Mums returning to work - balancing home and work

Being a mum is hard enough, being a working mum can be harder still as you don't stop being a mum while you are at work. You may find yourself at work thinking about issues that have arisen in your family life, or that you need to attend to when you get home. Things such as food shopping, what to cook for dinner. You may have a meeting after work but also have that mountain of ironing to do or Johnny won't have anything to wear for school tomorrow. Meanwhile the mother-in law is visiting and she?ll see the house is not as clean as she?d like it so you need to find an hour to get that done and so on and on and on! Working mums can all relate to this.

Your feelings about being at work can also be mixed and you may wonder if it is even worth it. Considering the pros and cons may help you to decide how to approach returning to work and if you and your family are ready for it.


  • You may have a better standard of living and have less financial worries with the extra income you can bring in.
  • Dad can perhaps work less and enjoy more family time.
  • You may enjoy making a financial contribution
  • You may find working raises your self-esteem and confidence.
  • Working may expand your social life outside the home.
  • You can regain your identity if you feel it has become lost ? you are someone else other than mommy and wife- you can find that person again!


  • You may feel work will encroaches too much on family life.
  • You may have feelings of guilt for not being there for your kids or your partner.
  • You may resent your partner if you feel housework isn't shared equally.
  • You may find it difficult to manage your time and keep everyone happy.
  • You will have less time for family get togethers and household chores.
  • You'll need to make arrangements for the children to be cared for by someone else while you are working.
  • You may need to bring work home with you, which can cause more disruption to family life.

Pros and cons aside, assuming you have decided to return to you need to know how to manage your time and stress levels so that you can still sit down and relax for some for your day.

Here are some guidelines to help you juggle family and home life without having a nervous breakdown!

  1. Breathe
  2. Do not put such hard expectations on yourself that you fail. Do not strive to be a perfectionist in every area of you life. Allow for some failure and for some things to not be done as well as you'd like. When you plan out your day do not forget to include REST and recreation time for yourself. Allow yourself time to relax and enjoy life!

    You may feel guilty for not being available 100% to your children or your partner as you perhaps once were. Take the pressure off yourself.

  3. Do not be afraid to ask for help
  4. You are not a one women show. If your children are old enough they can help with certain chores. If you have a partner so can they! Extended members of the family and friends may also be happy to help when things become a struggle. You are not alone.

    Discuss any changes that are due to take place with your family when you sit down together at mealtime. Discuss how you can all contribute to make your transition back to work easier so that it has minimal impact on family life. Ask your family to contribute suggestions as to how you can all pull together as a team to make it work for you all. All the family benefit from your return to work so all of the family should take an active part in making the transition as manageable as possible for you.

    Find out what your employer can do to help. Do they have flexible hours, part time, job share etc. They may run courses on time management for parents or subsidise child care. Find out as much as you can about any parent friendly schemes your employer runs and make the most of them.

  5. Choose a career that is family friendly
  6. You don't have to return to being the high-powered business executive or career woman that you were before you were a mum. You could choose something, which utilizes your valuable experience but requires fewer demands on your time and your nerves! Take time before returning to work to consider all your options carefully. Perhaps see a careers advisor at your local job center.

    Talk to friends who have already made that transition back to work for ideas on how they coped or how NOT to do it. They may have done things differently with hindsight. Take advantage of that hindsight and learn from their mistakes, as well as their successes.

  7. Make a list of your priorities
  8. Make a list of all the things about your home life that you want to retain and place great priority on and those you do not mind letting go of. Then make list of all the things you hope to gain from a work situation. This may include financial considerations.

  9. Work out your finances
  10. Work out your finance and see how many hours you need to work. Keep your lifestyle expectations realistic if your home life is important to you. You may find you'd rather sacrifice a holiday abroad for a holiday on home soil if it means you can work fewer hours and spend more time with your family. Alternatively that holiday abroad may be your priority and a few extra hours of work is worth it. Deciding what your priorities are will help you make that decisions re work all the easier.

    You can then use these lists to work out how many hours you can commit to a job and then find a job that utilizes your talents, the time you have available as well as suiting your need to be something other than 'mommy' a person in your own right.

Here are some more practical tips for balancing home and work.

Time management ? set realistic goals

Be flexible and realistic when planning your day. Make lists about what needs to be done and differentiate need from want! Work through your list in order of priority and every time you tick something off you will feel a sense of accomplishment as well as feeling in control of your day rather than it being in control of you!

Be prepared for the unexpected

You may have surprise visits from relatives or unannounced meetings at work. You can prepare for these by having emergency ready-made meals in the freezer to save on cooking time etc. Or you can ask your relatives to pass by only by prior arrangement with you.

Try to remain focused and happy

Never lose sight of why it is you are returning to work. Keep your list of pros handy! Try to be positive while transitioning and everyone in the family adjusts to the new routine. Discuss the changes and challenges together rather than trying to cope with it all on your own.

Make sure you incorporate leisure and relaxation time for you when planning your schedule. Not every moment has to be filled with an activity though. Try to do none work related activities when you do have free time. If you work on a computer at work, take a break from it when at home. Physical pursuits are great for reducing stress so any time spent, walking, riding a bicycle etc will help you remain mentally as well as physically fit.

Remain connected to friends, trade child-sitting duties with your partner so you can each see friends and relax with them and unwind. Single moms will have to be more creative about getting free time, perhaps invite friends around after the children go to bed.

Set limits and stick to them

Whether at work or home you may need to be clear about how much time you can spend on a given activity. Make sure those affected know what that time limit is and work together to stick to it. When your limit for time spent at work has arrived, down tools (within reason) and go home.

Review that pros and cons list

Every six months or so, review your priorities. If your return to work is not working as well as you hoped, look at what needs to be changed and how you can achieve that so that you are feeling like your return to work is worth it again.