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10 Family Survival Tips For When Mum Goes Back To Work

Our darling son turned 18 months recently and I went back to work. Whilst it’s been a rather emotional time for me, all the worries I had about the house falling into a state of chaos have been completely unfounded. It’s been just as calm and organised as before (well, as calm and organised as it can be with a toddler!)

Here are some simple family survival tips for when mum goes back to work which have helped us so much during this transition.

Simple family survival tips for when mum goes back to work.

Have a plan

Take the time to plan mums return to work and decide on any new routines and tasks as a family. Involve older kids in planning and in helping out with new household chores. Start changing routines gradually in the weeks leading up to your return to work – which may also involve trial and error. Give the family time to adjust to this new reality.

Write it down, schedule it

If my baby brain was on the blink before, it is seriously on overload now. I used to have an amazing memory, but, alas, those days are long gone. My biggest tip is to write it down – or use your preferred electronic method. I use my phone calendar but there are diaries and apps galore that will help you schedule, list and organise.

I’ve scheduled in simple tasks in my calendar such as ‘put on a load of laundry’, ‘pack lunch for tomorrow’, ‘water plants’, ‘defrost meat for tomorrow’s dinner’. Include recurring tasks throughout the week. Yes, you will need to be reminded every-single-time!

These tasks may sound simple, but when your brain is overloaded, it is the simple tasks that fall off the precipice. And whilst I love lists, when it comes to these everyday tasks, I like to be reminded by my phone at a specific time that suits my schedule.

Meal planning

This is so important, no matter whether you work inside or outside your home and it will save you so much time, money – and your sanity. I’ve been meal planning for years, but I’ve really come to realise how amazing it is recently. Combine this with online grocery shopping and you’ll be saving yourself so much time, money – and your sanity!

The week’s meals are planned on Sunday night, reminders to defrost/chop/prep are entered into my calendar, so there’s never any dinner panic or a last-minute dash for takeaway.

Online grocery shopping will save you time, money, your back, your sanity!

Batch cooking

This is an extension of meal planning. Prepping several meals when you have the time is a life-saver and requires little extra effort.

I do not cook on work nights. The most I do is reheat, sometimes cook rice/pasta or throw a salad together. The main part of the meal is always pre-cooked. So, lots of mince, which is super versatile for all sorts of meals, curries, stews, soups, quiches and pastries. Rice and pasta bakes also freeze really well.

Meal preparation

I have approximately 15 minutes from when I walk through the front door to when dinner needs to be on the table (cue ‘on-a-super-growth-spurt’ hungry toddler!). So, if there are veggies to be cut or potatoes to be boiled, I do those in the morning. You may need to rethink your meal plan so that you can accommodate meal prep in stages such as this – meals where components can be prepared earlier. If your mornings are super-crazy, prep the night before when the kids are in bed.

Have a look at these brilliant morning hacks for working mums for more inspiration.

Develop a laundry schedule

The second biggest task after meal preparation, has got to be laundry. There was a time when I was adamant that the machine would always be full before we ran a load, but I’ve given up on that. Now I schedule in a wash 3 days a week, full load or not. It’s the only way to get through that laundry basket.

I’ve scheduled in reminders in my calendar to load and set the machine three mornings a week. My lovely machine has a timer function. I can load and set the timer so the load is complete 12 hours later (so I time it for when the bub has gone to bed). Such a simple task, but it really helps keep on top of the pile.

Clean the house in stages

A completely clean house at one given moment – forget about it! Learn to clean in stages.

So, I’ll clean the toilet at night, then clean the bath whilst I’m having my morning shower the next day. Hubby will do the floors that afternoon. It doesn’t need to be done all at once. Do whatever works for your family schedule.

Pile up the laundry on that chair – but schedule in one night a week when you put it all away. As long as you have some sort of schedule that will maintain a level of clean you’re happy with, it’s good enough.

Everything in its place

Once our son (aka tornado boy) is in bed, it takes approximately 5 minutes to ‘re-set’ the living area back to adultland – pack away all those toys, reset the sofa cushions and clear the dining table. It’s easy because everything has a place in our home. I can’t stress this enough, especially with kids and all their paraphernalia, every object must have a place it lives. If you can’t find a place for it, it’s time to start decluttering.

