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Time Management Tips for the Work-Outside-The-Home Mom

Guest post by Sarah.

Some days are more hectic than others: baseball practice, the gym that is seriously calling my name, my 5-year-old who wants to build the (what seems like) millionth set of Legos I’ve bought him, dinner has yet to be started and my word, how can there be so much laundry for just three people?

My husband and I both work full-time outside of the home so maintaining a sense of organization can be quite challenging at times. It’s an everyday occurrence, this organization thing, and I’ve learned several tips and tricks along the way to help me stay (somewhat) sane.

I’ve been a full-time working mom since my son was 18 months old and have compiled a list of my favorite ways to make the most of my time as a full-time working mother in the hopes of being the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and employee I can be.

Make the Most of Your Time

We all love our downtime. I know I do! Reading a book, cooking, spending time with my family, those are some things that I find such joy in doing. But I know that if I have three piles of laundry on the couch waiting to be folded and put away, I am not truly enjoying my downtime.

One trick that I’ve learned is to set the timer on my oven for 15 minutes right when I get home from work. I don’t sit down until that 15 minutes is over and I’ve accomplished a task that needed accomplishing! You can easily fold and put away a load of laundry in 15 minutes!

Another thing that I do to get more out of my day is to utilize my lunch hour at work. Instead of going to lunch with co-workers, I use it to run errands, study (I’m in school part-time) or pay bills. It’s a win-win because I save money by not eating out and I get things done.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial. While we all know that life has a way of deterring us from our plans, if we have a plan in place, it makes those times of distress appear much more calm.

Here are some of the things that have really helped me in the whole planning arena:

:: Calendar :: I use my BlackBerry calendar feature for things like doctor appointments, class times and reminders of little things that need to be done throughout the day. For the things that require more space, I use my momAgenda Home Office Edition to stay organized. It is a major lifesaver! I can write down birthdays, jot down to-do lists, keep random things in the front and back pockets (such as our tickets to events) and elaborate on calendar items that need more than just a “doctor appointment at 11 a.m.” notation. Plus, I purchased it in the fun zebra print so it’s functional and stylish.

:: Chores :: I created a color coded chore chart in Microsoft Excel (I heart spreadsheets!) and hung it up on the refrigerator so that we could have a visual of what needed to be done each day. For example, on Monday evenings, I do one load of laundry. On Tuesday evenings, I clean the kitchen and do one load of laundry. Obviously, my load is heavier on the weekends but even just doing something small each night really goes a long way.

:: Clothes :: My 5-year-old is at the age where he likes picking out his clothes for school and getting himself dressed on his own. My mom helped me come up with a system that works for us: each Sunday, we choose five outfits for the week and fold them up (pants, shirt, underwear, socks) in the very bottom drawer of his dresser. This way, he can pull open the drawer himself and easily have access to his clothes. We keep his backpack and jacket in the car so that we don’t have to worry about forgetting it in the morning. As for myself and my husband, well, we (I) could do better in this department. I’m still working on a system for myself… if you’re a work-outside-the-home mom, I’d love to know your secrets.

:: Meals :: I first read about menu planning on Organizing Junkie and thought it was genius! Plan your meals on Sunday, go grocery shopping and you don’t have to worry about the, “What’s for dinner?” conversation that we’ve all had time and time again. You’ll already have a plan in place and if you do deviate from the plan, no big deal.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking and grabbing take-out is more simple and that’s perfectly fine. Freeze the ingredients that need to be saved from the recipe that you were going to make or just make it the next night. I often work in one night of leftovers a week for that very reason.

A word of advice: when I first started menu planning (several years ago) I tended to choose meals that were difficult and time-consuming. I was proud of myself for planning and doing the grocery shopping but when it came time to actually make the recipe (at 6 p.m. after a long day at work), I was exhausted. I quickly learned that crock pot meals and casseroles are fabulous meal options for my family. In no time, you’ll be able to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family.

It’s Okay to Take Shortcuts

This one might sound a bit odd but here’s an example: I’m all for buying the celery that is not pre-washed and pre-sliced. It’s less expensive because you have to do the work of cleaning it and cutting it up as opposed to buying the one that comes all neat and tidy and ready to be eaten. I have found though, that sometimes it’s better for me to just by the things that are already pre-cut, pre-sliced or pre-cooked.

Why? Well, a few months ago, I bought a block of cheese with the intent of cutting it into cubes for my lunches during the week. Somehow, I totally forgot about doing it and the mundane task of chopping up cheese before work each morning seemed like too much trouble. To make a long story short, the cheese molded and I had to throw it out —  $4 and some change that I may have well just thrown down the garbage disposal.

So I looked for an alternative. Sargento makes cheese bites that you can buy pre-cut in fun little shapes so that all you have to do is toss them in a Rubbermaid container or Ziploc baggie and call it a day. It may not seem like much but I promise, it made my life just a tiny bit easier. While more expensive, yes, you can bet that I didn’t throw the $3 and some change that it cost me for that pack of cheese bites down the drain. I ate them all week long and nothing went to waste.

Other things that I like to buy already prepared for me (from time to time) are: apple slices, grapes that are washed, watermelon cubes, sliced carrots and frozen brown rice. Again, I’m very picky about what I purchase like this because I do know that it’s cheaper to do it yourself. But when you work full-time, go to school part-time and have what seems like a hundred things going on at once, the few extra dollars are totally worth it.

Accept the Fact That You Can’t Do It All

I don’t like the word can’t. In fact, I’ve tried to eliminate it entirely from my vocabulary but in this instance — the notion that you can’t do it all — I’m totally, 100% okay with using it.

It took me several years after my husband and I got married to admit to myself and my family that I can’t be the person who does all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, bath-giving, boo-boo kissing, grocery shopping… the list goes on and on.

As much as I’d like to be the one who does all of these things, I simply can’t. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help; in fact, my 5-year-old loves cleaning with me. I give him a task (i.e, spraying the doors with a vinegar/water mixture and going to town wiping them down) and he loves the challenge that comes with doing something that a grown-up would normally do.

I had to re-program my inner control-freak to not have a meltdown when my husband folded a piece of clothing differently than I did. Once you accept the fact that you can’t do it all, you’ll actually find that you will accomplish so much more.

And while this all looks good on paper there are some nights that I come home, collapse on the couch and watch a movie with my 5-year-old. Dinner doesn’t get made, clothes are left to wrinkle in the dryer and all I care about is curling under a blanket with a good book.

Sarah is a wife and mom who loves to read, write, be outdoors, watch television and most importantly, spend time with her family and friends.

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  • Deb H. in Wisconsin says:

    Thank you for your insightful post, Becca! While I am currently a stay-at-home-mom, I found tidbits in your article helpful! Homeschooling one, two in a private Academy (high school) and all of the church/school/family activities that come, I need help with organization! I haven’t been “in your shoes” with choosing clothing, but I do know of a couple of ideas that other ladies have used. One is to divide your outfits into 5 sections (M outfits, T outfits, and so on) and then just choose one of a few outfits each day. You could turn the hangar facing the opposite way once you’ve worn an item. Hope your schooling continues to go well and you reach your goal!

  • Lory F says:

    Becca, thank you so much for sharing your story! You are an inspiration at such a young age. I am a mom of 2 older children, 17 and 21, but have worked outside the home as a Controller for over 20 years and there are days I just want to pull my hair out. Life is truly a balancing act whether you are a stay at home mom or work outside the home. I manage to work full-time in an office, run an outside business full-time as well as find time for my family and the mounds of laundry and housecleaning. And by the way, I even find time to workout 5 days a week because it empowers me and releases stress. It does help that I own a gym and have to be there anyways (that is my full-time outside business). Keep up the good work and you will find lots of fulfillment in all of your accomplishments! And never feel guilty for taking time for you:)

  • Amber says:

    I do what you do for your son with my clothes. On Sundays, I pre-plan what I’m going to wear and hang outfits together in my closet.

