Tradition long dictated that a woman’s place was firmly in the home; raising the kids, keeping things clean, cooking meals for the family and making sure we look presentable at all times. Fast forward to today and this notion is simply alien to many of us. We are working just as hard as men, juggling childcare and trying to be the best mum and best employee (or employer) at the same time. With this leaves little room for much else, particularly when it comes to looking after ourselves.
Arriving early at the office and finding that heading out of the door on time at the end of the day is a rarity means we are pretty much ready to crash out by the time we stumble through the front door – being faced with making dinner for the family, getting the kids ready for bed and trying to cram in some exercise before the sweet release of sleep is almost too much to take. For so many of us, it ends up being a microwave dinner or takeaway followed by an hour of gawping at the television instead if we are lucky enough to get the children to go to sleep on time.
It’s swamping us. Our careers are causing the stress to mount, even when we find our jobs rewarding and we’re favouring a sedentary lifestyle over an active one in light of this. If you need help balancing your career, family life and your health, here’s the article you need to read.
The truth about coffee
As a workaholic mum it’s the first thing to reach for to help us rouse at an ungodly hour. That bitter black liquid seems like the best option to get you through a day of manic meetings, tough phone calls, the inevitable afternoon lull and trying to be the best mum in the world, but trust me it’s not. Caffeine is known to perk us up but it’s also just as good at sending us crashing down. A workaholic mum typically has a lot of stress in her life and will reach for the coffee to keep pressing on, but caffeine actually stimulates the flow of stress hormones which increases anxiety and irritability. See the problematic cycle we’re in?
In moderation coffee is fine, but chugging down cup after cup will do your health and your sanity no good. Kick the first coffee of the day out of your life and replace it with a smoothie instead. “Everyone bangs on about smoothies” I hear you cry. I know. I thought that too. Turns out it’s for good reason. Blending a host of fruits and veggies makes them much more palatable first thing in the morning and the right mix of ingredients will prove way more effective than coffee when it comes to setting you up for the day. You can find a range of great breakfast smoothies over on Whole Living or BBC Good Food, but I do recommend adding in an avocado to any breakfast smoothie because they are powerhouses when it comes to essential vitamins, minerals and fats. Also, they are fantastic for skin and nails. They have very little taste so won’t disrupt those tasty fruits.
Find your go-to exercise
In an ideal world somewhere all of us are doing yoga in a sun soaked park for hours each day. In reality, we think the half moon is our local boozer and not an intermediate yoga pose. Setting ambitious goals is something we are used to in our place of work, but trying to do so in our personal lives isn’t so achievable. The answer? Calm down! If you’re currently doing zero exercise, remember that just doing something is better than nothing. Joining a budget, contract free gym as opposed to
one with all the bells and whistles that ties you to them for months on end means you can take the stress out of trying out the gym. Choose a gym that includes classes in the price so you can try out everything and see what works for you. Once you have a class timetable in front of you, plan out what works for you – can your partner or a friend take care of the children at that time? You’ll whittle it down to the ones you are intrigued by and that fit into your life as a working mum.
Exercise is always the last thing you want to embark on at the end of a long day, but it’s proven that exercise alleviates stress, which is much better than the glass of wine or two that too many of us rely on to paste over the pressure. You don’t have to exercise every day, but if you can commit to 2 or 3 gym visits each week you are doing much more than many workaholic mums.
Tie your leisure and exercise time together
As a workaholic woman myself I know that feeling of guilt when you realise you’ve not spoken to the important people in your life for too long or met up with friends in ages. I now set aside a couple of evenings a week which are dedicated to catching up with my and for meeting up with my friends. A close friend I see every week is also a workaholic woman and when we saw each other it would be a case of letting the wine and work chat flow. By the end of it I had a headache and I’d forgotten most of what we talked about. We decided to make a change after a particularly drunken meet up and we now meet earlier in the week and do our catching up whilst walking around a park instead. Encouraging the family to walk with you of an evening is a great way to escape the television and actually find out how everyone’s day has been.
Walking as much as possible is a great way to keep active but low impact so you can still engage in conversation easily. Try it out and you’ll soon notice what a difference it makes to how you feel at the end of each day – you’ll feel good about a little extra exercise and that guilty feeling will be alleviated because you’ve spent quality time with the family.
Win at dinner
You’ve worked way later than you should have done and the thought of peeling potatoes could make you cry, so instead you order a takeaway. You’ve ultimately no idea what goes into that takeaway – salt, sugar and fat content are all an unknown figure and so essentially you are relinquishing control of what’s going into your body (and your family’s), yet you are so in control at work! Don’t let a balanced diet be the thing you lose sight of as it’s so important for a busy working woman.
Plan out your meals for the week ahead before you do the food shopping and stick it to your fridge so you are constantly reminded of what you’ll be eating each day. Once you have all the ingredients in the house, look at the meals and see what can be prepped in advance. Chopping vegetables in advance and freezing them means you can just tip out what you need when it comes to cooking that particular meal. Choose meals where you can make the whole thing in advance and then get two meals out of them like a monster-sized lasagne that can sit in the fridge along with a huge bowl of salad.
When it comes to winning at dinner, the stir fry is the holy grail of quick meals that give you a massive nutrient boost. Adding in lots of fresh veg with noodles and finished off with soy sauce will get you eating something nutritious in under 5 minutes. Add in meat or even quorn pieces to bulk it up and give you a protein boost.
Make your desk a sin-free haven
Pack out your desk drawers with easy grabs that won’t send those sugar levels soaring and then plummeting. Almonds, herbal teas and rice crackers are great buys because they last for ages and don’t require refrigeration. Buy in fresh fruit every couple of days to encourage you to snack your way towards your 5 a day and remember that dried fruit counts too.
When your career is stressful it seems the first thing to push out of your life is your own wellbeing. This is only ever for a short term gain as no one can thrive when they are existing on a bad diet and zero exercise. Keeping yourself in good nick is all part of being a successful working mum, so work good habits and routines into your day and you’ll soon see that this lends itself far more to your working life than the coffee and the junk. Don’t plaster over the cracks, make great changes that will boost you for the long term both at home and at work.
*Sophie Baker-Britton works with Simply Gym and up until recently was falling foul of the corporate curse of the sedentary lifestyle, despite working for a gym she is office bound. At the end of last year, she decided to create a health and fitness regime that slotted into her hefty working life and home life. She now walks before and after work every day with either family or friends and even adopted a vegan diet for lent this year to bin off the junk at work and at home. Picture credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net and photostock.