If you find yourself in the position of being a full time working mum, be it out of necessity or choice, there are sacrifices that will need to take place, both at work and at home. (Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise, because they are lying). In this blog I want to share a few my own personal “mum hacks” that have saved my sanity and let me exploit both sides of the work/life equation.
School holidays. School holidays. School holidays…
My son started school nearly a year ago. In Belgium, they start at just 2 and a half years old. Yes, I didn’t believe it first either, especially considering in my home country of New Zealand, they don’t start until 5. I mean seriously, the poor kids have only just learnt not to eat their own poop, how do you expect them to learn the alphabet? Anyway, in going with the status quo, Jack’s first day was a joyous occasion, seeing him excitedly run into his new classroom, meet his teacher, all while wearing an oversized green dinosaur bag… I have to admit, I think both myself and my husband had to wipe away a wee tear as we said goodbye.
After a few weeks however, I found myself wiping yet another tear away… Scrapped knee? School bully? End of year concert? No… Two words: school holidays. In one foul sweep the realisation hit me that gone were the days of all year round day care… In a state of panic I called other working mums and asked in horror “but, but what do you do?” “Holiday programs,” one said. “Grandparents,” said another. But for me, my son was only 3. A school holiday program was simple not appropriate and well… Jack’s Grandma lives only, gees, 17,870 km away!!!! The panic was soon replaced by something we appreciate a lot here at Tadaweb, a “hacker mindset.” If my son was going to be at home for the next few weeks, I would find a way to not only be there for him, but also get as much work done as possible - after all, startup life is not for the faint hearted.
In doing so, I found a range of innovative hacks that let me experience the best of both worlds…
1. IKEA - and not for the meatballs.
Now most of us probably know that IKEA is one of the most child friendly shops in the world, complete with high chairs, mini trolleys, a playground (for 4 and above)… But what’s also included in this theme is a giant play pen boarded by a bench and chairs! “Oh great, so you can eat your lunch and watch you kids” - you ask? Ha, oh and much much more. Rather - in goes the child, out comes the laptop. Yes, Jack could play with other kids and funky toys 2 meters in front me and I could work for a good hour or so. God bless you IKEA.
2. Create an office that rivals any day care
I have talked about our culture in other posts, as a founder, it’s something I am very proud of. Our office is home to a range of crazy things - from giant inflatable animals, to a ping pong table, compulsory nerf guns, scooters, a beach bar and an old school video game area to name a few. Each time I even mention that he could come to the office, his eyes light up. Jack loves our space, especially riding the scooter around and around the meeting room. There are enough distractions to more than just a little amused in an emergency school holiday situation.
3. An egg timer that’s not just for eggs
As a working mum, I, like probably many of other mums constantly feel guilty for not spending enough time with my little man. However, I was relieved to discover that extensive research, notably a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family has illustrated that sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and a minimal effect on adolescents. The finding includes children’s academic achievement, behaviour and emotional well-being. The study also found that building relationships and seizing quality moments of connection were the most important for both parent and child well-being. One woman I know taught me a hack she used to ensure she spent quality time with her kids - a 15 minute egg timer. Yes, it doesn’t sound like much, but by dedicating just 15 minute batches of quality (no phone, no laptop, no tv) time to my son where we can both be free to just enjoy each other’s company, he is much less likely to get frustrated when I have to work - making it a win/win situation for us both.
4. The “cleaning” game - multi-tasking at it’s finest
This is one of my more evil mum hacks… Partly derived from a slight cleaning obsession, partly from my love of multi-tasking and time optimisation. One of my son’s favourite games is vacuuming, no it’s not child labour - really loves it I swear. Ingenious huh? Yes… I think so too. Even more evil (or brilliant) is that vacuuming for Jack is a reward. Something he has to “deserve doing.” On those long days at home when the kitchen table becomes your make shift desk, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing your three old not only having fun and being amused, but also cleaning the house! This plan was brilliant… until last week… when he asked for a coin for all his hard work… I think he’s catching on.
5. The do whatever you gotta do hack
Ok, so it’s not really a hack. It’s more “desperate times call for desperate measures.” But as much as a hate to admit, I don’t cope well with my house being turned into toy land. Seeing a whole toy chest full of toys invading the lounge, dining room, kitchen and even bathroom get’s me a tad stressed, well even “1 2 3 breathe in breathe out, feel your feet on the ground” kinda stressed. However, if there is one thing that I have learnt it is that when there aren’t many options - you have to get creative and let go of any prejudices. One cold and raining, school holiday day I went as far as to put up a tent in the lounge.. Just so I could hide the fact I was still working on my laptop… Each time his little head popped out to say hello, a smash down of my laptop lid and look a denial invaded my face - but it could have been worse..
So all in all, I personally believe that the only way to manage the demands of work and family, particularly during challenging periods such as school holidays is to think outside the box in ensuring that both your child is content and occupied, while ensuring critical work doesn’t get put on the back burner. Do you have other awesome parenting hacks? Share them too!