    I used to pre-plan my meals weekly as well, but that means you have to plan 4 times a month. I just use a regular calendar, pre-plan the whole month and then use it for the basis of my grocery shopping. It is a better way to coupon too… because if you know you’re going to have “x” two weeks from now and it requires “z” that you have a coupon for that expires this week, then you can go ahead and get it and save yourself time and money. Just think… planning meals 12 times a year vs. 52 times a year. There’s some perspective!

  • Kelly says:

    Great post, I am also a full time work outside the home mom of 2 boys ages 5 & 2. Organization and menu planning is key to me! Helps the household run a alot smoother. I also utilize the eat at work lunch trick, then is when I do the majority of my coupon clipping, organizing my shopping trips, and doing my drug store runs. I eat lunch first at the office and then do my errands!

  • Susannah says:

    I am a working mom of three ages 10, 12, and 16. My husband and I both teach and between us and our kids we represent 5 different schools. Here are some things that help me: Always, always have a back up plan. A back up plan for your work outfit (I keep an entire outfit on a hanger ready to go. It’s not my favorite so I dont’ wear it often, but on those days when the alarm didn’t go off or I have to change because of the dirty dog’s jumping on me, it’s a lifesaver).
    A back up plan for child care (my youngest is enrolled in the after school care program at her school, my middle has a friend’s house he can walk to if necessary, my oldest can walk to a friend’s music shop from her school. This way if I am running late or have an unexpected meeting, I know they are safe.).
    A back up plan for supper. I keep a frozen lasagna on hand and always have salad stuff around (or, at the least, baby carrots!).
    A back up plan for lunches. Because I refuse to eat school food, my mama brings me lunch and we eat together on those rare occasions I forget my bag. I also have a can of soup in my office closet.
    A member ship in AAA. I drive 25 miles one way to work each day and it has been a lifesaver — once when I had a flat tire, and once when I had a dead battery.
    Lists, lists, lists for everything.
    It is tough, but I love my job, and it is do-able with a little planning.

  • Erin says:

    Great article, but I don’t think the link to her blog is working?

  • I’ve been a working mom since I returned from maternity leave after having my 4 yo DD. We now have a 7 mo son, we own our home and have two cats too. Although I’m currently looking for a part time position and at the same time considering quitting (I’ve been miserable for 3 years in my job; we have no debt; my heart is calling me home with the kids)… here’s what I do…

    I work 40 hours per week plus have a commute (with my DH- we work at the same place) of 35 minutes each way (including the dropoff at daycare). I also freelance for two websites.

    *I get up early, before anyone else. On weekdays this is 515-530am. So at 430am I nurse the baby while laying down in our bed. I put him back in his crib and I get up for the day.
    *After I get up, I exercise. I watch the morning news so I know if there are weather related traffic problems or closures. I exercise for 45 minutes. I sometimes throw in a load of laundry while I exercise.
    *I make coffee, get my 4yo’s snack ready, pack my bag and get dressed while the coffee brews.
    *I get my DD up while I’m getting dressed.
    *My DH gets the baby dressed while DD and I are dressing.
    *I nurse the baby before we leave for 15 minutes, while DD has her snack and DH showers.
    Then, we all head out together. After we get home:
    *DH unloads the car.
    *I situate the kids, change my clothes and start dinner.
    *DH watches the kids while I cook the dinner and open the mail.
    *DH feeds the baby while I finish dinner.
    *We eat at the table. Baby is starting to eat some table foods now.
    *After dinner, I feed the cats while DH clears the table and puts leftovers away.
    *DD and I shower together. My DH puts the baby in his pjs. Baby gets a bath once per week unless he has a poop blowout.
    *We have 45 minutes of family time, then DH puts DD to bed. I nurse the baby, freelance, email, etc.
    *I go to bed by 930pm.

    On weekends I do more laundry, make a large meal with the intent of leftovers once or twice during the week, bake, and do the shopping. DH does more cleaning than I do. DH is a night owl and so stays up till midnight-1am.

    • Mandy Tillette says:

      Milk Donor Mama-
      If it’s calling you- find a way. You will never ever ever ever regret it 🙂

    • Emily says:

      I agree with the pp. You are never going to say to yourself that the time you spend with your kids is time wasted. Make it work.

    • Marie says:

      I agree too. I have friends that truly love and enjoy their work, but if your heart is calling you to be at home–figure out a way. Good luck!

    • Becky says:

      If you’re miserable at work and have no debt, then why not go home immediately?

      • Anxiety, fear of the unknown, insufficient faith, I suppose. My husband and I work for state government and budget cuts loom. I earn more than he does and have more advanced education and have more seniority so am “safer” / more secure in my position. I also grew up in a working poor home (think WIC, free lunch, some years I didn’t have a winter coat that fit and I grew up in MI). We were food insecure, couldn’t afford medical and dental care… having gotten myself out of that situation, then cutting my family’s income by 55% is scary to do on a voluntary basis.

        However, I suffered PPD after giving birth to my son last year and I know all too well what my mental health is worth, and how much my children and husband mean to me.

        Sometimes it’s not obvious what you should do, when you’re in the situation. That’s why I posted here… everyone’s encouragement means a LOT. It led me to have a discussion with my DH on our commute home yesterday.

        • Becky says:

          Ah, I see. Have courage! If you’re supposed to be at home and you all work diligently at making it work, then I believe the proper doors and paths will open for you to follow through.

          I would suggest looking into Rich Dad and/or Rich Woman products. If you went from poor to average, I believe you and your husband can go from average to wealthy.

          That way maybe eventually your husband can spend less time working for “the man” and more time with you and the kids as well.

          At least you are on the right track and acknowledge you want a change instead of just accepting being miserable as a way of life. Good luck to you!

        • Crystal says:

          Hugs to you, my friend! I think of you often and pray for you as I know you’re in a hard situation right now. And so glad the commentors here gave you some encouragement.

          Don’t you sometimes wish God just gave us clear direction in bright neon lights in the sky?!

          • Emily says:

            Often it’s the little nudges that God uses to move us. Like I said, you are never going to regret spending time with your kids, even if sacrifices are involved. You are never going to say to yourself, “If I was working, I could have a bigger house, a big TV and a great vacation! That’s so much better getting to see my kid discover his/her world! I made a mistake!” The very premise of it is ridiculous. Go for it. No one can be your kids mom like you can.

          • Yes, I sure could use a bright neon sign right about now! 🙂

  • Ashley P says:

    As far as the getting clothes put out for the week, and the kid’s backpack in the car:

    Hubby keeps his backpack in the car, too. It has his badge for work, his phone headset, his call notebook (did I mention he does tech support?).

    Finding cloths for us is easy. I got a few boxes of those Wonder Hangers, and lemme tell you…. LIFESAVER! Mu hubby has 5 pair of work pants, one for each day, and he has 5 work shirts (they wear uniforms). Since each wonder hanger holds 5 hangers, it’s a cinch!

    I have it just as easy, but a little different. Since I work in a medical office, I wear scrubs 3 days a week. I have 5 tops and 3 bottoms, all in complimenting colors, so I mix and match. I’ve been known to wear the same pair of scrub bottoms 2 days straight with a different top, and no one notices. On Thursdays, we wear company uniform shirts and jeans, so I always know what I’m wearing that day. Friday, instead of “Casual Friday” we have “Dress Up” Friday. It’s our one day to ditch the scrubs and uniforms and look HOT! have several suits and dresses I’ve collected over the years that I wear. They’re on their own special Wonder Hanger. All I have to do is pick the one I like!

    Since your situation may be different from mine, you’ll obviously need to find what suits your needs. But I’ll tell you this…. WonderHangers make it 100x easier to find what I need! (And I’m a bit of a clothes horse, since I’m extremely thin and people are always giving me cast-offs they’ve outgrown.) I have more clothes than I do anything else. And I haven’t paid a dime for most of them. 🙂

  • Socal says:

    Great post. It’s so hard for me also to admit that I need help and cannot do everything on my own. I also work, but when I’m at home, I do all of the ‘traditional’ female roles…and it’s exhausting. I found your 15 min oven timer trick to be a particularly helpful tip! Thanks for sharing!