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Adopt a ‘nothing to prove’ work attitude

Now that we’ve sorted out the home, lets have a think about work.

Now I know people are in all sorts of different work situations and environments, but I made a decision years ago that I would adopt a ‘nothing to prove’ work attitude.

I take pride in my work, but when the work is done, I am out of there in a flash. There is no sticking around to try and prove to bosses how busy I am or how dedicated I am. I believe that my work should speak for itself and I have nothing further to prove. Family time is simply more important.

Evaluate the quickest route home

My final tip sounds a little strange, but hear me out. My commute is 45 minutes door to door (any Sydney-sider will tell you this is impressive). I got it down this low because I evaluated what my quickest route home would be.

For example, the train may be quicker but I have to walk through horrid people-traffic to get to the station, crossing several traffic lights. The bus drops me off literally door-to-door, but it takes forever through peak-hour traffic. The tram is actually situated furthest away to my workplace, but through some Google-mapping and route planning, I can walk across to the station in 15 minutes, but it then gets me home in 25. Re-evaluate your commute. Even if you drive, check out alternative routes that may get you there and home quicker.

It’s only early days, but I’m really proud how we’ve come through this transition. I must admit, I have a super amazing husband that more than pulls his weight, so it’s definitely a team effort.

Do you have any tips on organising work/life schedules and balance? Leave us a comment below.


  1. January 20, 2016 at 10:38 PM

    Well-done you! This is a great list & I can see already how many people agree. I returned to full time teaching 6 & 5 months respectively after having my kids & my life was better.. Because I was organised! Congrats again. Denyse

    • January 22, 2016 at 8:20 PM

      Thank you for your lovely comment Denyse 🙂 It’s such an emotional time, being organised makes it all so much easier.

  2. January 20, 2016 at 7:19 PM

    Fabulous tips for working mums! The one I would add is where possible encourage your fella to share the load. On my work days my hubs picks up T from nursery and does his bath and bed routine, allowing me time to get home and get dinner sorted. Team work makes the dream work and all that lol!

    Thanks for sharing x #justanotherlinky

    • January 20, 2016 at 8:12 PM

      Yes!! Team work is so vital. Thanks for reading Laura 🙂

  3. January 19, 2016 at 6:51 AM

    Love the nothing to prove attitude!


    • January 19, 2016 at 5:44 PM

      Thanks Krista 🙂

  4. January 18, 2016 at 1:48 AM

    Great tips! I’m going back to work soon so will be trying some of these. My top tip is pre-making breakfast for particularly busy mornings. There’s some great recipes online for porridge squares you bake the night before & are ready to go #notanotherlinky

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:33 PM

      Thanks Nicole. Great tip pre-making breakfasts!

  5. January 17, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Great post! I’ve just started maternity leave with me second – and I can only imagine how busy it will be when I go back to work with 2 little ones to get organised in the mornings!
    My friend over at working mums collective.com.au would love this – will share!

    • January 18, 2016 at 8:28 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing Lauren 🙂

  6. January 17, 2016 at 4:14 AM

    Great tips! I live by my diary, and in particularly stressful times I’ve been known to add things like “get up” “brush teeth”… mainly just for the satisfaction of ticking something off The blinkin list!!

    You definitely seem to have it cracked.
    Dawn x

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:38 PM

      Haha. I love the satisfaction of ticking something off a list too! Thanks for reading 🙂

  7. January 17, 2016 at 1:39 AM

    These are great tips, I need to plan so much better. I work from home but it can be so tempting to do other things then I get stressed by deadlines. I find meal planning essential #justanotherlinky

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:35 PM

      Thanks Rebecca 🙂 I loooove meal planning, totally saves my sanity!

