Someone asked me the other day how long I had been back at work and without thinking I said three months and then it suddenly dawned on me it was almost six months! How did that happen so quickly and the first thing that came to my mind was, when was I going to get to the point where I found this all really difficult, hated it, wanted to sack my job in and all those other things that you expect when you think about going back to work. Yet for me they hadn’t happened and I slowly realised that it’s because I’ve given myself space and time and somehow I had survived, I was still standing, I hadn’t developed an alcohol habit or not seen my friends or family. Somehow miraculously I had made it, a key milestone in any working mums calendar and I am here, writing this blog to tell the tale, who would have thought.
Not only does this mark six months of being back at work, but also six months of my blog and with this also being my 25 blog post, I have to give myself a big tap on the back, open a bottle of champagne (okay maybe I have developed a penchant for a tipple, but I don’t go out as much) and celebrate! For any parent just going back to work, six months probably feels too big to comprehend, in fact a month back probably feels too far away, so I thought what would probably be helpful is writing down the things that have helped me and us as a family to get us here in one piece, one family, not on the verge of divorce and can even say I have had some brilliant nights out and holidays away, plus banked some amazing work experiences and moments.
Be organised and plan ahead
I have talked about this before, but being organised has kept me sane. It is a bit of a joke, but I have already planned out and allocated all of our holiday for next year. I know that doesn’t leave much room for being sporadic but when you have a child and work full time, those moments don’t really exist anymore (sorry). Don’t worry though, you can still have fun but it needs to be a bit more organised. So firstly and I have talked about this before but if you have an iPhone set up a joint calendar and if you don’t then get yourself an old fashion hanging calendar and write down everything you and your partner do. That way nothing gets missed off and you can plan ahead.
Now for planning ahead, it is really important to me that I have at least one thing planned a month that is a day off work and is either something for me or as a family. You don’t have to plan out every single day of your holiday but just knowing that every month you have some time off is so important. I am a but of a nutter when it comes to planning, so if that doesn’t work for you, do it in three month periods. That way you can take that stress off yourself and that even includes looking ahead to birthdays and pre ordering presents and getting cards, buying your little ones clothes in advance (in the sales are a great way too) so you don’t have to do a mad dash and be stressed when that whole wardrobe change over happens which luckily becomes less as they get older.
Invest in a babysitter or ask someone you trust to give yourself a few hours off in an evening once a month. You don’t have to use them all the time but if you can have date night, catch up on personal admin, go to the cinema, see friends, go to the gym or whatever it is that means you get a night off is more valuable than gold.
One thing to also mention is work and you are going to have several incarnations of what a working parent means to you. Give yourself time to find your working parent groove and if you are struggling with managing it all, talk to your manager and ask for help or HR. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and everyone’s situation is different and at the end of the day you need to make this work for you, whatever or however that is.
Develop a good healthy TV habit
Welcome to the world of being a working parent, goodbye to sporadic nights out (unless you have a full time, live in nanny which for most is not the case) and hello to nights in, probably in front of the laptop catching up on a few bits of work like most of my evenings (but keeps me sane and on top of work and still allows me to leave early to pick up or drop off Clara at nursery). So this is where your home becomes your sanctuary and your entertaining space. You know what at the age of 32, I have done all of those mid week late nights, drinking sessions but now I LOVE my nights in with my PJs and my little family. So this is where you need to develop a good healthy TV habit and also some great books for some pre-bed reading.
Invest in Hello Fresh
Making your life as easy as possible as a working parent is key and as much as I love cooking, my brain capacity for planning our meals has gone out the window. Yet it is important for me that as Clara starts developing her taste in food I want her to have a varied diet and want her to try everything. I have mentioned it before and I will again how amazing Hello Fresh is and we have been using them for about four months now and week in week out it is saving my life. Also because the meals only take about 30min to cook, we now also make a conscious effort when we can to all eat together as a family at Clara’s dinner time (which is also healthier to eat earlier) but then I find she is developing important social skills at a dinner table.
Book holidays and plan ahead
I’ve always been organised and plan ahead but since having a child and being back at work this has become so important. As I already mentioned, I have mapped out all of our holidays for 2018, I find it really therapeutic but also it means I know that we have these wonderful blocks of family time, a break and a chance to still explore and see the world. Also I like to make sure that every month we have at least one thing as a family to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be a trip away, it could just be a visit to a farm or park or a national trust venue we have wanted to visit. I like to read lots of other blogs and make a list of great things to do with kids and plan them out. That way you know that no matter how busy or crazy life gets you have those special moments booked out and in the diary. One thing I have booked already for August ’18 is the Big Feastival in the Cotswolds which apparently is amazing for kids. We also recently did a trip to the Isle of Wight and I can’t recommend Tapnell Farm enough – one of the best farms we have ever been to and the burger restaurant attached Cow & Co is super yummy!
Be honest with your work/life balance
This is so personal for each person and is not a one model fit’s all approach. But what I would say is that you have to be honest with yourself and the amount of support you have around you. If you follow my blog you will know I work full time (but still using my holiday from maternity leave to not work Mondays) and have a lot of support around me, including a husband that works from home. However, when he is away for work which has been quite a bit recently I find my balance goes out the window and it’s a real struggle to keep on top of things. My big piece of advice here is don’t push yourself too much in one direction – remember you now have a job, husband, baby, friends and family and also time for you to balance. If you give too much to one area, all the others are going to suffer so you really are going to become an expert juggler – so much so your life probably will feel like a circus, but a good one that you wouldn’t change for the world.
Learn which battles to fight
As you time becomes reduced, you are going to have some big and small ‘battles’ you will need to fight, whether that is work ones which could come in many forms from really big ones like inequality or prejudice to smaller ones that may come from your own inner demons trying to figure out who this new working mum person is. I have had quite a few of both big and small battles to fight and I know there will be many more to come, but I feel that I have hopefully got over the worst and can now just focus on being a working mum.
Make some YOU time
Lastly and definitely not least, finding time for you is probably the most important thing about being a working mum. It’s so easy with the stress of being back at work, balancing the pressures and trying to live up to this perfect image that you have it all put together, but then somewhere beneath all of it is little tiny you. So find your thing – doesn’t matter what it is but find it and give yourself time to do it.
Always love to hear from other working parents, their experiences or any questions. Mostly I hope that for any parent going back to work, you enjoy it and you find the balance you need.
Lauren – workingmummablog