How Do Moms That Work Outside the Home Balance It All?

Updated on June 19, 2011
D.C. asks from Bowling Green, OH
21 answers

I recently started a job that I'm pretty sure I'm really going to enjoy. I've been working full-time the last 2 weeks with a 40 minute drive one way. Starting next week, I'll be part-time, but I'm still working way more than I thought I would. How do you balance it all? I don't get home until almost 6:00, so it's almost too late to start cooking dinner at that point. There's only so many crock pot meals we can eat. I barely see my kids at night anymore. I feel like I come home, cook dinner, eat dinner, give baths and then it's bedtime. They're worn out from being at the sitters house, so they're grumpy and tired. I'm tired from being at work all day. My husband is tried from being at work all day. I don't feel like we have time to spend together anymore. I don't know if it's always going to be like this, or if our schedules will eventually balance out.

I also feel like I'm still expected to take care of the meals, the kids, and the house. Basically all the stuff that I did when I was a SAHM. I feel like my husband needs to step it up more. He thinks that since he works longer hours than me, he doesn't have to do anything. I suppose that's an entirely different post though ;)

Any words of encouragement or ways to make it all work?

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So What Happened?

I definitely need to make a meal plan. I sort of half heartedly tried that awhile back and didn't get very far with it. I think it's going to be a must, at least on the nights when I'm working late.

The house doesn't get too dirty during the week, especially since nobody's home! We do a quick pick up of the toys before bed. The dishes are what kills me. We don't have a dishwasher, so by the time dinner is done, kids are bathed and in bed, the last thing I want to do is stand at the sink and do the dishes. I hate dishes. I always joke with my husband that I'm going to throw all the plates away and we'll eat off of paper plates every day. ;0)

I so wish hiring help was an option. I would love for someone else to come in to my house and clean it. However, that's just not in the cards right now.

I'll definitely sit down and talk to my husband. We had the same talk before I even took the job. I explained that I was going to need some help with the kids and the chores. He promised he would help, but he hasn't been. He's been working really long hours and a TON of overtime, so by the time he gets home he's totally exhausted. The other night he fell asleep reading our girls a bedtime story. LOL! He was snoring and everything! It was SO funny!!

Thanks everyone for your advice!!!!

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answers from Washington DC on

You know my Mom had a job , 2 kids under 2, one husband and she managed to cook dinner ( no crock pot here) from scratch, had a neat house and made time for us kids. I do not know how she did it but when I asked her she simply said she had no choice but to make it. One thing I can tell you is that we all pitched in. Everyone helped and was happy to do so. Laundry, cooking, cleaning no matter was needed to be done everyone helped. She also said she was tried, first to get up and the last to go to bed but she really would not have it done any diffrently. Everytime I feel like complaining I think about my Mom and what she accomplished in an aera of no pampers or Microwaves. She is superwoman to me.

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answers from Fresno on

The routines from the have helped me. It is hard to stick to them but they make life easier. When I am organized things are so much better. This motivates me when I am tired to plan ahead and and do things even when I don't want to. I have been doing one load of laundry everyday or every other day and this really helps us stay on top of laundry. I also try to prep some part of dinner the night before. On the weekends I often double recipes and freeze one for another meal. Most weeks are crazy and I only work 4 days a week. My husband helps a lot. He really has no choice. My kids are small and it takes two of us to keep everything running smoothly. Good luck D.

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answers from Kansas City on

Does your husband get home before you? Mine does, and even though he expects me to cook every night, some nights I have something like a lasagna or a meatloaf made up the night before that he can easily pop in the oven and be ready when I get home. That makes things a lot easier.

You also need to come up with a system, like Mondays my husband and I clean the bathrooms (we each do one), Tuesdays scrub down the kitchen, Wed dusting, etc. I do one load of laundry per day, I start it in the morning and put it in the dryer when I get home, which makes laundry much more tolerable than saving it all for the weekend.

Basically, getting into a routine helps. I also have things like pizzas in the freezer for the nights when I really just dont feel like cooking, maybe once a week or every couple of weeks. I've also found that having a container of already browned meat or cooked chicken in the fridge cuts down on cooking time, if I'm making spagetti that needs some cooked meat for the sauce, for instance, just heat it up instead of having to do all the cooking from scratch.

