day!
10. Move your body.
I try to take time for myself in the morning with a light exercise routine. It helps me get energized for the day. Exercise is good for the body and the mind – it gets those happy chemicals flowing, dopamine, and the serotonin, the ones that boost our moods to make us feel good. It also increases your energy levels, so it will set you up for an enthusiastic day. You don’t need to be an expert and you certainly don’t need any fancy equipment. I follow different YouTube exercise videos, from HIIT to cardio – anything that can be done in my living room, I do it. There’s so much out there from free tutorials and classes on YouTube, to online e-classes on Facebook, there is something to suit everyone’s pace and requirements, and best of all – you can access a lot of it for free!
11. Use your slow cooker.
You’re probably sick of me going on and on about my slow cooker but it’s a time saver! It’s not very often I feel like cooking from scratch after a tough day of work and running after the toddler. I throw everything in my slow cooker in the morning and by early evening, I have dinner sorted and can be present with my family. They are the easiest option for a healthy, low effort, meal for the family.
12. Flexible working.
Work during hours that suit you and your family arrangements. When I first started working as a VA, I made myself too available. I quickly learned that this was not sustainable; it sets unrealistic expectations. Now, I’m clear about my availability, and, as with any line of work I am flexible, but I’m not available on call 24/7. The world has changed lots over the last decade. We no longer live in a world that works from 9 am until 5 pm – modern technology, connectivity, and family values now mean that we have the possibility to work when we choose.
I know I am at my most effective, my most productive, early in the day. I also know that I like to get an early night; I’m usually ready for bed come 8:30 pm, so working late in the day does not get the best results from me. Knowing this about myself means that I can schedule my work around the hours I am most productive, knowing when I will produce the best results. Know your own pattern, consider your commitments, and think about your family life and how it fits together, but above all, keep your schedule flexible.
Rigidity will bring stress, potential clashes, and disruption, but flexibility will allow you to work around any last-minute challenges that crop up.
Be a kid again; let your hair down. My son loves to dance around, literally, from the moment he wakes up until the time he falls asleep. So, I make a point of joining him, at least, once a day. We turn on the music and dance like no-ones watching, totally oblivious to the world around us – all that matters is us two being together, moving to the beat. It’s even more special when my husband is around. Our dances bring us closer as a family, allow us to express ourselves and is fun! These are moments I will cherish forever.
It’s important to remember that what works for one family may not work for another, so take everything with a grain of salt.
If it’s been a tough day, one of those days. don’t beat yourself up. We all have them. We are all just doing the best with what we have been given. It’s important to not compare our lives with others, as, frankly, most of the pics you see on social media are far from reality! Social media shows us the good bit – but even they have a filter on. Again, they are unreachable standards. Behind the picture is just another Mum, trying her best, looking at a floor covered in toys, wondering when the last time she sat down was too.
Talking is good. Express your feelings, don’t repress them. Give yourself permission to open up about being overwhelmed and, if you don’t have immediate families to talk to, there’s a lot of mental health support available to you. Don’t suffer in silence. Asking for help does not mean you are weak.
It takes courage to ask for help and it takes a strong person to accept their situation and realize they could use a hand. It’s OK to not be OK.
There’s no doubt that, due to Covid-19, many people could use a helping hand due to added pressure during these challenging times.
No matter how you’re feeling, don’t ever be afraid to reach out. There is always someone you can talk to, who won’t judge you and who will understand.
Hang in there Mumma, you’re doing a great job!
Here are some great services available to you and your loved ones:
- Corona virus Mental Well-being Support Service For support, call: 1800 512 348.
- For info and advice on looking after your mental health, you can visit: beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline Australia provides 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
If you need crisis support, please call: 13 11 14
- Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is passionate about releasing people from a life of debt, poverty and its causes. Call: 1300 227 000
- Bridges Counselling is a team of professional Psychologists and counselors offering services in mental health, women’s issues, anxiety/depression and more.
Call :02 9683 1444 (Open 6 days, 8 am to 9 pm)
Ref: Parker, K., Horowitz, J. M., & Rohal, M. (2015). Raising kids and running a household: How working parents share the load. Pew Research Center.(Crabb, 2015)
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