  8. Simone
    January 16, 2016 at 10:13 PM

    Great tips. Meal planning, pantry staples and a really great plan for resetting ourselves when things go pear-shaped is essential for us. I work from home so it’s all about having a good grasp on what is realistic around the family. Remember that you aren’t proving a point, you are just working is a great thing to keep in mind. Great to read this via the ultimate rabbit hole link-up. X Simone

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:36 PM

      Thanks for reading Simone 🙂 Sounds like you have it sorted 🙂

  9. January 16, 2016 at 9:34 PM

    These are great tips. Planning is always key.

    Thanks for linking up with #justanotherlinky

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:36 PM

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. January 16, 2016 at 6:12 PM

    Great tips! I think it’s all about the organisation and not putting too much pressure on yourself. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:36 PM

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  11. January 16, 2016 at 2:00 PM

    I’d never considered a laundry schedule – with two kids and two adults we seem to have a load on every single day!!
    Great tips!

    • January 18, 2016 at 8:29 PM

      Thanks Rachel 🙂 I’m sure laundry just multiplies in that basket!

  12. January 15, 2016 at 10:02 PM

    I work in the home but I’ve found it harder to keep on top of it all than when I worked outside of it, mainly because I no longer have the structure I used to have. I’m in the process of setting up routines, a schedule and meal plans to get back on top of things. Good luck on your positive return to work!

    • January 16, 2016 at 1:58 PM

      Thanks Kirsty! It is such a juggling act, isn’t it? Routines and schedules help so much though. Best of luck 🙂

  13. January 15, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    brilliant – now mine are in teen years i’m going to show them your tips and get them majorly involved!! great advice – thank you. Happy Thursday #coolmumclub

    • January 15, 2016 at 7:49 PM

      Thanks for reading 🙂 Yes, definitely get the kids involved.

  14. January 15, 2016 at 1:11 AM

    Brilliant tips! Going back to work is one of the hardest things a mum can do. It takes supreme organisation and these hacks are where every mum should start! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub x

    Talya – http://www.motherhoodtherealdeal.com

    • January 15, 2016 at 7:55 PM

      Thanks Talya – it feels like a major operation sometimes! haha

  15. January 14, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    These are great tips and ones I definitely need to start implementing! #coolmumclub

    • January 15, 2016 at 7:54 PM

      Brilliant! Thanks for reading 🙂

  16. January 14, 2016 at 8:04 PM

    There is some great tips there, I always seem to clean the house in stages but then it feels like I am always cleaning haha. Thanks for linking up to the #bestandworst xx

    • January 15, 2016 at 7:53 PM

      Thanks Helen 🙂 I know! I try to think of it as ‘maintaining’ the house rather than cleaning… hehehe.

  17. January 14, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    Yes to all of these except cleaning the house in stages – I’m an all or nothing sort of person so when it’s time to clean it’s from top to bottom! The only downside is this needs to be done sans kids so Misery Guts takes them out on a Saturday while I get on with it. Probably not a very good example! #bestandworst

    • January 15, 2016 at 7:52 PM

      Haha. I was like that once, but I gave it up 🙂 Totally understand that lovely whole-house-clean feeling. Loved that. Thanks for reading 🙂

  18. January 13, 2016 at 10:46 PM

    I love these tips. I love a good routine and schedule. It makes me feel more in control. I have been back to work since my little boy was 6 months so I think also re-evaluating routines is another key one. What works now most definitely didn’t work when he was 6 months old and I was back to work. I now cannot do half the things I used to do within the time I get home from work and nursery with him before bath time. #bestandworst

    • January 15, 2016 at 7:50 PM

      Thanks Kirsty 🙂 Definitely, re-evaluating is a good tip. Their routines change so frequently in those first few years.

  19. January 13, 2016 at 7:55 PM

    These tips are so great, i might implement them anyway, even without the going-back-to-work part! #bestandworst

    • January 13, 2016 at 9:37 PM

      Thanks for reading Lucy 🙂

  20. January 13, 2016 at 6:29 PM

    Great tips! I suspect I’ll be needing these soon as a return to work seems imminent. I like your ‘nothing to prove’ attitude. That’s something I struggled with previously but I think it’s probably easier after children when your priorities are different. We’ll see!

    • January 13, 2016 at 9:38 PM

      Thanks Robyn 🙂 I think it is easier after kids.