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answers from New York on

Welcome to the working world. As time goes on you will get a routine down
and it will become easier. Just keep your priorities right. Kids first, house
last. It is not easy but doable. You said you will be going part time so that
should help. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Your body will become accustomed to it. What I do is start dinner almost the minute I walk in the door. In my best intentions, I would like to have the menu planned a week ahead of time. I have a friend that plans a month in advance. It's easier when you plan it. Then I straighten the kitchen while cooking, set up the coffee pot for the next morning, and feed the indoor and outdoor animals. While dinner finishes, I set the table, and pick up the living room. After dinner, I clear the table and load the dishwasher, then check homework and send my son to the shower. After that, I generally have an hour and a half or so to sit and relax. I've found that if I pick up every single night and do not allow myself to relax until it is done, then on weekends, I do laundry, sweep and mop and vacuum, and shop for the next week. Of course, I have only one child at home, and he is 9, so he takes care of himself to a large degree. I don't have to physically bathe and dress him.

I should add that my husband pitches in and helps pick up. He does the outside work on weekends, carries out garbage, helps with laundry and helps with son chores.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Los Angeles on

I have 5 kids and just started working at a preschool in December and taking child development classes to get my credits. I used to stay at home and took joy in making a beautiful garden and home with homecooked meals and time for my kids. Financially this just isn't an option any more so I am really struggling with what is important and what can be let go of as far as housework goes. This has been a huge adjustment but I can say that we are all getting used to the change. You will get used to having less time and your time management will get refined! 5 minutes can be golden. Also you will have to take charge with your family. I tell my kids" I know your tired, so am I, and so is Daddy, we are all working really hard to achieve these specific goals. Now I need you to do A I'm doing B you and you do C and Dad can you do D" No one really wants to jump up and do it all but they get it and will pitch in on a consistent basis if you are firm about it. Try to make a special time at the end of the day to read a short story and say prayers to reassure the children of your love in changing times. Weekends are for big chores and errands and everyone can help with those together. Working together families are content and full of true self esteem!

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answers from Biloxi on

I am a single working mother. Mine is 15 now, so not so hard as I he helps with chores...but when he was younger it was a balancing act.

I learned to cook on weekends, things like spaghetti, beans, casseroles, that could be heated up during the week. I used a lot of semi-home made ideas and loved Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals. I learned to use paper plates during the week - no dish washer for me either. I learned that it was okay if the house did not look perfect before I went to bed at night - spending time with my son was more important. I learned to toss a load of wash into the machines at night before bed and tape a note to my bathroom mirror to remind to put it in the dryer when I got up. One load a night like this and I kept pretty well caught up.

It will even out and you and your children will get into the swing of things and adjust to the new schedule. It just takes a little time.

I have no real advice on the Hubby - but I would say honest communication, and expressing your needs are important.

Good Luck
God Bless

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answers from Oklahoma City on

When I worked I always found that my evenings were easier. I didn't have nearly as much cleaning and stuff to do. I could come in, put dinner together, eat, everyone or hubby clean up kitchen, then everyone spend time together, then baths and bed. I would have time after the kids were down for myself.

I think being better organized for your meals is key to getting speedy at dinner time. I often do massive cooking on the weekends. I cook a whole 5lb chub of HB meat and put it in quart size freezer bags and put it in the freezer. I cook a whole 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters in a large stock pot. I get them done, de-bone them, put the bones and skin back in the stock pot, I chunk the chicken up and freeze it too. I eventually take the broth off the burner and let it cool a bit, then I strain it with a thin towel or cheesecloth. I toss the bones and any other debris from the broth into the trash. If the trash doesn't come until the middle of the week I put them in a walmart sack, tie it shut, and then toss it in the freezer until trash day.

I can make tacos by putting a baggie or two of meat in the pan, add water, add taco seasoning, and let it heat thoroughly. I heat the flour tortillas on a griddle or heat the hard shells in the oven while the meat is cooking. I buy the shredded lettuce, we don't use tomatoes, have shredded cheese on hand whether I do it myself or not, have ranch dressing instead of sour cream, and if we want salsa it's already in the fridge too. I rarely use chopped onions but if I wanted them in the HB meat I use the frozen ones from the freezer section of Walmart.

