I was running on adrenaline last year which I documented in “A week in the life of a blogging mum”. I started The Little Executive with my partner and as with any new start-up, there is a never-ending list of things to look into.
I worked in the mornings when Kate was at school and was home by 1 pm to see to the kids as they streamed home. Although there is flexibility as your own boss, it is in a sense worse, because with no clear demarcation, I ended up working round the clock. Many a night, I crashed at 9 pm only to wake at 2 am to start the day.
It came to a point where Kate hid my phone because she had to fight with it for my attention on a daily basis. It is worse to be physically present but mentally absent as it sends the message that whatever I’m doing on the phone is more important than her.
I also fell sick a couple of times and I knew I couldn’t sustain that level of energy. I needed a better strategy.
This year, I changed my routine. After dropping Kate off at school, I work until about 4 or 5 pm, depending on which kid I need to pick on the way home. I take one day a week off to go for yoga and spend the day catching up on household admin, fixing a good lunch for the kids and taking Kate for class. Of course, I end up doing sporadic work on the computer as emails or texts come in requiring my attention.
With this new arrangement, my working hours are more structured but it is physically exhausting. When I was a SAHM, it felt like running a marathon with no finishing line. Now, as a full-time working mum, it feels like I am walking in quick sand. I wish I had a remote control where I could press the PAUSE button.
To be honest, I do enjoy the part where I drop Kate off at school and head in to work. I can do my thing in peace, have adult conversations and dream up ideas to implement.
But when I get home, I can’t kick off my shoes and lounge on the sofa as my second shift begins! Kate will be running to me with open arms exclaiming “Mummy you are home!” and starts regaling me with her day’s escapades. She could go on and on, if not for #5 who would be dragging me to see yet another of his creations. Soon enough, our helper sets dinner and it’s full on action until bedtime.
The thing with 6 school-going kids is that the clock doesn’t stop. I was a FTWM yonks ago when the 3 of them were below the age of 6 and it was different. There was no agenda and no urgency. Now, I have #1 coming to me to discuss her Poly assignments (which I actually enjoy), #5 to nag at when he realises at 7 pm that homework is still not completed, and the rest of them to sort out issues arising from school.
The weekend rolls around and as we all know, it’s not like we can lie in bed and rest our weary bodies and minds.
I wondered how working mums do it. By the second week of January, I was so exhausted I wrote a post “Are we killing ourselves?”
I have since put in place these 5 simple strategies to keep things in balance before I lose my sanity or end up neglecting the kids.
1. Simple Bonding Time
When Kate sees me at home, she will look at me expectantly with a bright smile and say, “Mum, shall we have a picnic?”
Thoughts of where to take her zip through my mind – Botanic Gardens? Chinese Garden? “No, another day ok. I have too much to do.” She doesn’t give up. “Don’t worry mummy, I will prepare the food. We can have a picnic at home!
Dawned on me that we don’t need to come up with grand plans or constantly take them to new places. To us, it may seem simple, but these moments are special in their eyes. And because it became doable for me, the bonding time happened. I just had to follow her up to the rooftop patio and give her my full attention for 20 minutes, and she was pleased as punch.
The hubs used to ride her to market on the weekends and I’m sure that would remain a precious memory to her.
These moments of connection are important for their emotional growth as they feel they are important to us and because it fulfils their need, they don’t play up so much just to get our attention.
|Family Command Centre
2. Stay organised
I have a Family Command Centre right smack between our kitchen and dining room which I blogged about 4 years ago, and had to make changes since starting work. I had a mountain of paperwork piled on my desk which put me in a frenzy because I couldn’t find things I needed, and I didn’t have time to waste digging through the mess.
The 1st tray is Urgent, so nothing important is missed, and I look at it every morning. Things I’m working on currently at work go into TLE and I slot accounting receipts separately so it’s easy when I pull it all out once a fortnight to get that filed.
I teach the little kids at church once a week, and notes for that go into the CGS slot. I also handle the GST filing for the hubs’ company, so that goes there. These are the areas I have to tackle on a regular basis and the rest of the documents will get moved upstairs to our home office. The black tray on top is for the kids to put papers they need me to sign so nothing gets misplaced.
3. Schedule in breaks
My teens are such darlings. They’ve been noticing how hard I’m working “hey mum, you actually go to work!” and surprised me on Mother’s Day by drawing up a nice warm bath and making a lovely moisturising bath bomb. They asked me to “relax and take your time, dad is fixing dinner.” It was the first time soaking in my own bathtub after so many years.
Instead of taking Kate to busy places, we go to quiet parks. She roams around on her bicycle while I get to clear my mind and refresh my soul.
#2 and I started drum classes on Sundays for some mummy-daughter bonding time and found it quite relaxing. More than that, by taking an hour out to do something for myself, it changes my overall frame of mind from scarcity to abundance and by allowing myself permission to do something fun, I feel better overall. The last time I took any classes was before I had kids!
I used to turn friends down for tea or lunch as it takes up too much time, but now allocate 1 day a week to allow myself to chill, talk about things of leisure, have a heart to heart chat with close friends.
As though I don’t have enough on my plate, I have an added duty of preparing 4 lunchboxes every night after dinner. It started because of #2. Her JC releases the whole cohort for recess at the same time, so it is a 30-40 minute queue for food. She would rather not waste time queueing and buys a cookie or pie from the cafe.
I offered to pack her a salad (thinking she might say, “No thanks mum, who brings a lunchbox to school at 16?) But she loved it, and so did her friends! Since I started doing that, the other 2 teens reasoned that I might as well pack them healthy salads as well.
Near the end of the week, I was really tired and instead of pushing myself to do it, declared “Kitchen Closed – due to mum fatigue”. Glad the kids took it in their stride, and now they don’t take my lunch box for granted!
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life with kids and end up feeling frustrated and defeated a lot of the time. I have learnt to be present in the moment and to savour the little things.
After a challenging Thursday night where I scolded the 2 younger ones, I went to work and didn’t see them on Friday. I had dinner out with the hubs and when we returned, I saw a note stuck to the bedroom door, which read:
Dear Mummy, Kate and I are sleeping happily. Love, #5 & Kate.
And to see them fast asleep, arms wrapped around each other, was just the best thing.
Being a mum, however way you spin it, is tough. I’m grateful to Debs for initiating this very meaningful series, to give us mothers a chance to learn from one another and know that we are not alone.
I’m finally getting into the rhythm of this FTWM gig and finding my balance.
No matter the demands, mothers make it work.
If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can start with this one here by Debs G over at Owls Well as she considers the challenges that her Aged P faced as a stay-at-home-parent. Debs is a Sunda Scoops Owl who married a nice British Barn owl and is raising a trio of hungry young owlets in a highrise tree in Singapore. Debs is a trained medical professional who is currently training to be A Parent.
At next week’s stop, we will be visiting June at MamaWearPapaShirt. June is a work-at-home mum to 3 kids. She is a writer and trainee educational therapist who is passionate about helping kids with learning needs. Her idea of self-care is drinking a good cuppa and enjoying a good book. She is constantly exploring calm and positive ways to parent her children.