There was a time I believed that pregnancy was hard. There was also a time I felt raising one child was difficult. As I recently delivered my second baby, life with two littles is definitely challenging. However, I never knew that getting back to work after two kids (both under 5) would be the most exhausting experience of my life yet, both physically and emotionally.Over the course of time though I have begun to find it most rewarding that I am able to manage both home and work, all by being true to certain rules I have been self-taught and now religiously follow.
- Walk out that door
When you walk out that door in the morning to get to work,make sure you close the door behind you, and carry your mind along with your body. This is not as easy as it sounds, but there is no point in worrying sick about things at home. There will always be a sink to clean, and laundry to be folded, and kids to be attended to. But you have to try not to think about this while and on the way to work. If you do need to plan for some things, like lunches, doctor appointments, or playdates, take out time specifically from your calendar and do so, rather than spreading it over the whole day. Not being able to do so would only take away from your work, and it’s not worth the effort you made in actually getting there in the first place.
- Lower your standards
I know mum, you have the highest standards set for the care of your kids, and you wouldn’t settle for anything else. But you know what’s harder than keeping your standards up? The disappointment you’ll face when things don’t go the way you had imagined or hoped for. Whoever is the carer while you’re at work, will do some things differently from you.
Your kids will be fine as long as you trust your carer to have their best interests at heart.
- Don’t lower your work standards
Just because you got back from maternity leave recently,does not give you the excuse to be laid back/ perform not as ideally as others/clock in less hours than what you’re paid for. I know that’s harsh, but just as your babies are now facing the world outside, so are you. A world suddenly new to you as you were never a mum of one/ two or more kids before this. Be true to your work, so you can be true to yourself as a mom.
- Separate your worlds
I know you miss your kids and you’d rather be with them than anywhere else in the world. But the office world does not need to know that. If your desk, wall, desktop, and everything else at work has pictures of your babies, every time a person walks by, the conversation ends up being about the kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re a mom 24 hours of the day anyway. Why not be something else along with that too? Let conversations be about your passion, your hobby, your work, or even politics. It would be a good reminder for you that you could be something else along with being a mom, and that there is more to you.
- Remember the ultimate truth
You are the mum.
No matter how fond your kids are of their carer, you will forever be their mother. I know how jealousy can be in these situations. Carers often spend so much time with your kids, while you are away at work. I know how scary that can be. What if they don’t value you enough, and don’t even love you as much due to your absence? I know how angry that can make you. You have to beat work, while they get to be there. I know how upsetting this can be. Your kids are happy to be in the care of someone else other than you.
But mama, you will always be their safe place, their best friend, their confidante, their everything. Look beyond the superficial and you’ll see the truth. They will come to you if someone hurts them at school,they will turn to you when they need something. They’ll be looking for you when they need support. And guess what? They know you’ll be there for them, just like you always have been.
- Chuck the guilt
You are already carrying enough on your shoulders. Don’t add on to it by taking “guilt” along with you wherever you go. Don’t carry it to office, don’t pick it up when you work late, don’t take it to the meeting rooms- don’t give it a home in your heart. Look beyond and see what you are doing for your kids and what lessons they are taking from you. They are learning what it is like to work hard, to be responsible, committed, and honest in all that they do. They are understanding the role of a woman in their lives, and how she can be everything all at once. At the end of a long hard day, don’t be the‘guilty-mom’, just be there for your babies, and simply be their ‘MOM’.
- Juggle like no one’s juggled before
So you think you possibly can’t wear so many hats in one day, well yes you can. You’ve been through child-birth and have raised one or two or several kids, and have survived it all. So yes, you can do it all, but you got to do it all at once. Make multi-tasking your new best friend. You probably have to live a whole day, if not more, in the mornings, even before you leave for work. You need to wake the kids up (kids include husband here),make the beds, get them ready (squeeze a 3-hour job into 10 minutes), pack their bags, make breakfast, get yourself ready (what’s that like?), drop them off, and somehow make it to work (bed?).
Of course, you could share some duties with your spouse, but in either case, you will need to rush through several tasks in a very short time. I use some shortcut methods such as brushing my teeth in the shower, and applying shampoo and conditioner simultaneously, rather than step by step. I also prepare for the mornings the night before by laying out the clothes of all family members out so no time is wasted in the morning choosing outfits.Lunches are packed and ready in the fridge, so we all just need to grab our boxes and put them in our bags.
- Plan, plan, plan to plan
Make planning so innate that it is second nature to you. I have a menu pinned up on my fridge every Sunday for kids and adults (we have columns and rows for each family member and each day of the week) so I don’t have to decide the dinner menu in the evenings. I can simply jump to the actual cooking. It also allows me to do my grocery shopping for the week in an organized manner. And if the rows and columns didn’t tell you how obsessive we are, my husband and I also plan extra-curricular activities and other outings for the kids for the weekends, or when we can do laundry. We even schedule a time when we can plan to plan. Well, as obsessive as this is, it works wonders for us in keeping our lives more organized and our minds less flustered.
- Look at the bigger picture
There will be days when you will fail. Expect it, be ready for it. There are days when I feel my life is falling apart. There are days when I fail to meet deadlines at work, end up picking the kids late, scream at cranky children for throwing tantrums, pick a fight with my husband for no apparent reason, and go to bed with shame in my face, guilt in my heart and tears in my eyes. But one thing I’ve learnt is that such a night will turn into another day no matter what, and this day could be better or worse, the choice is mine. I also know that I will have more number of good days than bad. I will count time in weeks, maybe months, and the whole picture will then be beautiful with just a few aberrations, while I paint it.
- Love fiercely
The most important point in this guide is this. Love with all your heart. If there is love for your work, you’ll be ready to deal with the challenges. This doesn’t mean your work needs to be your passion. You might not even like what you do for a living, but embrace the reasons why you’redoing it, be it monetary, self-sufficiency or anything else. Accept it, move on and then do the best you can (did I mention with love?).
Love your family so much it hurts. Pour out all the love you have in your heart for your partner, as he is going to be your biggest support.He’ll be there to celebrate that little ‘kudos’ you received at work, or whine about that snide comment by a co-worker. He’ll be there when your kids fail you or you fail them. He’ll also be there to pick either of you up. He’ll be there when the children have left your nest, your work days are over and you’re both older and wiser with age and experience. So love him now and love him then.
Love your kids when you get time with them. Tell them how much you missed them, listen to their stories and share some of your own. Having it all and handling it all together can be hard, but in the end, love will find a way.