As a mom who works full-time outside of the home, runs a side business, and has one child with special needs, I can speak first-hand about living the working mom overwhelm on a daily basis. In all of that overwhelm and the time I’ve spent trying to get things in order, I’ve realized that only one thing truly keeps things at a manageable level of chaos (because let’s be honest, it’s just never going to be completely smooth sailing): planning ahead!
How planning ahead reduces the working mom overwhelm
No matter what part of life you’re in, if you’ve thought ahead and know what’s coming, things will be a little more organized and a little less chaotic. Planning isn’t going to prevent tough days from happening, but if you know they’re coming and you’re ready to face them, those days are going to be less overwhelming as a whole.
Now think about it: when was the last time you felt out of control? What were you doing? What was happening that made you feel out of control? Is it something you could have planned for differently—or at all?
Let’s look at 5 things that you can plan ahead, and in some cases prep ahead, so that no matter what you’re facing, you’re ready for it.
Five ways to plan ahead to reduce the working mom overwhelm:
1. Meal Planning
Sometimes overwhelmed feelings come from leaving soccer practice and not knowing what to eat. Other times it’s rushing in the door after a late daycare pickup and realizing you’re not going to have time to make anything. What are some options you have when it comes to meal planning and reducing the working mom overwhelm that comes with dinner prep?
- Blue Apron or Hello Fresh are done for you meal kits that come straight to your door with all the ingredients you need almost prepped for you to throw together on the night of your choice. Though they still take some time to cook, choosing the meals is easy and their time estimate is usually pretty accurate.
- Local meal prep and delivery companies exist that cook the meals for you and package them in individual servings for you to heat up at your convenience. Maybe you order ahead for those late nights after soccer or dance practice!
- There are a number of blogs and websites that will send you a week of meal plans and a shopping list. Because isn’t one of the most frustrating conversations you can have about what’s for dinner?
- Use Shipt! Have a go to weekly recipe rotation, map it out on a meal planning pad or on your planner on Sundays, and get those groceries delivered! If you’re resistant to grocery delivery, think about how much you charge for your time and what you could be doing during the time you’re grocery shopping.
2. Extracurricular Activities
Have a set schedule for any extracurricular activities so you know what your week is going to look like. If you can mentally categorize certain days as an “extracurricular day” and others as “home earlier” and know each is going to follow a different plan, you’re going to make your life easier.
For us, one late day is Thursday, no matter the time of the school year. When club cycles change after school, we find one that happens on Thursday. This way if I pre-plan something to do after work, I know what days will work and which ones won’t. This keeps me from having to flip back and forth through emails trying to figure out what day certain events fall on.
3. Weekday Packing Lists
This might sound crazy, but stick with me. Create packing lists for you, your family, and your caregivers to follow for specfic days of the week. This will save you the trouble of having to answer the question, “What does Jimmy need for soccer?” or “Does she have everything she needs?”
Leave the lists in a designated spot that is easily accessible when bags are being packed. These lists can be referred to by the kids and the adults, and they’ll be especially helpful as you’re rushing around getting ready to leave in the morning.
What goes in the school bag in the morning? Swim bag? Dance bag? Does one child need piano books on Wednesday?
4. Afternoon and Evening Routines at Home
Late afternoons are the hardest time of day for everyone; kids and parents are tired, and everyone has their own agendas for what they want to do and what needs to get done. You can avoid the arguing or meltdowns by creating a loose plan ahead of time for what kids will do each day as you’re preparing dinner or finishing work.
Start by thinking ahead to which days you’ll need to have something to do with your kids or to keep your kids occupied. Then, get the supplies or activities together in one place so that you can just set them our or do it with them when the day comes.
Finding a certain day each week that you have time in your schedule for a midweek moment with your child can help you all re-charge and reconnect. It also creates a marker in the middle of the week where everyone can decompress and slow down and enjoy each other. If you plan ahead for activity days, you will also know when you’ll have these moments.
Similarly, when you know that Mondays and Thursdays are going to be hectic, you can mentally prepare yourself for busy-ness and have a no-prep activity ready on hand to give to your kids while you cook dinner or take your phone call. When everyone is running around without a plan and their own agenda, the overwhelmed feeling takes over and mom guilt can start to creep in.
If all of this sounds great but you have no idea where to start, start with my Working Mom’s Low-Prep Kids’ Activity Starter Guide! It gives you tips to put together easy activities plus tangible activities and instructions you have things in your house to do!
5. Pickup/Dropoff Schedule
Depending on what kind of work schedule the adult/s in your family have, this may or may not be a source of overwhelm for you. But for many who either work remotely or have flexible schedules, the on the fly conversations and texts about who will pick the kids up from school or daycare can be an unnecessary stressor.
When you’re planning your week or month of activities and routines, add to your list to come up with a set plan for who will do pickup and drop off each day of the week. Write this plan down on a shared calendar or schedule in a common area so that everyone is aware of who is dropping off and picking up each day. This will eliminate the need for midday texts debating who is going to stop working to pick the kids up and who did it the day before but has a meeting going on.
Comment below with one system you have in place to tame the overwhelm during your crazy weeks. I’ll share some of your responses with others on my email list!