As a working mother myself, I know only too well how utterly overwhelming it can be to walk the tightrope of raising kids while keeping my career on the right track. But I've learnt that a few life changes and asking for help when I need it can save me a whole lot of time and heartache. Here are some tricks that work like magic for me. No, I'm not saying that I my life is 100% chaos-free now-with children, that's NEVER an option! But you can take comfort in the fact that most days can be managed well with these tips:
Creating a schedule
This is one rule I swear by! It works as beautifully for my family life as it does for me professionally. I plan my week in advance so that my kids have a predictable schedule to follow. Breaking up my day into hourly zones, and doing the same for my children really helps me. So even while I'm at work, they know when TV time is, when it's time to sit down and do their homework, go for an extracurricular activity, and more importantly, when they can expect to see me and my husband home.
Planning one family activity every week
While on weekdays you're busy juggling office, home and the kids' school schedules, on weekends every member of the family must try and set aside time for one special family meet. This can be a lunch outside or movie/game time at home. But make sure everyone in the household knows this is on the calendar, and everyone's available during that time. That means no chores, no mobiles and no visits from friends.
Ask for help
There was a time when I wanted to do everything on my own to prove to myself and the world that I am a hands-on, caring mum. Now, I ask for help because I've realised that while trying to do everything myself, I was spending large chunks of the time I should have been using to talk to my kids or relaxing on household chores that I can easily afford to hire help for. Hire help if you can, and if not that, then ask a friend or a relative to come and watch the kids once a week while you relax with a book you've been longing to read.
Plan your meal menu
This is a bigger time saver than you can imagine. Create a weekly menu for all the main meals, so that everyone knows what to expect for lunch and dinner, and there is minimal fuss and last-minute food requests. If you don't have help with the cooking, try and make your food in 3 to 4-day batches, which you can pull out of your refrigerator or freezer, without spending too much time on it everyday.
Prepare for the next day
Every night, I plan for the next day, prepping as much as I can. This means laying out uniforms, keeping lunch boxes ready, packing school bags (I ask my children to do this themselves), ironing my work clothes, and even ticking off some to-do tasks on my work schedule (like planning meetings, con-calls in advance). This gives me stress-free mornings and help me start the day on a positive note.
Today, when both parents work in most families, it is important for both partners to contribute equally when it comes to childcare and household errands. So, make sure you clearly communicate to your spouse about what you expect him or her to take care of, and what you will be looking after. You will find that teamwork makes life a lot easier for both of you, even leaving you with some spare time for yourself.
At the end of the day, it is essential to remember that as working parents, you're setting an example for your children that teaches them that they can have fulfilling careers and family lives at the same time. Watching you juggle your responsibilities efficiently will also inspire your children to follow in your footsteps, as they grow up to be responsible adults themselves. And when the going gets tough, just pull up your socks and race as hard as you can towards that coveted weekend break!
Read what Anupam Gupta has to say on juggling a job and a child-both at the same time-here.