Category: Managing Home and Family

Top Tips for Working Mothers to Organise your Household and Save Time

Top Tips for Working Mothers to Organise your Household and Save Time

For some women running the household is pretty much a full time job in itself. Throw a couple of kids calendars, a husband and a full time job into the mix and it can get pretty overwhelming when you are a working mother.

Now there are thousands of articles out there telling you what to do to get the perfect work life balance as a full time working mother. I’m not going to do that. I’m simply going to tell you about things that I have found from my own personal experience and professional experience have worked for me, but have also worked for friends.

The things I recommend and why

1. Have a Wall calendar or planner, visible in a well-used communal area. Always add things as soon as you know about them. WHY? Because this gives you a glance first thing to see what the day holds, and will make you unlikely to forget it.

2. Have a good online Calendar. (Google, outlook-there are many fantastic ones out therel). You can sync this with the calendar on your phone and set auto reminders. This works for birthdays too and you can set multiple reminders-one reminder a week in advance and one for the day itself. WHY: We all have smart phones, and we all look at them when they flash or beep. So even if just for a second, that reminder has popped into your thoughts.

3. Register for online grocery shopping, and set up your shopping list. Now this takes time initially, but is great once done. WHY: You can then log in and complete your shop with a few clicks. Obviously there will be things that you want to add from week to week, but these will save in your favourites. This saves tons of time and money-stopping impulse buys and saving you the trip to the store itself.

4. Get to know your post person. WHY? When you know who is delivering your post, you can tell them where you prefer parcels when you’re not home-if they understand you don’t mind things left in the back garden, it means less tickets and less time queuing down the collection office.

5. Have a housework schedule. WHY? If you schedule small daily tasks on most days of the week, and then a clean on one morning of the week, you feel in complete control and the one full day housework can be shelved. Allocate small jobs to the family and put a rota on the fridge. Everyone feels a sense of achievement.

6. Have a gift and stationery stash: Keep a small stash of gifts for both men and women, (I tend to pick these up in offers and sales or if I see something that makes me think of someone I know) and a couple of birthday cards and gift wrap, with a few jiffy bags and a variety of postage stamps. WHY: Everyone forgets a birthday from time to time. The beauty of first class post is that it doesn’t take long. So even if you remember on the day and you get home late, you can select a gift from your stash, wrap it and get it popped into the local post-box on that day and say the gift is on the way. Post is sometimes late. And people are never unhappy receiving another gift a couple days after their birthday.

7. Have a weekly menu plan and prepare as much as possible in advance: Plan your meals for the whole working week. (Something the online shop is very helpful for). This includes breakfast and lunches. If you know what you’re having daily, it means you can just go straight in and do it. After dinner, whilst dad and kids wash up, you can prepare lunch for tomorrow. Keep a backup supply of lunch items too, just in case. Also then set up breakfast. Get the tea cups set in front of the kettle with the tea/coffee and sugar in them for the morning. Fill the kettle ready for morning use. And get the cereals/toast items out and ready to access or chop the fruit and cover ready to eat. WHY? If you spend 10 minutes every evening doing this (while everyone else is in the kitchen with you after dinner anyway) your mornings will just flow, and even if you are running a bit late one morning, it doesn’t matter because everything is good to go. So there are some simple things that you can implement into daily life, that do take a bit of time setting up, but once they are in play, really can make a huge difference.

There are of course methods that can take almost the entire workload from you. You can hire or outsource, both have proven to be very successful in many households. Some hire housekeepers and nannies, but this might not be right for everyone. This is when you might outsource.

Author: Nadia Render. Nadia runs Norfolk Virtual Assistant and offers a range of services remotely. She offers anything from doing the weekly online grocery shop, to booking car MOT’s, renewing insurance and paying bills, arranging appointments; purchasing and sending family birthday cards and gifts, Christmas cards and shopping, (She will even gift wrap). She offers a full support service to working Mums who just haven’t got the spare time for these things (or when they do, they want to be with their children.) She creates a shared calendar for the Mum, where important things are listed and can act as a physical reminder of things so that Mums have one less thing to worry about. Her services start at as little as 1 hour per week. And there are many VA’s out there. She has a network across the UK, so she can delegate when needed.

 

Working Mothers often Worry: do I Spend Enough Time with my Child?

Working Mothers often Worry: do I Spend Enough Time with my Child?

Are you a working mother? Do you spend 8 hours or more away from your child? Do you (and your partner) often reach home to find your child still taking their afternoon nap? If you said yes to even one of these questions, then it would come as no surprise to you that your child may in fact be feeling ignored.

