So I work in a school and so am lucky enough to have the school holidays off with C which is amazing. But it’s now the end of the glorious six weeks off for summer and time to get back into our term time routine. C is currently with a childminder when I’m at work and has been since I first when back when she was just shy of a year old (she’s now nearly three, where has that time gone). I remember being very nervous before I first went back as I’d felt fairly on top of things whilst at the end of maternity (well as on top of things as you can be with a child). J was working in London at the time during the week so I only had his help on weekends and was likely to be working away for the whole academic year (I worked in a school). I was normally managing to vaguely keep on top of the washing and cook for us all from scratch every day and get C out of the house as well. I felt as though I had just about got us a routine that worked. But going back to work meant that the wonderful time to get things done in the house whilst she napped (she was still napping twice a day then for about an hour and a half at a time at that point, oh how I miss naps).
Anyway, so I managed to vaguely get myself into a routine for the past two years, which as is always the case with children had to constantly change, but I’m moving schools in September and we now have the dog so we will have to find a new routine again. I’m generally considered fairly organised amongst my friends (although I would beg to differ) and I thought I would jot down some of the things which I do to help me juggle the balance of being a working mum.
- Batch cook, lots. I love my freezer (I have a couple) and often take time to try and fill it. I use my slow cooker a lot for this – a huge batch of bolognese or chilli or a casserole is very easy to cook in there (just chuck the ingredients in there and leave it). I use old butter tubs to store portions in the freezer (I’ll often wait until its frozen and then pop it out and wrap in cling film and label if I’m running low on tubs). That way for the time and effort of cooking bolognese once we can enjoy several meals which are very quick to reheat after a day at work. I’ll mainly do batch cooking on weekends or holidays and tend to try and add to my freezer stock once a week.
- Keep leftovers. Most weeks I’ll do a roast dinner on Sunday and purposely cook a bit extra of the veggies and we tend to have leftover from our roasting meat anyway. Then I can portion up a couple of dinners for C from leftovers to keep in either the fridge or freezer. Or sometimes I’ll cook a dinner for J and I one evening and C will have it as leftovers the next day, I have the least time to cook for C once I get home from work (as she tends to east at 5:30pm) so anything that is easy to heat up is great.
- All three of us need packed lunches and I try to prepare as much as a can ahead of time. I portion up as much as possible at the weekend into little tupperwares. Things such as crackers, breadsticks, raisins, blueberries and other soft fruit, popcorn, cucumber, carrot sticks, hummus, sweetcorn, peppers, cherry tomatoes, cut grapes all do well being prepared on Sunday for the week ahead. So it’s then fairly easy the night before to make up a sandwich or wrap fresh and add the Tupperwares to the lunch boxes. I also often use dinner leftovers for lunch the following day or cook an extra chicken breast, for example, to go into wraps.
- I always pack C’s bag the evening before and have our clothes set out ready for the following day and used to, when J was working away and I had to do bedtimes by myself, prepare Monday to Friday’s clothes for C ready laid out in her drawers. Even though it may only save me a minute or two in the morning (or longer now C likes to try and choose her own clothes) when you are working to a strict time scale trying to get out he door then every minute helps.
- Online food shopping has been a lifesaver for me. I tested it out first when I was pregnant and now I would never go back to having to do a weekly shop in a supermarket (especially dragging a child along with me). That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the odd potter about in a supermarket but having to try and fit that into my working week would just be a pain for me and so time consuming. We get our shop from Tesco as we’ve always found our local one very reliable. So easy to just book an hours slot that fits in with your routine and then adjust items in your basket as required and then forget about it. Also as baby brain has made me very forgetful I love being able to have the app on my phone to just add things the minute they ran out.
- Meal planning, which kind of goes with a lot of the above. Gone are the days when I could come home, see what I felt like for dinner and just pop out for any stray ingredients. Once I have worked out what we are having on what day it makes it easier to make sure I’ve ordered the correct food on my shop, taken out what I need from the freezer and know exactly what I need to do for dinner when I get home from work rather than flapping (which I’m rather prone to). If we have also planned together what we are doing for dinners for the week then we are more likely to stick to it and can both step in and help with dinner/childcare as required in the evening.
- Working together is a huge part of what we do. Both J and I know our daughter’s routine very well and either of us could do dinner and bedtime by themselves if needed. We’re good at keeping each other informed about the week ahead and are lucky to have J’s dad nearby to lend a helping hand if necessary. In the evenings J tends to arrive home normally after C has had her dinner or when we’ve just gone upstairs. Between the two of us we tend to juggle, bath, story, milk and bed with tidying up C’s room and putting away washing, laying out clothes for the next day and any other upstairs chores that need doing.
- I’m better in the mornings than J so I tend to take control of looking after myself and our daughter then and J just has responsibility for himself (and now the puppy). We try to help ourselves out by having breakfast things laid out ready and even go so far as having tea bags and sweeteners etc in mugs ready. Again they may only save you a minute in the morning but it’s one less thing to do in the morning panic, especially if your child is anything like mine and has days where she refuses to get dressed and so you have to spend extra time battling so she doesn’t go out naked with just her wellies on (this happens way too frequently).
- I always make sure I’m up, washed, dressed and make up done before my daughter wakes up at seven but I have gotten in the habit of getting up even earlier than I need to. Why, I hear you ask? So I can have time to have a latte from our trusty coffee machine and spend half an hour either reading the news or browsing Facebook on my iPad or watching a bit of TV or reading a magazine. I find that just having half an hour of calm me time in the morning really sets me up for the day (I’ll admit that the caffeine probably helps too). Then whatever stresses the morning or the rest of the day brings, at least I’ve had half an hour of me time, half an hour of not being a mum or a wife or a worker. It’s amazing what that little time to yourself can do for your morale – I definitely recommend it.
So those are the things which I do to help get the balance of being a working mum, does anyone else do anything similar? Any inspiring ways to help with the evening madness? Let me know your suggestions, I’m always looking for ways to be more organised.
I have no inspiring pictures to go with this post so I thought I’d just share some I liked!