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Struggling with work/ life balance :(

(18 Posts)
MummyHD Thu 25-Sep-08 12:36:14

Hi, I feel as though I am reaching breaking point being a working mum, and was hoping for some hot tips from you ladies out there who are happily juggling being a mum/ wife/ worker.

I only work 3 days a week and only have 1 child at the moment (17 month old boy) so I'm sure there are many who have it much harder than me, but I am really really struggling to keep a balance! Hubby works away much of the time (he is abroad for 3 or 4 days every 2 to 3 weeks) and we live far away from both sets of parents. I have a moderately stressful job in the City and have a 1 hour commute at the start and the end of the day.

I just seem to spend my whole life planning meals/ grocery shopping/ cooking meals/ picking up after hubby and son/ trying to catch up with outstanding work/ nagging hubby/ doing all the domestic admin (bills etc)/ stressing about outstanding work etc etc the list goes on. I don't seem to have any time to myself and it's really getting me down. Hubby and I have tried in the past to share the cooking, but for him, "cooking" is getting a takeaway, or at best heating up a ready meal. I make an extra effort to make our meals from scratch, so always feel a bit resentful when handed a ready meal.

Cracks are starting to appear in our marriage as well, which is just adding to the stress

Is this just normal and all part and parcel of being a working mum?

Any tips ladies? (And gents if you are out there??)

Jennyusedtobepink Thu 25-Sep-08 12:36:58

No tips, but in the same boat. Will keep an eye on this thread.


Anna8888 Thu 25-Sep-08 12:37:30

Would your life improve a lot if you had no commute?

RubySlippers Thu 25-Sep-08 12:39:40

balancing is tricky BUT you are putting extra pressure on yourself

not every meal has to be cooked from scratch - batch cook on the the weekend and freeze

nothing wrong with a take away or you ordering one on your night to cook

also, shop online

can you afford a cleaner?

what do you do on the days you aren't owrking? can you plan a morning out with friends?

RubySlippers Thu 25-Sep-08 12:40:43

i have a commute of an hour plus each way and this is what i hate most

have you got a blackberry (yes they are hateful) but at least you can do some emailing on the way so you aren't always catching up on yourself

RubySlippers Thu 25-Sep-08 12:42:40

oh, my DH is away a fair bit ... nothing wrong with ignoring the housework, cracking open a bottle and inviting a firend over OR having an evening to yourself

TigerFeet Thu 25-Sep-08 12:48:32

I work three days a week too, with a husband who works away periodically, so I feel your pain.

I batch cook, ie cook meals like casseroles or pasta sauces in bulk and freeze some, so that on the days I work I take something out of the freezer in the morning and all I have to do in the evening is reheat it and boil up some pasta or whatever to go with it.

Shop online maybe? (I prefer not to but a lot of people swear by it)

Could you arrange extra childcare for your son so you can go swimming, shopping, whatever floats your boat, for a couple of hours on one of your days off? Everyone deserves a bit of time to themselves.

Could you move closer to work? Or take a job closer to where you live?

Pay all bills by direct debit - they take care of themselves. Very little household admin needed in our house.

It sounds like you are trying to do everything to top standards - relax a bit, don't be so hard on yourself. Does it really matter if you eat a ready meal occasionally? I prefer home cooked food every time but now and again I don't think it hurts.

I sympathise, it is really hard, my dd has just started school which means that for school hours, two days a week, I am on my own and I love it. I get so much done. Before she started it all went a bit to pot but I learned not to worry if the house wasn't spotless or if occasionally we ate beans on toast for tea.

preggersplayspop Thu 25-Sep-08 13:00:49

Hi, I am in a very similar situation, my DS is 16mo, I work in London in a fairly stressful and demanding job and basically have an hour to hour and half commute each way (inc nursery drop off). I work 4 days a week.

The one massive difference between us though is that I am definitely no domestic goddess. I love food, but not cooking it. My DH is a great cook and he gets frustrated with the fact that I would be happy with a pizza or toast after work but he wants home cooked food.

Can you not compromise a little and maybe batch cook as others suggested, have a takeaway one night a week, something easy like pizza (that's quite healthy depending on which one you go for!), and get 'good' ready meals one day. Do you have a COOK shop near you? They are a godsend - home cooked food but in a readymeal format. They have a website and deliver if you don't have a shop near you. Its better to spend a few extra minutes chatting with your DH than slaving over a stove feeling resentful of the fact that its your turn to cook again.