    • Liz says:

      Society lied to us when they said we can have it and do it all….we CAN’T so don’t kill yourself trying. I also work outside of the home and make significantly more than my husband. I felt that I needed to do it all (bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan etc….) but really wasn’t doing a good job at any of it because I was so stressed out and exhausted. I would recommend you sit down with the whole family – kids included – and have a heart to heart. As a family we made the decision that I would continue with a career that is going to take time away from the house so as a family we’ve divided up the chores. It isn’t perfect (yes there is still whining) but as a family we decided that the extra income was worth it and they didn’t want a crabby mama. As the husband says “when mama ain’t happy nobody’s happy”

      Here’s how we divide chores at our house:

      -Husband and I grocery shop together (usually make it a date night and go out for dinner)
      -I prep the food (weekends or night before) – husband and kids make sure it gets in the oven and then the table, kids clean up afterwards
      -Husband and son do all the laundry (including folding and putting away – yes you will need to get over the fact your linen closet won’t be as nice and neat as you like it)
      -Daughter and I do most of the heavy cleaning (vacuuming, dusting, bathrooms, etc)
      -We all pick up the house at the end of the day
      -I do bills
      -Husband and son do most of the running for my daughter

      We try and be flexible about schedules. If one of us has a heavy schedule we’ll shift the chores around to make it work.

      Just remember to enjoy the life that you have, it goes by so very quickly.

      • Socal says:

        Thanks for your supportive comment! I’ve been more than a little down these last few weeks. Things haven’t all been coming together as I would like them to. To top it off I have a few people in my life who remind me where my place is and that I’m not meeting all of my obligations. So, thanks, I just really appreciated your article today and your comment. (((hugs)))!

        • Liz says:

          Hang in there, it does get better. I’m assuming that your husband isn’t the one reminind you where your place is so to the people in your life who remind you where your place is, I would gently tell them to mind their own business. My mother in law constantly gives me grief about my career (and compares me to my sister-in-law who only works two days a week), I didn’t make this decision in a vacuum, my husband and kids don’t have an issue with it so neither should she – especially because we don’t ask for her anything. My husband reminds me that this is the choice that WE made and it isn’t any of her business. Good Luck!!

  • JESSICA says:

    thank you for your encouragement and this great post!! although my heart wants to stay home, right now it isnt in the plans… so this post lifted my spirit knowing it is POSSIBLE with babies and a job! thank you

  • Diana says:

    On my drive home from work I try to plan a few things I’m going to do and in what order when I arrive home. This is super-helpful in keeping me on track!

  • jennifer says:

    I’m a FT nursing student so this past year has been an adjustment!

    I was putting my 4 year old’s clothes together in his dresser drawer but got out of the habit. I need to start it again, rather than just setting them out each evening as I have been doing.

    I have clinicals at the hospital 2 days/week so I’m up and gone early those days. I make sure my bag is packed, scrubs are in the bathroom so they are ready in the morning and my shoes are…somewhere the night before. I also try to have our son’s bag/shoes/mittens/hat/etc ready so my husband can find it easily in the morning since he takes our boy to preschool/daycare each day. I do the pick up and my boy and I run to the Post office, get gas, pop into the grocery store, library, etc as our week dictates. It’s good bonding time too 🙂

    I run the dishwasher overnight so it’s dry when I get home the next day. I use the delay feature a lot on my washer too-set it to run about an hour before I get home so I can just switch it to the dryer when I get home.

    My husband works FT for the Dept. of Defense, is in the National Guard and is also a 1/2 to 3/4 time student as well so we’ve learned what helps us in this season-quick, easy meals, saying no to most outside things, shopping online to avoid time wasting at stores and we’ve started eating on paper plates 1- 3 times/week. His suggestion as he knows how frazzled I was getting trying to stay on top of the dishes, schoolwork, housework, laundry, etc. It’s working well, so far.

  • Jeanna says:

    Take it from a 60 year old lady that has had two husbands.

    #1. Do not cook every meal ! Give him the option of cooking twice a week taking you out one time per week and cooking one time per week which ever he chooses but you do not cook every night! One night you both cook (you do prep and he cooks ) If you cook he cleans up!

    #2. Ladies , get over it Men do things diffrently there is not a correct way to fold a towel , shirt etc. Thre is your way and his way! Let him do it his way!

    #3. Children as young 18mo can help (and they want to) the thought occured to me long ago if I child is old enough to pull out a toy /then he/she is old enough to put it back. Just don’t expect put away perfect as long as it is close to the toy box / close enough! I put the toy box on it’s side when my kids were little to accomodate but they had to put the item back or no getting out a new toy! They learn fast !

    #4. Learn to let go and continue to deligate !

    Years ago woman had many other woman living in the same household helping with all of these chores and they did not work outside the home. Sometimes it was daughters other times it was sisters , daughter in laws but the point is there were hands on deck to help!

    I learned along time ago from a girlfriends Mom she use to in her words “get the big hunks” and wait for extra hands to show up for when the big guns came out!

    So she would wipe down her living room tidy her kitchen and bath in under 20 minutes each (she set a timer) and she was done cleaning her house for the week until everyone showed up one day for a meal and then guess what she put them to work for about an hour doing the main cleaning (that was her payment for making a large meal for them!) It worked for her and she had free time and was always happy.
    My Mom had to have everything perfect all the time she was always exhausted and cranky and died early in life !

    Decide who you want to be early on!
    Let go of the rest !

  • Marcie says:

    Thanks for this post! I just had a baby 12 weeks ago and went back to work when she was 8 weeks. It is definitely a challenge, and its nice to hear ideas from been there done that mamas!

  • Love this! I’m a mother of three and work full-time outside of the home. It has been hard to accept the fact that I can’t do it all. But I’m learning to accept help from my husband, my mother (she lives with us) and to even let the kids help.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  • Anita says:

    Thanks for this post!
    I work out of the home and commute for two hours each day. Right now I am on maternity leave, but will be going back to work soon. With two little ones, I will have to juggle even more. I like the idea of the timer. Thanks.

  • jj says:

    Jeanna’s advice is right on (the 60 year old with 2 husbands). Get your husbands to help! Most of the advice I read completely ignores the fact that a man can be as capable in the kitchen, doing grocery shopping, cleaning and laundry, if not equally capable, they just do it differently. If you do just that ONE thing (involve your husband), your life is much easier. I am still learning but I do have a husband who cooks so that is half the battle. My head spins when I read about what other working women try to juggle.

    • Lise says:

      Couldn’t agree more. After delegating evening baths and morning bottles, I felt like a new woman. It’s been so rewarding to see how much closer he is to the kids also.

    • Megan says:

      I am with you, jj! My husband is in medical school and I’m a graduate student so our lives are similar to those two-income households (but without the income – ha!). He does the dishes, vacuums and does about half the cooking. I do most of the laundry, clean the bathroom and do the couponing/grocery shopping We consider ourselves a team and this set up works great for us. My friends are always shocked to find out how much my husband does around the house, but I remind them that he lives here too! A husband should be a blessing, not a burden, and I’m so thankful for mine 🙂

    • A.S. says:

      Great comment! Involving your husband takes such a burden off one’s shoulders. Over time, I have seen my husband’s strengths (cleaning the kitchen & bathroom) and weaknesses (he leaves a trail of clothing and shoes behind him in every room). I prefer to have him help where he enjoys it, and I don’t mind picking up after him otherwise 🙂

      • jj says:

        I’m glad that other women out there like Lise, Megan and A.S. are with me about involving the husband. Oftentimes in both the offlline and online world I feel like I’m the only one who even thinks of getting the husband to help, as if this is such a superhuman feat! I guess we’re all lucky that we have willing husband and my husband had a feminist mom 🙂 that made him realize that it’s unfair if the woman handles most of the house work while also working outside the home. In addition to cooking, he does the majority of grocery shopping, meal planning, vacuuming, and dusting. My main chores are dishes, cleaning the bathroom and mopping. We split most other chores like laundry and diaper duty. Of course I had a mini meltdown yesterday because his help didn’t seem “enough” but this post reminds me that I really am grateful for all that he does around the house.

