Mompowerment - Insights from Successful Part-time Working Moms who Balance..
Mompowerment: Insights from Successful Professional Part-time Working Moms who Balance Career & Family and have created a community for moms to interact with each other and share their ideas or ask their questions of fellow moms. Check out my weekly blog on topics and tips for busy, working moms on the professional and personal side of things.
It was such a treat to chat with Darien Sutton who works in the financial services industry. I loved hearing about her experience at Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG), a public accounting and comprehensive financial consulting firm that values flexibility for its employees. It made sense to share more of Darien’s story and that of DHG since they are a balance-friendly company during a month when I’m specifically talking about the transition to a professional part-time role. (And it’s never a bad idea to share Darien’s story as an inspiration for finding a part-time role you love.)
mention that since interviewing Darien a few years ago, she has since been
promoted. So, if you’re thinking that working in a part-time capacity limits
your growth opportunity, think again!
While many people in accounting and financial services study
accounting, finance, or economics, Darien took a very different path. She
graduated with major in English and a minor in Chemistry. Growing up in a family
of medical professionals, she planned on going into the medical field. Just
before taking the MCAT, though, Darien realized she wanted something different.
After completing her undergrad studies, Darien enjoyed some downtime.
The real world could wait a few months. She backpacked in Europe and had an
epiphany during her travels. Darien realized that she wanted to get an MBA, but
she realized that she needed to get experience before taking that step. (I’ll
add that most MBA programs require you get at least 2 years of experience
although the average is 5-6 years.)
She worked as a customs broker for a few years post-undergrad
and then she did go back and get her MBA with a concentration in finance and
accounting. She landed her dream job after grad school in corporate finance at ExxonMobil.
She had lots of responsibility and really enjoyed the work.
Sometimes life throws you curve balls, though. As Darien’s
husband was finishing up med school, they prioritized his opportunities for residency
programs. And at the same time Darien realized there were other types of
opportunities in other industries, so she transitioned to a financial services
company. Throw into the mix that Darien had just found out she was pregnant
with their first child.
Here’s another myth that Darien sets straight: you can get hired coming back from maternity leave in a job you love. Darien interviewed for her next role while on maternity leave, which ended up being the company she’s now been with for more than 6 years. About a year into working for DHG, she found out she was pregnant with her second child.
As she returned from maternity leave, she talked to her manager and lead partner about going back part time. Their response was a resounding, “No problem. We will make it work.”
Do the math and you’ll see that Darien had two children under two as she returned from maternity leave. Having a second child is tough. Two under two is a handful. It’s not uncommon for working moms to start looking for information on the transition to a professional part-time role after their second child. Life becomes much more complex with a second child.
Support from your employer
Darien admits that she gets the flexibility she has asked for because her employer fully supports this approach for employees. They invest time and energy in their employees and want them to return post-maternity leave. They were likely even more interested in having her stick around because she’s a top performer. She knew this about the company, though, because of her initial interactions. And she plans on sticking around, in part because of the flexibility that company provides (OK, plus that whole be in a part-time role you love thing).
Initially, Darien negotiated with DHG that she would work 40 hours per week, which is about 90 percent of the average consultant’s time for the firm. Some parts of the year she works roughly 30 to 35 hours and during the busier times she works 45 to 50 hours a week. She has flexibility so that she can make up time at night when kids are asleep if necessary.
At one point along the way, Darien tried to go to a 70 percent schedule, but that didn’t work. She’s now around 80 percent, after three years into things. That put her at about 36 hours per week on average. Sometimes you need to try things out and trial and error will help you find the right level of hours for the work that needs to be done.
As part of the overall arrangement that Darien and the
company agreed to, she has some flexibility, even with her reduced schedule. She
works Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the office. Tuesdays Darien works from
home (her nanny works there for the day). She doesn’t actively work on Fridays,
although she’s available via email if needed. Darien also changes things up a
bit in the summertime to take advantage of spending more time with her girls.
Benefit of Working in a Part-time Role
Yes, Darien works in a part-time role she loves. That in itself is a big benefit for many. There is more, though.
Darien shared that when she worked full-time, all the kids’ stuff was packed into weekends. She has more mental space in addition to time with family now. She’s able to take the kids to and from school. She can participate in kids’ activities.
On a more personal note, Darien feels like the craziness has
stopped. She has more opportunity for doing lots of things for herself, not
just her kids. She’s able to focus more on her own health and passions. For
example, she’s started teaching exercise classes at the local YMCA.
She also gets to be active in areas that she’s passionate
about. She’s been on the board of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater
Winston-Salem for about 3.5 years at this point.
So, as you can imagine, Darien suggests considering and
negotiating this option if it’s available. And, even if it’s not, you can
always be the first within your firm.
Challenges of Part time
In Darien’s case, she shares that she takes on more at home. Her husband works a lot of hours. It’s also a challenge to go back and forth between the work and family mindset with her current schedule. It’s also not easy to work in a part-time role. It takes work and effort. In fact, Darien says, “it’s more challenging to do a part-time role than I thought it would be. If you want to take on a part-time role, you must be ready for that. The juggle doesn’t go away.”
She also adds that it’s helpful to have a supportive husband
who is hands-on when he is around. He’ll take on kid duty on the morning each
week when Darien aims to go in early. He makes the effort to be a partner for
Darien to ensure she can carve out time.
Ask for what you need from your manager/employer. If you don’t ask for what you want and need from your employer, it won’t happen. The worst they can do is say no and that might be sign that company isn’t right fit for you.
