Mama, Me, and Her PhD-  6 Strategies to Balancing Motherhood, Work, and Life (Part 1)

I’m a wife, a mom, employee, and a PhD student, these four roles often don't overlap but I'd like to share a bit about my experience and how im juggling them all...

February 17, 2020

On a recent Facebook/Instagram post I talked about managing work, being a wife,a mom, and a student  I gave three points to managing it all:

1) Depend on God

2)Making sure God called you to do what you're doing and following his instructions

3) stepping out on faith and depending on God every step of the way.

I then received an awesome statement/question(s) that I'd like to share:

" What is the practical side of things? How do you manage your time? Do you use certain apps or planners? When do you SLEEP? I'm a wife and mom and honestly been wondering how other moms look like they have it together HELP."

Just as I stated in the initial post, I absolutely LOVE answering questions such as this, as it truly gives me an opportunity to be transparent, open, and humble about my personal journey and "managing it all." Although, I am saved, I love God, and follow Jesus Christ I too understand that everyone is not where I am in their spiritual walk and that we ALL need some practical examples in order to truly get us there (if you desire to be). We all need something to touch, to relate to, and personally experience in order for us to truly believe we can "manage it all."

I would first like to start out by thanking my fellow mommy for challenging me by way of this question because, I know that she isn't the only one wanting to know the "secret recipe to balance as a mom" So are you ready to find out the secret??? Guess What? There is no secret to balancing it all! Now, there are resources that you can implement in your everyday life to help manage the many hats that we wear as mothers. But,one thing that I am always open to admitting is that I DON'T always get it right.

I journal, I have planners that I write in, I set calendar reminders for my family via my phone, I write to-do-lists however, these things don't prevent you from dropping the ball ALL the time,they just prevent you from dropping the ball OFTEN. Yes, there are many practical ways to help you as a mother manage your time, home, and essentially your entire existence outside of your everyday responsibilities but, it is up to US to put in the work and apply the resources to balance and prioritize the demands in our life. We have to be WILLING participants in our breakthroughs, and discipline and consistency is first required before we can even begin to seek out additional resources to help us with the day-to- day demands of life.

Before I go on, I'd like to address the most important part of her question: "I am honestly wondering how other moms LOOK like they have it together"

My number one question is do you want to LOOK as if you have it together or are you interested in actually HAVING it together? It's so many of us out here comparing ourselves to the next mom that we don't even truly think about what she's probably going through behind the smile, behind that high-resolution picture with the bomb editing.

We can't base our lives on the lives of others PERIODT. I've learned to come to terms with the fact that everyone of us our in different seasons of our lives. We have no clue of the storm that person just went through in order to experience what we might label as "having it together". I think that if we focus more on where we are and how to get to a place that is conducive for OUR lifestyle versus comparing ourselves to our perceptions of other individuals progress, we too will be more fulfilled in our lives and how we can maintain the day-to-day demands of our lives. While the perfect life-work balance may seem unattainable,here are (6) practical strategies that I am incorporating in my life to maintain my sanity and my purpose as a working mom

Tip #1: Set a Routine

This will obviously look different for everyone, but establishing some sort of morning routine can help start the days out smoothly.

For me, I make sure my alarm is set for a time that allows me to get myself and my one-year-old ready to leave the house by the designated time. Since my husband leaves for work on Tuesday and Thursdays before we do I have to be strategic with time management while I’m solo-parenting in the mornings. Most days, my daughter is awake before the alarm, but it’s there as a fail-safe.

To avoid feeling stressed while getting ready for the day, try to do what you can the night before. One thing that helps me tremendously is packing my daughter’s daycare bag the night before. Doing this reduces the risk of being rushed and forgetting something (which I've done several times so I know).

