Tips for mums returning to work full-time
Returning to work full-time
Spoiler alert: You’ve got this!
Tips for returning to work full-time (a blog post from the archives)
I’ve been emailed a number of times in the past few weeks about what I plan on doing to survive returning to work full-time. This isn’t the first time I’ve worked full-time since having kids. I returned to work full-time when our eldest was 4 months old (and did that for a year). I plan on returning back to part time work in a year or so - but we’ll make that decision closer to the time.
A little background first. I’ve worked since I turned 14 and have not gone a week from then without working (except for maternity leave). I first worked in a supermarket after school, working my way up to customer service manager while I fast tracked my teaching degree at University (and planned our wedding). I continued to work at that same supermarket while I did my pracs and internship (I worked afternoons and weekends). I finished that position on a Friday (after working there 5 years) and started full time teaching on the Monday. I worked just short of a year before having our eldest and because I hadn’t worked there for a full year I missed out on maternity leave. I returned back to work when our eldest son was 4 months old and completed a year of full-time work. I then swapped to part-time (3 days a week) and worked part-time until I had our youngest son. I loved the two days a week that I had off with my son. I was able to take maternity leave with our youngest and as a result was able to have 11 months off with both boys at home. I pulled our eldest son out of daycare for those 11 months and we enjoyed some extra time together. During that year I became a Thermomix consultant and would do demonstrations on the weekend. I LOVED being a consultant and made some amazing friends in that time. As my business grew I started to be out of the house most evenings and weekends to keep up with the demand (on top of being back teaching 3 days a week). When it reached the stage that I was out more than I was at home, I decided to stop Thermomix and return to work full-time this year. I love that I know that I will be home every afternoon/evening and all weekends – which is important to me.
For me there are a number of things that will make returning to full-time work easier. First and foremost it is most important that both the kids are happy. It would be a thousand times harder if the kids didn’t enjoy Kindy and school. We are super lucky that our kids thrive from having other kids around them and they hang out for daycare and school days. Our youngest’s day care is exceptional and he just about waits at the door with the car keys every second day until I say it is time to go. They do craft and his favourite part of each day is the outside play. Our youngest still sleeps about 3 hours a day – so there are roughly 4 hours that he is awake and playing at daycare (the perks of teaching hours). Our eldest will be starting Prep this year so he was always going to be in school full-time this year. He loves learning and is just busting to start his new school – we can’t wait!
Our boys are our world and our decisions are based around what makes them happiest. Every week we have a ‘date’ with each child on their own. The boys love this time. On one night I take our eldest and Tim takes our youngest and the following week we swap. It can be as easy as a walk in the park together or a milkshake, but they always look forward to this time. Tim grew up with this tradition in his family and he loved the special time so much that he wanted to carry the tradition over for his kids. The boys also love time with their grandparents. Because our eldest starts school this year and won’t be free for catch-ups during the day, we have organised for him to have a special dinner on a set night every week with my parents. I will be dropping him off on our way home from school – he will do his homework and have dinner there and then I’ll pick him up at 6pm ready for bed. On a Friday night we all go to Tim’s parents house for dinner. This is a win win for everyone. The boys LOVE visiting the farm and seeing their grandparents and I LOVE that I don’t have to cook (as well as the company!).
Here are my 7 tips on surviving (and hopefully one day thriving):
1) Make lunches on the weekend – I spend Saturday morning after the groceries have arrived cooking food for lunchboxes for the week ahead. It’s a pretty crazy 3 hours but then it’s done and I don’t have to worry about it every other night of the week. We don’t do sandwiches – purely because the boys don’t fancy gluten free sandwiches. We have a main (something like GF mini pizzas, sausage rolls etc), 2 fruit, 2 vegetables, some coconut yoghurt, a biscuit/muffin, a snack (popcorn etc) and a piece of slice. We have the same lunchbox snacks for the week and then have a new menu the following week. All of us have the same lunches packed – although Tim and I do add leftovers to our lunches if we have any leftover from the night before.
2) Find a routine that suits your family. I’ll be sharing more about our routine soon, but during the week routine is key to keep all the wheels turning. Everyone knows what’s going on and we minimise unwanted surprises. On the weekend the routine goes out the window. Fun!
3) Find a work/home balance. I think this is easier for me because I’m a teacher and my hours at work are less than a typical business. Like I said my boys come first so if my work/home balance is out – I become disgruntled. It is important to me that I spend as much time with the boys outside of work as possible. As soon as the school bell goes I head off to get the boys. We spend the afternoon (from 3pm) together and then after they are in bed I do any prep work for school or housework that needs to be done. Whilst it is very important to be the best you can be at work – it is more important to me that the kids come first. For that reason I do not take on any after school activities while the boys are young and life is busy. There will be plenty of time for that once they are older.
4) Slow cooker meals. The slow cooker is saving my life. I prep dinner for the next night once the boys have gone to sleep. In the morning I transfer the ingredients into the slow cooker, turn it on and when I return home from work dinner is done! The best. We have had lamb shanks, pork ribs, full chickens, roast pork, creamy garlic prawns, lamb chops – the list is endless. I promise it doesn’t have to be stew every day! I’m making a list of slow cooker meals to share with you soon.
5) Do something for you. This is a BIG one. Life can get busy (although I try not to glorify ‘being busy’) and as mums (and dads!) we need to be kind to ourselves. For me this year it is going to the gym and getting my Friday flowers. Flowers make me happy and having them delivered each week ready for the weekend is something I look forward to.
6) Sleep! I often need to remind myself about this one. There is nothing worse than being dead tired and having to go through the motions of being tired every single day. Do what is important (lunches, clothes ready etc) and then go to bed. If there are nights that you have to go to bed with the house looking like a bomb – do it. You’ll deal with the house being messy much easier if you aren’t exhausted. The mess will wait and I promise you’ll get to it. Don’t wear yourself down. Set a bedtime and do your absolute best to stick to it. You’ll feel better for it.
7) Be kind to yourself. There will be weeks that you feel like you just can’t do it anymore and that’s normal (at least I hope it is because I had those weeks all the time!). How you deal with these weeks will be individual. For me its about letting Tim know that I’m not coping and asking for help from family/friends. I’m very lucky to have an amazingly supportive family and some wonderful friends who get me through these weeks.
Can I just point out that I am very passionate about women being able to be confident in their choices regarding whether they work or stay at home. I don’t think that one is better than the other. There is no ‘right’ choice as a whole, but rather a number of factors that come into play as to whether working or staying at home is best for YOUR family. Our decisions regarding me working aren’t made lightly and we have a number of reasons as to why I will return to work full time for this year. Ignore the nasty comments you get – whether they are about being a stay at home mum or being a working mum. You’ll get those comments either way. Stand strong in the decision that you have made and be confident that your decision is right for your family. Most importantly support other mums and their decisions – I know this isn’t always easy.
If you have tips for returning to work full-time please leave them in the comment section below.