Working Moms: Tips for Surviving and Thriving

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Working Moms:  Tips for Surviving and Thriving

Working Moms: Tips for Surviving and Thriving

If you clicked on over to this post looking for tools and tips for moms who are working outside the home, then thanks for stopping by!  You’re simply the best.  But now I have an apology and, ultimately, a request.

You see, I do not actually have any tools and tips to share.  The title was simply a ruse to get you here with all your wealth of knowledge and experience of how to survive (and thrive!) in this vocation.  Which reminds me, my request:  can you share all your wealth of knowledge and experience with me and all the others who found themselves here looking for answers that I don’t have to give?  We’re desperate for help and counting on you!

I’m sorry for the ruse, please forgive me.  I am eight months pregnant and life has been making me a little crazy these days and I’m looking for some encouragement.  And if there’s one thing we all know first time moms need, it’s encouragement.

A little over a month ago I left a full-time job that I’d had since I graduated college and accepted a part-time job in ministry at a local parish.  At first, the transition was heart wrenching; I loved my co-workers; I loved how varied and exciting and challenging the work was; and I loved how comfortable it had become.  But the Lord was calling me to something new, something that would give me more flexibility so I could be home with my baby.   And yet even though it was for all the right reasons, the transition was uncomfortable, even downright painful.  I had to leave something I loved for a completely new life.

It’s amazing how a few months of pregnancy can change things.  Now, instead of longing to return to the comfort and familiarity of my old, full-time job, I find myself worrying how I’m going to be successful even as a part-time working mom, even in this new job with it’s flexible schedule and family-friendly environment.  How am I ever going to manage to take care of my newborn, grow in friendship and intimacy with my husband, keep up with the cooking, cleaning and laundry, make and keep new friends, successfully build up a youth ministry program at a very large parish, AND become holy…all while nursing and being sleep-deprived.

My insides scream, THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!  HOW DO THESE MOMS DO IT?!  I know that it is indeed possible because my own mother did it.  And she did it gracefully and became a holy woman in the process.  And there are many other women I know who balance work and home and are becoming saints.  But they are superheroes and have special powers.  What about someone like me?  How can I do it?

My gentle and wise husband reminds me daily that God has called our family to this and has provided for us in every way.  We have many blessings and advantages with our jobs than many other families don’t.  I do trust that my husband will help me make it work, he always does.  And I trust in God’s goodness and providence.  But I also know that I must cooperate with God’s grace and work to overcome the things in me (ahem…concupiscence) that will make life as a working mom challenging.

I need a plan, some good habits to start making right now so that when our baby comes next month and I ease into being a working mom in the Fall, I can do it with more confidence, grace and gratitude.

So, I ask you – no I BEG you – what have you found most helpful in balancing home and work as a wife and a mom?  What did you learn along the way that helped you to make good priorities, manage time well, stay organized and do it joyfully and with a smile?

Thank you in advance, fellow working moms, you are superheroes – every single one of you – and I’m grateful for the wisdom you’ll leave below (wink).

Copyright 2013 Megan Swaim

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About Author

Megan Swaim lives in South Bend, IN, with her husband, Josh, and daughters, Lucy and Mary. Together they are navigating the beautiful (and crazy) adventure of marriage, parenting, and ministering to the young Church. Megan is a high school youth minister and was one of the administrators of the My Year of Faith blog and app for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. You can read more from Megan at www.myyearoffaith.com.

13 Comments

  1. Dear Megan: Your article made me smile, remembering my first months of parenthood. My husband and I fostered a sibling group of 3, and almost immediately I realized I was in over my head! I continued to work, though the added pressure was more than I could really handle at that time. I spent a lot of time crying in the shower — the only place I could get the tiniest bit of privacy. Here are some things that helped me through the rough patches:

    * Take care of yourself physically. It’s tempting to get just a bit more done during naptime. Don’t do it. Not in those first crazy months. Get your rest. Eat and exercise properly. You will need all the patience and gentleness you can muster — and you can’t give what you don’t have. So be patient and gentle with yourself whenever possible.

