Thursday, 11 August 2011

This Working Mum's Guide to Sanity

Before I start I have to clarify that ALL mums work. There is not a mum on earth that doesn’t work her butt off in some or many ways. Whether it be working from home, at home, or away from home, we also have a never ending job of keeping the house and making sure our loved ones are dressed, fed, schooled, disciplined, supported and loved (and the rest). This is 24/7. Even when we are not ‘working’ we are planning. It never stops.
On top of the mum role a lot of us have work to do outside of the home. I am one of these mums. I work a fulltime job every weekday. I do love going to work, it is in my eyes ‘me time’. It is time I get to socialise and get to know other people, and of course a time for me to learn. It keeps my mind moving. The only downside of holding down a job outside of the home is all my chores and housework are essentially done in what should be my time with my boys. I lose 9 hours a weekday of what could be spent on the home.
To keep my sanity and reduce the risk of slipping into exhaustion from trying to manage a household, spend time with my family and friends, AND hold down a fulltime job, I have made a list of things that I have found help me. It is all about establishing a routine and sometimes letting go of the little things I enjoy that are not conducive to a working mum’s lifestyle (ie burning the midnight oil).
So here they are. Oh and I must point out I don’t profess to be an expert in anything, so my little lists I compile are purely things I find work well for me. And I like sharing.
1. Get 8 hours sleep. I am a self-professed bedhead. I simply cannot function at my best with little sleep. Fact.
2. Have a sleep-in when you can. The weekends are my days to sleep-in. I don’t commit to early morning engagements on weekends as I look forward to my sleep-in. That might peeve some people but I’ve got to look out for me and my sanity or I am of no use to my family. I need my sleep-ins. Also fact.
3. Say no to invitations if you are not up to it. I often say no to late night invitations if it means I know the next day will be spent feeling sorry for myself due to lack of sleep. I tend to go more for dinners and early nights out when I catch up with girlfriends these days rather than the late-nighters.
4. Set a bed time for school nights and stick to it. If you are like me and NEED 8 hours sleep, make sure you set a time that allows enough sleep. I find it way too easy to spend that extra 30 minutes finishing something late at night that can actually wait, and then wind up paying for lack of sleep the next day.
5. Set a wake up time and stick to it. I used to change my alarm depending on what time I went to bed to ensure I got my 8 hours sleep. Now I have reversed that to keeping the same wake up time and changing my bed time instead. Waking up at the same time helps with a morning routine too. No-one enjoys racing out the door late for school drop off, shoes in hand, screaming at the kid to move it and realising as you hurl yourself into the car that kid has not even had breakfast.
6. Routine is essential. I have only recently converted my way of thinking on routines. The word ‘routine’ used to bore me to tears and I thought I was swift enough to manage life, work, family etc without routine. Not possible. Routine, as boring as it sounds, is our friend. In the mornings I find if I am ahead of time when getting ready I am less stressed and can sit down and enjoy my morning coffee instead of drinking it on the run. Less stressed Mum = a much happier morning.
7. Make time to get some daily exercise. I love to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day in the warmer months and hate the way it takes up my family time if I do it at night. So in the warmer months I wake up 30 minutes earlier to go for a walk. It's hard at first to set that alarm but once you do it for a week or so it becomes habit. And the benefit of a morning dose of endorphins is insane! Add glowing skin and you will be itching to jump out of bed in the mornings for that walk. (This of course does not apply for me in winter.)
8. Ask for help when you really need it. I hate asking people for help. I have a preconceived idea that it shows I am weak. This of course is not true. I am not superhuman; I get tired and at times find the easiest of tasks are just too hard. I rarely ask my husband to help around the house but when I do he knows I need it. And fortunately for me he is always willing to help. If you are doing it solo ask a sibling or parent, or even a friend or a mum from school. You will be pleasantly surprised at the generosity of some people. I recently read that Cherie from ‘A Baby Called Max was looking forward to helping her mum-to-be bestie by ‘holding her baby when she has a shower’. Cherie knows this will make her best friend’s day (and Cherie will be loving the baby-cuddles).
9. Spend time doing nothing. This is a hard one for me. I have an insanely active mind and I find every minute I am sitting still I am thinking how I could be doing something that needs doing. I have however managed to re-train my mind and I now make time to sit for at least half an hour on the couch, doing nothing. I am talking to my boys, maybe flicking through a magazine or just sitting still and enjoying the moment. Lovely. If you find this hard to do you could try listening to meditation music. I started my quiet times doing this and it doesn’t take long for the mind and body to fully relax. And once your psyche gets a taste of this, you will be craving more of it!
10. Cut out useless activities. I am not a fan of the old tele, I hardly (if ever) sit down in front of the television to watch a show. I might watch a movie or a series I enjoy on dvd on occasion however I don’t frequently sit in front of the television. I don’t really find enjoyment in it and would rather spend my downtime doing something I do enjoy – like blogging. Of course I am not saying everyone should cut out tv time, if you enjoy, do it. But cut out what you find to be a time-waster and use that time to do something you really enjoy.
11. Change your mind set to ‘make time’ instead of thinking you have no time. In our busy world it is easy to think we have no time for certain tasks, in actual fact we need to make time. I have a friend who puts the gym into her daily diary as she would an appointment. It is easy to find more important things to do at any given time, however if there is something you would like to do on a regular basis treating it like an appointment means you allocate a dedicated period to undertake that task. As I have recently started blogging I have allocated time to spend on it, otherwise I would quite simply ‘not have time’.
12. Listen to your body. I know when I am teetering on the brink of exhaustion and when I realise this I take it down a notch. The key for me is to listen to my body. If I feel drained, I am drained. I find when I have a few engagements on a few weekends in a row I look forward to an entire weekend of no plans. I used to just soldier on thinking I had to be supermum/wife/friend but the fact of the matter is I too need a break some times. And I am not ashamed to take one.

