How to be a working mum without going nuts

April 15, 2013

I Don't Know How She Does ItWhen I had No 1 Son, not working simply wasn’t an option, so somehow, I just got on with it. Over the years I’ve interviewed celebrities and other working parents about being a working mum, and here are the tips I’ve gleaned from them – please feel free to add your own:

1. You’ve got to have a support system. This is something the actress Sue Johnston, a single parent when her son was small, told me, and she’s absolutely right. Whether that’s a friend you can call on if you’re running late and can’t get to do the school pick up, or back up for your child carer in case they’re sick – you need a chain of support.

2. You have to let some things go. Lorraine Kelly said this to me years ago and until she said it, I hadn’t really thought about it, but she’s absolutely right. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a full-time cleaner, don’t waste your precious time at home worrying about whether or not the dusting is done. Do one chore one week, and one the next.

3. You need an understanding boss. Unfortunately this is something that you can’t control, and ironically, some of the least understanding bosses I’ve worked with have been mums themselves – including the Editor who couldn’t understand why I needed to be with my son in hospital after he’d lost consciousness from an asthma attack. If a boss is making your life as a working mum more difficult, or is difficult about maternity leave, resolve to look for another job.

4. You should always try to go to school plays and concerts. A colleague once said this to me and she was absolutely right, because these are the moments you cannot get back – and if your child scans the audience and doesn’t see you sitting there, they probably will remember it. And use it as a stick to beat you with when they’re a teenager.

5. You need to worry less and remind yourself you’re doing well. This is something Dannii Minogue said to me, and it’s absolutely true. All working mums do the best they can for their families – providing for them, and spending as much time with them as possible. Guilt goes with the territory, but don’t beat yourself up about what you’re not doing – just be happy you’re doing the best you can.

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  • Charlene Willsher July 24, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Another tip to add and works well for me….
    when getting up to my first job; motherhood, then dropping motherhood to be a personal assistant for 5 hours then returning to motherhood my top tip is when Alfie goes to bed i come downstairs, make a cup of tea, sit on the sofa and relax, no TV or anything, Dinner can wait five minutes, the washing can wait, just no talking, no surfing the net, no sound – just peace and quiet for the whole duration of my tea! BLISS!

  • Candace April 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Understanding bosses are not easy to come by especially when you are a single Mother.

    I did not work school holidays and had child care before and after school but I have a disabled daughter. I constantly had can’t ‘someone else got to this appointment’, that appointment.

    Who???? The doctors wanted to see me as her mother, my daughter wanted me there I needed to be there.

    My Father would meet me at the hospital with her, having taken time off work himself but he was nearer to her and then take her home/school after. I took unpaid time off to attend.

    Then came the day my Daughter had an accident…

    It really hit home when my Daughter twisted her toe herself as she was getting in to bed. I gave her some pain meds and big cuddle expecting her to get up right as rain the next morning. No such luck. Her big toe was black and twice the size. Called work to say I had to take her to the hospital which came with a complete mouthful of abuse. After she was x-rayed I felt a great sign of relief inside; I was justified in taking her, something was wrong. Inside I was jumping for joy as she had broken bones! She had broke her big toe and 2 bones in her foot. I was happy my child was hurt just so I could tell me boss I did need the time off work (unpaid may I add). The guilt I felt for the small moment of time will haunt me forever.

    From this day my relationship with my boss really went down hill and I have now left that place of work and work for myself

    Even if you have everything sussed, things happen and employers don’t help you or let you forget. It was brought up a number of times that a meeting had to be cancelled that morning because of me but the numerous times I let my kids down to pick up someone else’s slack and work extra was never remembered or quite frankly appreciated.

  • Sam April 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

    A great post!

  • Mummy Vs Work April 15, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    All great points.

    I would add “don’t let others judge you and get you down”

    Countless times people have judge and put me down, like you said at the beginning I work because I have to. Financially we stand on our own two feet (just) and I’m proud to be able to do that but sometimes get sick of people judging me for working when they think I should be at home… If only it was possible. I’d be there in a shot!

  • Liska (@NewMumOnline) April 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I would add, “try not to be all things to all people” – if this was your style pre-parenthood, then something’s got to give. It took me getting PND to realise this, but cut yourself some slack, learn to delegate, and let Dad, as one example, do his bit. Everything isn’t Mum’s job, especially when Mum’s got a job xx