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Making Work/Life Balance Work: Real Mom Tips on How to Make It Easier

We asked working mamas for their secrets to successfully juggling career and family.

Making Work/Life Balance Work: Real Mom Tips on How to Make It EasierIconica/Getty Images
Story Highlights
Remember you don't have to be perfect! Go easy on yourself.
Always set aside time to have dinner as a family.
Use social media to stay in touch.
Don't feel guilty! Set aside special time for your kids to show you're still supermom.
  1. Getting ready to go back to work? Easing back into office life while you’re still adjusting to being a mom can be tough, especially in those first days back. To help, we asked working mamas for their secrets to successfully transitioning back to the 9-to-5. Here, they share how they juggle family and the daily grind. 

  2. Trust It'll Be OK

  3. I wish I had known that it would all work out when I went back to work. On my first day back, my daughter woke up three times the night before, spit up on her first two outfits, and I had to turn around to pick up the breast pump I left at home. As much as I wanted to return to my job, I thought, "This is not going to work." A week later, she was sleeping through the night, and we had a routine down. All was well. And, most importantly, my time with her after work and on the weekends was even more special. - Rebekah, mom of one, Des Moines, Iowa 

  4. Unplug After Work

  5. Make a conscious effort to go “technology-free” for at least three hours after coming home from work. And if you work from home, turn off all computers, cell phones and televisions. Spend quality time with family (yes, that includes your husband) and when you ask, “How was school today?” you’ll be able to actually listen to the answer. Other advice: 

    * When juggling work and home, every minute is precious. Limit social or business lunches to once a week. Bring your lunch and eat in rather than running out for a sandwich. Kill two birds with one stone –- visit with a girlfriend while working out together or sign up for an educational webinar while eating a quick bite at your desk. Be cognizant of minutes wasted throughout the day: spending too much time with a chatty co-worker, taking too long to get ready in the morning, standing in long coffee lines, etc.

  6. * Schedule your kids’ appointments for Friday afternoons when business is typically slow for most companies.

  7. - Julia, mom of three, Los Angeles

  8. Play By Your Own Rules

  9. Don't stress about missing any "firsts." My rule of thumb is, if I didn't see it, it didn't happen. I asked my son's caregivers to not tell me if he walked, talked or did anything that would fall under his "first" so I could enjoy it when it did happen. 

  10. Also, try to manage your meetings. I kept meetings before a certain time so I had time to do any follow-up work right away. And don't expect to take and not give. My boss and job were very flexible, and in return I tried to be as well. I had one "late night" where I stayed until 7 p.m. to get things done, and if I needed to get back online after my son went to bed, I did. Even though I was on a four-day work schedule, I did help with anything important on my day off.
    - Margarita, mom of one, Green Brook, N.J.

  11. Start Back Slowly

  12. Ease back into work. Start part-time at first, or negotiate working at home a few days a week. But be sure you have child care arranged for even though you’re there -- you’ll be more productive. Another tip: My partner and I do errands and chores at night during the week after kids are asleep so that most of our family time is spent enjoying each other. - Gina, mom of two, Portland, OR 

  13. Prove You Can Handle Flex Time or Telecommuting

  14. If you’re trying to convince your boss to let you have flex time or telecommute, try this before you go on maternity leave: 1. Ask for a trial run for a few days. Showing how well the flexible or telecommuting arrangement will benefit your employer is the most compelling argument you can make. During the trial run, show that you will work diligently from home and can stay in touch with colleagues in the office.

  15. 2. Take baby steps. Ask to telecommute part-time (e.g., one day a week) at first, even if you would eventually like to work virtually full-time. 

  16. 3. Before you even start to telecommute, suggest web-based tools and resources that your team can use to communicate, manage files and share schedule information. Test them out even if you’re all working in the office together. Get used to communicating in ways other than face-to-face conversations –- and make note of how much time you save!
    - Sara, mom of two, Boulder, CO

  17. Try Going Back to Work

  18. Go back to work -- even if you’re considering staying home. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. Also, transition back to work if that’s an option -- maybe return to work a bit earlier but for only three days a week. - Maria, mom of three, New York 

  19. Establish a Pumping Schedule

  20. If you’re breastfeeding, set up a pumping schedule at work ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect when you’re back from maternity leave. This gives people time to get over any personal issues they may have. - Donna, mom of two, Raleigh, N.C. 

  21. Trust Your Gut

  22. Do what makes you happy, regardless of what people say. You can’t make everyone happy. If going to work fulfills you, then go back to work –- you’ll be a better mom because you’re doing what you love. Don’t let other influence your decision. People who say you should stay home are speaking from their own perspective and have no way of knowing what makes you happy. Listen to your inner voice and trust your gut feeling. - Leah, mom of three, Setauket, N.Y. 

  23. Quality Over Quantity

  24. I felt so guilty coming back to work and leaving at 5 p.m. to pick up my son from daycare, when before I’d be the last one to leave the office. When I learned to be confident that the quality of work I did meant more than how long I left my light on, things got a whole lot easier. - Jami, mom of one, Des Moines, Iowa.

  25. Don’t Worry if Everything Isn’t Perfect

  26. The thing that no one tells you is, the more you take on, the more you can actually handle. You just have to get over the idea that everything you do has to be perfect.  - Jill, mom of four, Washington, DC 

  27. Stay Fluid

  28. The concept of work/life balance is one I’ve tossed out of my vernacular. It’s much easier to see it all as one fluid function -- particularly with technology tools -- because the lines are very blurred in our always-on, 24/7 world.  - Ann, mom of three, Panora, Iowa.

