5 tried and tested ways to maximise family time if you're a working mum
As much as I LOVE my job and adore being able to combine motherhood and my career, the bit that also sucks about being a working mum is the simple fact that when I am at work, I am not spending time with my children. In other words, having my cake and scoffing it too is tough going at times.
But learning how to make the best of the time I DO have with my snugglebugs is a work in progress, and so I have put some great working-mum hacks in place at our house, all helping me maximize the amount of time I get to spend with them every week. All the while still getting to do the paid work that I both need and love in equal measure.
So if you too are in my shoes, here are five simple ways to squeeze as much kid-time into your work week as humanly possible (ah, the snuggles!):
1. Go grocery shopping AFTER bedtime on a weeknight
For ages, we were caught in the habit of doing our grocery shopping for the week on the weekend, usually Sunday. This meant either bringing the kids, which, if you have young children, you will know is an absolute recipe for disaster. Or, leaving the children at home/in the park/at the playground with the other half while I raced around Tesco and M&S throwing a week worth of groceries into the trolley while wishing I was on the swings with my 2-year-old or watching my 5-year-old ride her new bike.
But to NOT have to compromise on family weekend-time, I have now started going grocery shopping on a Monday night instead, AFTER I have read stories, tucked them in and kissed them goodnight. This is an AWESOME solution. Not only are the shops far less busy on a Monday night than on a Sunday afternoon (no deli lines people!!), but I can actually think about what I need since I'm not throwing Pringles or iPhones at my children to keep them from terrorizing other customers. Try it out, and I guarantee you will never go back to weekend shopping.
2. Make a weeknight cleaning schedule
Before, I used to see the weekends as a chance to catch up on all the housework I DIDN'T do during the week. Which, in fairness, was a lot. But now we have rocked things around a bit, and are trying to have "clean-free weekends", where instead of hanging up washing and doing the ironing and trying to get tomato sauce stains off the wooden floors, we spend all waking hours together as a family. It is BLISS.
But since we are a while off being able to afford someone cleaning our house and doing the washing for us, this also meant that my other half and I had to come up with ways to get the cleaning done during the week. Preferably after the kids were in bed, as to not have the cleaning eat into our afternoon time with them. So now we have this semi-strict rota in place of what gets done which weeknight evening, ranging from washing and ironing to cleaning the floors and bathrooms.
It's not a completely fool-proof system, and there are Sunday afternoons where, after play-dates and baking and brunch visits, we have to get the mop out to give the floors a going over, but it does mean that at large, our weekends are mostly cleaning free. And we are loving it.
3. Work out early or late
For me to feel well and in my happy place, I need to squeeze in some time in my week to work out. The same goes for my other half. And not only that, it is important to us that our children see that making time for your health is important. But in order for it not to take up too much of that precious afternoon-time, my other half and I have been trying to get creative about when we get that work-out in.
We tend to alternate days, which works great. And me being a morning person and him the total opposite, this usually works by me squeezing in a 7am run or kettle-bells class at my local gym before work, as he does the drop-offs, and him heading out for a run or five-a-side game of football after the kids are in bed.
If you work near a gym or yoga studio, or even if you just like a brisk walk as your method of exercising, there is also the option to try and squeeze this into your day during lunch break. It IS important to make time for yourself and your health as a parent, and sometimes all it takes to make this happen is a little flexibility and re-arranging of schedules.
4. Late night blow dries or catch up with friends
In an ideal world, I would get my hair blow-dried daily, but since this in reality is financial light years away from happening, I happily settle for once a fortnight. But instead of trying to get this done on a Saturday morning, when I really want to be taking my little girl to her ballet class, I have started going on a Thursday night, when my local Peter Marks stays open until 9pm. That way, I get to do bedtime and stories and snuggles before I have to skip out the door for some much-needed pamper-time. And my other half will no doubt survive two lonely dinners a month – in fact; I suspect he sees it as much of treat as I do with the hair. He can eat dinner on the sofa with the sport on TV blaring and his nose in his phone. It's a win-win.
This later-in-the-night rule also goes for meeting the book-club or seeing an old friend; I now tend to pencil it in for after 8.30 at night, knowing that I can tuck the kiddos in and THEN do grown-up mum things. Balance, girls. It's all about balance.
5. Bring in a "No Phones Until After Bedtime" rule
At my nieces creche in Oslo there is a giant sign on the front door that reads: "Dear parents: You are about the have the most important meeting of your day. Please switch off your phones and be present." These words have, since I collected the girls there on my last visit, stuck with me and made me bring a "No Phones Until After Bedtime" rule into our own house too.
Now, when we enter the house after having collected the kids from creche and after-school in the afternoons, I turn the volume down my phone and leave it on a shelf in the hallway. There it will remain until after the children are asleep. This, I fully believe, has given me SO much more time in our afternoons. It is only when you abstain from doing it that you will realise just how time-consuming keeping up with social media and celebrity news and other online tidbits really is.
I also want more than anything for my children to feel that when I am with them, whether we eat dinner or do a puzzle or watch an episode of Dora and Friends, that I am actually with them, that I see them and listen to them, without a phone in my hand or the iPad open on the table.
So there you have it, my five (so far!) tried and tested mum-hacks for making sure my children will always feel I prioritised time with them while also holding down my job. Sometimes it only takes a few small changes to your routine to make a big difference when it comes to getting more time together as a family, especially when mum and dad both work.