Spending sufficient time with your child if both you and your husband work or if you are a single mother with a tight schedule, seems like an impossible thing to do.

The Importance of Spending Time with your Child

During childhood, the fear of rejection can be installed gradually. There are parents who criticize for nothing and who are negligent or absent.

For other children the fear of rejection just appears when a traumatic event, such as a child with illness or accident happens with one of the family members.

How can you Tell if your Child is Feeling Ignored?

It certainly isn’t wrong to be away from your child much, as long as there is another significant adult they can bond with, it tends to be fine.

However, you may wish to keep an eye out to make sure you are still on the right track. Usually, though, it isn’t the best option to ask your child directly if it feels ignored. This may make the child feel guilty for feeling “needy”. I recommend you look for some tell-tale signs instead.

Signs:

  • Child not sharing things like they used to before.
  • Mood swings – These could also be due to puberty, though
  • Occasional taunts when you actually try to spend some time with them.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • No interest in your matters

How to Create more Time for Your Child

You may have no idea where to start. Don’t worry!

Here are a few – but extremely vital – tips:

  1. Spend More Time

The most obvious thing to do is to spend more time with them. Try to wrap up all your work during office hours and bring a minimum amount of work home. That will allow you to have more quality time with your child. Watch a movie with them, go out for dinner or camp out – Do whatever your child finds fun.

  1. Talk With Them

Try to talk about their problems. Ask how they are doing at school, if they are having any issues, ask them about their friends, and share your own day and problems. You can also ask for their opinions to make them feel more involved.

  1. Reassure Them

The most important thing to do is to constantly remind your child that you are always there for them, and that their problems are your problems. You have to reassure them that they are important and matter to you a lot. Just tell them in as many ways that you can that you love them. I know of a mum who told her child seeing her was better than eating ice cream.

  1. Make Their Biggest Wish Come True

This is optional but could do wonders. Does your child have a wish? Like, going to Disneyland? Some toy or a gaming console they desperately want? An iPhone? Whatever they desire, you may wish to choose a special moment to fulfill a wish. This makes the child feel that you care about their interests.

Children who feel ignored are more likely to develop depression and/or anxiety disorders once they reach puberty. Since they have always felt ignored, they feel like no one is interested in hearing about their issues. Therefore, such children usually have to cope with bullying or academic and social issues in silence, which may fuel their depression.

However, it doesn’t have to be like that. Try and find time for your child, stay in touch, and be there for them.

 

Author: Jessica works as a blogger at Need Dissertation, the best online dissertation help uk & writing services. Need Dissertation offers professional writing services, where you can get all the dissertation help you need. Doesn’t matter what the topic or subject, Need Dissertation is proud to have professional writers like Jessica, for whom writing a dissertation is as easy as one-two-three!

Renegotiating the Domestic Contract

Renegotiating the Domestic Contract

You will no doubt be familiar with the situation: you and your partner are settled on the routine at home and have a good idea of who does what and when. But then something happens to change the dynamic – whether one of you is taking leave, going back to work, or being laid off, the routine changes. It can take some time, and perhaps a little stress, to get back into a rhythm. So what can you do to make this as easy as possible – on you both?

Whose job is it anyway?

If you are going to be starting maternity leave, preparing to return to work after a period of leave, or otherwise starting to spend more or less time at home, you might think that it only needs to be you that needs to think about corresponding changes at home. That was certainly my approach going through two lots of maternity leave, and more recently a career change with a more flexible working pattern.

Rather surprisingly it is only now looking back that I realise it would have been more helpful if we had talked through in advance what changes might happen at home – rather than simply going with the flow. We could have avoided a growing resentment (on both sides) that the other wasn’t doing enough around the house, as well as pointless (and repetitive) discussions about what was fair and who was doing more than the other.

Talk Talk Talk

I recognise now that we had different assumptions and expectations – but we hadn’t sat down and talked them through with each other before the situation changed. We now have a great balance and understanding, but we could have saved time and energy by doing a little bit of pre-planning. It makes sense to talk – before you reach the point when you are shouting at each other for the sixth week running over whose turn it is to take the bin out.

Think First

Start by taking ten minutes to think through what you think will change at home – both emotions and practicalities. Emotionally, you might expect to be stressed out (and correspondingly a little less patient with those at home), but your partner may not be expecting this. You might know that if your partner doesn’t say thank you for what you do around the house once in a while you will feel undervalued – but have you told him or her? Think about the following:

  • Are there things he or she does that you could thank him or her for, but realise you don’t?
  • On the practical side, what jobs do you do around the house at the moment that you might not have time for when your work situation changes?
  • What support – both emotionally and practically speaking – will you need from your partner, and what support do you think they will need from you?