  29. Plan Your Dinners

  30. I will swear that planning meals ahead of time is one of the greatest sanity savers you can give yourself as a working mom. Decide on your meals for the whole week so dinner isn't weighing on you after you come in from a long day at work. If your spouse beats you home, he can get started. - Dawn, mom of two, Denver.

  31. Have Dinner as a Family

  32. The most important thing I’ve done as a working mom is to ensure that we have a sit-down dinner every night. That way, our boys have true "family time" every evening. Most nights, they both help cook and set the table, and then at dinner, we talk about the day or future plans. - Michelle, mom of two, Los Angeles.

  33. Go Easy on Yourself

  34. Give yourself a break. Having kids and a job is challenging. Very challenging. Take time for yourself, even if it’s a 15-minute walk around the block or time alone to do something you enjoy. And schedule time with your spouse. It sounds silly at first, but having a regular date night every other week or every other week if you can afford it is so important for your relationship and your overall well-being. 

  35. Determine your priorities, and outsource the tasks that take up your valuable time. For instance, I had a housecleaner but later realized I don’t mind a little cleaning on the weekends and during the week. So now I don’t have a housecleaner, but we go out to eat a bit more. I value a relaxing meal out with my family (at a reasonably priced restaurant) every week or so where nobody has to cook or do the dishes!

  36. While it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll want after the birth of a child, try to be realistic. And to the extent you can, be candid with your boss about what you want upon your return, whether that includes flexible hours or working from home one or two days a week. I’ve found most employers are flexible to a degree, depending on the type of work environment you’re in and the demands of your job.
    - Christine, mom of two, Boston

  37. Take Time for Yourself

  38. Ensure you have at least 30 minutes of “me” time a day. Your role of mother and worker can been very demanding, but in order to give to others, you must give to yourself. Go to the gym. Take a bubble bath. Unwind. - Debra, mom of three, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 

  39. Don’t Give Into the Guilt

  40. Recognize that you won't like leaving your child the first time, second time and for quite a few times. Know this will be the case and let yourself have your sorrow for a period of time over it. Don't devolve into guilt though -- no one benefits from this, least of all your child. Also, plan special times with your child (no matter the age) in advance either during the week or on weekends. Have these planned in advance so you know you have them to look forward to. - Bev, mom of three, Walpole, Mass. 

  41. It’s OK to Get Help

  42.  
  43. Ask for help. There's a reason we say "it takes a village to raise a child," so don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family - Dena, mom of one, Casa Grande, Ariz. 

  44. Set Boundaries

  45. My advice to working moms: Put boundaries between your work and your home. When you are at work, do your best. When you are home, give your children your best. - Melissa, mother of four, Hull, Mass. 

  46. Be Flexible

  47. It’s not your way or the highway. Other family members or caregivers may handle your kid’s activities and household choices differently than you do, but sometimes the end result may surprise you! - Aimee, mom of three, New York, N.Y. 

  48. Give Kids Your Full Attention

  49. Kids are sensitive to your feelings. They know when you are frustrated or distracted. Avoid working when they just want to be with you. Create opportunities to knock out a couple of tasks while they nap or watch a movie. Keep your weekends sacred.

  50. Other tips:
    * Plan dates and trips with your husband into your schedule. Let’s face it: Committing time to nurture your marriage is higher priority than spontaneity at this point. Once it’s booked, you’ll look forward to the time with your favorite adult. Trips with your husband alone are important chances to talk, bond and have some well-deserved fun.

    * As hard as it sounds, try to go on business trips and come back the same day. Even though this is hard on you, it minimizes the disruptions at home.
    - Sharon, mom of two, Miami

  51. Embrace Social Media

  52.  
  53. People complain that Facebook is a time suck, and in the beginning when you are obsessing over finding old boyfriends and sorority sisters, it can be. But over time, it's the ultimate passive, low-commitment way for a busy mom to stay in touch with friends in the minimal amount of time at your convenience, i.e., over lunch at the desk, during a boring conference call, while watching American Idol. - Aimee, mom of one, San Francisco, CA 

  54. Strategies for Working From Home

  55.  
  56. If part of your plan includes working at home without childcare, be realistic about what that really means. It's not the idyllic picture of mom working at a PC while babe gurgles happily and quietly in the play-yard next to her. It's a lot of bouncing a crying baby on your arm while trying to talk on the phone. It's working late at night to get your time in during that small window of "alone time." It's wondering how you can navigate a conference call while your toddler and preschooler consider new tactics to world domination. Make sure any plan to work at least some (if not all) of your time at home includes a child care component. You are going to need to someone to help you while you work even if you're home –- or you're going to need a job that allows you to work off-hours. But understand that it may mean forgoing sleep to achieve it. - Sandy, mom of two, Toms River, N.J.

  57. Make Yourself a Reminder of Your Priorities

  58. Women are queens of multitasking but it’s very important to learn how to keep it balanced. To help me, I made a diagram that I keep at my bedside that looks very much like a clock -– it keeps me focused on my everyday priorities. In place of numbers there are words with all the important aspects of my life such as my husband, each child, running my own business, friends, spirituality, exercise, me time, relaxation, gratitude, etc.. It doesn’t mean that when it’s one o'clock, I must focus on my husband, but it does mean to make my husband my priority at some point throughout my day. - Gianna, mom of two, Cranford, N.J.

3 Other Viewpoints

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