Have a weekly check-in. Schedule a time each week to chat with your manager to see how things are going. Make any adjustments as necessary, based on how things are going and what you both share in these weekly conversations. As a manager, carve out the time to meet with your team so they understand your schedule as well.
Track your hours on a spreadsheet. Keep track of your time and know your average hours over time.
Learn to compartmentalize. Be present so that you focus on work at work and home at home.
Take advantage of your flexibility. Manage your time to make most of it. For example, if you need to, make up hours after kids go down for bed.
Have childcare to get work done if working from home. Getting work done when you’re working from home with kids is really challenging. Make sure to have childcare, whether that means having someone watching kids at home or managed care for children who are not yet school age.
Be deliberate with your time. Use your time wisely, based on your priorities. Be diligent about time management. Darien shares a lot more about this on the DHG blog.
Darien didn’t specifically give this advice, but it came across loud and clear. It’s a lot easier to stay engaged as a top performer when you’re in a part-time role you love as an employee. Consider that as you look at your opportunities with your current employer and future opportunities.
Interested in seeing more from professional part-time working moms like Darien? Buy your copy of Mompowerment: Insights from Successful Professional Part-time Working Moms Who Balance Career and Family on Amazon today. (affiliate link)
Now that you understand your motivation for wanting to work part-time, the next step is to start thinking through the personal implications. The transition to a part-time role will likely affect your professional and personal life and you want to try to make sure that those changes — the career implications — are acceptable. This is where you ask the tough questions about the short-term and long-term. Consider what adjustments you might need to make, now that you know that this is the path you’d like to take.
One of the questions I hear from moms interested in transitioning to a part-time approach to their career is “Will this transition hurt me professionally?” I can’t answer that. The career implications of this transition are unique for everyone.
I can share questions that will help you think through the transition so that you can better understand how it will affect your career. Once you understand that, you can decide if you’re OK with the implications.
Consider these questions to help you understand the career implications:
Are you a valuable employee to your manager and/or the company? Will the transition make you less valuable?
Will you lose clout in your company or industry if you shift gears? If so, does that matter to you?
At what stage is your career?
Is shifting to a part-time career approach a short-term or long-term option? Does one or the other work better for you or are they equal? Why?
If you miss an opportunity for career growth or promotion, how will that affect your own perspective on your career and family?
Consider how you feel toward your job, manager, and the company you work for. Is this a time to make a shift to something else such as a new company or starting your own business? Do you need a career change, not just a different approach to your current career?
Another question I hear is “What changes will I have to make in my personal life when I start working part-time?” When moms shift from one career approach to another, there are usually changes for you and/or your family. Not sure how to look at those implications or even how to figure them out? These questions might help you think through the personal implications side of the equation.
Is this a time when your family needs more of your time and attention? Will giving more time help or affect the situation positively?
What will you do with more time available to spend time with family or on personal interests? What does that look like?
Have you spoken to your significant other about your interest in transitioning to a part-time role? If yes, what did you cover? How did the conversation go? If no, what will you cover?
How will your new schedule impact your family?
What is included in your overall personal plan?
What changes will you need to make in your support structure (e.g., sitter or housekeeper)?
What are you feeling as it relates to these potential changes?
Have you set your overall goals (including career and personal) for the short-term and long-term? How will a transition to part-time impact those goals? Are the changes acceptable to you? If not, is there something you can adjust to make the changes acceptable? If not, why not?
Do your financials allow you to transition to a part-time role? If not, are there changes you can make so that it’s financially doable? What is the short-term impact of those changes? What is the long-term impact of those financial changes?
What are your overall priorities? How do they break down into the different areas of your life? How will they change if you change your career approach?
What trade-offs, if any, are you willing to make? Are those trade-offs acceptable or are you considering them out of obligation? Why or why not?
These questions won’t give you all the answers you need, but they will start you down the path to understanding if this transition and the subsequent changes are the right career moves for you. And you’ll get a better idea of whether or not this is the right move for you at this time. The questions also help you get started on developing a plan for you and your family at home and for you (and potentially your team) at work.
If you’re thinking through a career transition to a part-time role, what additional questions are you considering? What are you uncovering as you ask these types of questions? What aspect of career or personal implications are you struggling with?
Realizing that you want more of these kinds of tips? Grab your copy of Mompowerment on Amazon (affiliate link).
This month is all about the transition to a professional part-time role. I will be sharing different aspects to help you think through this transition as the next step in your career. I’ll share my own experience and research in addition to tips, insights, and advice from the more than 110 professional part-time working moms who I interviewed for my two books.
Why Talk about Career Transition Now?
Why talk about this in the summer? While summer might not be idle for making changes in your career, it’s a great time to start strategizing changes you want to make when kids are back in school in the fall. It takes time to find the right opportunities and make the changes you want to come to life. And back-to-school time is a natural time when as working moms (and dads), we look at our lives and see if we want things to be different as the new school year starts.
You’ve gone through the summer and realized you want certain things to change that either happened in the summer months or during the previous school year. Likely something has triggered this interest and this is a great moment to explore that. Whatever that catalyst was, you want to make sure it’s for the right reason.
Why I Work Part-time
I worked in the corporate world for more than 12 years in a full-time role. When our older son was born more than 8 years ago, we had to make some pretty big changes quickly. Sure, motherhood changes things, but our world was turned on its ear. You see, our older son was born 10 weeks premature and was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 5.5 weeks.
