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Surviving the second shift: A guide for moms who work outside the home

» One day at a time

» Share the load

» On the job

» Labor of love

Talk about it

It helps to put a friendly face to the number of other working moms out there. Look for a community group of working mothers by calling your town hall, surfing the Internet or checking the community calendar section of your local paper. Network at the workplace—you never know what kind of favors you can share with another working mom.

And don’t forget to make friends with nonworking mothers in your own backyard. They may be able to help you out during the school week while you pitch in on weekends.

Do you consider the term “working mom” redundant? After all, don’t moms already have the biggest job there is? So aside from hiring a dishwasher, chauffeur, coach, psychologist and personal shopper, how can a mother who works outside the home do it all and still spend quality time with her family? If you’ve been grappling with the same question, these tips may help:

One day at a time

If your mornings are a hurricane of activity—mismatched shoes, scattered papers and feet scrambling for the door, try a different tack. Set a regular time, such as Sunday evening, to organize outfits for the week. Rediscover your private time by going to sleep 45 minutes earlier and waking up that much earlier. That way you can shower, dress and relax with the newspaper and a cup of coffee before helping with breakfast, book bags and zippers.

Instead of tackling the house with sporadic cleaning marathons, designate just two or three evenings for particular chores. Do the most important things first, and move any unfinished tasks to the next day’s to-do list.

Share the load

Five- and six-year-olds will probably savor the “grown-up” responsibilities of setting the table and helping gather ingredients. Storage bins will help children know where to put toys when they’re finished playing. Older siblings can help wash dishes and sort their own laundry. Sit down and talk with your husband about splitting the remaining tasks equally between you.

On the job

Although it’s tempting for working moms to devote lunch hour to anything but lunch, it’s important to keep your body healthy. If you need to run errands, pack a meal. Bring along a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, a pack of raisins and a handful of nuts.

If you would like to join the growing number of mothers who telecommute, ask your boss if this is possible. Write a proposal explaining your strategy and suggest a trial.

Labor of love

Many working moms find that the most difficult part of their day is leaving children with caregivers. If your children are anxious before you go, explain to them that everyone has responsibilities: Theirs include picking up their toys, and yours include going to work. Reserving regular family time to talk, laugh and play together will help your children focus on the quality of your time together.

You may not be able to do all the things you want to do every day, but you can prioritize. That might mean letting housework slide while you’re racing toward the end of Candyland, listening to your teenager’s latest news—or sipping a cup of tea and putting your feet up after a long day.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media