The busy (new) mum’s guide to getting ready for work


Mastering the art of looking ‘done’ when you only have 20 minutes to get ready – and that’s on a good day – is no mean feat, but it’s something many of us have to do.

The challenge of looking presentable in such a short space of time can be done though.

When I returned to work after the birth of my first daughter not only do I remember being petrified at the thought of leaving her, I wondered how I was going to look vaguely professional.  This was despite my mum and mother in law, who had decamped to ours for a week to help, being around to help with my then four month old daughter.

By the time daughter no 2 arrived four and half years later I had my routine off to a fine art. Okay there are still many days when I don’t wear make up or wash my hair, but I managed to get promoted and win new clients (in my case the BBC World Service at one point) and I’m now a senior editor at the Financial Times group so I figure I must have done something right.

So, if you are a new mum looking to return to work don’t fret – you can look amazing whether you have a hour (oh joy), 45 minutes, or just 20 minutes to get ready.


Okay first there are a few basics you might want to stock up on.

For ‘done’ hair. Dry shampoo is the way to go, and plenty of grips. Recommended: Aveda’s ‘shampure’ there are two versions, a shampoo and a conditioner but I like the shampoo mainly for its calming aroma. If you have dry hair there is Batiste all-in-one dry shampoo and conditioner – the cocoa and cashmere version smells wonderful.

Putting on your best face. Primer, concealer and a tinted moisturiser – whether you use all these will depend how knackered you feel (or look). For a primer check out Dermalogica microblure, although do a pricey one which I’m eeking out the remains of a sample size from, also Benefit ‘porefressional’ or Boots No7 instant illusions. For concealer it’s Bobbi Brown serum concealer and corrector and for my moisturiser I use Nu Skin advanced tinted moisturiser. As for make up, I’m a bit haphazard and maybe that may warrant another article.

Your capsule wardrobe. I always carry around spare underwear, bras and fitness gear (mainly because I head to the gym at lunchtime) but I’ve got a wardrobe of dresses – of various materials and sleeve lengths. I do wear trousers – but when I’m in a rush it’s dresses all the way (worn with my fitness leggings or Sweaty Betty yoga all in one underneath). My Me+Em go anywhere dress – I have two of these – bought in the sale, one in navy and one in black. They can be worn with my white trainers (from last year’s Marks and Spencer Alexa Chung collaboration) or, if I’m feeling brave, my LK Bennett kitten heels, bought for £5 on eBay.

Extras. Toothbrush and toothpaste. I am known to eat breakfast at my desk (I’m in the office by 8.30 most mornings).

The night before:

Most evenings I stick conditioner on my hair to save time. Any conditioner will do but I’m currently into Philip Kinsley’s elasticiser because I noticed my hair was breaking off after having bleach highlights last year (I’m now ombre and have switched to a high lift tint by Aveda).

So, here’s how to get ready…

If you have… 60 minutes

Exercise if by far the best brain boost of all, not only that but it makes skin glow and gives me the oomph to see through serious news conferences. So if I have 60 minutes I will normally do 20-25 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) or some vinyasa yoga.

My go-to DVDs are the Jillian Michaels ‘yoga inferno’ and Niki Perry’s ‘transform now’ yoga DVD.  All the workouts are around 30 minutes, but I sometimes skip the warm up – better to do a cool down..

Next. Save time in the shower by giving yourself a facial – I use my Dermalogica cleansing cream wash it off and then apply Dermalogica’s daily powerfoliant, which has charcoal in it, but don’t let that put you off. It’s fabulous after exercising too.

If I’ve a few seconds extra I will apply a body and face moisturiser. Because I’ve exercised I have to be speedy with my hair. I have a short fringe and one length shoulder length hair which is highlighted. After washing I dry my fringe off and put the rest of my hair in sleeper clips which I pile on top of my head. If I have time I put a splodge of Bumble and bumble ‘don’t blow it’.

Now, all being well – after you’ve dressed – you should have about 10 minutes to put your make up on. If you don’t then do my time-saving trick, apply primer, concealer and tinted moisturiser. Then when I get into the office I slope off to put on my mascara etc. This means I feel presented. I have to say I don’t always wear make up, which is why the exercise is so important.

If you have… 45 minutes

Skip the exercise, which means you can spend either extra time on your hair or having a lie in.

If I have 45 minutes to get ready I will blow dry my hair completely, to get waves into it I will twist it – similar to when I leave it to dry – and place it very loosely on my head.

If you have… 20 minutes

I always shower, give my face a bit of TLC and then just wash my fringe, using dry shampoo to clean the rest, it also gives it a bit of body. I then put it up or clip it back.


And don’t forget…


When I have time I make overnight oats – and put it in one of these soup containers to take into work. However because even that can be a bit high maintenance I will spend my lunch hour on Monday popping into the local supermarket (Tesco in Cheapside or M&S Simply Food at One New Change) and stock up on essentials – which I then bag and put in our office fridge. It means I have a stash of snacks and potential lunches throughout the week.




Do you have any hints or tips that could help new mums returning to work? Comment below or email me.

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