My phone rang and I went into full panic mood. My son was supposed to be napping but was screaming in his crib. It was time for my weekly conference call with a client and I was home with my son without any help. So, I did what was necessary in the moment. I took him out of the crib and put him into his stroller and took the call while power walking for over an hour. He slept and I somehow pulled off the call. It was a win-win! That’s what I call... multitasking like a mother.
But there have been other times where I haven’t been able to come up with a solution. There have even been times that have made me question if the paycheck was worth the stress of it all. Childcare isn’t always reliable (or cheap), my son has been sick for months from daycare and I’ve often been left scrambling to re-arrange schedules.
Balance is a challenge as a working mom. Let’s be honest, balance is a struggle for any parent.
Sometimes, I proudly juggle it all…with an ideal day including fitting in a workout, checking off my to-list before daycare pick-up, and prepping a somewhat healthy meal for dinner while spending time together as a family. That’s a good day! But believe me, there are days when I struggle and watch our “balance” feel more like a teeter-totter, with one area getting priority.
That’s the beauty of balance. It’s unattainable. So, the best strategy is to not strive for a perfect balance, but to find a rhythm that works for you.
As a working mom, I have found my version of “balance” by focusing on what matters to me, even if my days are not always well-coordinated or perfectly in sync.
I strive to be a present parent that also works. I believe you can be both. Even though I can’t be there for everything, I’ve made a point to carve out time for my son because it matters to me. Sometimes it means leaving early to make it to swimming lessons and having to work later that night. Or canceling a meeting so I can go to his school party. But those moments are worth it. Even if a little (okay, a lot) of chaos happens to get it done.
I use these reminders to keep me on track as a working mom:
Set realistic expectations (for work and yourself).
Some days will naturally focus on one area of your life over the other. That’s okay. Make sure you set realistic goals that YOU can stick to no matter how crazy life gets. And don’t be afraid to set boundaries both for work and at home. For me, that’s doing at least 30-mins of screen-free activities with my son every day - I’m not allowed to be on my phone working and the TV isn’t on! It may not seem like a lot, but we are truly connecting with one another. I’ve learned to value quality time together over quantity and look forward to that time together. Find something that is important to you that you can easily fit into your day and make it a priority.
Plan ahead and find a routine.
Having a plan for the week gives me peace-of-mind and I think it helps keep the household running smoothly after a long workday. Instead of letting things pile up, I know that every night after my son is in bed that I will spend 10-minutes to tidy up the house or prep meals. It’s such a small part of my routine but keeps me feeling sane and organized on a busy week. For me, I’ve learned to be productive with my time and planning ahead for weekly activities, meal plans, and knowing when to do tasks helps me get everything done without feeling stretched too thin.
Know when to give yourself grace.
Some days you just have to give yourself grace. Easier said than done, right? So, you have to order in food instead of making a meal from scratch? You didn’t put the dishes away and the house is a mess? Don’t beat yourself up over it. Life happens and you can’t control it. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to go with the flow and do what you can to get by...and to remember to smile! Your energy is what matters most, not the meal you prepared or the activity you planned. Your child just wants YOU. Even when it’s the messy version.
It’s okay to ask for help.
My biggest takeaway as a working mom has been to know when to ask for help. It’s impossible to do it all. And it’s okay to have others help you! It truly takes a village and I am so thankful to friends and family members that have stepped in on the days when I have work conflicts or really just need a break. It’s okay to have someone help out so you can do something for yourself. For me, that’s outsourcing laundry and asking someone else to take over bedtime routine at least once a week. Be clear in your needs with your partner or anyone that is there to support you.
Always look for the positive (even on a hard day).
I made the choice to be a working mom. I am thankful that I love my career and that the work I do truly fulfills me. I come home happier after a productive workday. A happy mom creates a happy home. So, even on the hard days where nothing goes my way, I have to remind myself of all the positive experiences of being a working mom. I am doing this for myself so that I can be the best mom for my son...and that’s really all that matters.