    • Kristy says:

      I completely agree! My husband and I are both graduate students, so like Megan we have a schedule similar to a two-income family without the income. We would not be surviving if my husband didn’t do his full share of childcare and housework. I love that my daughter gets the extra time with her dad, my husband is more relaxed without the entire weight of financially supporting our family on his shoulders, and my daughter sees us all working hard in the roles God has called us to fill, even when it is really really hard. I have one questions for you all about this, though – do others react as if your husband walks on water because he helps so much around the house and you are failure for not doing everything? I try really hard not to take the comments to heart, but my feelings get hurt and I feel isolated. For me, this has been the hardest part of being a working mom.

      • jj says:

        I’ve had SAHM say that they feel sorry for me because I have to work, even though for the most part, I do enjoy my career. I try not to take their comments to heart because I know that I’m making the most of my education and making myself and parents proud.

        Know that you are not a failure! You’re in fact smarter than many women because you can get your husband to help out. No one can or should carry the entire burden. It is hard but I am lucky that there are other working moms at my work and my own mom, who is a great mother, also worked so I see good examples all around me. It’s not always easy but don’t let non-working moms get you down. A lot of men I know who work full-time would love to have more time with their kids but are conflicted because they also want the breadwinner role. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not easy if both work but it’s not perfect if only the man works either.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thanks for this post! As a working mom I am frustrated by the amount that falls on my plate even with a SAHD arrangement. I have found meal planning to be so helpful. If I post the list of dinners for the week on the refrigerator then DH will do a large part of the cooking. Before doing that I’d come home and then have to cook, simply because he didn’t know what to get started. Plus it saves me a bundle at the grocery store not buying unnecessary stuff.

  • Kari says:

    I’ve been working on accepting the fact that as a working mom with a 6 month old, I can’t do it all. It’s tough…but so freeing.

    I decided just yesterday that I’m taking a break from trying to hard-core coupon for a while. I think working moms need to cut themselves some slack sometimes. Staying at home can be just as much work, but being out of the house and not being able to fit those little 10-15 minute “get something done” times in during the day has been taking its toll. Because I am working, we have an increased income, meaning it is okay to spend a little extra sometimes. Something has to give.

    Kudos to Becca for buying the cut-up celery and cubed cheese!

  • Lise says:

    I’d like to start by thanking Crystal for hosting guest posts from women in a variety of situations – really appreciate the acknowledgement that we all have things in common but different tips work better for some than others.

    I hope this doesn’t turn into a novel but it is a topic near and dear to me as a working mom. We have an almost one year old son and a 3 ½ year old daughter. Here are my tips:
    -Limit screen time – If you don’t watch TV or surf the web at night, it’s amazing how much you get done.
    -Routines not schedule – The time isn’t the same everyday but the routine, for the most part is. It really helps us stay on track and helps our kids know what to expect. Our “routine” is below if anyone is interested!
    -Clean up is just in time and everyone’s responsibility – We play a lot and do artwork everyday. I believe in having fun but I do run a tight ship when it comes to keeping the house in order. Everything has to be picked up before you leave a room. Then there’s nothing to clean up later. We also limit the number of toys in the house out of a desire to simplify for all of us.
    -Clothing – Organize your closet by clothing type and color – all blouses/tops together organized by color, all skirts together, etc. Once you’ve done that you just mix and match depending on what you feel like that day. The key here is that you do NOT put things in the closet that are not ready to wear (i.e., ironed).
    -Laundry – I fold laundry while the kids play in our sitting room
    -Meal Planning – I plan to cook 2 – 3 dinners per week with one night of either breakfast for dinner or pizza and the other nights as leftovers.
    -Outsource as you are able – I realize not everyone can afford to do this but as our incomes have increased, we’ve outsourced a number of things – house cleaning, yard work, and dry cleaning (anything that has to be ironed gets sent to the dry cleaner because I hate ironing).

    -As soon as we get home, I take out the dirty bottles, put them in the dishwasher and pack the fresh bottles for the next day (last week of bottles as little guy will be one next week!). If backup outfit was used, throw it in the washer and pack clean one in diaper bag.
    -Eat dinner then husband bathes kids while I clean up the kitchen and lay out their jammies for the night and outfit for following day.
    -Start the dishwasher.
    -Play time until bedtime! Everyone helps pick up before going to bed.

    -As soon as our little guy wakes up, one person changes his diaper, gets him dressed, and feeds him while the other makes breakfast for our daughter. While our daughter is dressing herself, I make her bed and then she helps me fold her cuddle blanket.
    -Unload the dishwasher while the kiddos play.
    -Take diaper bag to the car and start the car.
    -Get coats on and head out.

  • Sarah says:

    One life-saver for me has been the pre-cooked cubed chicken from GFS (Gordon Food Service, a bulk food store). I can quickly whip up various things after coming home from work – chicken quesadillas, chicken curry with rice (made in the rice cooker), chicken melts (mix with cream cheese and toast on english muffins), chicken over mashed potatoes with a vegetable, chicken stir fry, etc. I also often use my lunch hour to run errands or go to the gym. I also love the pre-cut cheese cubes or crumbles!

  • holly says:

    Here are my tips:
    1. If it has to be ironed, it goes to the cleaners. This is one area where I cut myself some slack.
    2. If I have a late meeting, dinner is in the crockpot (and lots of nights I don’t have meetings too) so hubby and daughter can eat before I get home.
    3. I get up an hour before everyone else each day (since daughter is only 2) and can quickly clean a room and do dinner meal prep.

  • julie says:

    Thank you for this post! I work outside the home and like all other moms (who work inside or outside the home), I am BUSY! The past few weeks, I’ve been feeling that no one understands my situation. This post reminded me that I am not alone and that I can do this!

  • Amber says:

    This was a great article — most of the couponing/keping up on your house websites tend to focus so much on the stay at home mom, I was beginning to think Iwas the only working mom that did all this stuff!!!

    I’m fortunate to have a hubby that does most of the cooking, the laundry and the dishes. If it weren’t for that, I think I’d go crazy. I work 8.5-9 hour days, and have a 45 minute commute. We drive together even though we have two cars — saves us on gas, but unfortunately means we always get home at the same time — late!

    Here’s what we’ve changed to keep things manageable for us:

    1. Meal planning. As you mentioned, its a big time saver. We plan everything out, but keep stuff on hand for backup quick meals too (hamburger helper?!) We try to keep it simple, often we get home at 6PM and need to eat by 630, so crock pot dinners are a frequent staple at our house. If nothing went in the crock pot and we’re unexpectedly home late – we use the zip and steam bags to cook frozen chicken breasts and the bags of frozen veggies / rice to steam in the microwave as well. We do one week of planning at a time — that way if I get a craving or my mood about something changes, it’s not hard to update the menu! Plus I know I’m going to grocery shop every week anyway, and I can plan our meals around whats on sale — if it’s a cheap week for pot roast at the store, we’ll be having it at least once!

    2. Outfit planning. I can’t bring myself to do it any earlier than the night before, I’m too fickle about my clothes representing my mood… but every night I pull out what I’m going to wear the next day for myself and my daughter. Its ridiculous how much easier the mornings go when that’s already done!

    3. CHECKLISTS. Every chore in my house, whether something that’s done once a year or every day, is in the daily tasklist that I made. Everything from brushing my teeth, pulling out clothes for the next day, preparing dinner and a handful of other chores are on there. (Last night I dusted the living room and washed the windows, and vacuumed the floor and furniture — JUST in the living room). There are things onthe checklist that are habit, and really didn’t need to be on there, but it’s nice to have a box to tick off so you feel you’ve accomplished something. Sometimes just brushing my teeth feels like an accomplishment with as crazy as things get! We don’t go to bed until everything on the list is done, or at least scheduled out for another day. After Averie goes to bed we knuckle down and get most of it done — it’s amazing how much easier it is to stay on top of our house if you do it all in small pieces! If you want to snag a copy of what we use as a daily planner, I’m happy to email a link to anyone that wants it — bambier at gmail dot com.