I had worked for a large marketing agency at the time and, thankfully, I had paid maternity leave (through short-term disability) for 8 weeks. And then I took another month via sick time and vacation days. Shortly before coming back from my 12-week leave, I negotiated a transition to a part-time role with my then manager.
I work 25-30 hours per week in my two businesses and I can’t imagine going back to a full-time job at this point in my life. I want to be the one who picks up my young boys (we also have a 5.5-year old) at the end of their day. And, besides, working part-time allows me to have more of the work-life balance that I’m looking for. There is no question that this became increasingly more important to me after having a demanding job for years.
For those wondering why I didn’t simply walk away from my career, the reality is that I like working. I love the opportunities I have to help shift how working moms and dads as well as company leaders think about balance. I like using my expertise and experience to help companies with their strategic marketing challenges. Having my own goals and achievements outside of motherhood makes me a better mom. It helps with my own personal identity and keeps me satisfied in all areas of my life.
hours or will it require less office time and fewer hours?
The Importance of Understanding Your Motivation
When I interviewed more than 110 professional part-time working moms for the book I’m writing, one of their collective key pieces of advice is to figure out why you want a change – your motivation. You must understand the driving force and that will help you figure out what actually meets those needs. It helps you create a roadmap to see what things to include or to leave out as you make the transition.
You must figure out what works best with your own situation and that of your family. Your “why” will be your guide for what types of roles you should take on and what to avoid. Focus your search, whether internal or at other companies, to roles that provide the parameters and flexibility you’re looking for.
For example, if you want to spend more time with your child as the driving force behind making a change, then look for a job that you can do the days and times your child is in school so that your work doesn’t cut into your family time.
Or maybe you want time to spend with your aging parent who is having health challenges. Are there appointments, which you’d like to be present for? Will that require a job with more flexibility and not necessarily fewer
How to Figure Out Your Motivation
You know you need to understand why you want to make a change. How do you figure out your what’s motivating you, though? These are some of the questions or types of questions to help you figure out why you want to change your career approach and give you some answers.
Ask why you want this change. You know your motivation (e.g., spending time with your kids), but what is the “why” behind that? Ask “why” a few times to the real answer behind your motivation.
How are you feeling at work? Are you wanting change for the right reason or are you angry and frustrated about things at work? Only you can decide which is the case.
Are you still excited about your career? Maybe it’s not a transition to part-time that you need. Do you need a career overhaul? Maybe you need to transition into a new career, not a new career approach. Perhaps it’s time to engage a career coach to make this happen and not simply look for a new job.
Will having more time make a difference in your day? Do you need more time or more flexible time or both? This can help you decide if a part-time role can fulfill your needs or maybe a flexible schedule is a better option.
Do you have time constraints? Is bonus time around the corner? Is it the holidays? Do you have a big conference coming up? Understand any potential time constraints and how they might affect your transition to part-time and your thinking about making changes.
As you read this and do some thinking, what have you uncovered? What’s driving your interest in making changes and considering a part-time role? Can you make those changes in your current job or do you need to find a new role, either internally or at a different company? Or is it time to start your own thing?
If you’re looking for help to uncover some of these things, my Know Your Why Guide can help. Dig into why you want to change things so that you know what to change and who to help you make those things happen.
The May Mompowerment Mama is Lis Riley, founder and CEO of Fuel Your Soul Foods (FYS). The interesting thing about Lis’ story is how she has pivoted a few times in recent years. When I spoke with her 6 years ago, she was working in the publishing industry and starting what she referred to as the second part of her career. Since then, things have changed yet again. Lis didn’t realize that a healthy snack she created for her older child would eventually become a successful, growing business.
Learning to Pivot
Lis studied supply chain management as an undergrad. This has served her well over time. Soon after finishing her undergrad studies, she worked at Dell. Initially, Lis was in a supply chain management role, which ultimately required her to be available 24/7. While still at Dell she moved into a pricing role and then eventually a business development role that helped develop partnerships for Dell. In her final role at the company, she negotiated a 35-hour week, which she was in for about a year and a half so that she could have more time with her child. She left the company not too long after that when she was pregnant with her second child.
After Dell, Lis stayed home for about a year and focused on her role as a mom. And then she started to pivot. She worked in ad sales for two different local publications, which allowed her time to learn new skills and get a certification in integrative yoga therapy. This is what she thought the second part of her career would be – yoga therapy. Lis did end up working as a yoga therapist for about a year in an integrative medicine doctor’s office. (Little did she know that her experiences as a mother would lead her to create a new business.)
When life throws you a curve ball
As if being a working mom isn’t challenging enough, Lis’ situation has an extra layer of complexity. When Lis’ oldest child was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at age 8, Lis looked to non-inflammatory food as part of the path to healing. Lis describes this challenging balance as, “trying to be a superwoman nurturing mom, making all her daughter’s meals and snacks from scratch and going to numerous doctor appointments week after week, while attempting to keep a toe in the working world and contribute to her family’s bottom line.” It was all-hands-on-deck for her child’s ailing health and yet trying to keep some semblance of normalcy and a career. Such a tough moment!
As a solution for an easy snack for her daughter, Lis created energy balls that were made of organic, non-GMO ingredients, that were soy and dairy free as well as low-sugar. Any ingredients that aggravated her daughter’s condition were removed and nutrient and protein-rich items were added. The combination worked! Her child was thrilled and so was she. Lis continued to experiment with an array of healthy superfoods mixed with nut butters and before she knew it, she had an array of flavors.
combination of low inflammatory foods, naturopathic medicine, and detoxing her
daughter’s body of burdening toxins proved to be the recipe for success. Lis is
a strong believer that “food is medicine”.