Do you have any helpful pointers in maintaining sanity in our busy lives?


  1. A wonderful guide!!

    And you're right, the key ingredient really is sleep!

    Something I think I need to take from this is being able to say no to invitations. We get so many (without sounding conceited or popular), and sometimes, all I want to do is crawl into bed at 8.30pm on a Friday night, haha. But I feel guilty for declining invitations. And then I feel guilty for messing up Max's routine by going out socializing. So I think there needs to be a better rate of declining invitations in the baby called max residence :)

    Also, asking for help ... What a skill! So many women need to learn it! I am one of them, and think I always will be :)

    I just love your blog xx

  2. I always found working away from home refreshing. It gave me an income to do things I wanted to do(like spoiling my daughter)or making improvements to my home, getting nice things for myself. Working outside my own home also made me look forward to the days off when I could plan things to do on those days and I seemed to appreciate the accomplishments I made on those day. I applause all working Mums.

  3. Couldn't agree more about the sleep thing! I go to bed at the moment when Max does (around 7pm). I just can't function during the night feeds or the next day otherwise! Great guide x

  4. Cherie, saying no to invitations isn't easy, I agree. And asking for help is even harder! I am still amazed at the generosity of some people, and once I have asked for help I often find they then offer. Heart melting stuff!

    @ Faith - thank you. Often we do ourselves (and our loved ones) more harm by not taking that break. My truth is I need my sleep. No question. Thanks for reading. xo

  5. That's so true Mum, I do look forward to my weekends and cherish the limited time I have at home. I guess if I was home all day I might not enjoy those 'tedious' tasks as much (ie cooking and gardening).

    You got the comments working, yay! xox

  6. Peggy, another beautifully written blog. It is timely advice, I also love my bed and sleeping but have been very undisciplined lately - and the cracks are starting to appear (in both my face and my actions!!). So thanks for the kick up the bum I needed. My weaknesses are FB and TV, both of which I have had to self-impose bans on this week. Well maybe not bans - but strict limitations!!

    Look forward to reading your next blog.


  7. Thanks Cass. Oh I have to frequently limit my fb use or I am up all hours socialising! I wish I was naturally a morning person, I envy folks that climb into bed at 8 o'clock. Well I guess I could...

    Permanent nights! xo

  8. Thanks for sending me your way Peggy. This list is fabulous! Agree soooo much with the sleep. I need at least 8 hours or I become a cranky pants.

    I'm off to have a peek around your blog now....x


  9. Thank you Kellie, so lovely of you to drop in and have a peek around. :)

    I'm glad you like the list, I hope something from it appeals to you when you start working.

    Thanks again. xo


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