    4. Gift planning. I hate shopping for gifts, or forgetting someone’s bithday card. The middle of each month, I go through and get all of my cards made and sent and all the gifts I need purchased. I also have a stash of spare cards and gifts for ‘just-in-case’ occassions.

    5. EVERYONE pitches in. My 1.5 year old puts her toys away. Sometimes it takes her 10 minutes to put one toy away and shes whining and stalling, but ultimately she does it… She also dusts the end table snad the coffee tables — no cleaners or sprays, but really – those don’t typically need much more than a quick wipe down anyway, and I can go behind her after she goes to bed. I’m hoping it helps teach her the skills that i never learned as a kid that made cleaning so scary for me… I really don’t think my dad dusted in our house ever!!

  • NV says:

    I really appreciate this post by a working mom. I love this blog (although I’m not very good at following it), but I feel like much of it does not apply to me as I am a full time working mom of a 5 year old and totally disabled 7 year old. While I would like to have the time and energy to do some of these things, I just feel like I can’t get it done. This post definitely helps me to relate more!!!

    • Anna says:

      I have a child that is disabled as well as 3 other kids including a baby. Having a child with a disability certainly makes working outside the home even more of a challenge to get it all done. I personally do lists and write everything down on my calendar/binder. I make time for the things I want to do even if it is only for 15 minutes a night. I work full-time, take care of my children, and take a few moments for me each night. I wish I could do everything that is posted on this blog but realized I can’t. Instead I just am proud of what I do and do well which is provide for my children but particular for my daughter who is disabled. All my children are special but my daugther with special needs gives me an extra twinkle in my eye when I am able to care for her in that extra motherly way :). All the kids help with her needs!

  • Angela says:

    A-MEN, sisters!!!! 🙂
    While we are down to a house of 3 (hubby, son & me), I have survived a household of 3 boys and my husband – two sons are now raised & on their own – and it is a TOUGH job.

    Menu planning and the crockpot saved my sanity. For real. (Hubby’s idea of cooking is ordering pizza. We can’t afford to do that for very long – our waistlines OR our bank account!)

    EVERYONE does laundry. (Now. All the boys began folding and putting away their own clothes by 2nd grade.)

    My husband has had to learn that there are some things that will never be done to his satisfaction. (His definition of a clean counter is one with NOTHING on it.)

    We live and learn. And don’t expect perfection. Life is in the JOURNEY, right? 🙂

  • A fantastically written post. Well written and put together. Unfortunately reminds me that I need to pick up the slack…….which I better do now.

  • Lisa says:

    This is so, so timely. My husband and I are trying for our first baby. I’ve been doing a lot of freaking out and not enough praying about what things will look like after we actually have a baby. I am currently the major breadwinner for our little family. I had a breakdown last weekend – “How am I going to keep up with kids on top of a job, the five animals, the house, etc, etc, when I can barely keep up now?” While I don’t know what God’s plan is for us, I’m particularly encouraged to know there are other women who cannot stay home and find ways to make it work. Thanks, ladies!

  • Marie says:

    This was one of the best posts I’ve ever read. I loved what you said about buying cubed cheese and celery. Seriously. Sometimes it’s just worth the extra couple bucks. 🙂

  • I’m a single full time work outside the home mom — my best time management trick is to be sure I get up about an hour before my teenager! That way, I’ve had my coffee, I’ve cleared out of the one bathroom and can take care of getting ready for work and getting bed and breakfast made before the mad rush out the door. That also leaves me time for the last minute, “Mom! I need you to sign this! Mom! I need lunch money! Mom! I can’t find my car keys!”

    That one hour makes a HUGE difference in the rest of my day!

  • Brenda says:

    I am a stay mom but very often I feel overwhelmed like a working mom, with helping at my kids school, soccer, homework, school projects, music class, coupons, grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, Etc, I feel like my days should be at least 30 hours long to have time to accomplish all my task.

  • Lea Stormhammer says:

    Thanks, Crystal, for having a post for working moms!

    Our life is completely crazy right now – I’m in school full time and work half time, Hubby’s in school 1/2 time and works full time plus call, and we have two kids! Letting go of the ‘little things’ and focusing on the ‘big stuff’ has really helped me. I tend to be a type-A over-achiever and realizing that things will either take longer than I thought if I want to accomplish everything or I need to cut something has been a life-saver!

    Can I just second having everyone else pitch in? If everyone puts away what they take out, puts dishes in the sink and clothes in the hamper, wipes up messes, and rinses out the shink after using it, it makes it SO much easier to clean!

    Other tips my also working-outside-the-home mom taught me:
    * Fold and put the laundry away right away. Hang up anything that needs to be ironed – many times you only have to press collars and cuffs with today’s ‘wrinkle free’ fabrics!
    * Keep meals simple and whole foods – roasted/baked meat, starch, veggie and fruit (1/4 plate each). Typically I can get a full meal on the table in 30 minutes with little prep!
    * Don’t watch TV much. Seriously. Since I cut out watching TV, I’ve been able to accomplish so much more of the things I want to do!
    * Do take some time for your spouse and yourself. We tend to put all of our energy into our children and that’s bad for our health and our marriage. Taking 30 minutes to reconnect each evening with your hubby and 30 minutes to do a bit of exercise can do wonders! (Even better if it’s throwing the kids in a stroller or on a bike and taking an hour long walk together!)

    My mother also taught me that we do have a responsibility to take care of all that God has given us and that means knowing how to clean, cook, and mend, among other things. I keep hearing people say that they don’t need to learn those things becuase they will work outside the home and I personally think they are making a mistake. I know I save a lot of time and money by knowing how to do so many things. That’s what works for me, anyway!

    I love reading this post and the comments!
    Thanks Crystal!


    • Charity says:

      I think you are my twin! (-;
      Thanks for your tips! I agree that we have to get our kids helping
      out and having time to reconnect with your hubby. How come we end up putting that stuff last? I am working hard at putting the important stuff first.
      Take care,

    • Absolutely agree with you on learning homecaring and homemaking skills! I didn’t learn all those things growing up. But I’m taking the time to learn them now.

      I see the comment often, “I wish I could stay home to do…(cooking from scratch, gardening, canning, bread making etc.)” I say start now – even as a working mom! You don’t have to be home full-time to do those things. And if at some point circumstances change and you move from working to home, you’ll already have those skills in place.

      Mary Ellen
      The Working Home Keeper

  • Great post! I love using my timer in the same way. It’s AMAZING how much can be accomplished in just 15 minutes – and how it removes the guilt of doing something I enjoy like – blog surf 🙂 !


  • Charity says:

    WOW did I need to hear that. I am about to loose it these days. I too work full, am in school full time(graduate in May 2011) and have 3 kiddos (11, 14, &15). I have a problem trying to organize and control everything I do, which can be good but also is what is wearing me down. I also like to cook from scratch to save money and to cut back on preservatives and junk in my families diet. I am in the process (with God’s help) to letting the little things go to the side and trusting that He will help me carry the load. It is hard to jugggle everything and be a happy wife, mommy, employee, etc but I am trying really hard. Thank you for the great tips! I am planning to use some of them this week.
    God bless,

  • Laura Jane says:

    Great post! I work full time as well (no kids yet) and I could totally relate to so many things you said. I loved your little story about the block of cheese vs. pre-cubed. I do stuff like that way too often. My plans are just ambitious. I often buy apples thinking that I will cut them up before I go to work and pack them in my lunch. I think I’ve actually done that once. For some reason, simple little tasks seem like huge, daunting tasks in the morning before work. The thought of cutting an apple seems like a tremendous chore at 6am, but not so much at 6pm. I think it’s good to cut ourselves some slack (we are making some income) and buy some convenience items.