When experiences as a mother create opportunity
About 8 months into her role as a yoga therapist, Lis received a call from a previous client she had when she worked at a local publication. The company had sampled some of the energy ball snacks and wanted to sell them in all four of the company’s locations. Yes, you read that right! (Her experiences as a mother led to a new business opportunity.)
Initially, Lis hesitated and thought “No way! How could I
manage that?” And then the stars aligned and a new business partner
swooped in to help get the new endeavor going.
dropped the yoga therapy and focused 100 percent of her work time on building
what became FYS. In recent years Lis has bought out her business partner and is
humming solo with her business along with 2 employees, both mothers. She has
the stability and overall balance she initially wanted, even though there have
been bumps along the way.
What does work look
Along the way, Lis has worked 35 hours per week at the large tech company and 10-15 hours while doing ad sales and yoga therapy.
And these days she’s working about 50 hours per week, squeezing in hours after the kids go to bed and on the weekends when needed. She shares that when you’re running your own business, you’re not counting the hours. The clock never stops but there’s no bitterness in it. If you have passion in your career, you will make the needed time for the success of it. The key is that you get to define success!
While still at a large company she worked Monday through Thursday in her flexible role. Once she pivoted into ad sales, she worked 3-5 hours a day while the kids were at school.
As an entrepreneur, she now works much of her waking hours but prioritizes windows of the work day and weekends to put work aside and have meaningful family time without interruption. When she works, she’s working, when she’s with her family, she’s with her husband and kids 100 percent.
The challenge of flexibility and part-time roles
No question that Lis got the flexibility she was looking for along the way, but she was also in a commission-based role. If she didn’t work, she didn’t get paid. And that is a challenge that entrepreneurs, in general, can face, especially as they build their businesses. She has been able to change that somewhat in recent years as she has a team and works with suppliers.
Lis looks at her role as 100 percent mom and work is on top
of that. Lis’ husband has a demanding job with lots of travel. When she
transitioned to a part-time role, she and her husband talked about how her role
at home would change and she agreed to take more on at the house.
When she launched FYS there was no space for Lis to carry 100 percent of the household duties. Lis and her husband now outsource cleaning and empower the kids to do chores. They subscribe to a weekly community-supported agriculture service that delivers locally grown produce as well as dairy and meats. They periodically lean on meal prep services to save time during especially busy weeks.
The benefit of working part time and having more flexibility
Lis was ultimately able to take a step back and figure out
what else she was interested in, which is why she started down the yoga therapy
path. She wanted something that filled her passion and allowed her to
contribute financially to her family. And that gave her space to jump on the
FYS opportunity when it presented itself.
She is able to maximize her work time and still pick up her kids
at school. And, ultimately, she’s able to use skills she developed over time.
She can use her supply chain management from her big tech days, combined with
her knowledge of wellness.
Lis is excited that along her work-life balance path, she contributed to her family’s well-being and also feels that when it comes to her professional life, “There is value in the work I do.”
For Lis Riley experience as a mother led to a new business. She has advice for other working moms out there, whether you start a business or work for a company:
Find the balance that works for you. There is no question that you’re pulled in many directions as a working mom so that you don’t give your family 100 percent or your work 100 percent.
Build a strong community and ask for what you need. Lis has learned to lean on her friend and family village and never hesitates to assist in return. This give and take has been instrumental in mastering the parenting juggling act. Support is what everyone craves. It feels good to help others and boy does it save the day when others swoop in for a few hours of child care or taxi service!
If you’re wanting to read
more from moms like Lis. Grab your copy of either of the Mompowerment books today.
This month I’m
highlighting Lisa Horten as the Mompowerment mama. I really enjoyed chatting
with Lisa. Not only was she in a demanding industry in a flexible role, but her
former employer specifically approached the business with part-time working
moms in mind.
impressive side to Lisa’s story. When I interviewed Lisa in 2016, she was at
Stroller Traffic, an online publication for moms, in a role of editorial
director. She also managed The Cribsie Awards, which recognizes the best
products, services, and platforms (e.g., websites) for parents with babies to
toddler-aged children. And this past spring, she took ownership of the The
She’s the CEO and
president. Yes, you read that right. As a mom with two young children, she has
taken on being in the driver’s seat for a company. (Yep, I saw on many occasions
that it’s doable to have flexibility and be in leadership roles.)
degrees in journalism and art history, Lisa started working in the publishing
industry as a writer and editor. She began her career at more traditional print
publications and then moved to PopSugar, a well-known online lifestyle brand
for women. After three years at PopSugar, Lisa became the editorial director of
Stroller Traffic. She also took on the same role at its sister site, The
Cribsie Awards, and eventually took over the company.
What does work look like?
varies from week-to-week. She admits that being her own boss has its pros and
cons. The Cribsie Awards calendar includes a two-week window where the public
gets to vote on their favorite baby and toddler products, so the months leading
up to that are busy. Once it’s over and winners have been announced, things
quiet down a bit. Lisa works from her home office (or, whichever coffee shop is
most convenient with that day’s particular juggle).
