Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Working Mom Hacks

Its been forever and a day since I posted here, but I have been meaning to for months and months, so I am just going to jump back in and ignore the extra long silence that has taken over this space. Deal? Deal.

I am a sucker for any thing that claims to have a hack to make my life easier. I will always click the link that promises five hacks for a simpler, more productive and easier life. So when I was getting ready to go for a run last weekend, I was browsing through some of my favorite podcasts and saw one titled “Working Mom Hacks” by the Edit Your Life podcast. I really enjoy the Edit Your Life podcast generally, not every episode is relevant to me, but I listen to the ones that I think are and typically either learn something new, or I am reminded about trying things that I know would benefit me, but I have not really been super motivated to do. Like, commit to a twenty minute walk every day to increase happiness, for example.

Anyway, back to the podcast episode. I was excited about it, and have found being a working mom very challenging. And although I thought it would maybe get easier by the time my baby was 20 months old, I still find it hard to navigate more often than not. Let me just tell you that the episode full of “hacks” for us working mamas really just pissed me off. There. I said it. I legitimately got so angry during the episode that I started drafting an email to the podcasters themselves,telling them how disappointed I was in it, and how they should really revisit that and give us some practical and accessible tips for the everyday mama. This podcast was full of ideas to make your life easier such as outsource EVERYTHING. It had real problems and real pain points of real working moms and the person they were interviewing as the expert working moms answer for seemingly everything was to outsource it.

Oh, getting dinner on the table is really challenging after working all day, commuting from the office, and picking up kids from daycare? Just use grubhub and have takeout delivered, duh. Oh, you don’t have time for housework? Hire a cleaning service. Its worth the money. You don’t have time to run errands such as grocery shop or can’t sign for a package at home while you're working? Use task rabbit to hire someone do it for you!

Honestly, this advice made me irate. I certainly don’t have the money to outsource everything in my life and I don’t think the average working mom does either. If I did have that much disposable income, I probably could just not work all together! I also don’t live in an area that I can just get a task rabbit for everything, even if I could afford it, nor do I want to feed my family take out more often than we eat home cooked meals.

I do have a few ideas of things that have made my life a little more manageable as a working mom, and I thought I’d share them. I’d like to preface this by saying the single most important thing that has made being a working mother easier is having a extremely supportive and involved husband. He does just as much as I do as far as housework and cooking and parenting. In fact, he cooks at least 70% of the time so that task is not even my biggest pain point in the evenings( but waiting for dinner IS!).

Meal Time: I know we’ve all heard the importance of meal planning and prepping and we do do this, every week. We decide what dinners we want to have, and write down any ingredients we need, and then we grocery shop. But this isn’t revolutionary advice, so I will tell you what does help us even more than meal planning and that is making enough dinner to have left overs for lunches. We both generally take left overs most days of the week and not only does this save time, it helps us eat healthier,and frees up the lunch hour to do other things.

Lunch hour: I remember before I had Porter, I used to spend my lunch hours in the best ways. I would read a book and drink my diet coke sitting in my car in the parking lot and if it was nice enough, I’d sit on a bench in the sun. I also used to run often at lunch, or at least take a nice walk. Lately though, I have found myself so short on time that I use my lunch hour to either pay bills/update my budget or run errands. This is somewhat new to me because until Porter was about 13 months, I pumped every day three times a day, including on my lunch break. Now about once a week I stay my desk and pay bills,categorize transactions in our budget app, or make phone calls that I’ve been putting off. I also try to run errands at lunch if at all possible so I don’t have to do it on my way to pick up Porter or even worse, bring him along. I mostly just hate the bucking in and out of the car seat multiple times drill, so I like to limit my number of stops with that 30 pound monster.

House work: keeping the house clean and clutter free and clean clothes on our backs is undoubtedly a real challenge while being out of the house for ten hours a day. We do a majority of our cleaning on the weekends, but what has helped keep the house in a more live able state during the week is to commit to doing ONE thing every evening. Sometimes I do one load of laundry all the way through, sometimes I clean one bathroom, sometimes I vacuum, but I try and do something before flopping on the couch (or going to bed at 7:45 pm)and not moving for the rest of the night. Doing one thing a day keeps the clutter at bay and also makes our workload on the weekends a bit less. Do one thing a day, but also rest. I will say that as a general rule, I try and do one thing a day, I also feel no shame in taking a night off to rest when I need it! If we’ve had a busy week or I am just feeling extra tired for some reason, I give myself permission to veg on the couch or go to bed early. Last night, Ronnie and I both were so tired, after dinner we laid in bed to watch TV and I head Porter fussing in what felt like the middle of the night, but when I checked my phone, it was 8:50 pm and we were both OUT. I think parenting in general is wonderfully exhausting, and also working used to exhaust me even before I had a baby, so the combination of both makes me TIRED more days than not so I don’t feel bad for resting when I need it. The chores will always be there waiting for me the next day.

Paying for childcare: Daycare is expensive, there’s no way around it. I’m doing the math for two in daycare and it makes me physically ill so I’m trying to not think about it and just trust that the Lord will provide for our family financially like he has done SO generously for all of our married lives. But, one thing that helps a little bit is taking advantage of the Dependent Care FSA offered at my work. It allows you to put up to $5000 pre-tax dollars into a savings account per year, and then you can use that money to help offset the cost of daycare. It really does put a little extra money into my paycheck by doing this because it is pre-tax. It isn’t a huge amount, but every little bit helps. I typically pay my childcare bill once a month at the beginning of the month, and at the end of the month, I submit a claim to get reimbursed. My daycare costs are more that $5000 a year, but it covers a big portion of my monthly bill. And, at the end of the year, that $5000 that I didn't have to pay taxes on, and if you pay over that amount in childcare, you can still qualify for the child care tax credit.

These are just five ways I find that makes being a working mom a little more manageable. They probably aren't revolutionary, but I think they're a little more practicable and doable for the average working mom versus the advice to just outsource everything.

If you're a working mom, what are your favorite hacks? I seriously want to hear them!
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