    Also loved what you said about the husband not folding clothes the way you think it should be done. I have this issue, and it takes some getting used to. I find myself subconsciously reaching to straighten the folded towels often.

    The other thing I related to was how some nights you let all the tasks slide and watch something with your five year old. About once (okay, maybe twice) a month, I get home from work exhausted and just let everything slide. Dirty dishes stay on the table or in the sink. Laundry doesn’t get folded. And I just relax and go to bed super early.

  • Christina says:

    I agree with the lunch hour tip. When I worked at our company office (I now do my job from home), I used my lunchtime to run errands – even occasionally grocery shopping (we had a full-size fridge and freezer at the office, which I would use for the afternoon).

    I see some others have commented about this, but . . . I also used a clothes system similar to what you have for your son. Sunday evenings, I would pick a whole week’s worth of outfits for work. I’d hang them together in my closet, so that in the morning I just had to grab one. I still pick my clothes at night, but only one night at a time. I do, however, continue using this system for my two-year-old – so that he always has 3-6 outfits ready to grab and go in the mornings.

    • Jessica says:

      When things are tough, I grocery shop all the time during lunch, but right from my desk. I highly recommend that if you have grocery delivery in your area, that you set up an account and set up your basic lists. That way, if things are really bad (you have to travel, kids are sick, deadline at work) you can order your groceries and have them delivered the next evening. TOTALLY worth the 5-1o bucks.

  • Christina says:

    Oh – organization. This one applies to anyone who works or doesn’t work. More than a year ago, I tried a new system. It works well for us. Post-It makes a giant, tear-away, weekly calendar. It is a grid with each day of the week, and it has four separate rows for four separate schedules. I use it to write down everything for everyone. My Outlook calendar syncs to my Android phone, so my schedule is at my fingertips. But the write-in calendar allowed me to also keep up with my husband’s schedule (he is in sales and often leaves early in the morning and/or comes home late). This calendar is great because there’s enough space to keep track of schedules for everyone (a single monthly calendar was not organized enough or spacious enough for us). I also use the space across the bottom, to write out our meals for the week. And I include errands on the calendar, so my husband can see when I plan to hit the farmers market, the mall, etc, so he can voice any shopping needs I’m not aware of.

    The calendar sells for about $20 at Target. It has 52 weekly pages. For me, it has been worth every penny and then some.

  • Sandra says:

    Thanks for the tips! I don’t work outside the home, but I am a full-time college student with four children. I love things that make my life easier! Just a quick note that the link to Becca’s blog isn’t working. 🙁

  • Christy says:

    I love this post. I too use a timer–20 mins of cleaning/staightening a weeknight and that is it! What doesn’t get done can wait. I also try to straighten here and there in little snippets whenever possible. Even if it is only a minute or 2, every little bit of straightening or cleaning you do helps. I can get almost the whole dishwasher unloaded while waiting for leftovers to heat up for 2 mins. in the microwave or waiting for a bagel to toast. I clean the boy’s bathroom while my 3 year old plays in the bathtub (like in the single mom post from last week). I throw a load of laundry in the washer before work and put it in the dryer after work. I sneak in little snippets of cleaning with my 3 year old-folding laundry, cleaning one of the bathrooms and he helps. I do watch a little TV but I either grade papers, make SMARTboard lessons on my laptop, or fold laundry while watching. I also make it a point to clean something if I am on the phone with someone after kids are asleep instead of just sitting down and talking. So the 20 mins a day plus the little snippets I can get here and there add up and the house usually looks pretty decent although it will never be a museum and everytime I think about upgrading (we currently live in a townhome and are saving for a bigger “real home” as I call it), I get stressed about having to have it look nice all the time for showings!

    I meal plan. I use the crock-pot 2 nights a week. When I make a casserole, I double it and freeze one (pretty much the same amount of work, so why not). My husband used to work 3-4 nights a week, but now it is only 1-2. When he is at work, my 3 year old and I eat leftovers, sandwiches and carrot sticks, or salad or sometimes appetizer like meals like someone mentioned in a comment last week (carrot and celery sticks, cheese and crackers, apples and peanut butter). I do not cook on those nights. We do Wed. night activities at church so we eat there. I tried to be frugal about this, but it was too much running around on Wednesdays even with a crock-pot meal or casserole. This way, if I get out of my faculty meeting at a decent time, we have time to walk the dogs and then we just go to church and eat! With my husband’s old job, he was off one weekday a week. I beat him home as a teacher or he was working night shift, so it only made sense for me to cook, but I would get him to cook that one weekday off. I would have to discuss what he wanted to make when I meal-planned/grocery shopped and pull the meat out of the freezer the day before–otherwise, he would start cooking at 6, rummage around for ingredients, then defrost meat with hot water in the sink and it would be 9:00 before dinner was ready–LOL! I am on maternity leave right now and he just started a new job, so I’ll have to think about what we will do. He does get home around 3:00 some days, but he leaves the house at 3:30 a.m. those days so not sure how into cooking he will be!

    I threw my son in a stroller for almost 4 years and walked or ran our 2 labs. Now the baby goes in the stroller and he rides his bike. My almost 4 year old rides for 2 miles, sometimes more! What a great energy release!

    I look at my week when I meal plan and pick 2 afternoons to work out at the Y. These 2 nights are crock-pot, pre-prepared casserole whether I make it the night before or pull it from the freezer, or dad at work nights. I also go Sat. morning. They have an excellent childwatch program and my 3 year old loves to go there even if he’s been at daycare all day.

  • Lisa Mary says:

    Many thanks for posting a blurb about the working mom. I’m a working mom with a 15 year old step-son. My husband and I both work, and while I’ve found the stay-at-home organization helpful, it’s always nice to hear from “the other side”. Kudos and accolades!

  • Ms.M. says:

    I work and have 3 kids (5, 3 and 1), and a husband who is away from home for 3 days straight every week. One life saver for me has been to have a daily/weekly/monthly chores list for myself. The daily list is simple (dishes, cat litter, clear counters, tidy living room, prep for the next day) and only takes about 15-20min after the kids are in bed, but getting it on to paper and out of my head helps so much! Keep a running list of everything you need to do, and consult it several times a day.

    We live by routines here too – everyone knows what to expect that way. Finally, ask for help! My father in law (retired), comes over to help for 30 minutes or so right as we get home on the evenings my DH is away. It’s long enough for me to unpack our stuff from the day and get a quick dinner together. He plays with the kids and keeps them out from underfoot – just having that time to get the next phase of my day going makes all the difference in my evenings!

    • Sandy says:

      What great bonding time for grandpa and kids! Ido the same with mine-or watch them while mom takes one to ball practice until Dad gets home. Love it.

  • Amber L. says:

    Great topic! I work 40 hours outside the home and normally another 10 from home once my daughter goes to sleep. My husband is pretty much useless when it comes to things around the house so I have learned to be creative.
    Anything that has a timer gets used. That means dishes get washed overnight and as soon as they are finished the washer starts. By the time morning comes the clothes go in the dryer and the dishes get put away. Meats are cooked as soon as I bring them home and then frozen in 2 cup portions. My mom doesn’t work outside the home so anytime I go to the grocery store over lunch I grab her items too. As payment she makes dinner for me one night a week (one night of leftovers, the other 5 are a mix of crockpot and homecooked, we don’t eat out). One night I allow as pizza night which I make my meal plan for the next week while pizza is baking. I order lots of items online or from local stores that deliver to my office or have drive thru pickup (most of our stores allow you to order items online and they will have them ready for you). Once every two weeks a friend comes over for an hour to watch my daughter while I power clean. I lightly clean the bathroom while my daughter is in the bath. I keep a running list of my daughters clothes so if I see something on sale I know if she needs that item or not.
    Pretty much at this season of my life I have learned to live with 6 hours of sleep and floors that are not perfect. But I doubt when my daughter grows up she will remember slightly dirty floors, but I bet she will remember that I played puzzles with her and let her help me make dinner. It is so great to know so many others deal with what I deal with everyday.