    * Ask for help. Don’t be proud — build a network of people who will lend a sympathetic ear AND a helpful pair of hands when you need it most. (Reciprocate as needed, when you’re able.) If you can manage it, get a teenage “mother’s helper” to pitch in from time to time.

    * Write stuff down. Set a daily or weekly schedule — tasks to be done, menus, appointments and playdates, etc. Get it all on paper (or in your iPhone). As the kids get older, having something to look at keeps the crazy levels down to a dull roar.

    * Sometimes “good enough” is your goal. One of the most dangerous traps of multitaskers is assuming that everything has to be done, by you personally, and perfectly. It doesn’t. Those moments when we are in “cope mode” can be great opportunities for detachment and humility, which Teresa of Avila said were two of the most important virtues of the Christian life (after love). Practice, practice, practice.

    * Don’t forget you are loved not for what you do, but for who you are. Take time to BE with your family, and to enjoy them. There’s always something more to do. But those block towers won’t build themselves — and your child will always remember the moments you took time to play.

    Blessings, dear sister!

    Heidi

    • Thanks, Heidi! I especially loved (and needed to be reminded of) what you wrote about taking time to just be with my new little family – loved for who I am rather than what I do. Thanks for your wisdom…I’m keeping it all in a “mom file” 🙂

  2. Hi,

    You got me — I clicked on the link to find survival tips for working moms. I don’t know if I have much to offer as far as this goes because I’m looking for some myself, but one thing that has helped me tremendously is planning meals for the week. We even started putting them on our family calendar because my husbands hates meal time surprises, and I hate the feeling of not knowing exactly what I’m making for dinner when I get home. At this point we mostly keep it simple and repeat many of the same meals week-to-week.

    Ask your husband to share in ALL the household and childcare duties, or if you can afford it, have someone come in to help to clean the house a couple of times a month. My husband is firmly against having help so he pitches-in without complaint.

    I’m saving this post in my Feedly reader because I’m anxious to read other comments. If you come across blogs of working Catholic moms, I would love to read those. I read a LOT of blogs of stay-at-home moms, but many of those just make me feel guilty because I’m not at home everyday.

    Enjoy this last bit of your first pregnancy. This is the last time that it will be all about you — and I mean that in the best way.

    • Thanks, Kim! I’m certainly blessed because my husband is great about sharing household duties, so I know I can rely on him while I get my feet wet and figure this whole thing out. So many of the suggestions left are phenomenal – I hope you were able to get a lot of good advice from it too! God bless you!

  3. My boys are 18 and 13. I went back to work both times after 8 weeks.
    I lowered my housekeeping standards. The Kitchen and the bathrooms are my priorities. I found it easier to do laundry on the weekends and hubby does at least 50 of the laundry and he is in charge of floors. I do have to get upset every once and a while. Or invite company over.

    I make out a meal plan. If I have a plan and I am running late, maybe someone will execute it. Soup and sandwiches are an Ok dinner.

    Use a crockpot and pressure cooker. Keep pizza crust, sauce, and cheese in the pantry. (Shredded cheese freezes well. I use my freezer a lot.) I also have a collection of meals I can get together in 30 minutes or less.

    The laundry technique above means every one has 7 days worth of all clothing (Sports uniforms thwarted that for awhile but my boys learned how to operate the washing machine).

    Develop friendships that can lead to carpools…

    These are a few things off the top of my head…. You can do it.

    • I love it! Thanks, Maggie, for the advice! (Especially about being okay with lowering your standards for a bit and prioritizing things. That one is difficult for me, but I know it will be necessary. It’s good to know that other moms do it too! With my trusty sidekick (loving husband) I’m sure we can keep on top of the kitchen and bathroom and do a quick “hide all the clutter” every now and again. God bless you!

  4. Best of luck as you make the transition! My tips:

    *Know how to say no,and learn to say it without guilt. It might be too much to go to that Saturday birthday party or to take on an extra committee at work. Be good at setting boundaries to protect your own time.

    *Keep meal expectations modest. Trader Joe’s pre-prepared frozen meals are the bomb. Also, remember that the cost of getting occasional takeout is a bargain compared to the cost of one’s sanity.

