Life Hacks: The Working Mum
Having been a working mum for a grand total of one week, I am clearly now an expert in the balancing act that I will grapple with for potentially the next 20 years (eeep!!) I put a lot of thought into how I was going to make it work, and here’s my tips and tricks based on the highly successful first week. Disclaimer – most of these revolve around food, because why not?
1 – Me time. When my health and wellness idol, Dr Libby mentioned that some mums like to get up before the rest of the family to have their morning cuppa in peace, I scoffed! I am most decidedly NOT a morning person. But I kid you not, I have done it this week and LOVED it. 10 minutes of pure, unadulterated me time in a quiet morning house. When the alarm goes of I get up, breastfeed the toddler, throw her in bed to cuddle/wake/torment her father and I take the stairs two at a time to flick on the coffee machine (decaf, of course)
2 – Getting dressed. When I heard that the most stylishly put together working mum at my office planned her outfits for the week – I know! The ENTIRE week – in advance on the weekend, I decided I had to try. Right down to the shoes and jewellery selection. So, I did it! I arranged the outfits on the hanger together, and put them at the front of my wardrobe, ready to just throw on. even have a lame little wardrobe balancing rule/plan thing – 1x dress day, 1 x skirt day, 2 x pants days plus casual Friday – to keep me from getting the dreaded ‘outfit fatigue.’ Win.
3 – Protein for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, omelette, fritters… I’m just not one to survive until lunchtime on toast or cereal. I’m under strict instructions to eat plenty of good fat and protein to keep up my energy, mood and milk supply.
4 – Mason Jar Salads. Have you seen them doing the rounds on Pinterest / Insta and thought, just another hipster fad? Well, I finally did it this week and yep, another win. I packed up 3 days worth of roast vege, quinoa and spinach salads on the weekend and boom. Gourmet lunch worthy of making the time to sit down and eat. If you don’t know the theory behind them, you put the juicy, dressingy stuff in the bottom, followed by the grain, then the leaves and pepitas etc on the top, safely unsoggy until you upend it onto your lunch plate and all the gooey deliciousness drizzles over. This week I’m thinking of going for a broccoli, zucchini, pea and pesto veg combo to go with my quinoa and greens.
4a – Emergency freezer lunch stash. Cook up quinoa and freeze in 1/2 c packages, ready to turn any salad into something more substantial. Also, those wee ready shaped felafals(?) falefals(?) flavoursome chickpea patties are the business to have in the freezer. Also, fritters. All of the fritters.
5 – Smoothie jars. I know, I know another jar thing. But we should all be using less plastic and this is such a practical trick. Again, in the evening cut up 2-3 days worth of smoothie ingredients and jam in a jam jar to stick in the fridge. My current fave is a combo of Nadia Lim’s everyday green smoothie combined with the I Quit Sugar sweet green meal in a tumbler. Whatever you do, make sure you have lots of greens and some form of protein to make it worthy of snack status. I use chia seeds and LSA in mine. Whizz it up while you eat breakfast, pour back into the jar and decant at morning or afternoon tea time and watch your colleagues squirm.
6 – The Groceries. Now, as we share the cooking in my house, I can’t meal plan to an exact science, but what I will do is make sure we have 14 nights worth of meals accounted for when I do my online shop. And I write the list up on our calendar of all of the proteins we have in the fridge/freezer to use… sausages x 2, roast chicken, smoked salmon, eggs, etc. I have started doing just one fortnightly online grocery shop, followed by weekly trips to the vege shop. Also – I shop for delivery on a Thursday, so we never have the ‘nothing left in the fridge, just get takeaways’ meltdown over the weekend.
7 – Sunday cook up. Over the weekend, cook one meal for the freezer, every weekend. It might be a double batch of Sunday night’s dinner, or might be something you just bung in the slow cooker. But whatever happens during the week, there is always a meal on hand in the freezer if you need it. Even things like pre-marinated sliced chicken breasts! Also, use Sunday afternoons to knock up a batch of muffins for the freezer to fend off the toddler’s (and husband’s) arrival-home-hangries, and a batch of bliss balls for yourself. Another time-saving tip – just press the mixture into a square tin, chill and chop into bar shapes to save the fiddly rolling bizzo.
8 – Family Dinner. The best thing we can do to get my toddler to eat is to just sit down and eat our dinner with her, without making a fuss over what she’s eating. I just always make sure she has one food she loves on her plate (kumara, rice, pasta, salmon!)
9 – Make smart TV choices. We have recently decided that ‘off’ is the default setting for our TV. I was in the habit of turning it on at 6 for the news, but really what’s new by the time we get to 6pm each night!? Now, after the toddler is in bed, we both potter around for a bit tidying up, doing our laptopping etc for an hour, and then make a deliberate choice about what we watch for some Mumma-Dadda Netflix and Chill. We are less zombified and more connected as a couple.
10 – No electronics in the bedroom. Well, I lie. Keep the electronics as far from the bed as possible. Not a life hack so much as an essential health and wellbeing strategy. I’m under orders to do this from my GP to help with busy-brain, and it is effective. Once I get in bed, I don’t look at the time until my alarm goes off in the morning. If I’m lying awake, I don’t check the time as I then automatically count the hours of potential sleep I have left, and end up convincing myself of my exhaustion come morning. No more ‘I only got x hours of sleep’ lethargy.
So. You heard it here first. All of those things the listicles are telling you will make life quicker/easier/less exhausting… well, some of them actually work. Well, so far anyway. Maybe I should get back to you in another six months time with an update. Next time, the gaping hole in this list may be addressed – the bane of my life: the housework. Hey, isn’t that what Granny’s for anyway?
Until next time,
The Undomesticated Goddess