  • rachael p says:

    I loved this post…I have 3 kids (ages 13,8 and 4)I work outside of the home 3 days of the week and have the luxury of working at home 2 days. 2 of my days “in the field” are 12 hours each, every Tues and Wed I work 8am-8pm.
    I couldn’t do it without my wonderful husband, he is helpful, cleans the kitchen, does laundry, helps with homework, coaches our kids soccer teams etc.
    I just finished making a pot of chili and three pizzas for dinner the next 2 nights. I have found that when I have dinner ready for the family it helps their night go more smoothly (they have soccer practice 4 of 5 nights a week).
    I try to make breakfast ahead of time and pack lunches the night before…mornings are crazy around here and anything to shave a few minutes off is helpful 🙂
    I also rely on the help of my friends and neighbors and “pay them back” whenever we can. for instance, trading babysitting. If we have to use one of our back up plans like if I have to go in to work on a day I am normally home and have a friend watch my 4 year old, I always thank them with a note and a small gift, cookies or something, just to let them know that I really do appreciate them.
    Another thing that many others have mentioned is having the kids pitch in, we are a family and everyone has to help out for it to work smoothly.

    thanks again for having a post that I felt that I related to so much!

  • Joy says:

    I remember these days all too well. Actually, my days were one big blur when dh and I both worked fill-time with three kids under age 5 (two are twins). Now my boys are older (8 and 11) and I work part-time. We don’t have much money, but life is def. less stressful.

    One thing that was key for me when I worked full-time was having a very helpful dh. We shared chores 50-50. I relied on him a lot.

    But don’t make the mistake I did and not appreciate everything your dh/s.o. does. And, try to carve out some couple time for you and your dh/s.o. Not following those two simple rules almost cost me my marriage.

    Luckily, 8 years later, things are much better. I had to make some sacrifices along the way and give up a great career. But I really lost sight of what was important. We have finally found a balance that works for our family and that makes everyone happy (except the money part; LOL).

  • AnnaLisa says:

    Wow! Lot’s of interesting tidbits, and definitely a few I will try – thanks! I am a work outside the home Mom, with a 5 year old DD and a 9 month old baby boy.

    My husband is amazing, and definitely an integral part of what makes it work. We share chores. We change what we share over time. I used to always always do the laundry, and the kitchen was his thing. Lately that has switched, and he is keeper of the laundry. We both put the kids to bed, baths, stories, etc. We take turns although story time and bed time is always family time – together.

    My one secret is a huge deep freeze. But the biggest best upright freezer. Maybe $600 and mine paid itself back in just a few short months.

    We cook about once a month where we make a triple batch of three or four recipes (or just make a large recipe when we cook each Sunday) and then freeze them. I make it a habit to keep at least 10 family TV dinners on hand. Basically they are precooked and frozen and have ALL the goodies included. I buy aluminum foil pans at Sam’s Club. I have a pan that has four pork chops, four cups of frozen veges of some sort (portioned out from a large Sam’s club bag purchase), mashed potatoes (or something similar), and I cover this with foil. I put it all in a 2-gallon zip lock and freeze just like that.

    On most work days that is what we eat. Cooking dinner literally means coming in the door, preheating the oven, and inserting a home cooked frozen meal. While it cooks, we do laundry, play outside with friends, handle bills, etc. Clean up is pretty easy too — either wash the pan to reuse, or toss (they have to be tossed after about 3 uses since they get thin in the dishwasher).

    I have done this for several years and it is a great time saver, and I don’t feel like I am using so many preservatives, processed foods etc. They are all my home recipes, just frozen first. Now the challenge is getting more and more recipes that work like this – we have gotten a pretty good list of freezer meals. It also helps that DH likes to cook as well.

    • Emily says:

      This freezing my own recipes might be something I have to try. I always read about how much of a time saver it is to cook in bulk and freeze things. I always assume those things are like casseroles and stuff, things my family doesn’t particularly like. But I like your idea of just making larger portions of your favorite recipes and freezing some for later. I do do this already with one of my recipes, well actually my mother-in-laws, her families spaghetti sauce and meatballs. I make enough for 6 to 7 meals at a time about every 3 months, and I freeze them in individual containers for one meal’s worth. I could probably do this with other favorites of ours. Thanks for your insight.

  • Marissa says:

    How this post speaks to me! I am a full-time working mom with 3 at home (10,7,5). I work third shift, so planning has become key in our lives.

    I get home as my husband leaves. My oldest is just getting out of the shower. I get them all ready for school (they pick out their own clothes) and drive them. I then go to the gym (or run outside or do a work-out video–depends on the weather) for 30 min to an hour. I come home and set the timer for dishes, or picking up or whatever. This gives me time to come down from the adrenaline of my workout. I then shower and go to bed. I get up when the kids get home. They snack, do homework and any chores assigned. I start dinner and hubs normally chips in. After dinner the kids have play time or TV/computer time. Then the little ones shower and they all go to bed. I then take a nap before going in to work. It’s a crazy schedule but we do what we can to make it work.

    Menu planning is very helpful. We try to plan/shop on Sunday. Sometimes I will shop Monday after my workout. Casseroles and the crock pot are my friend. (and hallelujah for crock pot liners!) I am constantly reading blogs and searching for family-friendly recipes. I bring the leftovers with me to work to eat in the middle of the night. I have found that buying a bag of chicken breasts or a whole chicken (cut up) and boiling it and shredding then separating it into portions and freezing it helps. I can just grab a bag out and thaw it quickly. I also LOVE the chopped, frozen onion in the freezer section. It’s so handy and I love not having to tear up and smell like onion for days.

    We don’t have a schedule for chores, just kind of get done what needs done. Often I will start a load of laundry before I go to bed, then throw it in the dryer when I get up. It gets folded while the kids have play time.

    It isn’t perfect, but we do what we can to make it work. I am forever tweaking things and trying new things to make our lives flow a little better.

  • Rachel says:

    Great tips! I’m married and work full time. We are hoping for children soon and, at this time, I will need to go back to work. Your post gave me some great ideas to try putting into place now so we have a good routine once we add a third to our family. I really appreciated the tip about occasionally buying the more expensive already prepared ingredients. I always feel the need to go the cheaper route and prep them myself; however, if it gets thrown away, it’s not really cheaper, is it?

  • Krista says:

    I keep stuff for lunch at work, so I don’t have to worry about making it ahead of time. This works great for me since I usually have the same things every day.

    • Krista says:

      Forgot to mention that I’m a mom to be, and since I am wearing pretty much only maternity wear, there’s rarely a question about what I wear to work. I work out of town, and live with my mother-in-law during the week; I have about 2 weeks worth of clothing which I rotate from week to week, so in my suitcase, there are never more than 6 tops and 2 pairs of pants.

  • Andrea says:

    I loved this article and it has been so helpful. I often feel overwhelmed by all the work it takes to keep a household running and working full time. This past year my husband lost his job and have been successful at find work again but he is making a lot less money and working at night so there have been major changes in our household now. I am thankfull that I have my job because it has provided us with a steady income thru this diffcult time. Although I am thankfull that I was able to support our family thru this hard time I am often overloaded and putting myself down for not being able to do everything. It has been hard to prepare meals now that I am alone with a 2yr DD every night. I have learned to freeze casseroles ahead of time and use the crock pot so when I get home DD and I can spend time together instead of me trying to cook with her hanging on my leg crying for my attention. DH has also picked up more chores around the house while he is at home during the day. He also takes DD to daycare each day and they get to have breakfast together and he gets her dressed and ready. That is there special time together. There have been so many blessings through this difficult time of change.

  • Lesley says:

    Thanks for this post! With a 1 year old and a 2 year old, coming home after work is almost the dreaded part of my day. I know that everyone is starving, the house is a wreck, and all I want to do is take the time to change my clothes and use the bathroom!

