Category: Preparing your 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.


Advance preparation for your return to work

Advance preparation for your return to work

At the moment our household is in mid-exam crisis mode. With two teenagers sitting important exams, I’m supporting from the sidelines. Alongside making many cups of tea & stocking the constantly-emptying fridge, I’ve been doing what I can to help them to prepare. They’re completely focused on revision, so I’m stepping in for the practical side – finding the missing compass before the maths exam, stocking up with black biros & filling the water bottles. I’ve also been encouraging them to prepare mentally – positively channeling their adrenaline and discussing what to do if they have a crisis of confidence just before an exam or start panicking when they can’t answer the first question.

Advance preparation is similarly vital when you make the decision to get back to work: you need to start to prepare on three fronts – professional/technical, mental and practical.

Top tips:

1. Don’t wait for a job application or offer before you start to prepare

2. You may not have your mum to help you out, but do prioritise finding your own sources of emotional and practical support.

Professional/technical preparation

Bring your knowledge back up-to-date. Re-subscribe to professional journals, read related press, take update/refresher courses if you need to. Go to seminars & conferences. Meet up with ex-colleagues and talk shop again. Remind yourself of the old jargon and learn the new.

Mental preparation

For returning mothers, this is the moment to address any looming guilt feelings about leaving your children – as we’ve said many times on this blog, there is no need to feel guilty for working (see here for advice).

Remind yourself of your motivations for returning and the positive rewards for you and the family: studies have shown that if we focus on the positive aspects of combining work and family life, we’re much more likely to feel good about our work-life balance, and to overcome any challenges, than if we focus on potential work-life conflict.

Increase your energy and enthusiasm for your return by spending time with the people who are encouraging you to make this change, rather than those who are questioning or critical of your decision. Also take steps to build your confidence; don’t discount yourself and what you can offer (see here for confidence tips).

Practical preparation

Make time for your return by giving up other activities, such as volunteering work that isn’t using your professional skills. Get practiced at saying ‘no’ to free up your day. Start to delegate more to your children and encourage their independence. If you’re the default taxi driver, still ferrying your older children around, let them get used to public transport. Same with your partner, if you have one – start to hand over and share out more of the home responsibilities.

Build your practical support networks. If you need to sort childcare, it’s worth planning this as far in advance as possible. Don’t wait until you have the job offer! And start to contingency plan too – work out what will be your back-up for your back-up childcare before the inevitable problems arise – line up other mothers & local grannies/students. If you don’t have a cleaner, get recommendations now so you can avoid spending all your free time doing housework when you’re back at work.

Think carefully about how work can fit with your life. Map out a balanced work week for you. When do you want/need to be at home & what for? And critically, work out what you are not going to do any more at home. What can you let go of or delegate? Don’t be the mother sewing a fancy-dress costume at 2am when a cheap bought or borrowed one will do just as well. You’ll need to be flexible about how this might pan out once you get into job discussions, but being clearer on your non-negotiables will help you to target the right opportunities.

If you’re also a mother who tells your children the benefits of not leaving everything until the last minute, this is the moment to practice what you preach!

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Breastfeeding when returning after maternity leave

Breastfeeding when returning after maternity leave

You may still be breast-feeding when you return to work, and may wish to continue for as long as possible. Morning and evening feeds may well be achievable even with full-time work – day time feeds may be harder. Your options are either to visit your child at home or at their day care setting to feed when necessary (unlikely unless you are self-employed or live locally with a very understanding manager) or to express while you are at work, refrigerate it and take the milk home with you in a coolbag.

More information:

Maternity Action information sheet – information about managing breastfeeding at work



Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward! Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most material on Maternity Leave for us.

Organising childcare after maternity leave

Organising childcare after maternity leave

Sorting childcare is the single most important thing that you need to do when you are on maternity leave or returning to work after a career break. It is essential that you find a solution that you are comfortable with as it can be very emotional to leave your baby for the first time. Work out how much cover you will need – will your partner be taking an active role in childcare? What degrees of flexibility do you both need for your jobs? The main options are hiring a nanny, using a child minder, using a day nursery, help from grandparents, or any combination thereof.

Three steps for organising your childcare

1. Start looking early

It depends on where you live, but there may be long waiting lists for the best day care options and it can take three to four months to find a good nanny.

2. Research your options thoroughly

3. Look for recommendations from friends or local contacts

Ask around, it’s key to have view of other, but do remember that it is a very personal choice – what works for you might be another person’s nightmare. Make sure you visit as many different settings as you can to really get the feel of a place. If you’re looking for a nanny, consider using a reputable agency to help you in your search – and remember that you will be employing someone formally so you should seek advice regarding tax.

