THE BLOG

8 Habits of Smart Working Mothers

11/15/2013 05:26 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • Liz O'Donnell Founder Working Daughter, Author Mogul, Mom & Maid

It's no secret that the life of a working mother can be really difficult. There is never enough time in the day. We're often pulled in several directions at the same time. We never finish our to-do lists.

Luckily, there are some ways to make the juggling act more manageable. While researching my book Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman, I interviewed working mothers from all across the country, and found the happiest among them had developed the same good habits. Here are eight habits of smart working mothers.

1. Ask for help.
Successful working mothers aren't afraid to ask for what they need. Whether they want help around the house, someone to drive their child to school or a sporting event, or some assistance at the office, they ask for what they need and don't rely on other people to read their minds.

2. Outsource.
Along the same lines, women with some free time most likely got to that place by outsourcing. Whatever your budget, there are probably some tasks you can offload to someone else in order to free up time for yourself. Services like Task Rabbit let you name the price you're willing to pay for household chores and errands. There are even services that will send thank-you notes on your behalf. And if they can afford it, happy working mothers hire a cleaning service and spend their weekends with family and friends, not with a mop and bucket.

3. Accept good enough.
Of course, when you start letting others help, you need to be prepared to accept their way of doing things. Maybe you wouldn't dress your child in plaid and stripes, or perhaps you'd stack the dishwasher a different way. Let it go to find balance. Successful women know a task completed is a task completed.

4. Negotiate.
Savvy working mothers know that negotiation is a skill that should be honed and exercised. When you unlock the power of negotiation, you know that everything is on the table -- flex time, work-from-home days, more help with the housework. Luckily, there are plenty of great courses like SheNegotiates.com and books like Her Place at the Table, available to women to help them improve their skills.

5. Use technology.
Wired women are wise women. Is your life too busy? There's an app for that. Dragon lets you dictate memos while you drive. Evernote organizes your ideas, files, clips and notes. Cardmunch scans business cards so you don't have to. And smart women get their whole family on the same online calendar system. If you want your spouse to pick up your children from swim class, the pool schedule needs to be on his calendar, not just on yours.

6. Respect the flex.
Women who have negotiated work arrangements that meet their needs, know that flexibility is a two-way street. In return, they make sure to meet their employer and client's needs. They understand that sometimes, they may be needed in the office on a work-from-home day, and they accommodate those requests. If you're going to ask for flexibility, you need to be flexible.

7. Resist the Michael's Mafia.
Successful working mothers know how to say no. They may feel the pull toward PTO, but if soliciting silent auction items doesn't fit their schedule, they just say no. Likewise, they don't sweat it when it seems like every other mother on the block is making elaborate gingerbread houses and scooping up all the arts and crafts from the aisles of Michaels. They know they can do more good with a hug than with a glue gun.

8. Phone a friend.
Happy working mothers lean on their girlfriends. Even if the only time they can make for friends is a 10 minute call or a quick text exchange, they know true girlfriends are a source of strength and inspiration.