It’s been just over 4 months since I resumed working full time and it sure has been a roller-coaster ride. There are days when I surprise myself by accomplishing a whole lot more than what I plan to and then days when nothing gets done. I’m sure this is typical to any household, doesn’t matter whether you have kids or not.
Anyway, a few of you asked that I do a post on how I have been managing it all and although I don’t think I have any special advice/tips to offer, I thought I’d just pen down whatever it is that I have been doing.
A typical work day for me starts at 0500 or 0530am depending on the amount of prep work I have done the previous day.
The next one hour or so is spent preparing meals and packing breakfast and lunch and then getting ready and we are mostly out of the door between 0715-0730am any given day.
I don’t make calendars, meal plans or do anything that needs me to be regular and organized. I think a lot of things I follow/do is what I’ve learnt from my parents or seen them do as they brought us up.
Before I even delve further into the topic, I’d like to reiterate that it’s absolutely fine if you want to go back to work after having a baby. When and how you want to do it up to you. Do not let anyone guilt trip you into thinking that this means you don’t care for your child enough. Why or when we choose to work is a personal choice.
It’s also fine to send your baby/toddler to a daycare/play group/nursery if you have to. I started sending my son to daycare a few hours a week even before I resumed working full time. If anything, it made me appreciate the time spent with him more and to spend it better. These little babies are better at adapting to these changes than what we give them credit for.
Prepping for a work week –
By prepping, I mean all sorts of preparation. Meals, clothes, packing your handbag or whatever it is that you need to make preparation for.
Meals: Like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the only meal prep I do over the weekend is making sauces, chutneys, washing and drying greens, etc. I still prefer cooking fresh every morning.
If freezing meals works for you, you can certainly go ahead and prep your meals and refrigerate/freeze them as per your need.
Every night before heading to bed, I make a mental meal plan for the next day (breakfast and lunch) and chop vegetables accordingly so that I don’t have to spend time doing that in the morning rush.
I also pack A’s snacks (other than fruit) the previous night itself to save time.
Most meals I plan over the week are quick and simple ones and I leave the elaborate ones for the weekend. A pressure cooker (or ten) can be a life-saver for quick, fulfilling meals.
Clothes: Wash, iron and keep them all ready for the week. I do this for both A and myself over the weekend and the husband takes care of his.
Packing your handbag/daycare bag, etc: I use the same handbag for months or until I get really bored of what I am using. I don’t have the patience to change to a new bag every other day. My handbag always has the following things in it: some loose cash (in case I forget to carry my wallet any day), a pack of wipes, lip balm, a pen, a spare home key and some snack bars/candies for emergencies. So this is pretty standard for me. For A’s daycare bag, since I use cloth diapers, I need to pack it every night. If you use disposables, it’ll be easier as you can just leave a pack at the daycare and not worry about sending some every day. I also pack a cap, a small hand towel, a change of clothes and a wet bag for dirty diapers in his.
Household chores –
It really helps to have a partner who helps with the household chores (even if it’s only after you give him/her a not-so-friendly nudge or an earful, it’s worth it).
Since we don’t have a house help, everything from cleaning to washing is done by us. If I do the washing run and put the clothes to dry, my husband folds the dried clothes. If I sweep the house, he mops. The bathroom is cleaned weekly by either one of us and the balcony is cleaned once every fortnight, mostly by him. I cook and do the dishes most of the time (because I prefer it this way).
The other household chore that requires us to be regular at it is watering the plants and we take turns doing it. If he forgets it in the morning, I do it in the evening and vice-versa.
The only chore that scares me the most is getting the toddler out of bed and getting him ready on time and I conveniently leave this to the husband who takes care of this while I do other things in the morning.
So don’t hesitate to nag your spouse/partner. They make for great assistants!
Spending time with the toddler –
By the time I pick A and get home, it’s almost 0600pm. As soon as we get home, I give him a bath, dress him up and sit him down with an assortment of toys or making him sit in the kitchen with things to spill and make a mess with (you heard that right, sure means a lot of work later but it always works) or if nothing works, I turn on the TV while I quickly make dinner and do the dishes from the morning, wash lunchboxes, etc.
I also put a load of clothes to wash at the same time so that I can get to putting them to dry when I finish my kitchen chores.
By 0700-0715pm, dinner is ready and the dishes are done. The laundry is usually done by this time too and I engage A in this activity to give him a break and also to give him a taste of real life (:P).
Once we are done with that, we sit down together (finally) and play games or draw or read books until my husband gets home. This is usually between 0800-0830pm. We then have dinner together and then my husband spends some time with the toddler while I do the dishes (again!) and finish prepping for the next day.
A is usually in bed by 1000pm (judge me all you want) and depending on how tired we are, we crash soon after too.
Over the weekend, we order in or head out for a meal or two (this is more my preference so that I don’t have to spend the weekend doing dishes too) and also take A to the park or beach and spend some time unwinding together.
Our weekdays are fairly packed and there is little to no time to relax. We do make up for it over the weekend though when everything happens at a much slower pace than usual.
Truthfully speaking, it isn’t easy. It feels like you are always on the run. If you are not hurrying to work, you are still constantly busy over the weekend preparing for the next week. But what keeps me at it is the independence, having a life where I’m not defined by what I do or not do for my baby, the interaction with the outside world and the satisfaction of keeping it all together that comes with having a full-time job and managing a house.
That said, I loved my time being a stay-at-home parent just as much. I still had as many things to do or probably more since I also had to keep a toddler occupied for most part of the day and that can be quite exhausting when you do it every single day. I still woke up early as my husband’s work timings were the same. But the rest of the day was spent the same way.
I’ve been as transparent as I can be and practically listed down everything I do daily. For those of you who asked for tips from me, this is all that I have to offer. However, if there’s any one of you who out there, who really has some better ideas or tips to balance work and life, please do feel free to share them.
PS: I also have a very supportive boss and team (touch wood) and I think that matters too because they understand that I can’t (won’t) stay a minute longer after the official working hours. Unless there really is a pressing need and I have a backup option sorted, I do not stay back late at work.