Secrets of One Unflappable Working Mother

Chances are, work-life balance is your most elusive goal. But it's not impossible.
By Michelle Slatalla

Last Thursday, as I walked into the house after a business meeting followed by a 30-mile round-trip car pool, I smelled something delicious wafting from the Crock-Pot. On my way to the kitchen, I looked in the mirror, gave a thumbs-up to my dependable black pants, and thought, There now, being a working mother isn't so hard. That day, like most, involved a lot of working and a lot of mothering, often at the same time. Ever since giving birth to my first daughter, 20 years ago, I have intentionally blurred the lines between work and home. That's just what the experts tell you not to do. But I credit the overlap with helping me stay reasonably calm. Here are my tried-and-true ways to keep domestic (and professional) chaos at bay.

Brooke Slezak 1. Do work at home; do home at work. You need to accomplish a certain number of things during a 24-hour period. Where you complete those tasks is beside the point; you just need to check them off the list in order to free up time for the things you want to do. Pedicures come to mind. And reading. So go ahead: Pay your bills at the office during your lunch hour, and check your work e-mail at home while you're waiting for the kids to show up at the dinner table.

Also See: 5 Rules For Working From Home

2. Juggle strategically.
Sure, try to accomplish A and B and C simultaneously, but don't do it all by yourself. Instead, get A to accomplish B, so you can take credit for C. For instance, I like to sit at the kitchen table and work on a laptop next to a child of mine doing algebra. While A does worksheets (and I write my newspaper column), she is being mothered by me. Also, I can change gears fast to Google the "quadratic equation" if A gets stuck. Child aces her math class, and I meet my deadline. Score two points for the working mom.

Also See: 18 Clever Organizing Tricks

3. Make your home office a command center. Those pesky experts say that to get any work done at home, you have to be cordoned off in a room far away from anyone who can nag you. This makes me wonder how many experts have children. Instead, figure out which location in the center of your house provides some privacy, while reminding everyone you are a presence to be reckoned with. From this spot, you should be able to stir a pot of simmering soup or assist with a history project that involves the use of glitter (by nixing the glitter).

Also See: Carve Out Space For a Home Office

4. Ignore the latest parental fear-mongering literature. I don't want to catch you reading anything with a title like Either I Should Be Drinking More or Less Chardonnay Out of Sippy Cups at Work and Home. Instead, stick to the classics that remind us, with great wit, what we like about this business of being an adult with a complex life. For example, Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons will help you decide whether it's more fulfilling to spend the weekend doing housework or playing cards with the neighbors. (Hint: Think mixed nuts and drinks over a few rounds of bridge.)

Also See: 7 Meaningful Books for Mom

5. Getting out the door in the morning (without anyone in tears) is the only thing you have to achieve before 8:30 a.m.
Stop trying to organize everything. Your only goals are to leave the house looking good and without your first-grader sobbing because she hates getting dressed in the morning. If that means you put her to bed in her school clothes to avoid a 7 a.m. tantrum, I think you're a genius.

Click here to see 5 more secrets of an unflappable working mom

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