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Life as a working mother is challenging at the best of times. I thrive under pressure but I recognise that this is not good for my family. I have discovered that if I am organised and calm, then so are the kids.
I travel to India a couple of times a year to buy exciting new products for Vinegar Hill. This is my favourite part of my work, but it takes a lot of planning and preparation. My amazing husband holds the fort (just!) and I stick Post-it notes, food rotas, and the kids’ schedules all over the house to make sure they don’t forget anything. Leaving everything super-organised allows me to immerse myself in my job.
Here are some tips that have helped me create a work/life balance
1. LET GO OF THE GUILT
As a working mum you can’t be there for everything in your kids’ lives. I make sure I attend a couple of my daughter’s sports events each term, and she’s thrilled when I do and understands when I can’t be there because I am working. As parents we always feel guilty about something, but what we should do is look at the bigger picture: if our kids are healthy and happy, then we’re doing OK.
2. GET HELP/SECURE CHILDCARE
Create your own support network to assist you with the kids when you can’t be there for them: a neighbour who can do pick-ups; a granny who can help with mealtimes; a relative or close family friend who can babysit on short notice. You can return the favours in your own way.
3. MAKE THE MORNINGS EASIER
Getting organised the night before helps you avoid starting the day feeling frazzled. Put all school bags and your work bag by the door, lay out the kid’s clothes (as well as your own). Decide what you are going to make for breakfast; don’t let your kids treat your kitchen like a restaurant and you like a short-order cook, as mine have been known to do on occasion with their requests for crepes, homemade granola, and yogurt and fruit!
4. WRITE YOUR TO DO LIST
I always do this last thing at night to empty my brain and clear my mind, and I star the most important tasks that I want to tackle first the next day. I used to wake up in a panic about something I had forgotten, now I do this I sleep so much better. I also have a weekly meal rota on the fridge listing what’s for supper each night and which parent is cooking it – if I’ve planned it I don’t need to think about it again.
5. LIMIT DISTRACTIONS & TIME WASTERS
Be disciplined and set time limits. I avoid social media during working time. I try not to multi task when I am spending time with the kids: when I’m reading bedtime stories, especially, I make sure I do not have my phone on me. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to things like coffee’s with parents at school that you have nothing in common with, or events that do not add anything to your life.
6. CREATE SPECIAL FAMILY ACTIVITIES
Making time for your kids is crucial to nurture your family dynamic and allow everyone to bond. Create activities that fit into your regular schedule, so everyone knows what to expect and what to look forward to. We have movie & pizza night every Friday. We don’t do any work or homework, and my husband makes the best pizza ever! This activity suits most ages, but you may find family breakfast on Saturdays or Sundays logistically easier to fit in. Try and cook with the kids or get them to plan a meal each. Finally spend time sitting with the family and just “being” with them.
7. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR PARTNER
Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner. Try to put date nights in the diary and commit to them. When you are out on a date, don’t talk about work or the kids. Fostering this relationship will make your partnership stronger, and reconnecting will re-focus your attention on what’s important, I find this to be the secret for reducing stress. My new year’s resolution (ok I know we are in February already) is to maximise time with my husband in the evenings.
8. CREATE MOMENTS FOR YOURSELF
Finally, fit in some valuable “me” time. Refreshing breaks help you recharge. Take a bath and then lose yourself in a book before you go to sleep. Fit in time to exercise or focus on a hobby. I walk our dog, Rocket, straight after school drop off; it clears my head and makes me feel close to nature whilst planning the day ahead. Remember to eat well and get enough sleep – simple things that even the smartest mums neglect.
About Sarah Austin
Sarah is one of the directors of Vinegar Hill and heads up the buying of our own brand products, as well as the fabulously eclectic Cocoa Bean range. Sarah loves seeing the product journey, from the beginning of their life, through the manufacturing process, to when they arrive in our stores. She is passionate about the story behind them – who, how and where they were made.
After formal training at dance school, she began her career as a professional dancer. Later deciding to change paths, Sarah headed to Uni where she met Richard our Managing Director (whom she later married). On completing her master’s in marketing management at Surrey University, Sarah worked for L’Oréal in London. She headed up brands such as Maybelline, Garnier and Lancôme and then took the leap to set-up her own business, Cocoa Bean.
A lover of the sun, due to her upbringing in St Lucia, Sarah now lives in Winchester with Richard, their two young children and Rocket the dog.