The number one problem of working mothers is very simple: how to magically create more time! I will take you through the 5 steps that will help you to have more time for yourself and for spending quality time with your family as a working mum.
If you have seen any working mothers, they all have one thing in common – they all are very busy as they juggle all the responsibilities on their shoulders: tasks, deadlines, projects at work and kind of the same at home, household chores, doctor’s appointments, project managing the family life and on top of it, trying to spend some quality time with the kids and hubby. It is not a surprise that more than 80 % of working mums were found to be suffering from at least one stress-related health issue like high blood pressure, fatigue or anxiety and sleeping problems.
What can we do to secure our spot in the safe 20 %?
1. Invisible labour
The very first reason for working mothers to feel stressed out is very simple, they literally have too much on their plate, and some of these tasks are part of the invisible labour that often goes unseen and unrecognised by others but still often falls into the mothers’ responsibilities to complete. Examples of invisible labour might be organising appointments and schedules, grocery shopping, cooking, loading the dishwasher or the washing machine – all might take just 5-30 minutes, but all together, those might keep mums busy for the whole afternoons, not giving them any space for quality family time or any me-time to recharge the batteries.
The first step is to be conscious of how many small tasks you are accomplishing on a daily basis that might not be counted as work done as you just picked up a couple of toys here and you just loaded the washing machine there... When you have a more realistic picture of the workload we are talking about, you can start doing something about it.
2. Fair distribution of tasks
The next step is to sit down with the family and see how you could distribute the tasks in a fair way that serves all members of the family. It is recommended to assign owners for the different tasks so that they are responsible under all circumstances for that task. If mummy cooks, then daddy can be cleaning up the kitchen and kids can lay the table for example. The father can be responsible for hoovering twice a week and for mopping while the mother can be responsible to load the washing machine.
Don’t be afraid to involve all family members. Kids could also get some easy tasks like setting or cleaning up the table, loading the dishwasher or picking up the toys from the floor. I know that it seems to be easier to just do it quickly, but that is not leading to any improvement in the long term.
3. Assertive communication
While this all sounds obvious, the execution is the hard part usually. To plan for success, pay attention to your communication. It is not the same effect if you burst out desperately at your kids and hubby about how they don’t help enough and you feel like the maid at your own home, or if you calmly sit down with them and you assertively explain to them how exhausted you are and how you need them to take ownership. The key to assertive communication is to explain how you feel and how the current situation impacts you emotionally and physically instead of assuming that they should all be aware of it.
Remember, no one can read your mind!
Involve your family members in the conversation. Ask what are their thoughts about the current set-up, how they see it and what are they ready to change, where would they be happy to take more ownership. Instead of telling them what they should do, try to make them actively participate in the planning and see what they can take over and have family agreements in place instead of expecting them to accomplish some tasks and being full of silent resentment when they don't really do them.
One side of the coin is to not have any assumptions about what your family should change without having those agreements and interactive conversations in place, but the other side is about your own expectations. We, working mothers are hard-working and often somewhat perfectionists, we like to control every little detail as we feel that it is just needed to keep everything together. But with a high level of control, you won’t be able to hand over tasks to your family members, so it is worth reflecting on the fact that there might be other ways of completing a task, maybe a very different one from your idea, maybe it is not as perfect, but the world won’t fall apart, and you will have the reward, you will have less workload on you.
Maybe it is time to reflect on your own perfectionism. What happens if from time to time you lower the standards a little bit? How do you feel about that? What are the areas of your task lists where you could let go of some items or maybe outsource them, and arrange more help? I am a big fan of outsourcing or automating all the household chores we just can: get help with having a cleaning lady coming over bi-weekly or do your grocery shopping online whenever you can.
Finally, this all is not just about having a more balanced workload distribution in place and teaching your kids how to be responsible and showing them a great example that they can benefit from when growing up and starting their own family. You also had done all these changes to create some space for yourself that you can use to avoid burnout. By implementing a routine that supports you daily to have fun, rest or do something inspiring, you have done a lot to get off the treadmill and get closer to a lifestyle that is worth living.
What are the things you never have enough time for, and you always comment on them resignedly? Is it to prepare to run finally a marathon or maybe to join a painting class? Do you want to be a yoga instructor, write a book or maybe get your old bike out of the garage? Whatever it is, we are not here to accomplish endless task lists, that is not what takes it to be a good mother or give a purpose for life. It is the zest that you experience every day that will make you a patient and smiley mother and wife.
Now that you have learned the 5 steps to create more time for yourself as a busy working mother, download my free 3 steps guide towards a balanced life that can further help you to successfully align work and motherhood.