Working Mom Tips

Advice for working moms looking for work and life balance.

Women’s Laptop and Career Bag Options

womenlaptopcareertotebagI confess. I have a tablet and smartphone, but I feel lost when trying to work without my laptop.

This means I carry it with me almost everyday, so my career bag needs to be sturdy, useful and attractive.

It needs to hold my computer, but also have room for my other electronics, a paper notebook and other miscellaneous things. And did I mention it needs to be attractive?

I’ve been on the hunt for a couple of weeks now and there really are a lot of options. Of course, there are the traditional laptop bags, but you can also find nice messenger-style bags, crossbody-style bags and my favorite, totes.

Here are my top three choices for a business bag that’s not a briefcase, but it’s large enough to function as one:

prettyefficientlaptopbagbyTumiThis Sinclair TUMI bag is BEAUTIFUL! It’s chic and very well made.  And I can’t say enough about this harvest color. Their reputation with luggage is enough for you to know a TUMI bag will be strong and durable enough to handle normal wear and tear. The Sinclair has compartments inside, making it easy to organize your “office-away-from-the’office.” If the harvest color is a little too much for you, this bag is also available in black and grey.

womenlaptopbagThe Audrey Brera Brief bag from Lodis is the epitome of timeless chic.  I can’t imagine a time or meeting when this bag would not be a good choice. There are pockets inside for your personal items and the sections are divided. It also has a detachable shoulder strap. I love the red, but this design also comes in black and brown.

womenlaptoptotebagblackThe quilted design of this Knomo bag in black is beautiful and is elegant enough for any outfit. I also love the inner pockets that can hold a smartphone and other personal items. This bag is a great minimalist option that could travel well, whether going cross town or on a flight.

If you want to see other options for career bags, check out my Laptop and Travel Bags For Working Women Pinterest board.

Also, if you have a favorite bag, please share below. I’d love to know what made you choose your favorite.

Working From Home When The Kids Are There, Too

tipsforworkingmomfromhomewithkidsAs we start a new school year it’s inevitable that I will have to work from home some days with the girls. It’s not easy finding appropriate care for a sick child and Teacher Workdays are always some random day of the week.

Here are a few ways I work while the kids are home:

We keep a schedule. On these days they can sleep as long as they want, but once they are up they get timed activities. In the morning we usually do 30 minutes of reading time, 30 minutes of computer time and then 45 minutes to an hour for creative play – think Legos, arts and crafts, jewelry making, etc.

I take a 5-minute break every hour to give them attention. This is when they can show me what they’ve done, ask for help or request special snacks. It’s also when they can suggest additional activities.

I make sure they understand any times that I shouldn’t be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. For instance, if I have a 1 o’clock conference call we talk about that beforehand and they help me watch the time. This makes them feel good because they are connected to the event. During the call they are responsible for making sure they don’t get too loud.

Lunchtime is fun. Yes, we eat. But, we also do something fun like have a dance party or they may put on a show for me.

We treasure quiet time in the afternoon. Napping is not a requirement, but relaxing is imperative. Sometimes they’ll watch TV, read some more or nap. This is usually 90 minutes to two hours.

Generally speaking, I have found the most success when my girls don’t feel like they are competing with work for my attention. The tips I shared work because they understand schedules and activities due to school. The mini breaks throughout the day also help.

Hope this helps and if you have additional tips please share.

3 Ways Working Moms Can Volunteer At School

workingmomwaystovolunteerschoolYes, working moms can volunteer at school. You may not be able to be in the classroom every week, but your presence can be felt and your child’s teacher will be grateful for the help.

Here are three ways I have volunteered in my children’s class that worked well with my office schedule.

Co-room parent. I have done this two years and it’s a great help for the main room parent and the teacher. With this role I manage online sign-up requests, help plan class parties and events, and help organize teacher appreciation, along with classroom needs. This frees up the other room parent for classroom needs during the school day and offers them support so they don’t feel alone.

Make copies. I was surprised at how much time teachers spend making copies, especially since the hours they get with a teacher’s assistant have been cut. Choosing one evening out of the month to make copies after school can be a HUGE help. Plus, it gives you a chance to be seen in the school which can benefit you and your child.

Assemble activity kits/classroom packets at home. In elementary school there are lots of projects that require assembly. Have the teacher send the pieces home with your child and you can assemble while you relax at night. You can also cut shapes, etc. if necessary, and send the completed packs back.

I hope these help you with ideas for volunteering! If you have other ways to help, please share in the comments.

When Childcare Falls Through For A Working Mom

diykidsactivitykitworkingmomofficeThe Importance of a Family Friendly Corporate Culture

A few weeks ago my childcare fell through. Then my back-up care didn’t work out. I was on to back-up number two when I realized it would be easier to take them with me.

We dressed, had breakfast and made the way to my office. Once there, the girls set up their mini work space using the DIY activity kit shown above. It’s a laptop sleeve filled with paper, notebooks, markers, etc. They love it and are able to do arts and crafts while I work.

