(Written by Kathryn Thompson) I knew it was time to return to work after having my third daughter when I started ironing towels and underwear in order to fill the hours whilst she was at school.
I loved the challenge of being a mom, but seriously missed challenging myself in a working environment, and the chance to have meaningful adult conversations with colleagues
However, things haven’t been easy and I have learnt a great deal during the past year – mainly how to survive, stay sane and keep approximately twenty metaphorical plates spinning simultaneously.
If you would like to benefit from my experiences and discover what mistakes to avoid in your new job, take note of the following five helpful tips:
- 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
So the kid’s toys are still on the floor of their bedroom, their shoes aren’t polished, the only shirt you can find has a stain on the front, and you need to leave the house in ten minutes.
Having faced this dilemma many times over the past year I have learnt to prioritise. The kid’s can polish their own shoes after school, and the toys can be picked up later when your husband returns from work.
As a working parent you quickly learn that it’s not the end of the world if things aren’t perfect and no one will judge you. Your children would rather have a smiling mom or dad dropping them off at school than a sweaty, stressed angry one – and who ever looks at your children’s shoes anyway??
- 2. Focus on work
For the first two days of my new job I spent the entire time staring at the photo of my daughters with a huge lump in my throat, wondering what they were up to and whether they were missing me. The reality was that they were having a fabulous time at school and after school club and hadn’t given me a second thought!
My advice here is to replace any negative thoughts or emotions with positive ones and focus your time at work on the job in hand. Being a working parent has its rewards and you and your family will still be able to enjoy quality time together.
- 3. Delegate
In my family we all work together to achieve things – this means delegation and working as a team, and applies to all areas of our life, including: housework, cooking, shopping and admin.
Draw up a weekly chores rota, which includes all members of the family. My girls have been sweeping the kitchen floor and polishing tables since the age of around two. Yes, you will get through a great deal of polish, and not every crumb will be picked up (see tip 1) but the skills will stand them in good stead and they will feel very proud that they have been able to contribute to family life.
- 4. Talk to your employer
Your employer should understand that as a working parent, your needs may change from time to time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or flexibility and don’t try to overcompensate to prove yourself in the workplace.
Many employers now offer flexible working hours and shifts to suit working parents such as term time working or school hour shifts. Speak to your manager or HR Department to see whether they can offer you something that will be mutually beneficial.
- 5. Have fun with your family
As a working mom it is very easy to become caught up in the general drudgery of everyday life: working, shopping, cleaning, bath-times, homework, etc. I quickly realised that in order to make a working life ‘work’ we would have to remember to fit in the fun stuff, as well as the every day essentials.
As a result we now have a regular Friday night pizza and film night, where the kids chose a film, we eat pizza (obviously) and they get to stay up a little later. We also regularly go for bike rides, take trips to the beach, make dens, play hide and seek and bake together. In fact, we do more as a family now than ever before, because we’re making a conscious effort to make life a little more fun, rather than taking our time together for granted.
Photo courtesy of CNN Stay-at-home moms turning into WAHMs
About the author: This article was written by Kathryn Thompson, a freelance writer and mom to three daughters aged between twelve, ten and five.