By Elizabeth Smith

“What’s harder than being a working mom?” I asked myself this question as I was reluctantly heading back to work after my maternity leave with my second child. I quickly ended my pity party by answering my own question; being a single working mom would be harder, being a working mom also going to school would be harder, being a mother of a special needs child would be harder and the list goes on. Then I got down to the business of putting together a plan to make things as easy as possible for myself and my family. To tell you the truth a household that consists of two working parents, a toddler and an infant is not for the faint of heart.

First I purchased a white board for our fridge with the days of the week outlined. At the top of each column I noted the name of the person whose laundry we would do that day. In the middle I noted what we would cook for dinner that night. Then at the bottom I listed anything unusual that might be going on that day. On Saturdays I do the grocery shopping so that is where I list grocery items. This way my husband and I can be on the same page about laundry and dinner so whoever gets to it first can go ahead and get started.

The more working moms I talk to, the more I find out that everyone enlists some kind of help. Every other week I have someone come to our house and do all of the cleaning. Between daily straightening, laundry, mail organization etc. it is all I can do to keep the house from imploding never the less to keep it anti-bacterialized. Many of my friends have a yard service. I know some people who maintain a list for a handy man and then call him to come by when the list gets to a certain point. It is important to determine what one or two services you could pay for that would free you up the most.

Flexibility is so important for working parents. When I returned to work I was able to work out with my employer office hours of 9-5. Some mornings I get up and work from 6-7, before my kids get up, some days I work through lunch and others I put in time after everyone goes to bed. This allows me to take my son to school each morning and touch base with his teachers. Then I can avoid before school care and only need an after school solution. The flexibility allows me to work that one hour when it makes the most sense for my family and my job.

Through all of that you still need to have fun, fun with your kids, fun with your spouse and fun with your friends. Making time for that fun may require some scheduling. I often book my babysitters a month in advance. I will book the babysitter even before my husband and I have plans just to make sure that we get a date night. My husband and I will each take time to hang out with our friends, usually on a week night. It is hard on the parent who stays home, but good for each person to get out and have some guy/girl time and have some laughs. My 3 year old boy and I are very close and now that there is another child vying for my attention I try to make little dates for just us. Whether it is a trip to get a donut on Saturday morning or just a Walmart trip I try to make some time where I can just focus on him.

Decide what is important to you, when I went back to work I made the decree that we were going to church every Sunday. That is what I needed to be the best mom and wife that I could be. I need that one hour every week to recharge my batteries. One hour when everyone is together and I can enjoy my beautiful family!

What suggestions do you have to manage the work/life balance?