Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tips for Returning to Work After Staying at Home: The Juggle is Real!

My youngest child started first grade this year, and after eight years of staying at home to raise my kiddos, I decided to return to teaching full-time…while still writing…Did I mention I’m crazy?

By the grace of God, I successfully survived my first 9 weeks back to teaching. No students were lost or injured…SCORE! However, my beautiful meal planning and preparation skills took a fatal blow, and we’ve gone into survival meal mode/ aka anything I can stuff in a crockpot. Writing has been a struggle as I no longer have 3-4 hrs of uninterrupted writing time 3 or 4 days a week…sad sigh…sniffle, sniffle. The house is messier than usual, and I’ve had to say no to volunteer opportunities I’d normally take. It’s been a change…A BIG CHANGE. But not bad. Difficult, but not bad.

This new stage of my life is just that…a new stage, and it requires getting used to, and a whole lot of other tools & tips. These tools and tips are a work in progress for me as I weave my way through this part of life, and I hope and pray you find them useful.

PLEASE feel free to let me know any other tools and tips you have for transitioning back to public work, and or balancing mom-life, with work-life, and home-life.   

1: Jesus Time

WE MUST make time to read the Word. I struggled to find that time after returning to work. My Bible time was at 6:30am before my kiddos woke up, but now I’m up at 5:00am and get to school by 6:15. Getting ready, and sitting down to read? How would that work? The best solution right now is to listen to the audio option on my Bible app while getting ready. So far, it’s been a good fit for me, and maybe you as well.

2: Crockpot Recipes & lots of them:

I could hug my crockpot. The thing cooked a whole chicken for me—enough for chicken & dumplins, chicken tacos, and chicken noodle soup! 3 meals, bam! J Working moms should invest in a crockpot for sure!

3: To-Do Lists:

If you’re anything like me, our brain can be a little…well…full. So many things to think about with so little time! J Therefore, a To-Do List for each category of my life is a must: School/Work, Writing & Marketing, Kid’s List, Home/Cleaning etc. Some of the lists, like those pertaining to home & the kiddos go on my kitchen cabinet door. School & writing to-do lists will stay in a spiral binder I carry with me.

4:  An Agenda:

An agenda, or calendar, is a MUST. When are Fall Festivals? When is football practice, church meetings, parent/teacher conferences, the next writing deadline? When am I going to go to the grocery store? Bills due? All these things need to be listed out and placed on the calendar in plain view…on the fridge…cabinet door…some place where it will be seen frequently.

3: A Reusable Meal Schedule:

For now, my love for from-scratch meals, and new dinner creations, has to be pushed to the side…it is what it is. Sigh.

It took a while, but sticking to a simpler, consistent dinner plan has helped lighten my load. Feel free to copy what we do:

M: Crockpot meal Monday, with salad/veggies & fruit
T: Taco Tuesday, or Mexican Themed
W: Soup/Chili & Sandwich
Th: Leftovers w/ side of veggies or salad
F: Pizza
Sa: Noodles (Asian, Italian etc) Salad
Su: Out to Eat or a kid friendly (Chicken Nuggets, Mac & Cheese)

4: A Cleaning Schedule:

The house just isn’t going to be perfection…big sad sigh. So, in 15 minutes each night, what area of the house are we going to work on? Is it dishes, taking out the trash & tidying the living room? Wiping down bathroom sinks?  Allow Saturday morning, evening, or afternoon to be for the heavier cleaning. Throw in a load of clothes on Mon, Wed, & Friday.  We’re not the best at keeping up with a cleaning schedule, but we’re getting there.
Recently a sweet friend introduced me to FlyLady, an organizational/cleaning whiz who sends daily tasks via email that can be done in 15 minutes each day. I’m excited to give this a whirl! Check her out here:

5: Exercise:

Exercise? Because we have so much free time, right?! Ha, I know!  Exercise releases the happy chemicals in our brain, and Lord knows that’s a good thing. J I have missed going to the gym! MISS IT LIKE A LONG LOST FRIEND! And now that I’ve finally stopped complaining about not having time for the gym, and an extra ten pounds later, it’s time to make time to work out.

Can we make 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to exercise? YES! It may not be the gym, but what about a walk around the neighborhood, or squats in the living room? Get creative! Where can the time be carved out?

I’ve decided to stay after school for 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to work out with some teachers in the school’s auxiliary gym. Wish me luck!

6: Friendship & Accountability:

If it weren’t for my friends holding me accountable to my writing goals, praying for me as I struggle to juggle it all…I’d fall apart. God knows we need friends. We were made to care for each other. It’s good to share goals with someone trustworthy, and let them hold us accountable.

7: Delegate:

HELP! The housework is overtaking me, the clutter piles about to spill over…and my to-do list is growing fangs.

Glance over that list and check off the items that can be delegated. Are the kids old enough to mop the floor, wipe the counters, do dishes? Can someone do a guest post for your blog?

We may be able to juggle a lot, but we can’t juggle it all (CLICK TO TWEET), and we need help…we need to delegate.

8: Let Go:

This could mean a lot of things, but for our current season of life it means letting go of the need to be in control of all aspects of life, and having things done exactly the way I would want them done. For a planner, who enjoys planning and carrying out those plans, this is hard, so letting go is a work in progress for me.

9: Shut it down & Cuddle:

There’s nothing on our to-do list, or any writing goal, that’s worth missing out on a cuddle from our family. They too feel the strain of this busy life, and if we can put aside our important stuff for them, then it’s a win for all.

I’ll admit…this can be a struggle when I really have to get grades put in, or I really need to get 500 more words in on a scene, but in the end, our families come first. They are our first priority. 

10: An ample amount of Grace:

BUCKET loads of grace.

We will fail, and fail again, and forget to send a signed form back to our child’s teacher …or mix up dates on the calendar…or subject our children to chicken nuggets twice in one week! Listen, the world is full of negativity without beating ourselves up. God says we are more than conquerors, we are loved, and He delights in us. We need to remember that and give ourselves grace, just like He gave us.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered these 10 tips, but the truth is…I haven’t. They are all a work in progress, something to apply to my life on a daily basis. And that’s okay. :) 

Any tips and tricks, or crockpot recipes you’d like to share? Be my guest! Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!


Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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