Being a working mom is no joke.
There’s often little margin in our days – either for ourselves or for any error. And we’re constantly pulled in a million different directions.
There are, however, products and technologies that make working mama life infinitely easier. I’ve got my own favorite things that get me through my days, and I also wanted to hear from other seasoned working moms about what items they considered essential to working mom survival. So I queried the alumnae of my Mindful Return program to solicit their advice.
Here are our collective top picks.
How on earth did anyone survive in previous generations, when they literally had to go to the store every time they needed something for their household? Enough said.
The amount of stuff we have to carry to and fro each day is crazy. May as well find a bag that’s comfortable and stylish, right? It’s admittedly pricey, but one of the Mindful Return mamas raves about her LO & SONS “O.G. & O.M.G.” travel and overnight shoulder bag.
She says “I felt so much better not feeling like I was carrying a million bags back and forth. And it has made me much less likely to accidentally forget things at work.” It’s also apparently great for travel. This Baggallini Avenue tote is similar, at a lower price point.
Babies and messy wetness seem to go hand in hand.
These pro working mamas use wet bags for everything from pump supplies to cloth diapers to wet bathing suits. Recommended brands include the Damero 3 Pieces Wet and Dry Bag and the Sarah Wells Pumparoo Wet/Dry Bag.
One mama said the Pumparoo is “good value for the price, and held up well over the last 3 ½ years.”
My husband may be the only adult under 50 who still keeps a paper calendar. Not sure. He and I coordinate our calendars every Saturday evening during our weekly planning meeting, and our system has been working for us for years.
But the rest of the world seems to be using phone and online calendars. Given coordinating with your partner is key to survival, the working moms I surveyed suggested both the Cozi Shared Family Calendar and Google Calendar. One turned to a shared calendar after trying to drop off her daughter on a day preschool was closed. I know we’ve all done that.
The market for food delivery has exploded — and I love it. There are three broad categories here. First, grocery delivery. Folks rave about Peapod, Instacart, FreshDirect, and Amazon Prime Now. And don’t forget pre-cut veggies!
Second, meal prep boxes. They send you the recipes and fresh ingredients, and you cook the meals. (I highly recommend doing all the chopping on weekends.) I used Blue Apron for a number of years and after some issues with missing ingredients and freshness, recently switched to Plated.
Finally, the third category is already-prepared meals that can be delivered, ready-to-eat, directly to our home. We’ve used Galley Foods for this in Washington, DC, and others recommend Hungryroot and Sakara (though apparently, this last one is crazy expensive).
I got a million suggestions of things that help make pumping life easier as a working mama. Everything from “a second pump to leave at work” (this absolutely saved me when I was pumping!) to the Freemie collection cups that allow mamas to pump hands-free in the car. Breast pump car adapters and hands-free pumping bras like the Simple Wishes SuperMom All in One and the Ayla Lace Underwire also got rave reviews. The book, Work, Pump, Repeat is a favorite, too.
When I travel for work, I always relish the FaceTime conversations I have with my boys. Some daycares use apps that send photos of your babies throughout the day. And one Mindful Return mom is a huge fan of her Nest Cam. It’s connected to an app on her phone that lets her check in on him anytime while he’s home with her nanny. She also says she loves “to tune in to his nursery camera and watch him nap if I’m really missing him.”
Favorites include The Five Minute Journal, which has daily gratitude prompts for morning and evening, and an awesome app called Insight Timer. Even if there’s not much extra time in the day, micro-self-care habits are incredibly powerful tools for staying sane.
Having an “I can do this all myself” attitude in working motherhood is a recipe for disaster. Giving birth to my second child drove me and my husband to start using a cleaning service. If you’re early on in parenthood, think about hiring a night nurse and a post-partum doula to help you through those first few weeks and months. Always consider local pre-teens and teens as parents’ helpers. And if your employer offers it, don’t be afraid to take advantage of back-up childcare benefits. There is no shame in asking for help. Ever.
One of the Mindful Return alums described a particularly trying time, when she had her second baby, was changing jobs to accommodate a need for a more flexible schedule, and her husband broke his leg the week she returned from maternity leave. When things were dire, she relied on her so-called “knowledge network” to get it all done. This network of experience from others who have been there and done that is invaluable. So whether it’s a working parent posse at your office, a new moms group at your local hospital or yoga studio, or the online Mindful Return community, find your people and connect to others who will get what you’re going through.
Oh, and don’t forget boundaries. No, you can’t buy them on Amazon, but they’re critical to survival. Hang in there, mama. All of us working mothers out there have your back.
Lori K. Mihalich-Levin, JD, is the founder of Mindful Return and author of Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. She is a frequent speaker on topics related to work-life balance and integration, navigating the return from parental leave, and (in her legal role) Medicare graduate medical education payments. A partner in the health care practice of a global law firm, she also is mama to two beautiful red-headed boys. Lori holds a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and completed her undergraduate studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
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