What does childcare look like?
incredibly important when you’re a working mom, especially when you have a
demanding job. Lisa has a nanny come to the house twice a week. While Lisa’s 3
and 6-year old kids are at school, the nanny also helps with laundry and other
Support from her employer
Lisa moved to Stroller Traffic from her previous employer because
she had a lot more of a professional opportunity with a flexible role. In fact,
all the employees of the firm were employed in flexible roles, generally
working a part-time schedule from home. So, no commute and more time with
Benefit of being a working mom with
flexibility at work
Working makes Lisa a better mom because she’s focused on
something other than kids. Since she doesn’t have commute time and has a lot of
flexibility, she feels that she has the best of both worlds. Lisa gets to spend
more time with her kids and is still developing her professional skills.
Challenges of working in a part-time
Lisa definitely shoulders more of the burden of childcare and
household responsibilities. She had to figure out a new groove after the birth
of her second child. She admits to often overcommitting to volunteer roles at
the kids’ schools and around the community, which means she has to make up the
lost work time later on. And, as someone who works from home primarily, she
sometimes misses adult interaction and collaboration.
Advice for working moms
Stay organized. It’s really helpful for
working moms who have flexibility to stay uber-organized to use their time
wisely. Making a “to-do” list for the coming day before bed every night, and
constantly prioritizing what needs the most urgency are crucial to fitting it
Don’t be OK with “no” answers from employers.
If you want more flexibility, “be pushy” about what you want. Know your value,
be confident in your value, and put forth a strong case as to why you’re worth
Be willing to provide game plan to your
manager and/or team. Help your manager or senior leadership team understand
what you need and what that can look like from a logistics perspective. Design
what you want and spell it out to your team and manager.
Define and maintain your limits, based on
what you and your family need. Know what options you have and up to what
point you’re willing to take things. For some that might mean that you’re
willing to leave if your employer can’t make flexibility work.
If you’re wanting to read more from moms like Lisa. Grab your
copy of either of the Mompowerment books today.
I’m sharing 3 time-saving tips for spring cleaning for working moms to get in, get done, and get out. And, if it’s helpful to have a checklist, I have pinned a few on the Mompowerment Pinterest page.
Sure, there is a lot of advice on spring cleaning. As a working mom, though, you’re time is limited, so let’s think of this as an article on time management meets spring cleaning so you have more time for fun.
While it’s called spring cleaning, I would argue it should be done about once a quarter. (Hint: If you have a housekeeper or cleaning service, ask for a more thorough cleaning about once a quarter or at least twice a year to make sure you’re fighting dirt build-up throughout the year.)
#1 Organize and declutter
The first step is to declutter and organize. It saves you time and money and might even make you a bit happier, once you’re done.
This could take days or weeks. Start this as soon as you can in small chunks over a few weeks or in a few marathon days. Need some tips or motivation for this step? Check out my post from last week on organizing for spring cleaning time.
#2 Plan it out
Planning is required in business, but we sometimes forego the planning when we’re talking about the home side of things. Planning how I approach spring cleaning has really helped me.
I go into each room before starting the cleaning process. I take a bit of time to write down what I need to do and then I break that down into smaller chunks. (Hint: You can always plan before you organize and declutter.)
I take it to the next step by estimating how much time I think I need. That way I know what I can do in whatever time I have available on a specific day or during a week as I plan out my week on Sunday.
I can’t do hours upon hours of spring cleaning. I simply don’t have the time. I need to strategically approach spring cleaning so that I complete whatever is needed in each room or area (and area might be physical or it might be all of one type of thing (e.g., clean all blinds)). The planning step saves me a lot of time and helps me figure out the best way to tackle the overall process.
#3 Go room by room
When you’re a working mom, you don’t necessarily have large chunks of time. You have your usual work and household duties, so deep cleaning is another thing to fit into your already busy week. Instead of trying to spring clean the whole house in a weekend, go room by room. You could probably deep clean the whole house over a week or two if you dedicated an hour each day. This approach makes it much more doable and probably less stressful in the process.
Update, upgrade, or remove as you go. Replace batteries in things like your smoke detectors. Check your fire extinguisher to see if it works. See a broken item? Fix it or throw it away and replace it. Consider not replacing an item and simply have one less item in your house.
And that brings up something I’ve started doing in our house. Just because we have had something, doesn’t mean we need a replacement, if it breaks or wears out. It could be a kitchen gadget or a pair of shoes. I think long and hard before I decide if I want a replacement at all now. I’m trying to purge a lot, because I think, in general, we have too much stuff in our house (I’ll talk more about toy-related stuff below). We don’t need more stuff. I need less stuff and an extra benefit is it will take even less time and effort to keep it organized. I’ve even stopped my magazine subscriptions to keep those from piling up.
Let’s talk spring cleaning and toys. Like anything else, toys need to have a deep cleaning, especially the toys that your kids love.
What about decluttering toys, though? I don’t know about how it works in your house, but the minute I suggest we remove an item from the pile, our boys say it’s their favorite toy – EVER! We are working through that. And we try to do a policy of nothing new unless we get rid of something.
That said, one of the key ways we’re trying not to add stuff is to get experiences from those we love. For example, my parents gave our older son a visit to the Houston Zoo for the whole family on a recent trip as his birthday present. He LOVED it. My in-laws have paid for our annual membership to the local children’s museum, which our boys love, instead of giving toys, at Christmas. So, get your family to help you avoid the clutter altogether and try a new experience or get a membership to a place your family loves.
And the other is to ask friends to not give gifts during birthday parties. We’ve done book exchanges with wrapped new, age appropriate books. Everyone gets a gift (you can do this instead of a goodie bag too). I’ve had friends collect stuff to give to programs for foster kids. You can be creative with how you handle it. It definitely makes a difference, though.