Whatever option you choose, it makes sense to begin settling your child into their new routine at least a couple of weeks before you go back to work. In doing so, you will be less worried about their well-being and will be more able to focus on being back at work. Having some time to yourself before you start back is also useful to do a bit of return-to-work shopping, get a haircut, go to the dentist etc. It also allows you some time to mentally prepare for your return to your professional life.

For more information:

Mum & Career childcare pages – types of childcare, advantages and disadvantages of each, links to services and information

Support in finding childcare for working parents – To help you find childcare, you can also decide to get professional support. Mum & Career have partnered with Parental Choice (South-West London) to offer you just that at a special discount. Check out how you can make finding childcare easy and have more time with your child.

Financial considerations of childcare when returning after maternity leave

Childcare can be incredibly expensive, and often can take up a huge chunk of your salary once you return to work. There are various allowances to help make things more affordable – childcare vouchers, child tax credits It is particularly worth noting that childcare vouchers can be backdated by up to six months and they can be accrued from the time that your child is born – so you can get saving from the start even if you don’t use the vouchers for a while.

For more information:

Money Saving Expert – childcare costs – good overview of costs of childcare, and arrangements to cover for it such as tax credits and childcare vouchers


Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward! Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most pages on Maternity Leave for us.

What to Expect When You’re ….. Returning to Work

What to Expect When You’re ….. Returning to Work

You’ve been offered a new role, you’ve organised your wardrobe and you’ve sorted out your childcare – now you need to give some thought to how you will make the most of your return to work. This is true whether you are returning from maternity leave or returning to work after a career break. The key to a successful return is managing expectations: those you have of yourself; those your employer has; and those your family has.

Expectations of yourself

It is really important that you return to work with some realistic ideas about what you hope to achieve in your first months in the role. By having clear goals you will find it easier to focus your energy on those aspects of your working life which will have the biggest positive impact.

The greatest pitfalls for working mums occur when they become caught up in the need to prove themselves (to their employer or colleagues) or to please everyone (at home and at work) which can quickly lead to exhaustion and resentment. A realistic assessment of what is possible to achieve can help to minimise the risk of falling into these traps.

Your employer’s expectations

Managing your employer’s expectations rests on a mutual discussion of how you will work together. You can help yourself in these conversations by spending some time becoming really clear on the following four areas:

  • Achievement  – your tangible measurable impact
  • Relationships – identifying key people and starting to build connections with them
  • Brand – what values do you want to be known for
  • Ways of working – establishing your boundaries


Think about the tangible and measurable business requirements that you will be working on. Through the interview process (or your prior experience of the role) you should have a clear idea of what the organisation expects of you. You will need to shape these expectations into specific and tangible results that will demonstrate your competence to your colleagues and in doing so will help you to build your confidence and credibility in your role.

Very early on, you will need to check your view of what goals are important with your manager’s expectations, to ensure that you are aligned with each other. You will also want to build in to your goals, opportunities for quick wins that will enhance your reputation as someone who delivers.


As a working mum, you won’t necessarily have as much time for social interaction with your colleagues as you might wish, so it is important to identify those people with whom it is essential to build rapport and concentrate your time and energy on these relationships.

If you are returning to work following a maternity leave, you may already have a network in place and it will be necessary to keep that working and also to add in new connections as you identify them. If you are new to the organisation, you may need some guidance from your line manager on the key people for you to meet and connect with early on.

You will need to be smarter about how you start to build these relationships too, as you may no longer be able to go for drinks after work or go for longer lunch hours. Being new, or recently returned, gives you a perfect excuse to introduce yourself to people and to ask for their advice and their views on your priorities (even if you don’t agree with them!).


Having a break from the workplace can give you the space to reflect on your values and priorities and you can return to work feeling much clearer about how you wish to be known in the workplace.

If you are clear on your values, consider how you can bring these to life in your new role. (If you are less clear, it is worth putting some thought into this essential area for your success.) How can you demonstrate your brand as you work towards achieving the goals you have set and start building new relationships? What will your priorities be? And just as importantly, what will you let go of?

Ways of Working

Starting a new role is an ideal time to establish sustainable working patterns. By thinking through in advance how you wish to work, you can protect yourself from being drawn into the need to prove yourself or to please everyone.

Ways of working includes considering the following questions

  • Will stay you late or get in early and, if so, how often?
  • Will you take work home with you and, if so, how often?

