Finding Career and Family Balance as a Working Mom
Being a mom is hard, it’s a full-time job and when you add another full-time job to that it’s double the work, double the exhaustion, but never double the pay. Society may make a distinction between working moms and stay-at-home moms, but both options come with their own challenges. Trying to get ahead in your career to help provide for your family, while still being a present, patient, and phenomenal mom can seem out of reach, but with a few lifestyle changes, a little help from your friends and family, and a lot of grace for yourself you can make real headway at having it all.
The key to getting everything done is knowing what’s pending. Being a mom and having a career is like having 2 or 3 full-time jobs at once, and the workload to match. Setting up routines so you can get through the day without missing anything is a great start, but get in the habit of writing everything down as well whether you use an old fashioned notebook or a smartphone. Let your brain have a rest from having to remember every task, and set up a system that works for you.
Having an organizational system also makes it easier to triage your to-dos when things go wrong. If you end up being kept late at work or you get a call from the school that your child is ill, having your list of things you are responsible for will help you figure out what can be done and what can wait. It will also help you pick up again when things are less hectic and make sure you don’t miss a beat.
Do what you can, delegate what you can’t
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially at home for things you can’t do or even things that take time away from other tasks that are more important. Let your kids go to an afterschool program, order groceries to be delivered, ask a neighbor to swap carpool with you when you have an important meeting early in the morning. Just remember to be open and flexible to help in the other direction too. If working parents can stick together you’ll have a network of help that will take you very far, as long as you don’t abuse it.
Have a frank discussion with your partner and other family members about your needs and listen to theirs as well. Often solutions can be found for everyone’s needs and schedule if people get a little creative. Perhaps a cousin was also invited to a birthday party and your child can tag along while you get some work done, and then maybe you can take them both to the park while your sister-in-law gets some relaxation time. Be flexible, be willing to help.
Show up when it’s important
Set up firm boundaries and guard your time. It is just as important for you to make it home for dinner as much as possible as it is for you to get to work on time. Turn off your phone at home if possible to make sure you’re fully present when you’re at home the same way you’d avoid distractions when you’re at work. If your employer offers flex time, make the best use of it by showing up when you can for important dates for your children.
When you’re a working parent your vacation time is important as well, so make sure you’re not skipping those even if your coworkers are. While it may make sense to plan your time off carefully to accommodate business needs as much as possible, it does not benefit you at all to forgo time off when it’s one of your benefits. Remember your salary isn’t just the money you bring home, but also your paid time off. Make the most of the deal you’ve secured.
Invest in yourself
Be sure that you’re not spending so much time tending to your career and family that you’re not taking care of yourself. Keep up with your continuing education, take a spa day, network with other professionals, or have a break with friends. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy while also making time to improve yourself as a professional.
It may be worth it to get extra help for a year to finish your degree, or to take some classes online to make yourself eligible for a raise or promotion knowing that the extra money and flex time that comes with it will let you do more for your family. Likewise, it may be a good decision to move to another company with more family-friendly policies if that’s a frequent sticking point.
Show guilt the door
The balance between your career and your family will never be perfectly even, it will always swing in one direction and then back. While it may be tempting to try to split time evenly, real life is way messier than that. If you have a big project at work, things at home may slack a bit. If your child comes down with the bad flu, you might pass on some things at work. That’s completely normal and expected. The real question is not whether you’re perfect, but if you’re making progress.
Don’t feel guilty about what doesn’t get done. You have to focus on what did get done. If things feel too far out of balance, step back, analyze, find the problems, and make a plan to do better. Wasting time beating yourself up over things that happened in the past that you probably didn’t even have complete control over won’t make life at work or at home happier.
In the end, you’ll find that whatever system you’ve set up will need adjustment, especially as your kid’s age, your needs change, and your network becomes stronger. Don’t be afraid to reassess the situation frequently to make sure you’re getting the most out of all of your efforts. Life is messy, hard, and exhausting, but you got this!