STEP AWAY FROM THE LAUNDRY: HOW WORKING MOMS CAN MAXIMIZE THEIR BUSY EVENINGS WITH CHILDREN.
All moms are working moms. From stay-at-home moms to those who work out of the home, we are all working our …(ahem)…tails…off. However, if you are a mom who works outside of the home, here are some things to remember so that you can maximize your evenings (or off time) with your children.
IT’S OK TO BE A WORKING MOM
First, ditch the guilt. From the beginning of time, moms have had to work outside of the home for various reasons. And, shock of all shocks, maybe you are even a mom who enjoys working outside of the home.
I can relate. I gave being a stay-at-home mom a try. I failed. Working outside of the home can be for more than just the income. It can be for the challenge, for the sanity, or maybe so that you can get out of debt that much faster.
(To read more about my failure as a SAHM, click here!)
Working outside of the home, of course, has its pros and cons. But, let’s consider a few of those pros.
CRASHING GLASS CEILINGS
First, did you know that little girls who have mothers who work outside the home may be more likely to go to college and have a career themselves? Further, did you know that you may be setting your daughter up for success in her own life as a working mom? (https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/kids-of-working-moms-grow-into-happy-adults)
So, not only are you fulfilling your own career goals, you are fueling your little girls to achieve their dreams too. I am thankful for the women who have gone before me to crash glass ceilings. And, while I respect the women who work in the home, I am proud to teach my daughter that a professional career is ok too.
TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN INDEPENDENCE
Children whose parents both work outside the home are developing security and independence. My children have learned to love and trust other caregivers. And, they have also learned that they must start taking some of their own initiative.
I hope that this is in part due to the fact that their mommy and daddy are go-getters.
We see what we want; we set goals, and we work hard. Therefore, our example (hopefully) creates a desire to achieve, goal-set, and work in our children too.
At the same time, our children’s independence is also grown from necessity. We all have to be somewhere early in the morning. Therefore, they all have to get themselves ready, brush their own teeth, and remember their own bags.
Everyone wants to have lunch; therefore, if they don’t like what is being served at school, they have to be sure that their lunch box makes it into their backpacks.
Our kids are learning to be advocates for themselves, to take care of themselves, and to think ahead simply because I don’t have the capacity to do it all for them.
TEACHING OUR CHILDREN TO REACH DREAMS
Finally, our kids are learning to dream. My husband and I don’t simply live paycheck to paycheck. Instead we live on a budget that includes some GREAT. BIG. DREAMS.
While we want to be certain that we are teaching our kids prudent money management skills, we also want to be certain that we are teaching them to dream.
We talk with our kids about some of our big vacation plans, philanthropic plans, and even plans for small improvements around the house. Because our jobs give us income, we are teaching our children that hard work can be the ticket to getting what you want –including achieving your dreams or being outrageously generous.
REALITY CHECK: WORKING REDUCES YOUR FAMILY TIME
The reality, however, is that we all only have 24 hours in the day, and if we are spending 8-10 hours a day working and commuting, then we have less family time. (That’s math and as much math as you will ever find here.)
So, the hard truth of working outside of the home is that you do have less time to soak up with the kids.
No lazy afternoons in the backyard. No library play group. No volunteering in the classroom. Work eats into those daytime activities.
Even if you work a non-traditional schedule like third shift or twelves, you might be spending those precious daytime hours catching up on sleep or preparing for the next shift.
So, those few measly minutes that you get in the evening between the kids getting out of school/picked up from daycare and bedtime are precious.
There are nights when I have less than 1 hour between the time that I walk in the door and the time that my children have to go to sleep. And, that time is usually filled with going through the paperwork for the day, making/cleaning dinner, and bathtime.
During that small window, while you know that you want to and need to soak up those few minutes of family time, you are exhausted. The day has left you overwhelmed and ready for a break yourself.
THINGS STILL NEED DONE
Further, while you know that you should and want to spend more time with your children in the evening, life is still happening.
Homework still needs done. Laundry is piled in the corner. The kids have to eat. And, someone is going to have to wash that girl’s hair.
Regardless of how much time you want to spend with your children, someone will still have to prepare, serve, and clean dinner.
In spite of your desire to play soccer in the backyard until bedtime with your littles, they still have to get to that game or complete that school project. And, you may not have the energy to take another step.
Basically, things still have to get done. So, after a long day, the guilt of being a working parent, and the overwhelming reality of a house covered in clutter, you feel completely frazzled, spent, and lost.
So, what’s a mom to do? How can you maximize that evening time and find some time to share with your family.
1. Meal Plan: Maximize your evening time with meal planning.
First, in our house, dinner takes up the bulk of our few family minutes together each evening. Figuring out what to eat and whether we have all of the ingredients take up the bulk of that time.
So, in an effort to maximize our family evenings, I try to make a basic meal strategy for the week. To read some of my favorite budget meal planning tips, check this out.
Usually my weeknight meal plan consists of a taco style dish, a pasta style dish, a breakfast night, and a leftovers night. At least once a week we have pizza, and another evening we may grab food to go.
So, what I am saying is: keep meals simple.
Save the fancy, multi-course meals for the nights when you have your in-laws over. Make one-pot dump meals and call it a day.
My kids don’t eat what I make anyway, so why stress over it when I could be enjoying the kids!
Have chicken nuggets one night. Heck, throw in a batch of macaroni and cheese to really make their day!
Plan and prep your meals in advance by keeping basic staples on hand that require little weeknight effort and keep the family happy!
