I put these three words together in a sentence and just the idea makes me feel exhausted. At 27 weeks into my fourth pregnancy I foresee the next 6 weeks of work as an uphill challenge. I work just three days a week. By the end of the third day I literally fall asleep when I get home, leaving the preparation of dinner to the dinner fey. Or we just eat later than usual. Or we eat something awful that the kids think is brilliant and makes me sound like a great mum for making them so happy.
People tell me they don’t know how I do it. How do I manage work and being a mother and being pregnant? Gosh, I don’t even know if I am managing that well right now. Thankfully I have a really supportive husband who makes the lunches and organises the children in the morning so I can get ready and leave for work. I am so grateful to him.
I’ve had to desperately cling to some methods that I use to make being a working mum a bit more manageable. I can’t really do much about the fatigue. I think that that goes hand-in-hand with being a working mother who happens to also be pregnant. But here are the things that are helping me keep my head above water most of the time:
– supportive workplace. My role at work this term is developing plans to help the special needs students transition to the next grade. I’m having meetings and case conferences to support these students and I’m writing reports and education plans. A lot of this involves sitting down at my desk, which is great, but I also visit my students in classrooms to work with them. My workplace is looking after me. They’ve arranged for me to get extra sick leave because of all the appointments I have because my pregnancy is high risk. I have been honest with them from the beginning. My pregnancy is high risk, I have not been feeling well until a few weeks ago and they know I get sore and tired easily. Communication at work is so important.
– pre-made meals. I cook dinner most, if not every, night. It’s not easy coming home from work and having to make dinner and clean up and do the washing etc. So I minimise the cooking part by preparing meals on the weekend. Reheating pre-made dinners is so much easier. I come home around 5pm, put the meal in the oven and it’s ready by 5:30. While it’s cooking I have a lie down!
– housework. Forget it. I might put a load of washing on before I go to bed and I tend to do a bit of cleaning up but I don’t really do housework on the days I’m working. I have to take deep breaths and not worry about it. At the moment I am pottering away at the housework very slowly, at my own pace. And the house is fine.
– menu plans. Even if I just have a basic menu plan for the days when I work, it makes life easier. By the end of the day my brainpower is pretty much non-existent. I don’t feel like eating either, so having to decide on a meal then and there is just too difficult. We have a brief outline of a weekly menu that takes the guesswork out of cooking.
Monday: pasta night (eg tuna pasta bake; spaghetti bolognese; pasta bake)
Tuesday: chicken (eg chicken, rice and veg; chicken wraps; chicken and salad)
Wednesday: red meat (lamb chops and veg; sausages and veg; steak and salad; reheated stew or curry)
A lot of these meals can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge or freezer. If it’s not the type of food that can be made in advance it tends to be quick and easy to cook, like steak and sausages. I save the meals that need more time to make for days when I have more time, like weekends.
– food for work. I am lucky that my husband makes me an enormous salad to take to work each day. I also make sure I have plenty of snacks, like fruit and dry biscuits, to snack on during the day. I take a lot of water and we have tea and milk in the fridge in our office. I think it is of the utmost importance to take some sweet treats too. I have a stash of lollies in my desk drawer and I like to take a bit of chocolate as well. The girls and I in the office bring the odd packet of biscuits to work to share, homemade or otherwise.
– fun times. Thankfully I really enjoy my job. There are a lot of opportunities to have fun at work. We have lots of laughs in the office and I enjoy going to the staffroom and chatting with my colleagues. It’s good not to be too serious whilst still maintaining professionalism.
– meetings. Speaking of professionalism, nothing makes me feel less professional than the sight and feeling of my belly wobbling with the movement of my baby. But, you know what? I don’t ignore it. I place my hands on my belly during meetings etc if bubs is moving about. I can listen to what’s going on and be part of a discussion, despite poking a kicking foot with my fingers. I switch off sometimes (generally not during meetings!) and just focus on the kicking and rolling going on in there. Sometimes I take time out just to concentrate on my breath and my body and my baby.
– use what you’ve got at work. I make the most of yard duties. I use it as a chance to walk around and get some fresh air and exercise. I make the most of lunch breaks, when I take them, because it’s a chance to socialise and laugh. I make the most of the friendships I’ve made at work because it’s an opportunity for support and camaraderie. I make the most of the academics at work because it’s a chance to learn and use my brain. I make the most of time with the students because I love children and their perspectives on the world; it’s refreshing and working with them makes me happy. And tired.
– sleep. Get onto it. Lie under the desk during lunch if you have to (I used to do that when I was pregnant with Matthew, when I felt terribly ill and worked until 2 weeks before he was born). Go to sleep after work if your situation allows. Go to bed early and sleep as long as you can.
It’s not easy being a working mum but there are things we can do to keep life going smoothly for our families.