When I had a meeting, they hung out in my office while I went to a nearby conference room. I made sure they knew how to contact me via phone if they needed me. I told the receptionist that they were there, where I would be and how to reach me, too. Others in the building also knew they were there.

As I look back on this I realize how blessed I am to work for a company that doesn’t penalize me for being a mom. They get that sometimes childcare doesn’t work out and that my girls might have to hang out at the office for a couple of hours. Of course I don’t abuse this, but it definitely makes me a happier and more loyal employee to know it’s an option.

Work life balance is a hot topic in the business world and for good reason. Working moms and dads are doing their part by searching for and creating strategies to help manage the demands of career and family.

But, this is not enough. It also takes companies that understand the importance of offering flexibility and support.

Sometimes this is through a written policy or available support programs. And sometimes it’s just having a corporate culture that supports parents doing what’s necessary to fulfill work and life obligations… like having your princess trio come in with you for a little while.

Coping Mechanisms For Working Mothers

workingmotheradviceforcopingEarlier this month PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi talked about working moms having it all (or not).

In the article she detailed a couple of her coping mechanisms, like training family and workers to help out.

I’m a huge advocate of building a support network, and here are a few other things that work for me.

Discuss schedules, needs, special projects and more as a family. My girls are understanding and even offer help when they feel like part of the process. So, we talk about their special projects and events just like I talk about my schedule, especially if I’m going to be late a few nights or there is something special at work.

This helps them understand the importance of what I do in relation to things that are important to them.

Choose school events with big impact. I can’t have lunch with my girls every week or volunteer regularly in the classroom. But, I can volunteer for class parties and some field trips. I also surprise them for lunch a couple of times and I take cupcakes for their birthday.

Use the element of surprise. I surprise them with playdates, day trips, treats for random holidays and more. These surprises encourage quality time, and create memories that they’ll have forever. We may not spend all day together, but when we are together, we are together.

So tell me, what are some of your coping techniques?

Building A Working Mom Support Network

Schools are operating on a two-hour delay tomorrow, which means working parents are trying to figure out how to accommodate the schedule change. This is also a reminder of the value in building a strong support network.

A strong support network is key to managing work and life balance. Here are a few ways to build yours:

Talk to your neighbors. I met many of my neighbors at the bus stop. We’ve become friends and support each other. On days that I have an early meeting my kids hang out at the neighbor’s house before school and vice versa. This also works for carpooling, teacher workdays and delayed school openings.

Find a drop-in childcare location. This is EXTREMELY important. School schedules and work schedules are not the same and it’s best to research options for care before the first teacher’s workday or Fall Break. Our local YMCA has a great program and there are kid-friendly businesses (Bounce U, local kid gyms, etc.) that offer services, too.

Join a Mom group. I know, you’re thinking, “When am I supposed to fit this in to my schedule?”. Here are just a few reasons why you should make the time. I joined Mocha Moms when my first daughter was one. I enjoyed the experience so much it was the first group I looked for when we relocated to Charlotte. Through Mocha Moms I have found a great group of women that get what it’s like to be busy, but to want the best for your family. They share all types of resources that I would not have known about otherwise (or sometimes forget!).

Really, everything from family events to school deadlines to healthy recipes and more. Even more than that, I have met women that I am proud to call my friend and that can offer me support when I need it.

Consider your “sick child” plan. This is probably the hardest because you can’t send a sick child to drop-in childcare and if your friends have kids you don’t want to expose them to germs. Hubby and I usually take turns staying home with the child, but I am researching sitter services for my area.

Build a Babysitter list. I was traumatized this year when my go-to sitter moved. Now, I’m creating a list of sitters I can call for last-minute needs, date nights, etc.

A great way to build this list is to let your family, friends and teachers know that you are looking for potential sitters. Also, some preschool and daycare teachers babysit on the side.

Manage Work & Life With Catch-Up Day

workingmomtimemanagement_QueenocracyWednesday’s Working Mom Tip

(or One Way I Manage Work and Life Balance…)

Three kids in three schools with two working parents can equal chaos. To combat this, I schedule a free evening during the week. This school year that day is Wednesday. It’s the day I regroup and plan for the rest of the week.

On this day there are no extracurricular activities for the girls or me.

I check backpacks and homework folders to make sure I have answered all teacher correspondence. I do light housekeeping things and I cook a dinner that will yield leftovers for Thursday.

Because I know Wednesday is coming, I don’t stress about Monday and Tuesday. Sure, the girls do homework and emergencies are handled, but things that can be put off are handled on Wednesday. It’s much easier to handle projects when there are no dance classes or gym workouts to work around. It’s also a day for me to get some downtime before 9 p.m.

So, today’s tip? If at all possible, pick one weekday as your catch-up day. It can help you enjoy the other weekdays so much more and cut down on feeling like you have to do everything every day.