Cook family meals, fold the laundry, drive the little one to soccer practice, attend the parent-teacher conference -- a busy mom’s day is exhausting, and that doesn’t even take into account career responsibilities or social obligations. To make each day as productive and fulfilling as possible, a busy mom needs to practice effective time management skills and prioritize the things in her hectic life that mean the most.
The biggest obstacle for a busy mom is feeling like she needs to do it all -- but that’s a recipe for quick burnout. If your family is No. 1, no matter what, remember “to not feel guilty or act guilty about putting your family first when you need to,” says Sara Sutton Fell, Boulder, Colorado-based CEO and founder of FlexJobs.com. “Explain to your boss and your co-workers, if necessary, about why you need to attend to the family issue and how you’ll keep up with your work or make up for it. Don’t apologize.” Along the same line, it’s OK if your career needs to be first sometimes. If you have a big presentation coming up, hire a baby sitter on a Saturday afternoon so you can keep up. Shift your priorities based on what’s going on in your family and office life.
Work a Flexible Schedule
While it’s not possible for every working mom, a flexible work schedule frees up some time by allowing you to work when it’s most convenient for you and your family. With flexible hours, you can come in earlier than your co-workers or leave later. If a long commute takes precious time from both career and family, ask to work from home one or two days a week. “There are a lot of options when it comes to flexible work,” Sutton Fell says. “The key is figuring out what will work best for you, your family and your job.”
Prepare in Advance
Waiting until the last minute to fulfill routine obligations, such as making lunch or organizing your notes for that big meeting, often means you’ll feel rushed, unprepared and late. “Today” show contributor Laura T. Coffey recommends that to manage your home life, wake up one full hour before your child does. During this time, you can enjoy your coffee, choose your outfit and start breakfast. The night before, think about what you need to get done to make the morning run more smoothly, such as setting out clothes for your child and packing lunches. At work, take advantage of any downtime in your day by looking ahead at the week and determining where you can get a jumpstart.
Divide the Responsibilities
Delegating tasks both at work and home makes a mom’s life a little saner. If you’re married or in a relationship, divide home chores and family tasks. “I’ve found that creating a system that works for both parents, that keeps both of you informed of what the whole family is up to – and your role in all the activity – is the best approach,” Sutton Fell says. Make a list of everything required to keep the household running smoothly and “divide and conquer,” she suggests. Take the same approach at work by making a list of everything you need to get your job done and, wherever possible, reach out to employees, interns and freelancers to help conquer the list – without shirking your job entirely, of course.
While your dual roles as a mom and employee or manager eat up a large chunk of your time, don't forget about your other roles as a friend, spouse and woman. Every quarter, take a personal day from work to attend to your own needs -- whether it's a manicure, a doctor's appointment or just a few hours taking a nap. Carve out time to meet friends for lunch, visit the gym and go on dates with your spouse.