Start Talking

Set aside 30 minutes one evening to talk through your expectations, assumptions and fears with your partner. What does he or she want? What doesn’t she or he know already about how you are feeling? What assumptions are either of you making about the other, or about the situation? For example, women returning to work after maternity leave may consider flexible working – might your partner as well? It may be the case that one of you works longer hours and it’s therefore just assumed that they are less involved around the house – but can you have a conversation about how he or she might want to be more involved, and how you can help support them with that?

Can you work out what you each enjoy doing (relatively speaking), and what you are each best suited to? As an example, I like playing with spreadsheets so I am the one who organises our finances. He loves cooking (and frankly is better at it than me) so he cooks our evening meal. These things work for us – but may not be what works for you.

Don’t stop talking

Experiment: try something out, and keep talking about what is working, and what isn’t. If one of you isn’t happy, don’t build resentment – sit down and discuss how things might change to make it better for everyone.

Finally, the most important things to remember are:

  • put yourself in your partner’s shoes every now and again;
  • just because someone does something differently to the way you do it, it doesn’t mean their approach is wrong;
  • don’t say one thing but mean or think another;
  • accept that it’s not a bad thing to compromise; and
  • don’t expect “fair” to mean 50:50 – it is whatever feels right to both of you.

 

rebecca ford johnsonAuthor: Rebecca Ford Johnson is a Maternity and Leadership Coach with My Family Care, having previously been a Partner in a global law firm. She has two young children. Find out more about Rebecca, and the services of My Family Care.
 
 
 

HELP! Its half-term! - School holiday tips for Working Mothers

HELP! Its half-term! – School holiday tips for Working Mothers

The much anticipated first half term of the year is almost here.

It is my particular favourite as it is the first in the new school year, autumn season and usually around Halloween/Diwali, end of daylight savings and a real game changer in routines.

I remember when my son started school, I was petrified of how I would handle the ‘1- week- every- 6 weeks-routine’. Of course, not everyone can afford to get time off work for all school holidays, given that the average number of school days is only 190 days a year!

With a little forward planning and networking (yes what you use in your day job) it need not be stressful!

Of course what I am writing below is not any new information and common sense really, but you could use it as a quick checklist.

  • Start early – schools publish their calendars and teacher training days well in advance so make sure it is on your fridge door or somewhere easily visible
  • Ask for help – your partner, family member, grandparent could pitch in 1 day of the week – it could be just what they need to (re)connect with your child(ren)
  • Holiday clubs – An all-time favourite of mine –there is no dearth of providers, check your local school, council, Net mums website for what is on – most providers even have early bird discounts so the point about starting early helps – if your child’s best friend is also planning to go to the same club, check with his/her parent to make sure you book the same day(s) and your child will be extra happy! Use your childcare vouchers and it’s easy on the wallet too!
  • Offer to agree on pick up or drop arrangements with your friends/neighbours as most clubs are only 10am – 4 pm or check if the club has an early drop/late pick up arrangement (usually for an additional fee)
  • If your employer is flexible and the nature of your job permits, try to get 1 day in the half term to work from home or a similar flexible arrangement
  • Plan plan plan ahead – Book early and use the half term week to get these done for yourself and/or your children – eye check-up/dental check-ups, shop for new shoes (scuffed already?!!)
  • Take a day off – Yes why not?! Most employers will appreciate that you are not just taking the whole week off – spend the day relaxing with your children, it need not be planned to the minute detail or become an expensive day out at a theme park – my favourite is going to the local park to pick up autumn leaves, conkers and a picnic lunch or tea – weather permitting or a ‘day in’ in pyjamas, doing Halloween, Diwali activity sheets, some baking etc. It might even be a day for ‘trick or treating’. Get some art supplies and stickers from the pound store and you should be sorted!
  • Arrange play dates or even better – team up with a friend/colleague so that you have 2 days sorted this way with each of you having to take off only 1 day each – the wider your social circle – the better! Have a cuppa with your friend when you pick up and unwind!
  • Keep a journal – Encourage your child(ren) to keep a half term journal/scrap book or an autumn bucket list – let them put in those leaves, conkers etc and write about them – you have just made half term learning fun and improve their handwriting along the way
  • Have a movie and popcorn night on the last day of half term – what more could you ask for?! Kids get to choose the movie
  • Print out that all important certificate – Kids love reward recognition (and stickers!) – there are free printables on the web, even Microsoft Word has a template – get one printed in colour and you have just made their half term – THE BEST HALF TERM EVER.
ManjuAuthor: Manju is a full time IT Project Manager and mum to a cheeky 6 year old. She does believe in Mum and Career’s motto of ‘Yes, it can be done’ with the right planning, support network, helpful and co-operative family members and friends; on the lines of the old proverb ‘ It takes a village to raise a child’!