Tip #2: Prioritize Tasks

Rather than thinking of all the things you need to accomplish in the near future, focus on action items with the highest urgency, and attend to those. Make a list of 3-4 tasks you want to get done that day and cross them off as you go. This act provides satisfaction since you are making progress and reaffirms the fact that you are capable of accomplishing multiple tasks in a day, both at work and at home.

Tip #3: Be Fully Present

At work, focus on work. Figure out how you can be more productive. Maybe something like the Pomodoro method might help, where you work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5 minutes. During that work time, if you’re wondering what your child is doing, you might be able to find out. Ask the teachers to send pictures or video and save them for that 5-minute break. Check out the online video feed, if your day care has one. If your kids are older, surprise them once a month by going to school for lunch. These special moments that you plan ahead might help keep you focused on work to ensure you’re most productive.

Tip #4: Enjoy Time For Yourself

You might want to spend most of your time outside of work with your family. Even so, it’s important to sneak in a little alone time. Taking the time to relax and recharge can help you succeed as a working mom.

Consider what this looks like for you. For me, it might be sleeping in an hr longer on Saturday or reading. If you don't have the time to read a physical book, plug in through audible to listen to one. Other times, it may just be running a few errands solo without having to load up the stroller and diaper bag to take our daughter along. Thankfully, my husband encourages me to do this and is happy to have some one-on-one time with our baby. If you’re a single mom, take your friends or family members up on their offers to watch your adorable kiddos—you need a little break every now and then!

Tip #5: Ask Yourself What you Can do Differently

Ask yourself objectively: “What can I do differently to get more quality sleep time and relaxation?” Can you eliminate the afternoon coffee? Can you break away at lunch to exercise at the gym? Can you fit in time to read fun novels at night rather than catching up on paperwork?

It's important to know your own body, which will tell you if you’re not getting enough daily sleep or relaxation. You want to avoid getting to a point where you feel completely burned out – this may lead to a long-term physical condition that may permanently affect your life. Bottom line – get enough sleep yourself so you can care for your precious loved ones!

Tip #6: Get Organized

Having an organized home and a concrete schedule are a working mother’s best friends. Your goal is not to make everything perfect, but to help control the chaos and learn to go with the flow when all else fails. Think in terms of setting routines that will streamline your family activities:

The Night Before: Preparing clothes, backpacks, lunches, and anything else you will need to have ready for the morning including having a simple breakfast ready to go.

In the Morning: Get up earlier—you'll be surprised what a difference in composure an hour makes. You have more time to get yourself ready and to spend with your family.

In the Evening: Get comfortable—as soon as you get home, change into something comfortable. This can become a symbolic signal that it's time to stop thinking about work and to begin a family life.

  • Have a dinner planned in advance—Plan your weekday evening meals so that they are simple and fast to make.
  • Concentrate on your child—Plan a relaxing ritual or some activities that are done only at this reconnecting time. Be generous with hugs and kisses. Talk about the evening ahead. In other words, make homecoming a positive experience
  • Save time for yourself—If you neglect yourself, you won't have the stamina for all the things you want to do. So designate time for whatever makes you feel good, whether it’s a hot bath, a good book, a massage, a run, or anything else that gives you pleasure and peace.

***In addition to implementing solid routines, spend time organizing and decluttering your home. When you have a place for everything, you won’t waste endless hours looking for missing items. You’ll think more clearly and feel calmer when your surroundings are clean and in order***

A Piece of Final Encouragement:

Working moms face a unique set of struggles. We want to be the best mamas we can be to our children, yet our time, thoughts, and energy are divided between our responsibilities at home and those at work.

When I was growing up, my mom worked full-time outside of the home, and never once did I feel unloved or like I was missing out on anything. Keeping that in mind helps me feel at peace with my decision to do the same.

Remember that by doing what you’re doing, you are setting a great example for your children. Not only are you providing financially for your family, but you’re also demonstrating what it looks like to use your professional gifts and passions. From one working mama to another, I hope these tips help you feel confident in this challenging yet fulfilling journey.