2. Batch Prep: Maximize your evenings by prepping in advance.
In this case, batch prepping refers to meals, lunches, and other tasks.
For example, I generally make all of my kids’ lunches for the week at one time. I love these Bentgo Boxes, and I keep a big stack of them prepped for the week in the fridge. That way, whenever one of the kids doesn’t like the lunch for the day, they just grab their color of Bentgo Box, and take it to school.
(Yes, I keep these Bentgo boxes in multiple colors so that my kiddos know whose is whose. They have proven to be extremely convenient and cut down on the waste from single-use plastic.)
To batch prep for your evening dinners, make the same basic side dish for each night. If you are having mixed veggies, separate them into multiple dishes, ready to go into the oven each night.
Or, make a huge batch of ground beef. Have tacos one night, spaghetti another night, and mix the rest into sloppy joes. Easy.
And, although many people will say to do a few simple tasks around the house everyday so that you aren’t overwhelmed by housework, I disagree. I prefer to do each job from start to finish. Sweep all of the floors, do all of the laundry, dust all of the surfaces. And, I usually do all of these tasks on non-work days.
This way, your mind isn’t cluttered with what you haven’t done, and you can check those tasks off your mental list. (For more of my busy mom cleaning and time management tips, check these out.)
Remember, weeknights aren’t the nights for batch prepping. Do those tasks on the weekend or days off so that you actually maximize your evenings with the kids.
3. STEP AWAY FROM THE LAUNDRY: MAXIMIZE YOUR EVENINGS BY LEAVING HOUSEHOLD TASKS FOR LATER
So, mommy, STEP AWAY FROM THE LAUNDRY. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the stack of shoes by the door, the overflowing laundry hampers, and the nagging fog of dust.
Those tasks are less important than the small moments you get to spend with your children before bedtime.
Don’t let your children believe that your mind and your higher priorities are occupied by cleaning, organizing, or repairing. Sure, some of those things just have to get done. But the laundry, the toilets, and the loose window screen can wait.
Otherwise, you will lose the entire evening to the ever-growing, never-ending chore list around the house. Don’t send that message to your kids
4. CONNECT INTENTIONALLY: MAXIMIZE YOUR EVENINGS BY SPENDING YOUR TIME INTENTIONALLY
Have you ever asked your children what they did that day and received the answer, “Nothing.”? Anytime that I ask my children how their day was, it was fine/good. Whenever I ask my children what they did, they tell me “nothing.”
So, instead of perpetuating the assanine cycle of monosyllabic responses, our family instituted a nightly way of connecting through “High, Low, Buffalo.” To read more about High, Low, Buffalo, click here.
Now, both the adults and the kids have a script for describing their day, their feelings, and their activities. Our family loves it and uses it as a way to actually connect at the end of a hard day.
Likewise, we love to take family runs and walks. Getting our kids out of the house, away from their screens, and out of fighting distance is great for conversation and connection.
Some evenings we pop the kids in the stroller or on their bikes the moment we walk in the door. Then we spend the next hour or so chatting, talking about what we see, or sharing about things we like/dislike.
These activities create real connection. Thus, the small amount of time we have for the evening doesn’t matter so much, because we connected far deeper
5. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN: MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN BY PUTTING DOWN YOUR DEVICES
And, when you are talking/playing with your kids, pay attention. Don’t use those moments to check your newsfeed.
You spent your whole day answering calls and checking email. It can wait an hour or two before you check it again.
Further, those news headlines, viral videos, and beautiful bathroom remodels will still be there an hour or two later.
I am the first to admit that I love to wind down to the soothing articles of Pinterest or the mind-numbing pictures from around the world on my home feed. But, when I am on my phone instead of concentrating on my small children, they notice.
They don’t see the pictures, the news, or the world travelers. Instead, they just see mommy’s face covered by a little black box.
I don’t want my children’s family pictures to be of mommy’s face covered by a black box.
6. MAXIMIZE YOUR EVENINGS BY TAKING TIME TO RECHARGE
All that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t find some time to recharge. In fact, it isn’t unusual for both me and my husband to completely melt into the couch like zombies from the moment that we put the kids to sleep until we finally fall asleep.
We have to find the time to check out, to recharge, and to reenergize. Sometimes that’s through a run allllllll byyyyy myyyyself. But, other times, it is hours of watching that early 2000’s girly sitcom.
Taking that time for yourself and recentering your priorities is imperative if you are going to actually enjoy/have the energy for the small amount of time that you get with your kids in the evening after work. Fill your cup back up instead of pouring out of an empty vessel.
7.GET HELP: MAXIMIZE YOUR EVENINGS WITH YOUR CHILDREN BY OUTSOURCING YOUR CHORES
Finally, I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If you are a mom who thinks that all the other moms have it all together: here’s the secret…we don’t.
What we might have is a little bit of help (or maybe a lot ).
Outsource your laundry to a laundry service. (CHECK THIS ONE OUT.)
Hire a housekeeper.
Ask your nanny to pick up some of the household tasks.
Find a friend who can help with pickup/dropoff.
Make friends with a local barista and drink coffee often!
MAXIMIZE YOUR EVENINGS WITH YOUR CHILDREN
All of these are ways to take the load off of your mind and your body so that you can actually focus on those precious little ones just dying to soak up those small moments with you.
As a working mom, you are doing so much for your kids: their future and their present.
Further, as a working mom, you are doing so much for their needs: cooking, cleaning, teaching, cuddling, washing, etc.
Don’t let the meaningless vanities of your life takeover your evenings. Find support from others and take back those little moments with your kids so that you can start maximizing your evenings with your kiddos.