    *Get a massage every now and then. Every mom who juggles career/family deserves an occasional spa pampering treat. (Actually, ALL moms deserve this!).

    *Put a picture of Rosie the Riveter or Wonder Woman in your cubicle for instant inspiration.

    You’ll be great!

    • Ginny – I just had to share your comment with my husband, so he’d know that the suggestions of take-out and pedicures was advice from a real pro and not just me being sneaky. 😉 Thanks for sharing your wisdom!!

  5. 1. Pray.

    2. Remember that this precious child will grow up way too quickly. Make enjoying his or her little time a priority.

    3. It’s ok to be hormonal and cry and be tired. Talk to your husband about it. He won’t understand but I’m sure he will be ok with being a shoulder to cry on.

    I stink at being organized like other commentators. Good luck. I’ve just found that eventually stuff gets done. When we run out of clothes or food we do laundry and go to the grocery. We know when the time is getting close so we can sort of plan.

    5. Careful with expectations. They can sometimes cause more frustration than anything. ( I am FREQUENTLY guilty of this one. I expect way too much out of myself and the fam.)

    6. One day at a time and don’t forget to breathe. A good deep breath can help with everything from labor to not yelling.

    • Ha! I am definitely practicing the deep breathing in preparation for (eek!) birth…it’s good to know it will come in handy in other situations too. And it’s also encouraging to know that even if keeping it all organized and meeting all the goals falls to the side, we’ll still survive and I won’t lose my mom badge! Thanks for the great advice!

  6. Dear Megan…

    Congratulations ..Congratulations 🙂 I fell for your little trick too but here is what I have to share..

    I used to be all upset about a constantly messy home and also about not having the time to dole out elaborate dinners or do laundry systematically. I was almost teetering on the verge of labeling myself a failure until I saw a quote somewhere that read “Good Moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids.”
    Now I spend guilt free time with my spunky 2 year old Ms.Claire. She sleeps better now too through the night…And I don’t need any proof that she’d rather have her mommy right next to her playing, rather than in a spic-n-span kitchen.

    I know you have a lot of questions in your mind – but let simplicity be the key. Trust Jesus with your day and He will lead you beautifully – One day at a time..yes, even on days when you are too delirious to pray.

    May you experience Mother Mary’s maternal care and intercession during the next few precious months and years.

    I always recall the snippet from the Eucharistic prayer -”..and keep Lord from needless anxiety..” in times like this.

    In Jesus, Priya

    • Thank you, Priya! I am grateful for your advice, especially to just trust in Jesus and ask Mary to be with me. It will be good to rely on those short, simply prayers when I’m just so tired at first. I will rest in them! God bless you!!! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and prayers!

  7. I just happened across your website and was excited to see a section for working moms. I have to say since having kids, I have really felt that being a working mom and church do not mix. I’ve felt very judged and kind of an outcast. Hopefully, you have a different experience. I was always shocked at the judgement when older moms would tell me how sad it was I have to work and if I just gave up a few things we could afford to live on one income just like they did in the 70s and 80s. Not an option for me anyway. The world has changed.

    Anyway, I’m trying to find my way back into some sort of church for my kids. I have 2 boys (9 and 7) and I’ve been working full-time for the entire time.

    We have always looked at the homemaking stuff to be a joint effort since my spouse and I both work outside the home work. He cooked and cleaned before he met me so I know he can. We are both equally responsible for meals, laundry and cleaning. I found writing down all the tasks involved in maintaining a home and simply dividing them up and adjust as needed. There are many days I do way more than him and that’s when I realize we need to take or I need to lower my expectation (he is not very neat or a very good cook).

    Once you get all that stuff out the way, it’s nice to come home from work and play with my boys or check homework while my husband makes dinner and I think my boys wives will appreciate that their husbands are quite capable of cooking and cleaning.

    Organizing is key. I use google calendar to maintain all schedules. We use a paper list on the front of the fridge to write down what were are out of, the next person who goes to the store buys what’s needed.

    3 things to remember:
    – Don’t compare yourself to other mothers (i.e., pinterest mom)
    – The days are long the years are short
    – Everything is a phase (baby to toddler to little kid to big kid to teenager to college to adult)

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