Other things, do bills on DD and internet banking. I don't spend loads of time on household admin but the house is ticking over.

I sympathise that your DH is away a lot, its tough when you don't get that help.

Make sure you keep boundaries with work - don't accept too much work and make people aware of your time limitations. Only take calls on your days off in urgent situations - make it clear you don't work those days.

Don't stress too much about having a perfect home. A bit of clutter is ok, you can have a blitz before visitors come. I agree with getting a cleaner, I have one for a couple of hours a week and then I don't have the spectre of the loo cleaning looming over me as well!!

Hope this helps. I have my own problems! Its not easy I know.

blueshoes Thu 25-Sep-08 14:06:45

MummyHD, I use more childcare than I need. I am home by 4 pm every day but put ds in ft nursery. Dd is home around 4 pm as well, but I have an aupair to amuse her/help out until dinner time plus do most of the school/nursery runs.

In your case, I assume you don't use childcare on the days you don't work. Could you book ds for morning sessions on those days. That will break the back of your routine housework.

As others say, do online grocery shopping or one big weekly shop. I plan menus by Thurs, do the shop on Friday, prepared food (eg chop veg) and bulk cook as much as I can on weekends, so that there is only minimal cooking during the weekdays. And we prepare almost all meals from scratch.

mrsshackleton Thu 25-Sep-08 14:33:05

what is your childcare situation?
Online shopping is essential, as others said get a blackberry and then you can do it during your commute. Cook simple meals like pasta from scratch, only do fancier stuff at the weekends. If you cook then your dh MUST wash up and tidy the kitchen afterwards, while you sit down with a glass of wine. This is how dh and I do it and it works really well - I loathe all that stuff so don't get too resentful about the cooking.
Lower standards, a pristine house is not as important as a sane you and a happy marriage.
Get a cleaner if you dont already have one.
The only way to work, and have a small dc and keep your marriage intact ime is to spend absolutely everything you can afford and more on outsourcing help. It is very tough I've been there and come through it. I feel your pain but you will be OK

HonoriaGlossop Thu 25-Sep-08 14:53:02

No wonder there are cracks in your marriage - from the list you gave it appears your DH isn't pulling his weight.

First and most important thing; make a list of tasks, and then allocate to you or DH - stick a list up in the kitchen. Why should you meal plan/shop/clean/take care of all finance? Yes he is at work more full time than you but you are working and caring for a baby. No reason it should come down on you more.

Would he look after the money matters? I would imagine even if he's abroad he's got PC/laptop to access bank account etc?

The week that he is home, HE can meal plan and order a shop on-line.

The week he's away, you can do it.

Also make it clear you pick up after DS because he is a baby but you're not a maid so don't pick up after adults!

Oh and finally agree with lowering your standards. Having a toddler and a busy job means that you just probably won't have a sparkling house. Never forget that when you visit others who SEEM to have sparkling houses/five kids/dogs, they have actually been living in chaos and were still hoovering 30 seconds before you came smile

MummyHD Thu 25-Sep-08 14:54:45

Thank you all for your quick replies - I really needed them today as I am having a particularly hard time today!

I am so grateful for your tips, and although I already do many of them (batch cooking/ having a cleaner/ paying bills by DD/ internet banking etc) but there are also some great ones that I hadn't considered (shopping online/ taking DS to childcare for a morning when I am not working/getting a blackberry/ relaxing my standards on the home cooked meal front wink )

Unfortunately the commute is inevitable - my job is dependent on being based in the City and moving closer to London won't make financial sense. In a good way, at least when I'm on the train I'm not having to be a mum or a wife and so feel as though I'm getting a break!

Do you just have to accept that, as a working mum, you will shoulder more of the responsibility? I find that DH does try and do his bit (eg when he is not travelling he drops off DS in the mornings and will occasionally pick him up in the evening) but ultimately his career and his time will always come first. You all sound so comfortable with the status quo, but I just can't seem to get rid of the resentment! I wish I could just swallow it and accept that mums do so much more than dads, they don't get much recognition for it, but they learn to live with it. Is that how it is for you all, or do I have some issues that need sorting out??? hmm

LittleMyDancingForJoy Thu 25-Sep-08 15:00:28

MummyHD I feel your pain - my DP runs his own business which ought to mean he's more flexible, but actually means he's even less available to do any childcare. I actually earn more than him but it is always to me that the bulk of the childcare, picking up, dropping off etc seems to fall.

