13 weeks after Jack was born I became a working mom.
I returned to the office again 13 weeks after Norah arrived on the scene.
I don’t love the term “working mom” because what mom isn’t “working” in about a million capacities? But “work outside the home mom” is kind of long and hasn’t caught on.
What I can tell you from four years of experience as a “working mom” trying to make it all happen is this. Working mom life is a good choice for me, but it’s also crazy hard. There are a lot of balls to keep in the air, a lot of hats to wear, and a lot of idioms to wear out.
So to make life easier, and more fun, I have leaned heavily on some working mom hacks that I’ve developed based on my own experience and picked up from others. These hacks smooth out the day, make required activities more efficient, and save both time and sanity. That’s hack-tastic!
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1) BREAKFAST FOR DINNER
Starting with the basics. Sustenance.
Usually every other week, sometimes every week, we have breakfast for dinner in my house. There are few things easier and quicker than scrambling up a few eggs or popping in some toaster waffles.
Balanced meals are important, absolutely. Nutrition – big fan! But sometimes, breakfast for dinner is exactly where it’s at.
2) TIME MANAGEMENT WITH TIME BLOCKING
A big issue for working moms – time. We can’t make there be more of it and it slips away so quickly. So how can we make the most of what we have?
Yolanda from Put the Kettle On is a master of time management, and she does it all using time blocking. This working mom hack works like this. If you need to get something done, set yourself a timer and get that thing done.
Putting off folding the laundry because laundry is terrible? Set a 15-minute timer on your phone and try to beat the clock. Need to make progress on a work project? Set a 45-minute timer and only work on that one thing for that time. No email, no Instagram.
Focused time is significantly more productive than “multitasking getting distracted by all the things” time. If you’re looking at a gazillion and one things to do, tackling your list by chunking out time for each activity can make it more fun and more efficient.
3) MORE TIME FOR READING WITH AUDIBLE
Are you a commuting working mom? I commute into the office three days a week and it can be a slog. 90 minutes each way. But my car is now a moving library since I got Audible.
Books I’ve listened to on Audible during my commute include Becoming, The Happiness Project, Harry Potter, and Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. I’m learning, I’m laughing, and I get to do something I don’t have a lot of time for in my working mom life – read books!
3) THE FAMILY COMMAND CENTER
Moms are often “the keepers.” We have our to-do lists constantly running through our heads for work life, home life, and personal life. Write the email, buy more sunscreen, order the birthday present, do all the things!
But if you’re managing career and managing family, Kayci from The Salty Mamas recommends getting your family in on the scheduling act with a family command center. Basically this is a giant wall calendar that makes the whole family the keepers. If you have a game/appointment/recital/practice/Nobel Prize award ceremony – put it on the calendar. This isn’t just mom’s responsibility to remember everything. Now my preschoolers are a little young for this yet, but oooo someday, we’re getting in on this.
Two enthusiastic thumbs up for this working mom hack.
4) INSTACART GROCERY DELIVERY
Can we talk about outsourcing for a second? And the fact that there is absolutely no shame in getting by with a little help from your friends. Or strangers. Or lovely people who will buy your groceries for you and bring them to your door.
We’ve been using Instacart Grocery Delivery for about nine months now and I’m obsessed. OBSESSED. According to the Instacart app I’ve saved 57 hours grocery shopping and I 100% believe it. My weekends now are fully for fun family stuff and sneaking in some writing and reading where I can. No more waiting in checkout lines, no more impulse buying six boxes of cereal.
With Instacart I can also grocery shop while on my phone, standing in front of my fridge. We don’t need more orange juice, we do need milk, probably okay on apples. No waste, of food or time. LOVE.
5) MAKING TIME FOR THE NON-NEGOTIABLES
Like Yolanda, Taylor from The Accomplished Family knows that you can’t make time appear out of thin air, but she and I absolutely agree that some things are worth carving out time for. Specifically, the Non-Negotiables.
The Non-Negotiable(s) are the one thing or things that you are going to do for you as a working mom that day/week barring any massive unforeseen circumstances. This doesn’t need to be something monumental, but it should be yours.
Example. Your Non-Negotiable could taking a walk every day at lunch. If you’re in a desk job especially, stretching those legs and getting some fresh air may be exactly what the doctor ordered to clean your head and give your body a little exercise.
Or your Non-Negotiable could be reading for 20 minutes in the morning while the kids are still asleep, giving yourself an hour in the evening once a week for a pottery lesson, or calling the babysitter once a month for a night out with your spouse.
Whatever it is that you know would make your working mom life feel a bit more like YOUR life, put it on your calendar and keep the appointment with yourself.
6) COMFORTABLE WORK SHOES
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Heels are for the youths.
If you are a working mom who loves rocking heels, you do you. I’m impressed. Honestly.
However, when I tried wearing heels my first day back from maternity leave four years ago I looked like a baby deer learning to walk for the first time. But more awkward. It was time to retire the heels in favor of something more ergonomically sound.
My current models are made by Dr. Scholl’s. There ain’t no shame in my comfy shoe game.
7) TECHNOLOGY LIFE HACK
To save time and be more present, I’ve turned off social media notifications on my phone and Lisa from Lisa Tanner Writing finally convinced me to have even more social media willpower.
Lisa sets specific times of the day where she can look at Facebook. Her time is a precious resource, and she found it was so easy to lose 30 minutes to an hour to scrolling. Keeping social media activity to the evenings helps her stay present during the day and be more productive.
