Few people get burned out as quickly as working moms, who are often juggling not only job responsibilities, but also the majority of childrearing, homework help, cooking, cleaning, and other family-focused tasks. To a working mom, balance can feel like this thing that is always just out of reach.
Known as “Superwoman Syndrome,” the moniker describes the phenomenon that has left women striving to achieve perfection in all spheres of their lives, often to the detriment of their own physical and mental health needs.
So, how can working moms change their everyday lives to maintain more balance? Here are some specific strategies.
Operate as a team.
With an obvious exception for infants, your family members are all capable of pitching in. Ensure you’re not falling into gender-specific stereotypes. Teaching your kids or teens to do their own laundry, cook, wash dishes, vacuum, wash the car and mow the grass are skills they’ll need when they leave home. It will also help them feel like part of the family and hopefully, break generational stereotypes regarding the division of labor in the home.
Delay responses to on-the-spot invitations and requests.
Buy yourself some time when someone asks you to volunteer or take on extra responsibility. Try a simple response like, “I need to check my schedule to see if I can fit that in. Would you get back to me Thursday?” That not only alleviates any pressure you feel to “people please” on the spot, but also puts the responsibility of follow-up back on the person who asked.
Create a family calendar.
Many working women keep some form of calendar for project deadlines or upcoming meetings and events and the same organization strategies can help serve as a visual reminder of commitments and upcoming deadlines, appointments, and functions for your family. Rather than simply writing “class party” on Friday, consider adding an earlier deadline for tasks or items that need to be completed before the event (e.g., “buy 30 cupcakes” on Wednesday). This simple system can help alleviate that “mental load” that many working moms feel, as well as keep other family members informed of important dates.
Unfortunately, “having fun” often comes last when you’ve got a long list of to-do items. Consider scheduling not just dental checkups and vet check-ups appointments but also day trips, family movie night, date night, time with your friends, and time alone. Prioritizing yourself, your spouse, and your kids is a great example to set and serves as a reminder to yourself that you’ve assessed what really matters to you.
Just as McDonald’s has systemized its restaurants to consistently replicate food production for quality control and uniformity, so too can you systemize different parts of your life. Look for ways to streamline repetitive tasks with templates, shortcuts, or the ability to delegate to free up time for yourself. Need an example? Much like you might create an automated email reply when you take time off work, you could create a template response to use when people request a donation from your business. Or ensure everyone in your family knows how to do laundry and then assign each member a different day of the week to wash and dry their own clothes.
Transform mundane tasks.
Benjamin Franklin’s infamous quote, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes” failed to incorporate three never-ending battles for working women: laundry, dishes, and dinner. While there are numerous solutions (e.g., asking your partner to do more, enlisting the help of your kids, hiring someone), not all are realistic. Some husbands work two (or three) jobs. Kids may be too young to use a stove or wash knives. Teens may be too busy with after-school activities or a part-time job. Families may not have the money to hire a cleaning company or regularly order take-out food. If you fall into the latter category and feel as though there just aren’t any options for assistance right now, look for ways to add some fun (or, at least, rewards) to your chore. Crank up a favorite song while you wash dishes or listen to that funny podcast while you cook dinner.
Prep your day the night before.
For some moms, prepping outfits, individual lunches, family meals, and to-do lists can help them not only feel more organized, but also allow them to fall asleep more easily. It can also help your family get out the door faster in the morning and give you a little less dread knowing you’ll be coming home to a ready-to-cook meal!
Perhaps most importantly, put your own oxygen mask on first. Although “self-care” might feel a bit like a buzzword, the intention behind it is on point. Everyone has days in which they feel overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious about how they’re going to get everything done. But it’s not a sustainable lifestyle for the long term. Take the steps you need to unburden yourself of doing everything without assistance. Your physical, mental and emotional health will reap the rewards!