Mothering Like a Project Manager

As a working mother with three kids under age five, I’ve felt stressed for maybe the last five years.  Motherhood without stress, when you have three kids in twenty months, is foreign to me.  Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom or something in-between, a common topic amongst mothers of young children is stress management. How do we possibly manage it all?  Moreover, how much of this stress is self-induced?


The demands of motherhood force us all to make daily decisions about what we need to get done.  Not want to get done.  There’s never enough a time in the day no matter if you have an office job or you’re at home full-time.  Time’s finite nature tends to make most of us feel as if we just had a little bit more of it we’d do X, Y or Z.  It’s a weekly struggle of mine since I work from home one-day each week.  I catch myself thinking “on Friday I will get done the 15 things I’ve put off for months.”  And you know what?  It never happens.  Never.

As a project manager, I talk trade-off analysis on the daily.  I know, it’s not a sexy topic, but hear me out.  Trade-off analysis and negotiating wants versus needs is part of surviving motherhood.  So many mommy bloggers these days justify why they absolutely HAVE to do certain things.  We don’t have to do anything.  Embracing the ability to make trade-offs for what you’re willing or not willing to do is freeing and stress relieving for many moms.  As it should be!  I’ll present my own trade-off analysis as an example:

I HATE, HATE, HATE grocery shopping with kids.  

There, I said it.  So I took a look at the cost of grocery shopping with the kids.  And by cost I don’t mean monetary.  I’m talking the personal and family cost of doing it.  A much harder thing to quantify.  I determined this cost was as follows:

  • Inability to concentrate due to the constant “Mommy, Mommy, Mommmmmmmy!”
  • Feeling rushed so I can get out before a major meltdown by the kids (or maybe me)
  • Guilt of a toddler being a toddler around people wanting a peaceful shopping experience
  • An all-around unpleasant experience for myself and the shoppers around me

Well, crap, I thought after thinking through the cost.  What am I going to do now?  As a logic driven person, I thought of three viable options.

  1. Leave kids at home w/ my husband – very possible and only requires a trade-off of time.
  2. Pay for grocery pick-up – costs a small fee and requires planning.  Involves a trade-off of time and money.
  3. Status quo – suck it up and regularly take all the kids to the store.  Trade-off is time for potentially more trips each week than I need and added mental load/stress.

Guess which ones I picked?  Yup, options #1 or #2 with a rare #3 sprinkled in for truly urgent situations which are few and far between.  I decided the trade-off of time was well worth the reduction in stress level for not only myself but also the family.  I want to reduce my stress level more than I need to go to the grocery store daily with three kids.

Today something clicked in my head for how and why my view of motherhood sometimes doesn’t jive with others.  My project manager hat is on when I’m in my role as a mother.  I consciously do trade-off analysis on a regular basis for some of the most mundane tasks in my life (ahem, groceries, I’m talking about you!).  Why not take some of the emotion and the “I just have to’s” out of the equation and apply project management tools to motherhood?





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