Her article is a summary of her experience in the last couple of years her son has been in school and could resonate with other mums!
Super manage your childcare - my top 3 strategies

Super manage your childcare – my top 3 strategies

In Part 1 of this series I talked about how you need to stop trying to be Superwoman – as a professional working mum you need to learn to let go (stop micromanaging!) and give others a chance to grow and develop both at home and at work. Let’s take a closer look at how this applies when it comes to looking after your children.

Anyone who juggles work and family knows that the childcare arrangement is one of the most critical things to get right if you want your life to run smoothly – it’s the linchpin. “Well, if you can afford it, just hire an expensive nanny,” you say and “its’ all sorted.” Sorry, money certainly helps, but it’s not what makes or breaks the situation. YOUR people skills and management skills are what counts. Just like at work, simply paying someone doesn’t mean they’ll perform. As humans, we’re a lot more complicated than that.

Whatever your arrangement – nursery school, childcare in the provider’s home, or some sort of help in your home, whether it be a nanny, grandmother, or perhaps student – think about how you would like to be treated if you were the one being hired to look after somebody else’s kids. Also is there anything you’ve learned in your professional environment about working with people – how to motivate, work effectively in teams, resolve conflict, resolve problems – that might also be useful when it comes to interacting with the person looking after your most precious asset?

You’ve got it. IT’S EXACTLY THESE PEOPLE SKILLS THAT YOU USE IN YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT YOU NEED TO USE WHEN MANAGING YOUR CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENT.

Here are my top three strategies:

Manage the relationship day by day

Don’t let problems boil over. Deal with them as they arise. There’s a scene in the film I don’t know how she does, where Mom Kate comes back from a business trip and her husband Richard says they need to talk to the nanny about her being late all the time. Kate screams, “No! I don’t want her to leave.” Tiptoeing around these kind of sensitive issues may avoid some pain in the short-term, but in the longer term it only makes the pain that much worse. By not dealing with issues as they arise, you are also setting a dangerous precedent. In this case Kate & Richard are saying it’s ok to be late and are opening up the door to other potentially unwelcome behaviour.

Empower the carer

In another scene Kate’s on a business trip and she’s about to go into a very big meeting. She gets a call on her cell phone from her nanny who’s after a telephone number to arrange a play date. Understandingly so, Kate is frazzled and searches her handbag looking for some sort scribbled note. Kate clearly is trying to manage the play date and her big deadlines at work. Is this really necessary? Isn’t Kate causing her own stress? Empower the childcare provider to take responsibility for this kind of detail. After all, you’ve got other things on your mind and that’s why she is likely to do a better job than you. Just like at work, when you empower people, they feel appreciated and trusted and are able to handle the situation brilliantly. The figure out how to do things on their own.

The payback is huge when you follow this principle. Currently we have a university student (Callum) who picks our 11 year son Zach up from school and helps him with his homework. I make it clear that it’s Zach’s responsibility to get his work done and Callum’s responsibility is to support him. When we get feedback from the school that a certain piece of work is done well or not so well – we share that with Callum too and by doing so make it clear that he shares in Zach’s successes and’ not so good’ results. I always ask Callum for his views – eg how can we motivate Zach to do his work more quickly (he has a tendency to let his mind wander like any healthy 11 year old boy.) What’s his response? He suggests great ideas like promising to play football if there’s enough time after Zach completes his homework. Does Callum feel empowered and personally responsible? You bet he does! The irony is when you give people personal responsibility, their job satisfaction goes up – they feel like they make a difference. The upside for you is your time is freed up and it’s a real joy to see others develop. (I’m even teaching Callum how to cook!)

Support the carer’s authority

Empowering also means that you need to be careful not to undermine the childcare provider’s authority. I’m sure you don’t like it at work when you’re given a job to do, but then somebody comes along and completely undermines the direction and actions you’ve taken. Always support the carer’s actions, especially in front of the kids. If you have a disagreement, you need to deal with that offline. (Mom Kate in the film loves to avoid conflict. When the nanny takes her son to get his first haircut, she never discusses with the nanny that she’d prefer to be part of these “first” moments. With some discussion and planning lots of things are possible.) I remember many times with our two older kids that I had to have a quiet word with the carer about restrictions on television or snack food, usually because the carer was new. Children are natural arbitrageurs!

