My son is going through a bit of a tricky phase at the moment. Whether it’s the cough he’s had for the last few weeks, the fact that my working routine has changed and I’m not around quite so much, or because he’s worried about our upcoming house move, he’s not been himself of late. He’s being difficult at mealtimes, acting up when we’re out of the house, refusing to go to bed and calling out for us several times in the night. While I’m not worried, and know that this phase will pass like so many other difficult phases before, the immediate impact on our day-to-day lives is an issue. For me, I’m tired, sluggish and feeling run down. But, as a working mum, I still have a job to go to and work to get done.
So here are some coping strategies I’ve learned in the past few weeks. Hopefully they will help you too if you’re ever in the same position. (PS this is all about getting YOU through your working day, and not about getting your child back on track. That’s a whole other blog post and requires a better parent than me to write it (guest post anyone..?)!)
- Cut yourself some slack. As I sit here writing this, I was supposed to be out for a run. But I’m tired. Yes, maybe my jeans will feel a bit tighter next week as depleted energy levels have resulting in my eating more and exercising less. But that’s ok. It has to be ok. I’ve reminded myself several times over the last few weeks that the size of my bum is not the most important thing right now…
- Focus on your to-do list. Now, more than ever, you need to prioritise. Ditch Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, Slack (seriously, how do we ever get any work done??) and just concentrate on the task in hand. Focus on the three things you need to do in a given day, and don’t let yourself be distracted by anything else until you have those things done. You could try setting a timer, e.g. 20 minutes, to get your head down on a single task without distraction, and then 5 mins to have a little walk (and a PEEK at Instagram) and then back to 20 mins of concentrated work again.
- Ask for help. Now is the time to post that melodramatic Facebook status you would normally mock. An example: “FML. Srsly not coping. Need help.” Then reply to everyone who comments: “Will PM you babes”. The offers will come flooding in (…OK, a few people might unfriend you, but you don’t have time for all of those friends anyway).
- Tag team with your other half. When your little one is going through a difficult phase, it can trigger a massive working mum guilt attack. But the world doesn’t stop because your child isn’t sleeping, and you still have work to do. If you have a partner, remember that your child is his/her responsibility too, and you need to hand over the reins from time to time, for your own sanity. If they’re not being helpful, then please do feel free to use their credit card to…
- Throw money at the situation. Order your grocery shopping online and pay for same day delivery so you don’t have to go to the shops. Order takeout when you haven’t got the energy to cook. Get a taxi to work so you can have a few more minutes in bed. Do what it takes and allow yourself to spend that money. Just ask yourself ‘What would fellow down-to-earth working mum Beyoncé do?’ And do that.
- Eat sensibly. When you’re tired, the temptation is to eat lots of sugary foods and drink coffee by the bucketful. However, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to your diet, and avoid getting caught in the sugar crash cycle (she says through a mouthful of Malteasers… will try harder tomorrow).
- Prioritise rest. If you’re behind on work, it is so tempting to stay up late to catch up, but this will only make you more tired the next day, which will make you fall further behind. Give yourself a bedtime, and stick to it religiously. And, in order to get a good night’s sleep…
- Say no to the vino. That’s you, not me, btw.
- Throw out the rulebook. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. When you’re tired and just need a break, consider letting your child do things you wouldn’t normally let them do, such as have breakfast in front of Cbeebies if it gives you time to fire off a couple of emails. Give them the iPad in bed in the morning if means you can snooze a bit longer. It’s all about survival ladies! Principles can wait until you’ve had a bit more sleep.
- Take time off work. If the situation gets really bad, and you’re exhausted, take a day off work to catch up on some rest. No working mum I know ever wants to take a day off for anything child-related in fear of being judged, but, reality check, you ARE a mum, and there’s no getting away from it. If you really don’t want to admit that you’re struggling at home, fake a colonic and no-one will ask questions.
I would love to hear any other tips you might have that could help poor exhausted working mums like me! Please share them in the comments below x