If you've been reading my blog for a few years, you know I used to be a type-A work-a-holic. Not anymore. Nope. I've changed. Now I am a type-A work-a-holic mom! As I'm reflecting on the past two years of being a working teacher mom, I'm proud to say that I am content. I love going to work in the morning and I love coming home at night.
Last year was rough, I won't lie. I was hanging by a thread on good days. If you walked in my classroom at lunchtime, I was shoveling leftovers in my mouth, while checking my email and pumping. It was not a good look. I was sleep deprived and burned out.
This year has been a tremendous change. Not only did I transfer to a less demanding classroom and cut my commute in half, but I'm finally getting the hang of it (most weeks). I've learned what works for me. I've been fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family who have lived this same struggle and shared wisdom and support along the way. Whether you're expecting your first child or you're currently hanging by a thread, I hope this post finds you motivated to put your family (and your self) first.
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A few months back Facebook reminded me that I posted a status three years ago, right before my wedding that stated All I want for Christmas is to get enough sleep. HA. I wish I could go back to that naive girl and smack her for ever thinking she was sleep deprived without kids. I would also tell her to go to sleep now because your well-rested days are numbered.
I used to tell myself lies like "I'm the type of person who only needs 5 hours of sleep" or "The more sleep I get, the more tired I feel". WRONG. The truth is,the less sleep I get, the more likely I am to snap at my students for having to repeat directions or snap at my family for using too many water glasses in one day. Sleep is the absolute most important part of surviving the working mom struggle. Turn off Netflix, leave the laundry unfolded and go to bed.
I learned last year that I physically cannot do it all, so I better lower my standards at home and at work and simply do what I can. This means get over the fact that your family ate canned soup for dinner and that you forgot to plan a craft for Father's Day (it's not your job to shop for your students' parents anyway- regardless of what Pinterest says!)
This can be difficult for women who are used to doing it all. When I went back to work after maternity leave, I also went back to being a part-time graduate student. I tried to squeeze all of my homework, school work and house work into weekend nap times and after bedtime so I would never miss a moment with my family. This quickly led to me losing out on all personal time that is necessary to maintain mental health.
If it's in your budget, hire a house cleaner to help you maintain your home. If it's not in your budget, decide if there's something that you could cut out (like cable or highlights) and put that money toward something more valuable to your family's sanity, like a cleaner, a babysitter or a meal prep service.
Accept help from family and friends who want to spend time with your kids so you can take care of things that you need to do. Rely on coworkers and teammates to pick up the pieces at school. Nobody thinks you're any less of a mom or a teacher if you didn't have sub plans ready when your kid gets sick. Everyone has been there. It is okay to accept help and important to ask for it.
This is by far one of the most important habits that my family is in. Every weekend we plan our meals for the week before we go grocery shopping. Not only does it encourage healthy eating, but it saves time and money. When you have a menu planned for the week, you don't start wondering what you'll make for dinner at 4:00 when you get home. We have an extra freezer and before we started menu planning, we would never take anything out early enough to have it thawed for dinner. Some people swear by their crockpots and prepping dinners on Sunday which saves a ton of time (especially if you have running around to do at night). We aren't big crockpot users and we both enjoy cooking, so planning ahead is enough for us to eat at home every night.
I love the Knock Knock What to Eat Pad because it also has space for breakfast, lunches and grab bag. I always write what fruits, veggies and snacks we have that should be used up that week.
I meal prep all of my breakfast and lunches. It takes time on Sunday but it is truly a lifesaver during the week and helps me to eat healthy all week. I used to despise packing lunches and I'd wind up eating spoonfuls of peanut butter and old Halloween candy from my desk instead. Packing my breakfasts and lunches now takes less than a minute!
You can find recipes and read about some of my favorite meal prep lunch ideas here.
I scored these Snapware containers at TJ Maxx but you can also find them on Amazon. They are the perfect size for lunches and stack nicely in the fridge. I also love the Sistema salad dressing containers. Those also are the perfect size for a handful of almonds!
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It is so important when you are a working mom that you set boundaries between yourself and your job. This doesn't only apply to teachers, but to anyone who works a job that is easy to bring home with you. I used to find myself sending emails or making phone calls at night, checking Class Dojo and posting to my class Instagram account at home. I made a promise to myself and my family that this school year I would unplug when I get home. I deleted my work email from my phone and I posted "office hours" on my classroom website. I constantly remind myself that 15 years ago, parents just had to put a note in their child's folder and wait until 3:30 to get a response.
Along the same lines as setting boundaries, one of the hardest things for me to overcome was being a "yes person". I still struggle with this today because I am pleaser and I am also a do-er- so I like getting involved and staying busy. Over the past two years, I have said no more than I have in 30 years. I finally feel comfortable saying "I can't take on anymore work right now" or "No thank you, I have plans with my family." Nobody needs to know that the plans I have with my family are to lay on the couch and read the same Sesame Street book 300 times.
By far, the most effective change that I made was when I started to schedule self care. The key word is schedule! Working moms know that we are so busy taking care of everybody else, that we often forget to take care of ourselves. This year I decided to schedule time in my day and time in each week where I did things for myself. This can be routines, exercise, a walk, a coffee date with a friend or a hobby. For me, that time is exercise, my nightly self care routine and the time each week that I spend reading blogs and working my own blog and business. Every Sunday morning, I go out to a coffee shop and sit and work on my blog for a few hours. It gives me the uninterrupted time that I do not get when I'm home. I started going to a local Lagree fitness class on Monday nights with two of my friends. Having the class scheduled guarantees that I vigorously exercise once a week (baby steps, people) and gives me much needed girlfriend time.
Routines are another great way to carve out time in your day for yourself. My friend Kelly got me in the habit of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar and lemon water each morning. Not only does it have tremendous health benefits, but having solid morning routines in place encourages me to wake up early and start my day without feeling frazzled.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Water
- 1 cup of warm water
- 2 tsp. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 2 drops of lemon essential oil
My favorite self care routine that I treasure the most is my nightly detox bath and bedtime routine. When I was pregnant, I got in the habit of taking a bath at night when my muscles and back were sore. After my son was born, I continued taking a bath every night because it was the quiet and relaxing time that I needed. Two years later, I still look forward to winding down this way. The added bonus is it encourages me to go to bed early. If I pull out the iPad or turn on Netflix at night, I wind up staying up way too late.
Detox Bath:Wedderspoon 100% Raw Premium Manuka Honey.
I also love spraying my pillow at night with my lavender Sunday Night Soother spray from The Blissful Teacher. She makes teacher inspired essential oil mists. Bonus- you can spray it on your face too when you're in need of some aromatherapy!
What has been a life changer for you when it comes to balancing it all? I love being inspired to try new things, so share what works for you and your family in the comments.