And if you are not working full-time?

  • Are you prepared and able to come into the office during your time off?
  • Will you look at your work email during your time off?
  • Will you answer your work phone during your time off?

Everyone will have a different view of their personal boundaries, but it is important to define what yours are and stick to them. If you don’t, you may quickly find yourself becoming resentful of your employer and feeling that you are letting down your family.

Expectations of your family

Success here depends on keeping those ways of working boundaries in place and efficient delegating. As Nicola Horlick explains, there is no value in asking your nanny to heat up meals that you have spent the weekend making because you don’t trust her cooking capabilities. You need to set the standard for those you’ve asked to look after your family while you’re at work and then trust them get on with it. The same goes for leaving your partner in charge!

Finally, the key to making your return to work a success for you, your employer and your family is to make sure that you keep time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Not only will you feel better for it, but you will have more energy for your work and your family if you can allow yourself the time that you need.
Good luck with your return to work and please get in touch if you have specific questions or issues to explore.


Author: Katerina Gould. She is an executive coach and career consultant at Thinking Potential. She specialises in supporting people through transitions in their careers. Since starting her family, she has enjoyed part-time employment, being a full-time mum, acquiring new training and skills and establishing her own business; so she has real experience of many of the options available to women with children. Katerina has a background in finance, marketing and strategy in FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Master’s degree in Law from Cambridge University. She has also founded two companies, an employment agency for interim managers and Thinking Potential. , her executive coaching and career consulting business ( ).

Women's Coach

Seven tips to take the stress out of returning to work

Prepare for going back to work after a career-break or maternity leave. It will help you feel in control and take the stress away. Here’s how to make returning to work more pleasant and joyful for you and your family.

  1. Childcare. The number one worry that needs to be sorted. Whether you choose nursery, nanny, childminder, you will make the decision that is suitable for your circumstances. nb
    However, flexibility in timings is essential. You can’t control train delays or last-minute emergency meetings, and knowing that you can be home later, or pick up at a different time will be a great reassurance. Sometimes a backup plan with a babysitter or next door’s au-pair might just do the trick. It is worthwhile thinking through all scenarios and making arrangements for the unexpected. It will give you peace of mind.Define your three most important roles in life. It could be mum, professional and partner/friend. Explore how much time you need to play each role in order to be happy. Then put a system in place, that will help you to balance the roles. Remember, if you are a happy and balanced person, everybody in your environment will benefit.


  1. Put boundaries in place, communicate clearly about those and stick to them. Once you know what is a good balance for you, talk it through with all parties involved. What are the numbers of hours you want to work? How many are you expected to? When is your quality time with the kids? Allow for dedicated time, which is not taken up by something or someone else. Equally, with partner or friends. You may appear rude and uncaring when you don’t immediately respond to a request, but a boss, a child and a friend can usually wait if they know you will be there for them at the agreed time. With boundaries clear, play one role at the time; be the professional at work; be the mum at home; be yourself with friends and partners. The clarity this brings will help to guard your defined balance and your happiness.


  1. Let go of perfectionism. With so many balls in the air, things are not going to be perfect and do not need to be. If internet shopping offers you an extra three hours of free time, embrace the free time and accept that your apples were not your first choice brand. Let the house be less organised, because the nice weather allowed some great time in the park….


  1. Learn to de-stress. A busy life requires concentration, alertness and focus. This can easily turn into tension and nervousness, but with the right relaxation in place, you will be able to prevent that. Learn to do short meditations that you can practice a few times a day, perhaps find a Zumba class or take up piano lessons.


  1. Look at life as ‘work in progress’; and an ‘ever changing process’ with a positive attitude. What works today, may not be effective in a month time. Even if all systems are working, keep on top and make changes when you need to. If you are going through a tough patch, don’t forget it is temporary.


  1. Above all: don’t lose track of the most important emotion FUN. Laugh about situations and misunderstandings. Find that lightness and let it shine through. It will make you and everyone around you feel lighter and happier.

And that is ultimately what we are all after: stress free and fulfilling happiness with our loved ones.

Women's Coach

Author: Dr Mariette Jansen MBACP, Stress management coach and meditation teacher. She offers face to face, Skype and e-mail support and enjoys working with groups as well. nb

The Short List: Some Thoughts on Time

The Short List: Some Thoughts on Time

Is there a subject more charged than that of time, especially among parents? It’s the source of many of our conversations (“How are you?” “Busy!”) and much of our guilt.

Time is also a subject that has been too much on my mind lately,