Working Mom Must-Haves

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When Lulu was a baby and I went back to work, I (like everything else I did when Lu was a baby) had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know where to look for resources or advice on how to balance having a career and motherhood, so I made up the rules as I went along. I suppose it worked out, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

This time around I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by an amazing group of working mothers who support each other and have made this whole surreal experience of motherhood a little less lonely. I’ve gained so many tips and tricks that have helped me in the transition back to work, and I wanted to share them here! Beware, I will mention the word breast. And maybe even boob. God help us all.

Work Wardrobe:

I know, I know, you just had a baby, right? So money isn’t really flowing in (especially with all the doctor bills, new infant gear, diamond encrusted baby spoons, et cetera), but trust me, a few new wardrobe pieces are super important. First of all, your body is now different. Regardless of whether you’ve lost the baby weight, things just won’t fit the way they did before. Sorry, that’s life. Secondly, if you’re like me and you’re still nursing, you’re going to need some easy boob (ack, there it is!!!) access in order to pump during the day. And finally, it will make you feel better. You’re going to be sad to leave your little one at home, and getting all dressed up in some new digs will make you feel confident and happy. Yes, I know that’s vain. But it’s true.

I recommend just getting a few separates to spruce up what you already have. My new work purchases included a few cardigans, two new pairs of shoes (purely for fun), two new dresses (one that is button up and one that is a wrap…again for easy pumping access), and a couple of cute tanks/shirts. I didn’t spend much (mostly shopped at Target, sale rack at Nordstrom and Kohl’s) and felt way better about my return to the office. I’m lucky that my work is mostly business-casual attire, so I can pull off jeans on Fridays and don’t have to spend much to enhance what I already have on hand. Below are a few pieces that have inspired me so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. Included with some work attire are a few fun pieces for weekend/summer wear as well.

Style tips for working moms

Inspiration (clockwise) from Anthropologie, Target, H+M, Forever 21, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters and J. Crew

[And I even was spotted on the street as super-stylish! Yes, my good friend runs the site, but whatever, I'll take it!]

Online Shopping

And no, I’m not talking about clothes. You’re going to have to get those in-store to figure out what fits your post-baby body. But everything else? Hells yes!!! My schedule is totally full during the day, and now that Lucy is older our weekends tend to book up quickly as well. So when in the world am I supposed to go grocery shopping?

Here are a few sites I love and use weekly (if not more). They have totally saved my sanity.

Hy-Vee: Online grocery shopping in the Kansas City area. You just order and pay online, then you can either pick up your order at the store or have it delivered right to your house. Yes, a small fee is included. My time is worth the extra $10.

Diapers.com:This is where I get most of our baby gear, including diapers, wipes, toys, clothes, baby food, nursing supplies…the list goes on and on. I am also a big user of Soap.com, which provides pretty much anything you could find at a drug or beauty supply store. Shipping is free over $40 and orders usually arrive the day after they are placed. It is pretty much the best thing ever.

Hallmark.com and Amazon.com: With three siblings for both Trent and I, plus three sets of grandparents, two sets of great grandparents and six nieces/nephews, I am constantly running into stores to buy cards or little gifts for all of the occasions that require a little something-something. Now I can order a great card, personalize it with pictures or words, give an address and Hallmark will mail it for me. Awesome-sauce. Amazon is wonderful for gifts, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, 2-day shipping is free. You know, if you forget until the last minute or something. Which I never do. Ever. Ahem.

Tips for working moms

Good Nursing Bra:

I know, I just said bra. Ew. But you’ll need one. A good one. Trust me, I didn’t spend the money on this the first time around, and really, really regretted it. My recommendation? Go to Nordstrom, get fitted by a lingerie specialist as your body and boobs (ahhh word bomb!) have changed and your size won’t be the same as it was before, and then if they don’t have your size in stock (hahahaha 34 DDD!) they can order it online and it’ll ship for free. Dunzo.

A Good Breastpump

Get a Medela…I have the Pump N’ Style in a backpack and it is awesome. It isn’t heavy, it’s easy to carry and it’s discreet. Which you need when you work in a office full of men. And be prepared to be asked if that is your lunch in the cooler or to have awkward encounters while cleaning the parts in your office kitchen. Guys can be dumb. But they mean well.

A couple of other accessories I’ve found useful are the quick clean wipes( to avoid that whole kitchen cleaning fiasco),sanitizing steam bags (just pop in the microwave with some water and your pump parts are sanitized), and of those ridiculous looking bustier things that makes it easy to pump both sides at once (beware, boobs abound in this link!), which will save tons of time.

Smoothie Maker/Protein Powder

When Trent bought a fake magic bullet smoothie maker online I laughed and laughed and told him he was an idiot. I am the nicest wife ever. But this thing has been a life-saver for our crazy mornings that almost always end with me being late for work regardless of what I do. Since I’m still nursing, I have to eat like crazy to keep milk supply (ugh, sorry!) up, and adding protein to my smoothies has really helped. A banana, some plain Greek yogurt, a handful of frozen strawberries and blueberries, add in some orange juice and a splash of pomegranate juice and you’re good to go!

Smartphone

If you don’t have a Droid/iPhone/Blackberry, it’s time to invest. I keep everything from grocery lists, to nursing charts, to videos of the kids, to calendars on mine. I tend to spend a ton of time on the go, to client meetings, soccer games, daycare runs and wherever else I need to be, so having everything on hand and easy to manipulate is a must. And when I find myself having to nurse or change diapers in my car due to lack of time, the games and videos keep Lucy busy. Win, win.

Daycare Planning

Nothing is going to make leaving your baby with a childcare provider easy. Sorry, it’s just a sucky part of being a working mom. But trusting your daycare provider and being comfortable with your set up is so, so important. With Lucy, I just made a snap decision and spent months being freaked out and worried about her. With Tate, we decided early on that we needed a daycare that was reliable and almost always open, instead of a in-home daycare. We loved in-home care because of the specialized attention and low cost, but it wasn’t worth the headaches when the provider was sick or wanted vacation time or whatever, and we found ourselves scrambling to find last minute care. So we now do a full center during the school year, and then summers with a nanny. Not that much more expensive and gives me peace of mind. Best decision ever.

Some websites that might be helpful in your daycare search:

Daycare Connection: This is how we found Lucy’s daycare when she was a baby. It is for the Kansas side of the KC Metro area, and is free (though they ask for donations after a few free searches). All the daycares are state accredited/certified and they provide contacts for all types of care, including in-home, daycare centers and nannies.

Daycare Resource: Similar to Daycare Connection, but for Missouri. We didn’t have as much luck with this service, but we know others who have, so I wanted to list it for you Missourians.

<Care.com: This is a nationwide service that, again, I haven’t used, but I’ve heard great things about. If you’ve used it, leave a note in the comments letting me know how your experience was.

A final tip: When it comes to childcare, try to start looking early, and if your first choice doesn’t work out, don’t freak too much if you want to switch. Lucy was in four different daycares during her first year (plus a few months) and she turned out just fine.

A Great Boss

I can’t find you this, but hopefully you’ll end up with someone who understands that a happy home life leads to a happy (and productive) work life. The more satisfied that you are managing this unfathomable balance, the more you’ll want to work your ass off to keep your job. I’m so lucky in this regard, and it makes being a working mom as easy as it can be.

Anyone else have any tips to share with the working moms of the world? I’m always looking for help/feedback, and trust me, we have to stick together!

This post is part of BlogHer's The Smart Mom's Guide to Being Busy editorial series, made possible by Rice Krispies.

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