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Time-saving tips for working moms
Dr Roopa Nishi Vishwanathan |
May 10, 2006
Being a working mom has never been easy. Work stress, family pressures, childcare dilemmas and time management issues can take their toll. As a result, you could find yourself praying for a smoother daily routine. Feeling tempted to quit your job/ career. Looking more unkempt as the days go by.
Giving up or getting frustrated is not the solution. Try our tips to help you juggle all those responsibilities better.
Home: Organise and delegate
~ Have a 'clean-up' routine every night before you go to bed, where every family member puts things back in their right place. Even toddlers can help.
Older kids can help put their toys away, fold laundry and make their own bed. This not only saves you time, but also gives them a sense of independence. Praise your kids for their effort and watch them beam.
~ Enlist your hubby's help to set the table and clear it. Shyamala Arya, a 26-year old sales executive from Mumbai, says, "My husband does not mind sharing chores but he needs to be told what exactly to do. More important, he does not want to hear 'Oh no, not like that!' or 'I could have done it better myself!' Men want appreciation." Resist criticising his methods and your husband will be happy to help.
~ Make mornings less hectic by planning ahead. Finish things like packing schoolbags and ironing clothes. Decide what you want to wear to work the next day and keep it ready the night before.
~ Have a planned menu. Decide what to cook every day of the following week and shop for groceries accordingly. This can save a lot of time. Have 'timetables' like 'Sambar on Monday', 'Roti-sabji on Tuesday', etc, and make sure you have all the ingredients ready during the weekend. This way, you can avoid those daily trips to the local grocery store or market. Planned meals are healthier too, because they are not last-minute decisions.
~ Give your children quality time every day, even if it is just a couple of hours. Read to them, play games with them and talk to them about their day. It is not important what you do or for how much time you do it. All that matters is that you show your baby you love her/ him.
~ Do things as a couple. The best present you can give your kids is a happy marriage. Plan evenings out together while the kids are visiting their grandparents or relax and unwind after the kids have gone to bed.
Tip: Make your kids go to bed early. This will not only give you some peaceful time with your hubby, but also make sure the kids get the forty winks they need.
~ Learn to say 'no'. Your top priority is your home. Keep it that way. Do not let co-workers or acquaintances dig into your precious time with boring phone conversations, dull parties and unreasonable demands. You will have limited time to socialise, so attend only those functions and meetings that mean a lot to you.
~ There are no prizes for guessing the right answer when it comes to choosing between time and money. Use time-saving devices like microwaves, food processors and washing machines to your advantage.
~ Learn to do two things at the same time. For example, you can talk to your mom on the phone while you are cooking or knead dough while watching your favourite television show. But stay alert as you multi-task.
~ Do not forget to give yourself some quality time. Get a massage, meditate, workout, visit an art gallery, write a blog, go out with friends, whatever you enjoy the most. Do one such activity every week.
Home and office: The perennial balancing act
If you are planning to get pregnant soon, ensure you select a company that is family friendly and has reasonable maternity leave policies.
If your job permits it, try working from home, an option that millions of moms all over the world are exploring. This way, you might be able to have your cake and eat it too.
Sumitra Saxena, a 24-year-old writer from Mumbai, freelances from home. "I don't think it affects my careergraph in any way. I make the same amount of money, I do not have to travel in jam-packed trains and I get to spend more time with my six-month-old baby."
Working from home is definitely lucrative and convenient, but make sure you plan it right. Many moms like Sumitra find they are not able to draw a clear distinction between work and family while working from home. "It is easy to get carried away. Sometimes, I get to work only a couple of hours between cooking, cleaning, entertaining guests and feeding my baby," she says.
But, if you can work efficiently in small blocks of time, working from home can work for you. Try and make friends and family understand that your job is important, even if you do it from home.
If you not fortunate enough to get flexitime or permission to work from home, then the only option is to be very organised. Save time by making priority lists, using organisers and planning your workday smartly.
Getting back to work: Be prepared, be professional
~ Keep in touch with your boss and co-workers even while you are on maternity leave so you do not feel totally lost when you get back to work. Try to stay in the loop where new developments in your company are concerned.
~ Stay abreast in your field of work. Keep reading, surfing and checking mails when you have the time.
~ A few days before you go back to work, do some trial runs with your baby's caregiver. See if your baby does okay while you are away. Keep a list of emergency contact numbers ready for the caregiver.
~ A week before you resume, get in touch with your boss and get an update on the project you will be working on.
~ You might need to shop for clothes, especially if you have put on some weight. Chitra Subramanian, 28-year-old customer care representative from Hyderabad, has a tip for new moms. "Get a smart haircut that is easily manageable. Amidst the daily chores, your baby's wails and the rush to get to work, you will not get more than a few minutes to get ready. And you do not want to look frumpy," she says.
~ Feed your baby before leaving your home and after you get home.
~ Be prepared for a lot of changes and face them without defiance.
Workplace: Efficiency is key of the game
Don't allow work to spill over onto your home and vice versa.
~ Tell you colleagues you would prefer to be contacted via e-mail rather than phone. At the same time, make e-mail communication clear, crisp and concise.
Tell people not to forward you mass e-mails. Don't forward mass e-mails either.
Veena Narikot, a 29-year old college lecturer from Bangalore says, "After a certain point, you get sick of forwarded jokes and anecdotes. I told all my friends I would prefer not to receive mass e-mails. If you want to tell me something, mail me, but do not send me stuff that clogs up my inbox!"
~ If you need to stay back late at work or take a business trip, enlist support from your spouse. Tell your children you are doing something that matters a lot to you and will make you happy. Give them a realistic picture of when you will be back. Sometimes, you might have to just say no to a business trip, especially if it coincides with an important date like your son's birthday or your daughter's dance programme.
~ Once you resume work, reassure your boss and everyone else that you are back 100 percent. Keep talk about your baby and your situation to the minimum. Yes, you can call home to check on the baby, but do it as unobtrusively as possible. Try not to call every hour to check whether your baby's daiper has been changed or 'just to check if she is okay.' If there is anything important -- for instance, your child is sick -- talk with your boss and take the day off.
Be as professional as possible and while you are at work and aim for maximum efficiency. This will ease your adjustment phase and people will forget that you were ever away.
Most of all, try and suppress the inherent desire to be 'Supermom' all the time. For your kids, you will always be special even if you are not perfect. What matters the most to them is that you love them and will always be there for them.