For the chicken I can make chicken and noodles quickly by using the frozen meat, broth, and buying the frozen Reamus Egg Noodles. I can add spices as needed to flavor. Also having biscuits on hand makes it easy for making chicken and dumplings.

You can make just about any food and freeze it to be just warmed up later. Lasagna, home made spaghetti sauce, meat loaf, etc....if you just think about it you will find that most things can be made before hand.

To make spaghetti sauce for several meals I use:
a large, number 10 can (gallon) of name brand tomato sauce. The off brands are runnier.
3lb, chub of HB meat from Walmart
frozen chopped onions
fresh sliced mushrooms
chopped bell pepper
1/4 to 1/2 jar of my favorite Italian seasonings, I use the cheap stuff that does NOT have Sage or Thyme s the first ingredient. They are both bitter and cause the sauce to be less yummy to me.

I cook the hb meat with mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper in it then drain it. Sometimes I even rinse it. Then I dump it in the tomato sauce in the stock pot. This can scorch if the heat is too high. Watch it carefully.

You can add whatever you like in your sauce. It can go in quart size or gallon size baggies and do well. I just peel the baggies off and put the frozen lump in a microwave bowl with a paper towel over it. I just heat it while the pasta is cooking in boiling water.

Good luck in your new job and have fun with your family. Dishes can wait, spending time is much more important. Use paper plates and bowls to save time in the kitchen.

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answers from Houston on

when I worked, I cooked a whole months meals at once, and froze them - took me about 6 hours of cooking, once a month on a Saturday.
There are whole websites devoted to this, and you can buy books, I loved reaching in my freezer and pulling out a meal (already in a foil tray) baking it and knowing we were eating healthy home cooked meals.
The book I used was once a month cooking.
I ironed nothing - still dont, saves a lot of time, cut the clutter, bathe the kids every other day.

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answers from Cleveland on

Look into a cleaning lady. Even once a month. You are earning extra. Maybe a grandparent can pick them up early from the sitter? My mom does that and they are much happier. Plan your menus on sunday. You can even precook stuff and make a big thing like lasagna on sunday too. We do burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish... But predone shishkabobs, spaghetti, raviolis.

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answers from Reno on

I've been a working mom for the last 17 years and this is how I managed.

First and foremost, parent and work "in the moment." When you're at work, focus on work (not your family). When you're at home, focus on your family and not work. I know, easier said than done! What really helped me was using my commute (anywhere from 15 minute to 2 hours, one way) to change hats, as it were. On the drive to work, I'd plan out my day so I could be most effective. On my drive home, I listened to happy music, listened to a book, and generally left work behind. That way, when I walked in the door, I was "mommy" and ready to go. (No guilt...that helps a lot, too.)

Second, become a master at the 30 minute meal OR cook a lot over weekends so weeknights become either breakfast dinners or leftovers, both of which are easy to make.

Third, it's time to have a heart-to-heart with your husband to reallocate the chores or outsource them. Do your finances allow for a yard service? Twice a month house cleaning? Mine never did, but it's worth thinking about. Since I got home from work at 4:30pm, it's always been my job to do dinner. My husband was in charge of bath time. These days, we try to run a load of wash each evening so it doesn't pile up for weekends. It's time for hubby to realize that you're BOTH tired after a long day at work and you BOTH have to pitch in.

(The corollary to this is that as your children get older, they can help out. I have two teen sons and they help out both around the house and in the yard and have done so since they were age appropriate levels, of course.)

Fourth, can your sitter make sure your kids get an afternoon rest? My mom worked when I was a kid and on busy nights, I had to lie down for a rest. Could she give your kids a glass of milk around 4:30-5:00pm, so they can last until a 6:30pm dinner? Can/does she make sure homework is done?

You might also check out for some fabulous tips on how to manage everything. These routines have been a life saver!

