Commuting Mom Life Hacks

About a year ago I started looking for a new job. I had been at the same employer for almost nine years at that point. I transitioned from analyst to software developer and had amazing opportunities for professional growth. I’d gotten married, gained two wonderful step kids and even had my own baby. But even before all of that, I knew that this job was not a life long career, and I had always said that when it stopped being fun, I would move on.

When I became a mom, all of that changed. It stopped being fun but it also paid really well, was only 10 minutes from my house and daycare, allowed me to work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and afforded us a lifestyle where we could take a trip to Disney World without saving up for years. We could give to some amazing charities and be generous to friends and family when needed. We could pay a housekeeper to come take care of our mess every two weeks. We had cable YV. And we saved for our kids college educations and our own retirements. And suddenly “fun” seemed less important than “supporting my family.” However, after my husband heard me say that I felt like I had sold my soul for the money one too many times and watching some good people be put through really awful situations there, I knew it was time to commit to leaving. I hadn’t looked for a job in almost a decade, and I was terrified.

It took about three months of serious searching and interviews and anxiety but I finally found something that would allow me to grow professionally, be a part of something that was exciting and truly innovative and in an environment cultivating respect and teamwork. The catch . . . it was a 40-minute commute and a pay cut (my previous employer offered pretty generous bonuses at the end of the year which we used for “extras” like vacations, charitable giving and the house cleaning). So more time in the car plus more cleaning? Am I crazy?

Some might say yes, but I was in a situation where I could see the writing on the wall ,and I needed out before I became someone I wouldn’t be proud to know. Turns out making the change was absolutely the right decision for me and my family. I’ve never been busier but I also have never felt more fulfilled in my career in the year than I have in the last four years at my previous job. The transition was rough; I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. However, with anything, over time, I learned some life hacks that made our new normal easier on all of us.

  1. HyVee Freezer Meal Groups – if you aren’t in one, join. It’s a lifesaver. HyVee does all the shopping and some of the prep and you meet once a month to assemble the meals and then you take home the ones that you ordered. I get about ½ of our monthly dinners this way.  Call your local HyVee and ask about it if you are interested.
  2. Meal Planning – meals are planned once a month (for the entire month) and then I do any prep on the weekends for the upcoming week (ie chopping veggies, defrosting, etc).  I use PlanToEat to plan and then generate my shopping lists for me.
  3. Get your family on board with chores! A mom can’t do it all herself! We have the kids help up with our chore rotation – cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, etc and have the rotation and schedule posted in a common area.
  4. Find something to listen to in the car just for entertainment. I’ve found some great podcasts (the Longest Shortest Time, This American Life, The Girls Next Door, S-Town, Dear John) that keep me entertained.
  5. Utilize a navigation app that alerts you to traffic slow downs and re-routes on your commute if necessary. Waze is my favorite.
  6. Carpooling and working from home. I’m extremely lucky that my close friend at my previous job also switched to the new job with me. We live close together so we can carpool a few times a week which makes the drive so much better. Working from home is also an option at this new job which is a perk that has intangible benefits (hello sweatpants and no makeup on a Tuesday)!

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