Increasingly, over the last decade, Indian mothers have decided to return to their careers after having children. While it may take some time for some social attitudes to catch up with changing demographics, working mothers are clearly here to stay. And whether it’s a career choice, or a financial necessity, juggling two roles and their responsibilities is never going to be easy. Being a working mother should not be about battling guilt or burning out from the stress. Having a routine in place and getting the appropriate support will help you keep family and work life balanced. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Planning and preparation
Advance planning and organisation is the backbone of a working mother’s week and will save you from feeling like you’re just keeping your head above water. Use the extra time you get at the weekend to make a meal plan for the coming week and write out your grocery list at the same time – that way when you come to cook Wednesday’s dinner, you’ll have everything in stock. Batch cooking is also a great time-saver: if you’re indulging in a weekend treat of dosas or rice cakes, why not double the mixture and freeze some for a ready-made breakfast during the week?
Lay out your clothes and school outfits for the children the night before to avoid wasting precious time in the mornings. Buy quick breakfast snacks like cereal bars and stash some away in the car, so no one misses out on the most important meal of the day when you’re running late.
If you have problems getting the kids moving in the morning, set up incentives like a star system or a sweet treat at the end of the week if they complete certain tasks on time every day. As for yourself, when you arrange meetings or travel for work, aim to arrive half an hour earlier. This might not actually happen very often in practice, but it’s a habit that should ensure that you make it on time most days. If you need to, set your clocks or watch ahead by ten or fifteen minutes.
Managing household tasks
This is not about agonising over a spotless floor or worktop, but rather, maintaining a clean, workable environment day-by-day, and completing larger tasks when you can spare the time. Rotate chores so that you have one or two assigned to every week night. For example, put a load of laundry on every other day to keep everyone in clean underwear, but leave the major jobs like vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom tiles to the weekend. Get your partner (and your kids if they’re old enough) to help you do a quick sweep of the main clutter zones before bed, tidying toys away so you’re not tripping over them first thing in the morning.
Create a schedule for chores and calendar for events, and think about colour coding it, so everyone knows what they are doing. Allocate responsibility for simple chores, like putting away the dishes or sweeping the kitchen, to the children. Consider making an online schedule for the adults: in this digital age it might be easier for you to access and update the same information via phones and office computers – you’ll always know what’s coming up, even if you’re on the move.
Outsource and delegate
If your budget allows, consider bringing in domestic help. Even just a few hours of cleaning a week will relieve you of the burden of key household tasks, freeing up your time for some well-earned relaxation once you get home.
Don’t feel guilty about delegating responsibilities to your partner or family members if they’re available. Assign things like booking appointments or parent-teacher meetings to your husband and the load is instantly shared. Having both parents working can actually help balance responsibilities in the household and promote better understanding between you and your partner.
Give day-care a try. While some parents worry that child development suffers from fewer hours spent at home, research has shown that this is not the case. The ‘quality not quantity’ rule applies here: your children will be happier spending time with a refreshed parent who has just experienced a few child-free hours, rather one with one who is stressed-out and still trying to answer work emails while they attempt to play.
Quality time together
All it takes to maintain a good relationship with your children is asking them interested questions about their day, helping with their homework, or perhaps just sitting down regularly to read together in the evening. Assign one day or night a week away from your phone, email and other job stresses to just head with your children to the local park. This can be essential ‘out time’ for freelancers and mums who work from home, and will help to build some work-life separation and leave the worries behind. Treat yourselves to a takeaway or meal out every so often – everyone, including you, will get a decent night off.
Most important of all, make time for yourself. A massage or spa treatment at the end of the week can be invaluable to restore your peace of mind. Being a mother constitutes a full-time job in itself, so taking on an additional occupation is not without its challenges. But having a separate and fulfilling role for yourself outside of the home is hugely beneficial and you’re going to be a great role model for your children.