Hang tough, sister. Like anything new, it takes a bit to adjust. It also takes open communication and good support from BOTH spouses to make it work. My husband spent years working 10-16 hour days and I carried much of the load. Now, my husband is underemployed and I'm working 10 hour days. HE carries most of the load these days. But, no matter who's doing what, we both understood that it takes BOTH of us to make a family function, so we step up to help each other, even if we're tired. Because that's what spouses do.

Good luck!

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answers from Cincinnati on

Well, I do major cleaning every other weekend which is bathroom, mop kitchen floor and really tidy the living room. I do laundry usually every Saturday to Sunday and maybe 1 load during the week depending on how much underwear my son has left. I get home at 6:00 just like you, have dinner on the table between 7:00 and 8:00, do dishes or maybe not because i have no place to put a dishwasher. then I have an hour for son and its time for bed. I also get a meal plan together the week before but I still get dinner on the table till late. Most days my house should be turned upside down and shaken out. I take a week off every year in February because If I don't use my days I lose them, I pick one major chore and the rest little to do. Just do what you can when you can. My husband doesn't help with anything so once in a while I sneak money out of his wallet. Make sure you get together with friends often to keep your sanity.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Sometimes when you're like this it seems you're so busy, you don't even have the time to sit down and work out a plan! I have three boys aged 3, 4 & 6, and I work full time. My first tip for you is to give yourself a break! Things do not have to be perfect in your home! As long as my children are eating a half-nutritious meal, it doesn't matter if it is hot. My kids have often happily eaten sandwiches and fruit for dinner. And you know what? It's OK! They're still alive and happily growing! If you want to, cook a couple of meals on the weekend and freeze them into portion sizes. When you rush in from work, you don't even have to think about cooking, just grab them out and stick them int the microwave. While that's heating you can pour yourself a wine and chat to you children about their day. Use it as quality time. Other super easy, no time, no guilt meals that I do are baked beans with wholegrain toast, pumpkin soup with brown bread, grilled cheese sandwiches, English muffin pizzas. I always serve with some cut up fruit or carrot sticks etc.

Make everything else as easy as possible for yourself. Stop ironing (I don't iron at all), have a dishwasher, coffee pot with timer, a roomba for vacuuming. Stop separating your washing and throw it all in together. Whatever doesn't survive wasn't with your time!

Pack bags the night before and lay out clothes and shoes. My mornings are already chaos, but without doing this I would dread to think of what might happen!

Finally, use the everyday stuff with your kids as quality time. Talk and giggle at bath time. Snuggle up for stories together before bed, sing a lullaby at bedtime. It's all good quality stuff.

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answers from Phoenix on

Assign & share duties. Don't worry about having a spotless house. Do easy meals for dinner (a la grilled cheese & soup, etc) or make a few different, large batches of a meal on the weekend & freeze them for the week. And treasure the time you have with your kids on the weekends. Pay for someone to deep clean your house once a month or 2 weeks (if it's in your budget.)

I used to work full time & it looks I'm headed back there soon, after 2.5 years of staying home. It can be done, with lots of organization & teamwork. Decide what your priorities are & focus on those - the other things can wait.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Luckily my husband likes to cook. He usually makes enough for left-overs the next night so we don't have to cook every night. Maybe you husband would be willing to grill a couple of nights a week to help out. I try to get laundry done during the week. My husband does the lawn Saturday mornings while I grocery shop. We do the inside stuff together Sunday mornings. He usually vacuums while I do the rest. It doesn't take that long with both of us doing it together. (We go to church Sunday nights).

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answers from Spartanburg on

Congratulations on choosing to be financially independent! Great idea to go part time, that will solve the issues of not having enough time for chores or quality time with hubby/kids. I decided to work pt 6 hrs (8.30am to 3.30pm) and it changed my life! Cutting on working hours will do the trick, just try to schedule drop off/pick up of the children at school (do they go to school?), baby sitter when they are sick, they will also get used the routine and you can have them fed by 7 or 7.30pm with quick, home cooked meal. I do it by leaving my son at the post-school service (prolonged hours) twice a week so I have time to grocery shop and/or hit the gym. And I don't even have a workplace is only 15' by car away though, so that helps. You can do it, girl, even by yourself, better involving hubby. He should definitely step up!