Save time and money
Remember, organizing can save you time and money and spring cleaning puts you in a good place for the usual tidying up. It’s getting all your cleaning ducks in a row and making it easier in the long run. And, when the stuff you had to do takes less time, you get more time doing the stuff you want, like spending time with your kids or even having a moment of self-care.
Do you have tips for your spring cleaning that saves time or even money? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
It’s spring, that time of year when we focus on spring cleaning. Before you do that, though, do some organizing.
This topic is top of mind for two reasons.
First, I’m personally going through the process of organizing. I’ve been trying to purge and generally organize since last quarter and keep that up throughout the year. It takes time, though. This time of year is a good time to look at clothes as I’m switching out wardrobes for the seasons and a great time to think about toys since it’s been a few months since our boys got a round of gifts for their birthdays and holidays.
Being organized is also a topic that came up in countless interviews that I did for my books. Let’s talk why this is important and why it came up in so interviews with the 110+ working moms.
Why organize or declutter?
Need some motivation to get started on organizing and decluttering? Let me share a few ideas that might help. For starters, it makes things easier to find later. Less time looking for stuff later equals more time to do other things – fun with family, exercise, self-care, learn something new like a hobby, or, practically speaking, even getting a bit more work done. And getting organized and decluttering can help you when it comes to spring cleaning or cleaning in general.
Second, you can save money. Can’t find that sweater you wanted to wear for the presentation you’re doing next week? Time to get a new one. Your kids can’t seem to figure out where their water bottle went? Oh well, grab another one at the store – again! You won’t lose bills and pay late (yes, some people get hard copies of bills). No need to get duplicates of items you already have.
Third, it’s distracting, especially if you work from home. Some moms can tune out the clutter and stuff everywhere. I’m not one of those moms and I don’t know many either. If stuff is everywhere, especially in the places I’m usually walking past, I will get distracted, especially if I’m working on something I’m not-so-excited about. If things are in their usual spots, I don’t have to think about putting them away. They’re not a distraction.
And finally, it’s not based on a professional opinion that I found during my research, but it seems like organizing helps increase satisfaction. Don’t you feel satisfied when you’ve done some organizing and/or purged? I certainly do!
Different places to find information on organizing and decluttering
There are a lot of resources for getting your organizing adventures started and keeping things that way. There are books (check out Marie Kondo’s). If you want more of a summary on her book, take a look at this segment from the Today show. There are loads of magazine articles, especially in the spring – I feel like Real Simple in particular has articles all the time on getting organized. There are even websites dedicated to getting and staying organized. We will be having a special guest post from one of those organizational gurus, so keep an eye out for that coming up. I’ve posted a few checklists on the Mompowerment Pinterest page to try to give you some easy resources on different rooms in your house.
What will you do with all the stuff when you’re done?
All of the articles and approaches seem to be slightly different. The consistent message in almost everything I’ve read or every podcast I’ve listened to says to make sure you know where things go after they leave your possession. After all, organizing isn’t only about putting things into their place. Some things simply need a new home away from yours.
Ask friends or neighbors if they want/need anything you’re removing
Take items to the non-profit(s) of your choice
Sell them on one of the kajillion websites out there, maybe even one that specialize in what you’re trying to get rid of (e.g., kids’ clothes, designer clothing, etc.)
Make sure to not let the stuff pile up that you’re trying to remove. (That seems to be my challenge – getting the stuff out the door.)
I don’t usually give advice on getting organized because it’s something I struggle with, but I will share what has started working working mom with two young children:
I read in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project that you should put things away that will take a minute or less to do, so we do that. Everyone in the family does it with shoes, jackets, backpacks, etc. Even with toys before we leave the house. It saves times (and hopefully tears) later.
Find a place for everything. If it doesn’t have a place, figure out if you actually need it and then find it a logical home. Always put it back in that place. The trick is to be consistent.
Organize in small increments of time. With two active young boys and two businesses to run, I don’t have a whole weekend or solid days, in general, to dedicate to getting organized. I try to do a bit each day. Have a goal, though, whether it’s a room, a type of clutter, or whatever (e.g., clean off X type of clutter on your desk for 30 minutes).
Put hard copies of bills and anything important you must hang on to temporarily in designated spots (e.g., event tickets, invitations to events, etc.). If you have everything you need on your calendar, take a picture and toss them.
Throw stuff away or recycle circulars, junk mail, etc. immediately. It adds up quickly and it sucks to go through bunches of mail at once.
Stay on top of your wardrobe. Get rid of things that have holes, stains, don’t fit. No need to keep things around that you don’t want/can’t use. Period.
If you can only organize and declutter every once in a while, set a schedule (e.g., once a month). It can quickly overwhelm you if you let it go too long.
And most importantly, figure out what works for you, regardless of what a book, article, or friend says. Not all approaches, whether for purging or keeping things organized, work for everyone and that is OK. Like so much related to work-life balance, focus on your needs and that of your family.
It’s Friday and no one wants to organize or declutter, but it’s worth it. Take 20-30 minutes and let your significant other watch the kids for a short while, preferably outside or at least away from what you’re specifically working on. Get your short organizing project done, and feel some s-a-t-i-s-f-a-c-t-i-o-n as your weekend starts.
Have some tips or an approach to spring cleaning and organizing that has really worked for you? Is there something specifically you struggle with when it comes to organizing? I’d love for you to share in the comments.
