We all know Dolly Parton sang about working 9 to 5, but what happens when 5pm rolls around, then you start your next shift as Mum?
Sure, being a busy working mum can be a juggle, but it can also be a super rewarding lifestyle that many mums are choosing out of preference, not just necessity.
Whatever your reason for being a working mum, it helps to focus on the task at hand, remember your priorities, and work together with the people around you.
However much you see about the stereotypical working mum running herself into the ground, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Here are some of our best life hacks and top tips for working mums.
In this article: 📝
- How can working mums make life easier?
- How can I be a successful working mum?
- What do working mums struggle with?
- How do working mums get everything done?
- How do working mums survive?!
- How do I take care of myself as a working mum?
- Is it OK to be a working mum?
How can working mums make life easier?
To answer this question, it helps to think first about how you want your working mum life to look for you and your family.
Discuss your hopes with your partner or family.
Your priorities might look different from other mums’ priorities.
Once you know what’s most important to you, you can strategise about how to fit those things into your life more easily.
For example, if family dinner every night is your top priority, maybe you can prep meals on the weekends to make it easier to get dinner on the table on weeknights.
How can I be a successful working mum?
First up, there’s no such thing as an unsuccessful working mum!
‘Success’ means so many different things to different mums.
Success could be getting the kids out for school on time.
Success could be rescheduling that work meeting so you can go to your kid’s parent-teacher conference.
Success could be your child asking what you do for work, saying that’s what they want to do when they grow up.
There’s no ‘right’ way to be a working mum.
Our tip? Have a think about what success means for you ‒ as a mum, an employee or boss, and as a person separate from those other titles ‒ and break down what that means for you.
Finding a work-life balance that works for you and your family is an amazing achievement, and often comes down to planning, and having realistic expectations!
What do working mums struggle with?
It’s hard to pinpoint specific things working mums can find challenging ‒ what one working mum finds a struggle, another might see as a welcome challenge.
We all have different thresholds for what we struggle with, there’s no universal baseline for this.
But, according to MALTESERS® LET’S LIGHTEN THE LOAD White Paper, there are four key areas where working mums can find things difficult.
Motherhood is a whole new ballgame, so it’s only natural to find that some parts of yourself have changed.
Different priorities, challenges, and even personality traits can be discovered when you become a mother.
It can be hard for working mums to bring their authentic selves to the office with these different priorities, challenges, and personality traits.
One working mum in the study shared her story: “I definitely mask at work; I don’t show my real self. One staff member came back from maternity leave after I did and she was crying in a team meeting for being blamed for stuff. People spoke behind her back afterwards, ‘She’s hormonal, she’s always crying.’ It makes me feel like I can’t be like that at work as they are not very compassionate.”
2. Home life
Ah, the myth of the work-life balance.
Sure, there might be the odd day where everything feels perfect ‒ family happy and healthy, work busy but manageable.
But, let’s face it, a constant work-life balance for working mums is often an unattainable goal.
As MALTESERS explain it, “working mums are frequently pulled in all directions and often feel that they are letting everyone down.”
The reality might not even be that you’re letting anyone down, but that mum guilt) can creep up even when it feels like you’re on top of everything.
After all, the study showed that 79% of UK working mums feel guilty for “not spending enough time with thrift children”, but at the same time, 56% of working mums in the UK also “feel guilty about not working enough”.
Ultimately, there’s always going to be something you’re ‘missing out on’.
But the reality is that’s pretty much what parenthood looks like ‒ you can’t always be there for them, all of the time.
You are your own person, too.
Ugh. We’ve all been there ‒ it can start as early as when you’re even trying to conceive, through pregnancy, motherhood, and beyond.
The unsolicited advice. Those snarky comments. Those judgemental eyes.
As MALTESERS put it, “everyone has a view on parenting and it’s not always helpful”. Too true.
We’re told to ignore all the ‘shoulds’ we hear, but, honestly, that takes a lot to do. And ignoring them doesn’t mean we don’t still hear them.
Social media doesn’t help, either ‒ we’re bombarded with “unrealistic images of groomed and gorgeous mums running their own businesses from show-home settings with angelic children in their laps”, when we know that’s not the full picture.
But even if we logically know it’s not real, it doesn’t stop us from seeing it and feeling like we’re not meeting expectations.
Flexibility can look different to different working mums ‒ working from home, flexible hours, part-time, shifts - but they’re not always possible.
Roles based in healthcare, retail, and education are trickier to negotiate flexibility for working mums ‒ and they “overwhelmingly employ women”.
So that can contribute to the struggles working mums feel regularly.
How do working mums get everything done?
Spoiler alert: many working mums would probably admit to not getting everything done.
Work out your absolute non-negotiables for the day, aside from your essential work tasks, and anything else you get done is a bonus.
If it’s not important, it can wait.
And talk to other working mums about it ‒ it can help to know you’re not alone.
How do working mums survive?!
