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8 Practical Tips for Juggling Family, Career, and Sanity: From Oats to Coaches

What tips can make ease blossom when you're balancing careers and family?

What tips can make ease blossom when you’re balancing careers and family?

By day, I’m a teacher to 140 twelve year olds. By evening, I’m mother of two kids under 4 years old, and by night, I’m a travel blogger who runs two websites. Yeep!

As I wrap up my first school year being a Doubly-Employed Double Mama, here’s a practical list of tips that saved my juggle this year. Hope these help, if you’re in a similar spin!

Overnight Oats, before the liquids are added. Pretty, eh?

My Overnight Oats for the week, before the liquids are added.

1. Overnight Oats.

When you wake up at 5:30am and need to get 4 people out the door in minutes flat, everything must be prepped the night before.

What made 180 days of this possible was whipping up a week’s worth of Overnight Oats every Sunday, so breakfasts were DONE by the start of the week, and could just be grabbed from the fridge each morning. (I’d eat mine at my teacher standing desk in the 5 minutes before students came in.)

What’s the formula? I modified this “Classic Overnight Oats” recipe by adding instant coffee (KEY ELEMENT for sleep-deprived parents), inserting nuts and berries, and using these nice big mason jars instead of the wee ones the recipe suggests. (Note: Affiliate links in this article support this site at no cost to you. Thanks!)

Did I get tired of the oats after 180 days? Sure, but mostly I was too groggy to care, and I did jazz up the recipe periodically by shifting ingredients, like adding cocoa nibs or peanut butter.

Our guy wants you to know Mommy's Overnight Oats are "Bery Heaby!"

Our guy wants you to know Mommy’s Overnight Oats are “Bery Heaby!”

OTHER FOOD SAVIORS:

  • Chopped salads for dinner: Baby spinach, carrot, avocado, cheese, tahini, ripped toast, etc. Gratitude to my friend Shan for the tip that Annie’s Shiitake Sesame Mushroom dressing makes everything scrumptious!
  • Water. And also, water, water, and lots more water. Endlessly guzzling from and refilling these glass water bottles maintains hydrated happiness.
  • And the classic busy parent move: Making a massive dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays whose leftovers become all of our lunches for days. Pot of pasta with veggies and legumes to the rescue!

Ok, I’m about to totally shift gears from food to marriage, so don’t get confused…

People aren't born knowing how to have a perfect marriage, so...

People aren’t born knowing how to have a perfect marriage, so…

2. Marriage Coaching & Chore Division.

Being in a relationship with two working parents and two kids is… a lot of logistics to handle! Thus, one of the best things we did this year was take a friend’s recommendation to hire someone who specializes in coaching good couples to get great. (Interestingly, this is also the friend who recommended the shiitake dressing, so clearly she is a genius.)

Our coach, Andy, came to our house after the kids were in bed and, every session, taught us a new tool to enhance our partnership. For example, after years of bickering about chores, we spent a session writing out every single task that needs to get done in a month in our household, then discussed and evenly divided them, with the understanding that these roles could be renegotiated at any time. You have no idea how much better this 1-hour exercise has made our lives!

On a more emotional and less logistical level, however, marriage coaching helped us see things that we’d been holding onto that were hurting our trust and closeness. With each session, we were able to discuss and disappear walls, one by one. Result? More love! If you’re intrigued, our coach wrote a book called The Partnership Marriage where you can get more of the goodies.

Nature lets us breathe again.

Nature lets us breathe again.

3. Revitalization Scheduled In.

Family time is the delicious core of everything, but we realized this year — the hard way — that solo time, couple time, exercise, and the outdoors are essential for sanity, too.

Every Sunday, therefore, my husband and I sit for 30 minutes with our calendars to schedule the week (with a quick peek a month ahead, too), and ensure that there’s sacred time built in for revitalization so we don’t run ragged caring for others. (Ok, we’re still pretty ragged, but less so than we would be without this scheduling.)