  • Kelly Irene says:

    Great post! I work outside the home as well, and my number one tip is to plan meals. If that doesn’t happen, everything (not just meals) seems to fall apart so quickly in our home! Meal planning is something I can do during a break at work. I keep my spreadsheet for the weekly meals and grocery list on my computer so I can pull it up, plug everything in, and print it when I get home. Also, giving yourself some slack is important! Thanks again for the insightful post, and best wishes for finishing your degree!

  • Missy June says:

    Thank you so much for your ideas – it’s so true that we can’t do it all and I find it TOTALLY worth it to splurge and purchase the pre-cut produce, when I can! It’s wonderful to have to comradarie with other working outside the home mothers!

  • Tammy says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post. This has been an encouragement to me, at a time in my life where I find myself extremely discouraged. Although I didn’t want to return to the professional work-force after I had my son, our debt from IVF treatments left me no choice. Years later, my heart longs to be home and we’re currently working on a plan to make that happen.

    I am blessed to be married to a wonderful man who works hard to provide for our family. Due to job changes caused by the recession, he often works 10-12 hour day. He leaves for work at 4:30am. I get up at 5:30a to make lunches and get my son and myself ready for work and school. I have a 50 min commute (one way) and due to this I trade off my lunch hour to allow for taking him to school. Although I am thankful that I have the opportunity to take him to school, it is hard because I have no “down time” during my work day. I am home by 5:15pm (if I don’t have to make any stops along the way) – which doesn’t leave much room for resting in order to cook dinner, do homework, and get my son in bed by 8:30p. After he is in bed, I try to pay bills or do housework, but I’m usually so exhausted that I’m not very productive.

    Because my husband works two jobs, I don’t feel right about asking him to help with housework, cooking, homework, etc. But I am utterly exhausted and overwhelmed. I welcome any advice that others may have. But most of all if you could send up a prayer on my behalf, I’d greatly appreciate it. 🙂

    • You must be so exhusted! I said a little prayer for you. 🙂

      Practical advice: I don’t have children, but I DID once have an awful commute and a husband who worked crazy hours. Here’s a few things that worked for me:

      1. Make lunches the night before. Somehow that made it so much easier than getting up early to do it.

      2. Crockpot meals- get them ready to put in the crock the night before. I would get a roast, cut up potatoes an carrots, and pop them in the insert the night before. I’d put the insert in the fridge. Before I left for work, I’d put it in the heating thing and turn it on. Poof! Dinner is ready when I get home. 🙂

      3. Down time during a commute- do you like to read? I listed to books on tape (which I got for free from the library, but you can also get on places like when I drove. It made it less of a stressful drive and more of a treat.

      4. Can you delegate anything? Could you have another mom take him to school? Maybe you can take him and another kid to school for week one, then have the other mom pick him up for week two, etc. It would give you a little extra time in the mornings, or a lunch break!

      5. Your husband works hard, but he still could be pitching in a little. Maybe you can trade off homework or bedtime duties? He works hard, but so do you, and you come home to a second shift. It’s okay to ask for help!

    • Emily says:

      I’m sort of in a similar situation in that my husband has an extremely demanding job and is in school part-time in addition. We both work full-time outside the home and have 2 kids, ages 5 and 2. When we get home from a long day of working, he often has hours of additional work and school work to complete. Once we’ve eaten dinner as a family, I do the usual clean-up and get ready for the next day (which includes packing 4 lunches), and he often has to get straight back to work. He has gotten better about waiting until the kids go to bed to do his work and just spends that time with them, but that still often leaves me to do all the day to day stuff to keep the house running, so I know sort of what you’re going through. I’ll definitely say a prayer for you. One thing I’ve found that works for me is to try to get smaller chores/tasks done during the week so that I’m not trying to spend my entire weekend playing catch-up. For instance, Monday nights I’ll clean the 1/2 bath and kitchen sink. Tuesdays I’ll do our 2 loads of towels/underwear for the week. Thursdays I plan the next week’s menu and start putting together my grocery list and clip my coupons. Fridays I finish the menu/grocery list while doing the 2 loads of kids laundry. That leaves 2-3 additional loads of laundry, the kitchen floor, and only anything else I feel is necessary to do over the weekend. It seems to work for me, but I have to admit, it is hard to actually stick to doing those things during the week. Some nights it is so much easier to just crash on the couch after a long day and not do a thing.

  • Amy says:

    Can you fix the link so we can read more of her blog???
    Thank you!!

  • Collette says:

    Thanks for this guest post. I love it. I am a working mom of 2 (5yr boy and 9month girl). I was wondering if there are other working mom’s that blog. It is nice to know that others struggle with my struggles.

    I try to do everything the night before. I lay out my kids clothes, pack bags, and lunches. I get to work at 7 every morning so I try to make things easier on my husband since he drops the kids off.

    The link to Becca’s blog does not work, I am hoping you can fix that, I would like to see how others handle work/family/me time.

  • ACM says:

    LOL…I’m glad someone else has the “I just want to get in the door, put my stuff down, and use the bathroom” problem. After two years of explaining it to him, my DH finally understood that meeting me right inside the door (often with the three kids) is NOT a pleasant way to welcome me home (even if he did hav dinner ready, the kitchen cleaned, an a load of wash running :-)…).

    We use a FAMILY COMMAND CENTRAL (modified from Crystal’s organizing spreadsheets and the ideas from to try to keep things in perspective and stressless. On this one page, kept in a binder in the kitchen (and I have a copy that comes with me to work), are:

    1. our TWO WEEK SCHEDULE – what’s happening every day, menu for each day, my main chore for the day, and any special things that need to be highlighted (i.e., DON’T FORGET Dad works tonight). This way, if DH gets home first or it’s a day he doesn’t have school or work, he can have dinner ready by the time I get home. This way, I have a reminder to do a specific thing each day to try to keep the dust bunnies and mountains of laundry at bay.
    2. My husband’s IMPORTANT TO DO list for the two weeks (I know what’s on his radar)
    3. My IMPORTANT TO DO list of the two weeks (he knows what’s on my radar)
    4. TO DISCUSS items that involve the family (anyone can write anything down)
    5. SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES (chances to minister/care for others)
    6. SHOPPING WISH/NEED list – my stepchildren are teens and should be practicing independence :-). If there are things that they (or husband or I) need or want, it goes on the list so it’s on our radar and we can figure out if it’s a need or a want and if we have the $$ for it.
    7. FAMILY PROJECTS/CONCERNS – my SD’s bedroom light needs to be replaced…now it’s on the list in this category as well as my husband’s master list..hopefully it will get done in the next two weeks :-).
    8. AVAILABLE CHORES with a financial $$ attached. We don’t just “give” an allowance, the kids have to earn it. Child chooses the chore, the parent signs off, the kid gets the money at the end of the month. This way there are no “but I DID earn it!!” or “I didn’t know that was my responsibility” arguments. We also add a little fun (at least my husband and I think it’s fun :-)…) to this: if the kids don’t do it, we may choose to do some and add the cash to our date fund.

    We use the “family command central” ( as the basis for our weekly family meetings where everyone in the house at the time comes together and we go over schedules, needs, projects, etc. for the next two weeks. It takes maybe 15-20 minutes max (usually on Sunday) and it saves SOOOO much time and frustration during the following weeks.

    This system highlights our primary time saving/efficiency tools:
    1. menu planning
    2. communication!!!
    3. daily chore(s) (blinds, laundry, toilets, kitchen, etc.)
    4. service (helping/caring for others helps you find more time for yourself…that’s just the way the Lord works :-)…)
    5. partnership (my hubby and I trade off putting the toddler to bed; the toddler “helps” with putting his toys/books away and unloading the dishwasher; the teens know that if they want the parents to respect their social calendar, they need to respect the parents’ time and help out/communicate, etc.)

    It’s just an excel spreadsheet, but it has helped out soooo much! I’m willing to share if anyone is interested…not sure the best way to do that though since I’m not a blogger :-).

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