The biggest gift your childcare provider gives you is the opportunity for you to be you. Without this trusted partner, you can’t go out in the world and show your full talents. Like any relationship it’s a two-way street and this one certainly deserves day-to-day managing and investing. You won’t regret the long-term reward.

Author: Christine Brown-Quinn. As a former managing director, wife and mother of 3, Christine Brown-Quinn shares her 20+ years experience in banking (as well as recent experience as an author and entrepreneur) and offers practical strategies on how to get the most out of your work & life. Christine’s recently published book Step Aside Super Woman… Career & Family is for Any Woman offers professional women time-tested advice on how to create work-life balance. She is also co-founder of the Women in Business Superconference series.

This blog is Part II of a 5-Part Series: ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. Sign up for our monthly update to receive them directly into your mailbox – just enter your name in the top-right-hand box to sign up. 

Having it all…does that include pushing myself to the breaking point?

Having it all…does that include pushing myself to the breaking point?

Are you a working mum? Do you push yourself to the breaking point and still feel guilty? You are not alone! A working from home mum shares how managing time like a sergeant major made her marriage suffer, and what helps her to find more balance.

I said to a girlfriend the other day, ‘I really need to re-organise my life priorities. I mean, who else goes to the gym at 9pm rather than see their husband because there’s just no other time in the day to do it…after looking after the kids, dinner, bath, bed?’ Her reply was, ‘I go to the gym at 9pm!’.

She has recently returned to a full-time job after maternity leave with her second child. I am a stay-at-home mum who is also trying to start up her own business. That’s when I realised that my schedule was pretty typical of any working mum.

I’m not sure if having kids later in life is anything to do with it, but we do all seem to want it all – a job that gives us status, independence and an income; children who we enjoy; a great marriage; and a fabulous, fit body – despite getting older and having less time!

What I’ve realised recently is that something has to give or else you just crack as you set the bar too high for yourself. However, giving yourself a break isn’t so easy when you’re running at a million miles and hour and totally focused.

Choosing which area of your life needs to give a little is hard and there’s no right answer. If we choose family life and spend more time with our kids, rather than putting them in childcare or pre-school then the stress of tantrums and thinking of fun ideas for you and your kids to enjoy every day can be hard. For others this comes naturally and is an easy choice.

If we choose work then it’s a risk – you can dedicate yourself to a job and be side-lined for promotion, made redundant or just find the whole rush from home to childcare to work and visa versa utterly exhausting. For others the time on the train is relaxing and they thrive on the self-satisfaction of the job.

We are all individual and no one size fits all.

I thought that running my own business would be the best of both worlds and to a large extent I’ve been right. I get to be there every day for my son during his waking hours. He sleeps for Britain, so the afternoons and evenings are free for me to work and by the time he wakes up I’m ready to down tools and have fun.

But recently I’ve realised it’s my marriage that has taken a side-line – not my work or my son. It’s happened slowly but surely until I suddenly noticed that we’ve both started putting our jobs above our time together. Juggling our son between us and both running off to our respective offices or negotiating who gets the chance to go to the gym when he sleeps.

It doesn’t mean to say I’m about to get divorced…far from it. Realising this slide in priorities has given us both a wake up call and we now follow a ‘no work on the week-end policy’. You might be thinking that it’s odd that we even have to make this rule but if you’re a workaholic then it’s definitely a must. For me, the only way to be successful in business and remain happy in marriage and family life is to time-manage like a sergeant major.

The reality is that there is no perfect parent. And you can’t always achieve the job success you want at the pace you might have achieved when you were single. Perhaps it’s an all round compromise rather than always thinking it’s one single thing.

A friend who runs her own business from home made me realise this when she came over for coffee the other day and reeled off the routine she follows each week which means she does not dedicate more than 20 hours a week to work: two days a week her son does after school club to give her space to work a bit longer, 2 hours per day on dog walking so she got in a dog walker twice a week to free up time, 4 hours to managing her son’s mini-rugby team etc.

I was so impressed with her rigidity and honesty in managing her time, and finding space for what is important to her without feeling guilty or pushing herself to breaking point, that I have since tried to do the same.

It is tough to pull off, which is why I’m writing this article at 12.30am before I go and tidy up the kitchen…but I’m getting better and am happier for it!

Author: a Surrey-mum who works from home

Dads who do the housework are less stressed

Dads who do the housework are less stressed

A new study carried out for the charity Working Families has revealed that the best way for fathers to de-stress is by sharing the housework and childcare.

Read the report– released 5 Nov. 2010