When you’re a parent, you can spend hours with your spouse in the context of caring for the kids, but ultimately not “be” with that other adult in a present way, because it’s all a whirl of caregiving! It took way too long for us to understand that scheduling date time to reconnect alone with our life parter and love (without getting plastic dinosaurs thrown at us) is vital.

What about that sanity-saver, regular exercise? For my workouts, group exercise classes, swimming, and jogging have been a joy, but the sweet revelation was that I could walk the 3 miles home from work each day! Building in such a practical workout plans has felt productive, and positively meditative. (Speaking of meditation — daily meditation has also been key!)

Walking home from work even allowed me to “read” more, too, as I started to listen to Audible books, with a particular fondness for funny women like Mindy Kaling and Geraldine DeRuiter who made me laugh the whole daily hike.

Kissing the flowers.

Kissing the flowers.

4. Food and Cleaning Support Budgeted.

In so many other countries I’ve visited, it’s normal to have regular help with cooking, cleaning, and other household chores, either from paid employees or family. In America, however, it’s often frowned upon if a working mother can’t magically handle it all.

Well… we CAN’T do it all! So we’ve realized this year that budgeting for house help is worth every penny. Monthly housecleaning makes our month, and I just found out that Amazon offers housecleaning with just a few clicks?!

I’ve also so appreciated the new prepared healthy meal delivery services like The Foodery and Shoofly Pie Baking Co. Delicious, cheaper than takeout, and enough for lunches, too. Though meal kits drove us completely batty, grocery delivery plans like Boston Organics (use my code, 2233bo0c85, for 10% off) are splendid.

A gorgeous art exhibit at a local school.

A gorgeous art exhibit at a local school.

5. Careers and Pastimes that Help Others.

Teaching is awesome. People sometimes ask me if I want to quit and do blogging full-time, but — nope!  The opportunity to be creative and zany each day while educating 12-year-olds is a blessing, and working with such brilliant young people gives me hope about the future, as well as a sense of efficacy.

Sure, being an “influencer” on Instagram is fun, but being an influencer in the classroom is THE BEST.

I will also add a shout-out here to family-friendly jobs and to unions. I am keenly aware that this whole list of tips is made possible because I earn a solid wage and have protections, thanks in a large part to the work of our Teachers Union — a union that just made the news for the wonderful woman elected to lead it. Unions sometimes get a bad reputation, but I am deeply grateful for ours.

The light-filled headquarters of our school district.

The light-filled headquarters of our school district.

6. Productive procrastination.

This is my #1 tip for getting stuff done: if you’re sick of doing one thing that you need to do, switch to a very different thing that also needs doing.

This is why, in some ways, it’s easier that I have two jobs versus one, because when I’m sick of grading papers, I blog. When I’m exhausted from playing trains with the kiddos, I do laundry. Who knew laundry could feel so relaxing?

7. Daniel Tiger.

I spent a whole bunch of time and money trying to find a mother’s helper to assist when I’m home alone with both kids, and then realized: our son will watch the lovely Mister Rogers spin-off cartoon called “Daniel Tiger” on an old secondhand iPad for as long as I need him to be occupied while I, say, clean up the burrito our daughter smeared all over the kitchen.

Even better, this show has jingles for every item you need to nag your child about. Ex: “When you have to go potty STOP and go right away!” Apparently there’s an app where a parent can play a jingle at whim, but I haven’t downloaded it yet since I have such a pretty singing voice.

Friends and family buoyed us through our first double kid, double job year!

Friends and family buoyed us through our first double kid, double job year.

8. Community.

This first school year for us with two kids and two jobs has been made possible by the love and support of family and friends, and I thank each and every one! It’s also, however, been beautifully buoyed by the positive vibes of people online such as YOU.

Thanks for helping give the energy to make this first Double Mama, Double Job year possible. Here’s to many more!

So what about you? Which tips do or don’t work for you already, or do you want to try? What would you add to this list? Thanks for sharing!

See my 20 other motherhood articles here.

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