I’m trying to follow Lisa’s lead and do a better job of keeping my phone on the counter when I get back from work. And thanks to technology, I can even set “downtime” on my phone using the Screen Time setting so that I can’t even use it between 5:30 and 8. Even if I’m using Facebook for my work instead of just scrolling, it can still wait until 8:00 pm. Hungry Hungry Hippos, however, cannot.
8) REFRIGERATOR RESTAURANT
There are multiple dinner related tips on here because well… food. We all need it. My kids want it. And I really don’t want to cook it.
If you are a working mom who also loves to cook and you have kids who love to eat what you make, then maybe this working mom hack won’t be helpful to you. But if you are a working mom who just wants the food to magically appear without paying takeout prices and wants everyone to eat it happily, then refrigerator restaurant is for you.
What is Refrigerator Restaurant? Well, actually it’s just leftover night with a fun name. I tell my kids we are having Refrigerator Restaurant and they can open up the fridge and pick anything they want, as long as it includes some kind of vegetable. So one person has leftover chili and cucumbers, someone else is eating leftover chicken breast, broccoli, and the last piece of cornbread.
They are happy because they get a choice, I am happy because of the microwave. Done and done.
9) FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Candace from The Mom at Law is one of my people. She has three little ones under the age of five, is a lawyer, a writer, and one of the funniest people I know.
As one of her work from home working mom tips, she recommends connecting with like-minded folks and I couldn’t agree more. Especially because she called them “folks.”
It’s important it is to have people in your life who understand the challenges you are facing and can offer support, ideas, and a good laugh. At the office there are people I know I can turn to if I need to have a mini break down about daycare. For my writing, I have groups of social media friends who make me laugh, support my work, and are so hilariously relatable. On the home front, I have working mom friends I can text to say “Ummm… pizza sauce is a vegetable right? Please tell pizza sauce is a vegetable.”
Your people don’t need to live next door, or even in the same state. But when you find the right folks you can relate to and share with, your working mom life is going to feel a lot more fun.
10) HOUSEHOLD DIVIDE & CONQUER
How do I personally “do it all” as a working mom? Simple. I don’t. WE do. Not always perfectly, but as a team.
If you are a working mom with a partner, this is less of a working mom hack and more of a gentle suggestion. The suggestion being making the care/feeding/cleaning part of your lives a 50/50 split. Moms often carry more of the load of the household but it doesn’t have to be that way.
For a long time I was almost solely responsible for dinners around our house. But we both worked and were both rushing home at the end of the day. I finally realized that this plan wasn’t sustainable, and that Glen could not read my mind.
As soon as I voiced the concern, we came up with a simple plan to each cover specific dinner nights during the week. Tuesday and Thursday are no longer my responsibility and a weight got lifted off my shoulders.
11) SUNDAY PLANNING FOR PRODUCTIVITY AND GOAL SETTING
Let Jill from Organizational Toast convince you to start doing some Sunday night planning.
As a busy working mom, you have a lot to tackle in the week ahead. But taking some time on Sunday night to write down what actually needs to get done and your specific goals for the week can help you make it all happen. Break everything down into priorities and mini-goals and suddenly the impossible seems possible.
Benjamin Franklin once said “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Ben Stiller once said, “Do it, to it, Lars.” Same idea.
I have a pen and paper planner that so far I’ve only used for monthly goals. But it’s been amazing for that! So Jill has me tempted to make this a weekly activity.
12) AMAZON PRIME
I don’t need to convince you to get Amazon Prime, but this list wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Jeff Bezos and company.
Everything that I can’t Instacart, I Prime. Everything. Very rarely does my family find itself in a physical store nowadays. Which is great for my wallet and for more time together enjoying the great outdoors. Or the movie theater…
Another reason why Amazon Prime is the bomb.com? Subscribe and save. When my kids were in diapers gigantic boxes arrived at my doorstep every other week without me lifting a finger or having to remember anything. Same with the baby formula, wipes, and Lysol.
My shopping motto as a working mom as become, if it’s not on Prime, we don’t need it. It’s working out quite well.
13) MY FAVORITE WORKING MOM HACK – LET IT GO
Remember how we talked about “having it all” and figuring out what “having it all” means to you? Part of that is prioritizing what you can Elsa style let go.
I’m going to be honest with you. My house is passably clean at best. It’s not all together dirty, but it’s not neat. The sink is not always cleared out every night. There is a stack of preschool art on the counter. I’m not sure where the Windex is.
But it’s fine. We’re fine. I’ve let it go. Someday my house might be immaculate, but that day is not today. As a working mom with insanely active children and my own active imagination, there is only so much I can, and want, to do.
What can you let go a little to give yourself the time for rest and fun? Find it.
Working mom life is a juggle that I have far from mastered, but it’s a life I enjoy. The chaos, the intellectual challenge, the many eggs for dinner… it works for us.
I hope that you found one or two working mom hacks that will help make your life easier and more fun. Whether it is making your commute more entertaining, getting some help, finding some comfy shoes, or simply letting go what you can so that you can keep moving forward.
Or maybe you just got a good laugh from my “Heavyweights” Ben Stiller reference, in which case give me a call. We should be friends IRL.
But the biggest takeaway here? You’ve got this, mama. Go crush the week!
With work-appropriate leggings and some oatmeal on my computer somehow,