7 Top Tips for Handling Stress as a Working Mom
Hints on how frazzled working moms can de-stress and manage that crazy daily juggle.
By Heather Chaet
WOHM. WAHM. SAHM. We moms are often categorized by these acronyms. I know I get a little tired of them because, when it comes down to it, every mom -- every single one of us -- is a working mom. Some just go to a workplace other than the home front.
For those moms who juggle a 9-to-5 job along with everything that comes with the enormous job of motherhood, it is just that – a juggle. They have to figure that near-impossible schedule for the family (can a person be in two places at once?), tackle much of the housework, and manage that mommy guilt -- and those are just the first three items on the never-ending list of what they handle on a daily basis.
Mix it all together, and what do you get? One stressed-out working mama. We know every kind of mom gets frazzled, but here, seven tips for how moms who work outside the home can best manage their stress.
1. Devote a little time to transitions. Rushing right into the office after dropping off the carpool or barging in after a long day at work and heading right to the kitchen to start dinner can leave you feeling strained and less connected to what you are doing at any given moment. Even if you just spend five minutes in the car listening to a great song before you have to be at that morning meeting or take a few moments in your bedroom to change clothes and stretch before whipping up a stir-fry, having a transition time just for you will make a difference.
2. Create family routines. Whether it’s regular Sunday night dinner or Taco Tuesdays, creating weekly routines and mini family traditions helps any mom who is stretched in different directions feel more in touch with life at home. They don’t have to be huge events -- even just reading together for a half hour on Wednesday nights or watching a favorite TV show together.
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3. Get organized for the week on Friday. Sometimes, the juggle of the impending work week seeps into Sunday’s family time, which magnifies a mom’s stress. Instead of reviewing that weekly calendar on Sunday afternoon (and bringing any work anxiety into the last hours of weekend family time), get stuff for Monday in order on the previous Friday night. This way, your weekend time is only spent on the kids.
4. Put personal time on the calendar. Though you may not think you need it, your alone time is just as important as the time you spend at your desk or with your family. But, we know, it never seems to just happen. You have to make an effort to squeeze it in, just like the kids’ dentist appointments and that meeting you have every other week with Ben in Accounting. Schedule half an hour on the weekend to do a crossword puzzle in the bathtub or mark off that first-of-the-month Wednesday night book club on the family calendar. Your time to rejuvenate is just as important as every other part of your life.
5. Set your priorities. You know you will miss certain things. Maybe it’s a baseball game on the same afternoon as a big presentation, perhaps it’s a preschool Thanksgiving mashed potato feast the day before you head to a conference. It’s going to happen, but figure out what is non-negotiable. Is it being home to help for homework or attending band concerts? Let everyone on your team know your priorities, and figure out how to make it work. Is staying late Tuesday nights OK, but never mess with Thursday evening, when you want to be home to quiz your daughter on her weekly spelling words? Do you need flex Wednesdays for that odd preschool pickup? Try to work out these priorities well ahead of time, so it isn’t a constant stressor. Also, this lets your kids know when you will be there and when you can’t be, which curbs those conversations that only leave you with nasty mommy guilt.
6. It takes a village, so be sure you know who is in yours. Having a great housekeeper who comes every other week to scrub the toilets and a mom friend who will respond to your SOS to pick up your kid after soccer practice when your meeting runs late are huge stress busters. Just knowing you have folks waiting in the wings to help in a pinch takes the edge off of any stressful situation. Bonus stress buster: Import their numbers in your phone so you have them handy.
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7. Cuddle your way to less stress. For a few minutes each day, try get in some mama snuggle time. Curl up with your kids before the day really begins or cuddle on the couch in pajamas before bedtime. A little human contact goes a long way to lower your stress level and lets you connect with your kids or your husband without any agenda or reason except just to be. Sometimes, all it takes to diffuse those mental stress knots is being able to take a few breaths and hug your kiddo.
What’s the best tip you have for managing stress?
Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.
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