Chatting with your fellow working mums in the Peanut community is a great way to find out what works for others, and how you might be able to incorporate some other hot tips for working mums with babies into your routine.
(And in the absence of any practical advice, there’s always coffee, wine, cheesecake, Love Island…. Whatever keeps you going!)
How do I take care of myself as a working mum?
Let’s dive into some of the best advice for working mums, from working mums who are right there with you.
1. Have a plan for every day
Using a large family calendar that everyone can see means everyone knows the plan for the week, and it can be easily checked or added to when a last-minute invite crops up.
If you’d rather keep things between the parents, using an app where you can both add in your work schedule and any other after-hours activities will help you prepare for an occasional solo-parenting evening, or make time for a date night.
Some working mums also find that ‘planning backwards’ can help ‒ get the ‘end goal’ in sight, whether it’s dropping your child off at nursery, getting them to bed, getting them fed, then break down all the tasks it takes to get to that, allowing enough time for each of them.
2. Choose your childcare carefully
It really helps to be happy with who’s looking after your baby when you’re at work.
Tour daycare facilities before finalising your choice, and check out local nannies who may be more flexible with early morning starts or late finishes if you have a long working day.
If your family will be looking after your baby, have a chat about your working hours to lessen any chance of conflicting schedules.
If your child is of school age, check out what before- and after-school care options are available.
3. Meal prep
When you have time, it’s helpful to do some bulk cooking.
Meals like lasagne can be portioned and frozen to whip out at the last minute.
If you’re making a salad or pasta dish, make double so it can be lunch the next day too.
Preparing lunch boxes and breakfasts the night before will save you precious time in the mornings.
A slow cooker might become your new best friend.
4. Keep a to-do list
Unloading your whirling brain onto a daily or weekly to-do list of essentials can help clear your mind and allow you to concentrate on whatever you’re trying to get done.
Keeping a small-ish notebook on you, even when you’re on the go, is a great way to dump all the things in your mind so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do them.
All you need to remember is where your notebook is!
5. Teach independence early
As soon as your children are old enough, consider giving them some basic household chores. This helps teach them responsibility and takes some of the work off your plate!
For the youngest family members, this might mean tidying their toys into a basket when they’re done.
Older kids might be able to make their bed or set the table for dinner.
All stuff you then don’t have to spend time on.
6. Be realistic with your working hours
When approaching your return to work, dig into your employer’s policies around flexible working so you know what you’re entitled to ask for.
Have open conversations with your boss around your working hours, and try to stick to a plan that will make your life easier.
7. Say “No”
Just because you’re trying to do all the things, it doesn’t mean you have to sign up for every school committee or attend every childcare activity day.
At the same time, if a work project requires too much time or travel commitment, consider whether you really need to take it on.
No one can do everything.
8. Outsource chores
If you can afford to financially, get someone to do the stuff you hate doing or that takes up precious family time at the weekend.
Whether it’s hiring a regular cleaner, or finding someone on an ad-hoc basis to run errands ‒ this might not be an option for some lower-income families, but it’s well worth looking into, it’s often not as pricey as you think it’s going to be.
Shop for groceries online to be delivered.
Future-you will thank you for it.
9. Plan things to look forward to
Try to avoid burnout and the daily grind getting on top of you by planning a family day trip, movie night, date night, or some self-care.
Having something to look forward to will make all your hard work so worth it.
Everyone needs sleep ‒ it’s a fundamental building block to our ability to function well.
Prioritising your sleep ‒ vs TV, social media, or a late-night work project ‒ is just as important for you as it is for your kids.
So grab an early night when you can!
11. Remember you’re only human
On the outside, other working mums might look like they’ve got their sh*t much more together than you, but who cares?!
You’re only human and some days will be a hot mess, and other days you will feel on top of the world!
The most important thing is that you’re doing what’s best for you and your family.
You got this, mama.
Is it OK to be a working mum?
Yes ‒ we can’t stress that enough!
It’s all about your choices, your circumstances, your emotions, and your family ‒ being a working mum isn’t right for everyone, but if it’s right for you, then it’s the best way you can be a mum.
So if you’re a working mum and you’re after more tips on how to organise and prioritise, or you just want to share your feelings, you’re always welcome to join our working mums on Peanut.
You’re going great.
MALTESERS, in partnership with Comic Relief, is working towards a future where women no longer face injustice. Together, we’re working to lighten the load for working mums and help women thrive.
Find out more about this: www.maltesers.co.uk/lighten-the-load
Comic Relief is working with organisations in the UK and around the world to help women thrive. Organisations like Women’s Lives Leeds, who run the Women Friendly Leeds movement working to empower women to lead safer, healthier, equal and more fulfilled lives. https://womenfriendlyleeds.org
Mars Wrigley is donating £500,000 in 2023 to Comic Relief, operating name of Charity Projects, registered charity in England & Wales (326568) and Scotland (SC039730)