Being a working mom is hard. We live in the in the dichotomous world of work and motherhood, striving to find a healthy balance between being the best mom and being a star employee. History would have us believe that we can only excel at one of these things, or at a minimum that we need to “choose” one to which we contribute meaningfully. Thankfully we now live in a world that not only recognizes but celebrates the working mother. Societal values, employment and legal norms are all shifting in our favor. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go (ahem, paid maternity/paternity leave and affordable child care) but we are moving in the right direction. In the meantime, let’s acknowledge that we’ve made progress, and talk about how to live peacefully in the tension. (Note: this post is NOT in any way meant to underestimate the frustration and exhaustion that stay-at-home moms experience daily. For sure, you face your own challenges worthy of a blog post – but one that I cannot speak to).
Re-prioritization. If you asked me 10 years ago what was most important to me in a job, I may have said good pay or working at an innovating company. Since having my boys, a value that once made an appearance at the bottom of my list of priorities has earned its spot at the very top: schedule flexibility. Can I get an Amen for supervisors who understand that we’re moms first? Why can’t we work in a place where we’re doing meaningful work and expected to deliver high-quality results, while at the same time never missing a doctor appointment or school performance and never feeling guilty about leaving work early to care for a sick child? Find a boss who wants both for you. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have a supervisor who gets it and who wants both for me, but I know that’s not true for everyone. If it’s not true for you, keep having the conversation and keep pushing the envelope. We are, unapologetically, moms first. The legendary Green Bay Packers coach once famously spoke these words: “Think of only three things: your God, your family and the Green Bay Packers – in that order.” I would love to one day live in a world of Vince Lombardi bosses.
Getting Organized. I’ve written about this before, but there’s nothing more stressful in our house than having to wake the boys (especially Pax) and rush to school. Whatever we can do to prep the night before helps immensely the following morning. Making bottles, prepping breakfast, laying out clothes, and packing bags the night before are part of this routine. Forcing ourselves to get up early also helps so that the boys have some time to wake up and chill for a little before we have to load them in the car (which by the way is still a nightmare).
Child Care (for us, it’s daycare). Firstly, and I’ll just leave this point here, it is increasingly expensive, and it frustrates me that more of our tuition doesn’t go to the teachers themselves who tirelessly love and correct and support our children. This really introduces another paradox of acknowledging that we can’t pay more than what we’re paying but also wanting our teachers (nannies, babysitters, etc.) to be paid more. Secondly, and what is the focus of this topic, child care is such a love/hate relationship – isn’t it? Here are some of my personal love & hate experiences from our daycare:
- Not getting enough time with Pax & Cal on weekdays.
- Dropping my boys off on the “bad” days where Pax is crying to the point that he can’t catch his breath, reaching both arms out toward me and screaming “Mommy” at the top of his lungs while his teacher holds him back and I try to hold it together and reassure him that it’s okay even though I feel like crying too. Nothing feels more unnatural to me than quickly slipping out of the room when he just wants me so badly. Luckily, little Cal doesn’t know the difference yet and is usually amiable at drop-off.
- That time I discovered a bite mark on Pax during bath time that hadn’t been reported to me that day.
- Getting a call from school while I’m at work saying that Cal is showing signs of Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease. Really?
- Getting a message from Pax’s teacher on the bad days 5 minutes after I leave letting me know that he’s totally fine and playing with his friends.
- Seeing Pax & Cal meeting new people and making friends.
- Seeing them demonstrate things they’ve learned that we didn’t teach them ourselves. I love these moments!
- Seeing photos and video throughout the day showing me what they are doing and learning, and how happy they are.
- Our teachers coming up with some really cool and unique learning activities for the kiddos.
- Meeting other badass moms who are working and holding it down at home.
I could go on, but I’ll summarize by saying that it’s been my experience that there are more things to love, and ways to mitigate things I hate. Taking the time to get to know the boys’ teachers, speaking up when I have concerns, and being vocal about anything specific I’d like their help with – all of these help to make the things I hate less hate-able. Overall, I choose to justify that it’s a really good experience for them.
Self-Care. This is so important but unfortunately can so easily be forgotten. I know that I am my best self, mother, employee, friend etc. on the days when I make the time to workout. What does self-care mean for you? Maybe it’s taking an uninterrupted shower. Maybe it’s getting a mani/pedi or going to happy hour with friends. Whatever it is, I think we can all agree that these activities relieve stress and recharge us, allowing us to be better parents and better employees. I try to shift the way I think about self-care to making the time, rather than finding the time. A lot of the time this is more easily said than done. For me, this is a work-in-progress!
Being Present. During the workweek when we only get to spend a few hours with our children, it’s more important than ever to be present and live in the moment with our babes. Sometimes this is harder than it seems and takes a conscious effort on my part. One thing I continue to work on is letting the house get messy and disorderly until the boys go to bed. I’ve asked my husband to remind me that we’ll clean up later when I get caught up doing housework without even realizing it. Going off the grid and having dinner together as a family are other priorities, though aspirational ones at times – especially when most of your people live on the other side of the country. Also, have to give a shout-out to my husband who is a world-class cook and comes up with effortlessly delicious meals and looks good doing it 🙂
Call on your Tribe. Though all of the above tips & tactics help keep me sane, there are still bad days where I just need to vent. That’s when I call my people for a reality check, some validation, and some inspiration. Being a working mom is hard, but I feel blessed to be pulled between two worlds I love without having to choose one.
How do you balance work and motherhood? What tips, tactics & outlooks do you have to live peacefully in the tension? How do you approach and make time for self-care? Let’s help each other deal!