Want more practical tips to save you time and energy, sign up for the newsletter below. I send out a newsletter twice a month with helpful tips related to some aspect of work-life balance.
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. ~ William Penn
As moms, especially working moms, we spend a lot of time and energy making things happen in a limited amount of time. Instead of focusing on the business side of things, I’m writing about personal time management tips that have helped me and/or close friends who shared their thoughts. These apply to entrepreneurs and moms who work for a large or small business. They can also help moms who have stepped away from their careers.
Two words – slow cooker
I didn’t even know what a slow cooker was before having kids. My husband owned one, but it never occurred to us as a couple before kids (BK) to use it. One day, not long after our first son was born, my husband got it out and made something yummy. Since then, and especially after having our younger son, I have truly embraced the slow cooker. I have a few favorite chicken recipes that our kids love. Check them out on the Mompowerment Pinterest page. (We bought an Instapot over the holiday and are using it at least once a week as well.)
Two more words: make extra
We usually make enough food for two nights because cooking every night takes up a lot of time. We’re not so excited about eating the same thing three nights in a row, though, so we usually don’t. We might make enough for 3 nights, though, and freeze the third portion. That way I have an easy single portion of food to thaw out and heat up when things are busy and we don’t have time to make dinner from scratch.
Not interested in eating the exact same thing two nights in a row? I feel ya! Make the same entrée and change up the sides a bit (e.g., potatoes and asparagus one night and rice and peas the next). It saves a lot of time since sides often take less time or at least less active cooking time.
Have a similar formula for each meal (e.g., protein + two veggies). It makes the decision on what to make easier.
I’ll also add that we freeze a lot of stuff for breakfast too. I often make muffins or yummy banana bread in double batches and freeze almost all of it. My husband makes homemade cheese biscuits that freeze well. We sometimes add spinach to make them a touch healthier. If we need a quick breakfast, we’ve got yummy goodness ready to go. We can even thaw things out overnight in the fridge.
I love the grocery store, but I know that many moms dread the visit to grocery shop. Even though I love my time in the grocery store, I still sometimes use Instacart or HEB, the major grocery story-chain in Texas, will shop for you and you simply drive up and pick up. There are services that deliver a box to your house with the recipes already portioned out. We’ve tried those a few times and they can be helpful. Even Amazon prime’s mobile app can deliver things in two hours or less if you forgot to grab something.
Figure out what works for you and what will really save you time. And what will work for your family.
Special toys when you need to work
This was incredibly important while the boys were young. At times I needed to be flexible and found myself doing interview for one of the Mompowerment books or getting interviewed for a podcast that I’m featured on. I might have even had to schedule a strategy call with a client that needed to be scheduled after the boys were home from school. Whatever the reason, I found myself with a toddler (or a baby and a toddler) and I needed to get stuff done that couldn’t be moved.
I always had a few games or toys that I would bring out only when I need to get things done. It kept the kids entertained since our boys would rarely play with them. And I made sure they didn’t require major help from mom. One other tip is to make sure they’re not too loud if you’re going to be nearby. For example, toys like Duplo blocks are great, but hammering toys are not. We had books on CDs that would chime to tell the boys when to turn the page. There was a great set of blocks that our boys loved.
A place for everything and everything in its place
Put things in their specific place, especially if it only takes a few minutes or less to accomplish. This is great advice from The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin, one of my favorite books. So much time can be wasted looking for stuff, especially when you have kids. If you put it in its place to begin with, you know exactly where it will be always. Imagine not having to look for your keys for 10 minutes each morning. That adds up to more than an extra week a year of time. Think of what you could do with that time.
Choose clothes the night before
Have kids choose clothing the night before. This was advice from a few moms with older kids. As our boys started developing more of an opinion on what they wear, it became harder to get them ready in the morning. Now they decide the night before with the occasional input from mom (e.g., no shorts in 40-degree weather, picture day outfits, etc.). Our morning routine goes more smoothly, which generally keeps us all happy.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
I expressed frustration to one of our son’s teachers when he was in preschool when he forgot his lunch box twice in one week and we were in a hurry so I didn’t check (Whoops!). That meant that I had to grab a lunch box and head back to school, which would take even more time. Argh! The teacher suggested moving forward that I tell him that he needed to remember 5 things to go to school (e.g., water bottle, backpack, lunch box, etc.). We tried the suggestion and it worked really well. It helped him be more independent and accountable, which he loved. This might be a great trick to help your kids remember everything for school or an activity.
Do you have any time saving tips? Please share in the comments. If every mom would share a tip, we’d all have new tips help us with our time management.
If these tips are helping you, check out The Mompowerment Guide to Work-life Balance (affiliate link). It’s full of personal (and professional) practical tips to help you create more of the balance you crave. And part of balance is things like time management and productivity.
One of the top five tips that I got from the more than 110 professional working moms who I interviewed was to get help. Let’s face it, though, sometimes you can’t get that help or maybe you have help but for less time than you’d really like. It could be that your child is home sick, you live in an area with limited care options, or it’s a random teacher work day. It might be for a longer stretch like summer or winter break. It boils down to you have kids at home, so how can you be productive when working at home with kids?
Waking up early
I hear over and over about the benefit of waking up early to do
work. I’m not waking up super early. More than anything, my boys have always
been early risers. Sleeping in is sleeping until 7 – maybe 7:30 on a super late
night that’s been packed full of activities. They’re usually up by 6 or 6:30
daily, even on weekends. Long story short, if you want to know about how to wake
up earlier, I’m not your gal. If you do wake up early and your kids don’t wake
up at the crack of dawn, I think you’re amazing!