I wish it wasn't so, but I just can't argue with the fact that he is constantly in demand by his clients and has very few employees so noone to pick things up if he's not there, os if he's not available, the business goes under. sad

It's rubbish, but it does seem like someone's career has to give when you have children, and it is most often the mother's. sad

I would advise letting a few standards slide at home, and also 17 months is a very demanding age. By the time they're two or so they do need a lot less active care, they can play and amuse themselves, so I would guess that it will get better.

jelliebelly Thu 25-Sep-08 15:08:32

It sounds like its not your work/life balance that is really the issue here but how you feel about the dynamic between you and your dh.

I work full time and commute but leave the office at 4pm to get back in time to collect ds from nursery - I also work from home on average one day a week which helps to catch up on some of those admin tasks that can't be done on the train. Dh does pull his weight too though and does nursery drop off in the mornings - we share cooking/tidying up in the evenings and at weekends we do stuff as a family- the lions share of family organisation etc still falls to me but tbh that is because I am better at it wink

I think you need to sit down with dh and talk about how you are feeling - it really does sound like he needs to pull his weight more.

If you only work 3 days, how about using childcare for 4 days so you get a day to yourself?

mrsshackleton Thu 25-Sep-08 15:10:55

I think the resentment you're feeling is incredibly common. When children come along women who formerly felt in an equal partership so often are made to take on an unfair share of responsibilities because it is simply assumed they will
I am pretty happily married but I still have my moments - when dh moans because there isn't food to his liking in the fridge or because ocado is very expensive are my two favourite flashpoints!
You have, have, have to try to work out a division and be STRICT about it. It sounds like childcare is not such an issue as domestic stuff.
I was militant when dd1 was a baby that we took it in turns to supervise her meals, bathe her, change her nappies. It helped them bond hugely. When there are two it's not so easy but you're not there yet, so we'll save it for another thread.
As I said, I do the online shop and most cooking , but dh washes up, and tidies the kitchen at the end of the day. I do laundry, though I refuse to put his away - just pile it on the bed for him to deal with, and most things to do with childcare - talking to the nanny/nursery about problems, buying birthday presents for dcs' friends etc. He empties the bins, is in charge of bill paying, does all communication with builders etc - our house is always having work done - and the car. The cleaner cleans once a week and in between I rarely lift a finger and just endure any small mess/dirt.
You don't say how much sleep you get, our dd2 is a horribly early riser and dh and I take in in turns to get up with her and to give the other a lie in at weekends, which really preserves both our sanity.
Ultimately, things do have to give. The woman almost always ends up doing a bit more but a bit is the operative phrase.Don't go down without a fight!

TigerFeet Thu 25-Sep-08 15:11:33

Mums generally do more than dads wrt child and house wrangling, certainly ime. That said though, the majority of Mums that I know have chosen that path. Each family has a balance that suits them - whether it be a parent staying at home or FT/PT working for both parents. For me, I would rather spend a bit more time with dd than have a high flying career or more money coming in. DH prefers to keep his career on path. THerefore our arrangement suits both of us.

I think that a lot of parents who work full time expect their p/t working partner to pick up all the domestic stuff (after all, you have all that extra time don't you?? grin). In my current situation that's fine as I have bags of time whilst dd is at school on my days off. You, however, have a baby/toddler and I doubt you get much time to do anything whilst you are at home with him. This is where the extra childcare/lower standards comes in

I know where you are coming from re your commute btw - I have a 30-40 min drive each way to work and that's my time. If I had to convert from office wallah to Mummy in 5 mins flat I think I would struggle tbh. As it is I often forget that my colleagues aren't 4 years old and that I can speak to them like adults grin

dannyb Thu 25-Sep-08 18:06:22

I understand your pain and it's the reason why I ultimately had to make the decision that I couldn't do a job like that with a family and no family help. My husband works in the City, is completely inflexible and never walks through the door before 8pm having got up at 7am and out by 7.10 hence having nothing to do with the children all week.

I don't know what to suggest other than that you are not alone. I have a couple of friends with very senior city jobs earning stupid amounts of money who have managed to just about keep going on a 3 day week with their first child but have had to concede defeat once the second came along and have not gone back.

MummyHD Thu 25-Sep-08 19:54:12

Thank you all for sharing your experiences with me. It is so helpful to know I am not alone. It feels as though all the other working mums I know have somehow got it sorted while me and DH are really struggling. I guess it is a learning experience so it can only get better?

We will have to think long and hard about what to do if (hopefully!) we have a second. I do love my job but I guess something will have to give.

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