Life as a working mum is a constant juggle between a long list of family, household and work commitments, so it’s no wonder so many mothers are burning out. Author of Work. Mama. Life., Dr Ali Young shares her top tips for helping you thrive – not just survive – as a mum on a mission to ‘have it all’.
Learning how to thrive as a working mum seems like one of those jokes a comedian would throw out there at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I mean seriously … we all know it’s hard work to juggle with all of the things and now you are talking about thriving?!
When we initially have our child most of us enjoy some well-deserved maternity leave, and the concept of returning to work is far from our mind.
Yet, once the dust has settled, the babe has grown a little and our small family is beginning to find its own rhythm, inevitably we are faced with returning to work questions. As a society, we are now navigating a post-COVID workplace, and this fact combined with the spotlight on women in the workplace in recent years, should allow us a bit more freedom in designing our return to work.
Helping working mums thrive
Thriving is a concept that can seem very foreign to us when we are a mother. We are often exhausted, time poor, our brains are suddenly thrust towards working in different ways, and we have a human who relies solely on us to stay alive.
Thriving through these times may look quite different to thriving prior to kids. As we navigate our re-entry to the workforce, ensuring that we answer a few simple questions should allow us to (hopefully) design a system that allows us the space to not only survive, but in fact thrive.
Firstly, have a think about what matters to you most. Is the job for family cash flow, is it to fulfil an obligation, is it through a great desire to make a difference in the world, or something else entirely? Each of these answers may provide you a lens through which you will view your return to work.
If it is a soul passion of yours, then prioritising it where you can probably makes sense for you. If it is for cash flow, and your heart is really at home with your babe, then prioritising as much time at home as you can will make sense. The answer to this question can help guide you towards thriving.
The five pillars of healthy motherhood
Secondly, once you’ve looked at your ‘why’ of returning to work, then you can begin to look at the elements in your Five Pillars of Healthy Motherhood that will support you in this change.
Look at each of these pillars and ask yourself these two vital questions:
- How can this pillar be easy in my day?
- What one thing can I choose to do, and what one thing will I give myself permission to drop the ball on initially?
Let’s look quickly at these five pillars of healthy motherhood:
Eating enough food, particularly enough protein and healthy wholefoods, is super supportive to your motherhood. Try making your lunch the night before, meal planning on a weekend so you’re not automatically reaching for the takeout, and keep an eye on that water intake once you return to work.
Moving your body every day is great for both your mental and physical health. When we return to work, a ten minute online yoga class might be the only movement you can get in. Look for cheeky ways in your day to move, and remember – that one evening class with a girlfriend will fill both your movement and connection cups up.
As a busy working mum, the easiest thing to stop doing is hanging out with girlfriends – yet it is this that often supports our brain function well. Prioritise one phone call a week, one in-person catch up a month … and a cheeky weekend when you can.
As we begin to engage in a rushing world again, find those five minutes of peace and calm when you can. Introduce simple breathing techniques that will support you to reclaim your calm … and when you feel like you’re losing it, pick up your kid and have a big hug. It will calm both of your nervous systems.
Staying up late for some adult/alone time can be so great for us, but trying really hard to get that sleep in is one of the best ways to thrive as a working mum. How can you get to bed 30 minutes earlier a few nights a week? And can you negotiate a day-nap on the weekend with your partner?
Bringing a mindfulness to your return to work will support you to thrive, and not just survive through this transition.
When we allow ourselves the time to undertake self-care, all of our family gains from this. Healthy mothers really do drive healthy families.
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