Prepare the night
Take 10-15 minutes each night to plan for the next day. See what
you can get ready for the next step. Grab a few articles you need to read to write
a blog or white paper, add the titles of the PowerPoint slides, or simply set
up your goals for the next day and understand how your day will flow.
It’s super helpful to do this on Sunday evening for the week as
well. Figure out what you need to accomplish each day to meet your weekly goal(s).
It will take 15-20 minutes to get this done and you’ll feel the benefit all
week. You’ll likely be more productive and better manager your time.
It might seem like something small but
also see what you can you prep for lunch. If kids are home, you need to feed
them. See if you can do something the night before to help move that process
along, especially if you have slightly older kids who are simply home for the
day. That way you spend the time eating with your child(ren) instead of prepping
and then eating. It all adds up, so see if you can shave off a bit of
You’ll hear me and many others talk about batching. It’s the idea
of working in large blocks of time to get things done. You hit your rhythm faster
and for longer periods. It’s a great way to get things done. It can be hard to
do, though, when you’re working at home with kids. Let’s face it. Kids will
likely interrupt you. This is why the Pomodoro technique might serve you
better. You work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5. If you want to know
more about this method, including tips, check out my recent blog post on productivity
Special toys when you need to work
incredibly important while the boys were young. At times I needed to be
flexible and found myself doing interviews for the Mompowerment books or getting
interviewed for a podcast. I might have even had to schedule a strategy call
with a client that needed to be scheduled after the boys were home from pre-school.
Whatever the reason, I found myself with a toddler (or a baby and a toddler)
and I needed to get stuff done that couldn’t be moved.
always had a few games or toys that were specifically for these moments when I
needed to work. I would bring them out only when I need to get things
done. Since the kids didn’t play with them often, these games and toys
were special for the kids.
though, you can always use the TV as a final option in those rare cases when other
things aren’t working. Don’t assume that the TV will keep really young kids
engaged, though. A random 30-minutes in front of the TV is OK and it won’t make
you a bad mom. You need to use the resources you have when you can.
Nap Time Hustle
what you want to accomplish during nap time ahead of time. Don’t take the time
to figure it out once your child goes down for a nap. Start working the minute
you’re back from putting your baby, toddler, sick child down for a nap. It can
be the difference between getting one more thing done or not. Essentially, don’t
lose time because you didn’t pre-plan. This is part of what you should be
working on in the evening. Set up your goals for the nap time hustle.
every goal down into smaller goals. The idea is to keep moving toward whatever
goals you’re trying to achieve. For example, the goal isn’t “build a website.”
It’s “write ‘About Me’” page and choose visuals for page. You break everything down
into smaller bites. And then prioritize them. As I share in the book, it’s
great to have them in 10-15-minute bites if you can.
the nap time hustle is your time to get things done, the one thing I don’t
recommend you do during this time is make calls. What if your child goes down
late or wakes up early? You never know what can happen during this time frame. The
ideal time to make calls is when you can have someone watch your child.
(and reprioritize as necessary)
As I’ve mentioned, you want to prioritize your to-do list. I’ll be
writing about prioritizing in a few weeks, so I’ll keep it short here. So much
of moving the needle in your business is prioritizing and then reprioritizing
as you get new information. It’s even more the case when you have kids at home.
You take that to-do list and prioritize it always.
I have a whole blog that helps you get the most out of a working playdate,
but I wanted to mention that option here. If you have kids around the same age
as another mom, this could be a great option. The idea is that your child gets
a playmate (i.e., the won’t need as much attention from mom), and you and the other
mom get to both make things happen on the professional side of things. Win-win.
with a Fellow Working Mom
Maybe you need to get more done than you can achieve in the days
when you have help, whatever that looks like for you. This can especially be
the case as you build your business as an entrepreneur. Consider switching off
days with a fellow working mom who has kids that are of similar ages. Basically,
you watch al the kids for 2-3 hours one morning or afternoon and the other mom
does on another day. It doesn’t have to be for huge amounts of time, even just
a few dedicated and uninterrupted hours a week for each of you can make a
difference. Making a dent in what you must achieve during your dedicated time
is even more likely if you use some of the other tips that I share here.
What tips do you have that have helped you be productive when working at home with kids around?
If you found this helpful, consider getting the newsletter that I
send out twice a month. I share all kinds of tips and ideas, based on my own
experience and research and the more than 110 interviews that I did with
working moms for my two books. Click the link below.
If you’re a company interested in empowering working moms to create more balance, read the Helping Companies Become More Balance-Friendly 4-part series from February. Now all four posts are provided as links in a single post for you to read whichever articles are of interest to you. Click on one or all four posts to uncover what you can be doing to help you attract and retain top talent.
Part 1. Understand the financial and business side about why empowering your working moms (or working parent) employees to create more of the balance they crave makes sense. It can make a positive impact in the short and long-term.
Part 4. Creating a professional tribe is incredibly important for working moms. Enable working moms to create those work relationships with women in senior or leadership roles via a mentorship program. Get tips to help you create a mentorship program that can help you attract and retain working moms in your company.
If you’d like Mompowerment to help you create
resources, directly. Whether
brainstorming with your internal team, helping you create the right programs
for your employees’ needs, providing in-person or online workshops, or buying
books in bulk (special pricing for purchases of 20+ books), Mompowerment is
here to help. We can get those resources in place quickly and give your teams
practical tips and tools to start creating more balance in their lives.