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answers from Amarillo on

It's called time management and organization. I have always worked outside the home (except for a 4 year break). It was in a time when we were not able to go to McDonalds (living outside the country) and all meals were made from scratch including bread twice a week.

You have to set up a schedule of time and work everyone on that schedule. Hubby needs to be up by x, son by w and baby z. So that when dad leaves for work, son is finishing up breakfast to catch the schoolbus and baby is ready to get out of crib (example). From there you have your daily routine and do what's on the list for the day.

When I returned to work, we (mon, son, daughter) were up at about the same time and dad would be coming home from work. This worked well when one of the kids was sick and needed to stay home. Son and friends would walk to school by 7:30 am and I would be leaving for work about that time with daughter for child care and then to work. This got a little tight when we had football practice and scouts at the same time almost. Took daughter to scouts and son to practice, drop off and return to pick up daughter and return to practice to meet dad after work. All came home and we had dinner around 7 pm. A load of laundry at night usually done on the weekend after football.

You just do what you can and adjust where you can. Cook meals ahead of time and freeze. You would be surprised who much better some meals are after they are frozen and then reheated.

Good luck to you.,

The other S.

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answers from St. Louis on

I am a single mom and it is hard to balance it all, but I think now that I've been doing it for some time it's getting easier. Here is basically how I balance it all.

First, take advantage of the time that they are asleep. I know that you are tired after working all day (I'm exhausted too!) but if you do just a little bit each day after they go to bed, you don't have as much to do before they go to bed the next day and you can enjoy your time together. I usually do the dishes each night from dinner, wipe down the counters, make the bottles for the next day at daycare, and prep whatever I'm going to cook the next evening. I promise that doing that each day, I actually only spend about an hour doing it and it helps so much the next day.

Have a list of quick meals. Yes, the crockpot is the easiest, but even spaghetti with some broccoli, or chicken thats already marinated and in the pan from the night before with a salad and some orange slices doesn't take that long and can add some variety. You don't have to do a full out meal everytime. Just find the simple things that you can do quickly or easily.

Also, it may sound awful, but I selfishly give my son a later bed time then whats considered normal. He goes to bed at 9-9:30 (granted he's still a baby) but this way I can play with him, eat dinner with him, etc. and this is still usually early enough to give me about an hour before I'm wiped out.

I save all major cleaning for the weekend (I usually do Sunday and make Saturday my errand and play day). So Sunday I do laundry, clean and vacuum all the rooms, and clean the bathrooms. I've found a way to make it go quickly and again I utilize nap time and have taught him to play on his own even at four months. He just "plays" in whatever room I'm working in so he's happy cause he's still with me. Sunday night is my veg night with baby.

Also, I agree with the comment that you really have to learn to seperate work and home. Once you learn to do this, your able to kind of in a way "rejuvenate" yourself for the evening stage.

As far as the husband, I don't have this issue, I just do it all myself, but I would talk to him about how things have changed and he needs to help some more. It's different when your job is to care for the house, but now it's not your only job and he needs to take on a few more duties. Also, spending time together, you probably have to really schedule to get back on track. It sounds awful but I worked with a family who scheduled at least one-two weekend nights a month to go out together with no kids and they hired a sitter.

It gets easier I promise! You just have to change your routine around and start to adjust, but it does get easier :)

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answers from Youngstown on

You just described my life!

Except for the husband part. I am super lucky that my husband helps out a ton. Working and balancing a family is super hard. I am still trying to find a good balance. Let me know if you figure out the secret!

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answers from New York on

Everything is still pretty new so it'll take a while for you and your family to settle into a routine. I always found it easier to cook larger quantities of food and throw most in the freezer. Cooking 4 meatloaf and throwing 3 in the freezer for quick meals later. Cooking 4 or 5 chickens and having the kids help pick off all the meat to put in meal size portions in the freezer for quick chicken tacos in the upcoming weeks.

My washer and drier are on the main level of the house so I found it easier to do all the laundry on 1 day and sort it on the stairs so the kids could just pick up their pile when they were heading upstairs.

It'll take some time to figure it out and no matter what you'll always feel like something isn't perfect. That's ok. At the end of the day if your kids are happy and healthy and your house is still standing then you've done a good job.

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