Is finding work/life/family “balance” really possible? I don’t believe that “balance” necessarily an attainable destination, but I do believe it’s something we can work on each and every day. By no means do I have this down to a science, but I am happy to share a few tips on how to find balance as a working mom.
You’re Not Alone
All of my working mom friends and I struggle from time to time to manage our career workload, motherhood, and the household. Not to mention taking care of ourselves! One thing that has helped me the most is knowing I’m not alone. We all feel imbalanced, frantic, and stretched thin at times and it’s ok to admit it.
In fact, I think it’s empowering to find a group of women who aren’t afraid to admit when they can’t handle it all. I’d rather be that person than the one who seems put together on social media…but is actually freaking out on the inside.
Working Mom or Stay at Home Mom = No Easy Choice
Let me also say that just because I come from the perspective of a “working mom” doesn’t mean I think the stay-at-home-mom life is any easier. Lord, it’s probably HARDER. Hats off to all you ladies out there who keep your littles at home all day and still manage to stay sane. I really don’t know if I was built to handle that. Some of you are, and for that, I commend you.
Full-time, part-time, work-from-home, or stay-at-home…not one of these situations is the “easier” or “harder” option. Bottom line, anytime you introduce a little human into the world life gets a LOT more complicated, no matter your career choice.
How to Find Balance as a Working Mom
I’m only three years into this balancing motherhood and career thing, so I still consider myself in MAJOR learning mode. However, I have figured out a handful of actions to take or lifestyle adjustments to make that have made the whole working mom thing a little bit easier.
Working from home
This first one is tricky. I am beyond blessed to have found a company that allows me to work remotely from a home office, but I realize that’s not attainable for everyone. Before I go on, let’s be 100% clear, I work from home but my son goes to all-day Montessori school. If he stayed home with me there would be dinosaurs all over my desk and I’d resort to roaring like a t-rex most of the time. Yeah, he’s gotta go to school if I want to get ANYTHING done.
Working from home has major pros and cons and there are numerous things I miss about being around a work team. However, for my current life stage, working from home allows me to pursue my career and still be there for all the “mommy” moments.
My advice for those who do have an office you commute to is this: ask your employer about working from home 1-2 days/week. Even having one “flex” day per week to catch up on home life and major work projects could be a game-changer for your schedule and your sanity.
Hiring help and not feeling guilty about it
I have my current manager (and friend) to thank for this one. When my responsibilities at work really started to ramp up, she could tell I was stressed about managing the home and my job at the same time. When I say “manage the home”, that does not mean that my husband doesn’t contribute. In fact, he contributes a LOT. We’re pretty much equal partners when it comes to chores and child-rearing…but we’re also very focused on our careers and travel often. However, I do think we as women are just wired take up more of the “mental load” of keeping things in order. That’s where the stress creeps in for me.
Anyway, my manger pushed to look at what we could handle in our monthly budget, and hire help. Not only hire help, but stop feeling GUILTY about it. Be it housecleaning, landscaping, or decorating (which isn’t a strength of mine), she encouraged me to outsource what made sense so I could free up more time to just “be”.
At this point, I’d rather give up my shopping budget than give up my house cleaners. The very LAST thing I want to do on the weekends is spend hours cleaning, and the time I get back with my little family is priceless.
Not working between 5PM and bedtime
When I’m in work mode, I try to stay focused as much as possible so that I can draw a distinct line at the end of my day. The minute I leave my desk to pick-up my son, my goal is to not check or respond to email until he’s in bed. It is not easy, I always think I can get “just one more thing” done or answer “just one more email”.
The truth is, it can all wait. Unless it’s an absolute dire emergency at work, it can wait. If it means I have to log-on after bedtime to finish something that must get done before the next day, I’ll do it. If it means I have to wake-up a little earlier the next morning, I’ll do that. Either way, my goal is to be focused on my son when he’s home.
My biggest fear is waking up one day to my 18-year-old leaving for college and me regretting that I worried too much about work when he was little. That I hurried through every evening from dinner, to bath, to stories, to bedtime and didn’t take the time to soak up every sweet (and sour) little moment.
It’s going to go by fast no matter what I do, but if I can force myself to slow down and create space in my life each day that’s distinctly for my family, I know it will be worth it.
Getting up one hour before everyone else
I’ll admit I’ve kind of always been a morning person, so this one isn’t too hard for me. I’ve been doing this “work from home” thing for over two years now, and while at first I thought it would be awesome to sleep in until the little one woke me up at 7AM, it’s not that awesome. If I can get my day going by 6AM then everything runs smoother for me. The days when I don’t get up that early just feel a little more hectic, a little more frazzled, and I don’t feel like I had any time for myself.
I get going by 6AM about 80% of the time, but some days I just need some extra Z’s and that’s fine too. This also means I go to bed on the earlier side…which I realize isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
It works for me…most of the time…but that’s all about to get shattered in mid-October when this new baby boy arrives. If this one is anything like my first, we won’t really sleep for the first six months 🙂 We’ll get our routine back eventually, and I’ll get back to that precious quiet hour to myself. Eventually, right?
Letting my husband help (and parent) in his own style
This one is SO HARD (which is probably why it’s the longest). My husband and I have been together for eight years now, and it’s still something I’m working on. Just because I clean the kitchen in a certain way, doesn’t mean that his way doesn’t also get the job done. Also, just because I see something that needs to be done around the house, doesn’t mean he does.
I used to get insanely frustrated when he didn’t see what I saw…until I finally realized that all I had to do was ASK for help and BACK OFF. We’ve all done it: we ask for help, but the minute our partner starts doing said task in their own unique way, here we come with our criticism of how they should be doing it. STOP IT! Whatever it is will get done, but you can’t micromanage it.
Same goes with parenting. Dads often have their own way of doing bath time, bedtime, middle of the night feedings, etc. As long as you’re both on the same page about major things like discipline techniques and the like, the kids will get fed, they will get to bed, and they may even look forward to daddy’s special ways of taking care of them 🙂
Again, I’m new to this motherhood and career game, but I’m learning. I’m learning to give myself some grace and that it’s just not possible to be everything to everyone.
I hope sharing some of my experience helps you even the tiniest bit. What other strategies have you found to help balance career and home life? I believe that sharing and encouraging each other is the most empowering thing we can do as women…so rock on mama, you got this.