That title is loaded with ideals, pressure, misconceptions, and expectations. Everyone has an opinion about working mothers, and it would be nice to say that the only opinion that matters is yours if you’re a working mother. But life just isn’t that easy.
So, from one working mother to another, here’s a (slightly untraditional) manageable guide on how to balance life as a working mom.
6 Ways to Balance Life as a Working Mother
1. Have an Answer for “Why”
No, not an answer to anyone else who asks you why you’re working, but an answer for yourself.
You may be working for the paycheck, the health benefits, your passion for your career, or any combination. The important thing is to be able to say to yourself, “I’m working because…”.
Knowing why you’re working—the “why” that matters to you—will help keep things in perspective.
Maybe you’re working because you love your job, and you’d do it even if you were independently wealthy. Or, the extended health benefits are essential for covering a family member’s treatments.
When you know your “why,” you can prioritize better.  Questions about working overtime, answering emails when you’re out of the office, or any other work issues are easier to answer when you know why you’re doing them (or why you’re not doing them).
At the same time, knowing why you work will help with parenting choices. If it’s right for you, you can explain to your children why you work. If you have a partner, you can remind each other of your “why” and how to align that with the family’s priorities.
2. Clarify What “Mom” Means to You
Almost all of us grew up with a mom. We learned from her, made choices about what a mom should or shouldn’t do, and internalized many things about motherhood.
If we didn’t have a mom, we watched other moms intensely, trying to figure out what it would be like to have one.
But so many things about life and motherhood have changed in the past few decades, and they’ve changed a lot in the past few years. Things that were great for moms in the 70s or 80s don’t really exist now.
Although social media may suggest otherwise, there is no single right way to be a mom. You are one-of-a-kind. The type of mom you are can also be one-of-a-kind.
Some moms love imaginary play with their kids. Others would rather play catch. Some moms love cooking suppers from scratch every night. Others know exactly where to order take-out. Some moms need a nanny. Others want to spend every available second with their children.
No way is perfect or required. Work towards identifying exactly what’s right for you as a mom, and aggressively push off any “should” that isn’t right for you.
This also applies to being a working mom. Figure out what’s right for you, and say “no, thanks” to any pressure, ideal, or expectation that is totally wrong for you.
3. Invest in Good Help
Let’s start with help at work. Are you doing things that someone else can do? Would training others help take some pressure off you?
The “invest” part of this tip isn’t about money. It’s about spending time and effort to distribute the things that need to get done to others. Training people can be hard work, but the payoff is less work over the long term.
What about at home? Working moms all have access to potential help from children and maybe from their partners.
Yes, you’ll probably need to spend some time and effort teaching them how to do things, and they probably won’t do things as well as you. But they can all learn to help. Every little task that someone else does is one less task you have to do.
Eventually, this is a great way to create some balance. It may require a shift in thinking, but it’s worth it.
You don’t have to do it all, and it all doesn’t need to be done perfectly.
This is a great place for some creative thinking. Besides all the typical working/mom tasks, you’re probably doing a lot of mental tasks, such as planning vacations, scheduling maintenance, organizing social events, and tracking budgets and spending.
Is there someone else who can learn to take over some of those?
4. Look for the Energy Traps
One thing working moms struggle with is a lack of energy. It’s almost universal.
We’re all tired. Some days, the only way we make it until bedtime is by clenching our teeth and dragging out the last few bits of energy we didn’t know we had.
So, what’s taking your energy unnecessarily? Honest answers likely include your kids, your boss, and/or your partner. Those are all valid.
Think about the things that drag you down the most. Is there something you can do to change them? Maybe the bedtime battle is the worst time of the day. Are there parts of it you can change to make it easier?
Almost everything we tend to do isn’t mandatory: wearing pajamas, reading a book, sleeping in a bed. Those are optional.
If your child fights to brush their teeth at bedtime, brush them after supper. If they hate wearing pajamas, look for whatever option you can live with.
The same goes for morning routines. Wherever you notice yourself facing the same energy trap, ask if there’s anything you can change.
There may be some people outside your immediate circle that are also energy traps.
Did someone immediately come to mind? Someone who sucks the energy out of you or envelops you in negative energy whenever you’re with them?
Energy is a limited resource. You only have so much of it. If you can preserve some energy by reworking relationships or reducing the time you spend with certain people, go for it!
5. Become Your Own Caregiver
This is the hardest thing for a lot of women. We can feel like our job is to take care of everyone else (and there’s truth in that), but we leave the job of taking care of ourselves to some unknown force in the universe.
What do you need?
You know what each of your children needs: up to 14 hours of sleep (including naps), avoiding certain environments, cuddles, a nightlight, etc. Can you answer the same question for yourself?
Once you’ve identified what you need, it’s up to you to get it. A supportive partner, an open-minded boss, caring kids, and good co-workers can all help you get what you need. But you’re in control of getting it.
If you don’t have those types of people in your life, you’re probably in much greater need of taking care of yourself.
Fortunately, society is starting to accept the fact that working moms have needs, too. That’s a start, but you can’t wait for someone/something else to say it’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s on you.
Whether you can communicate your needs to the people in your life and have their support, or whether you have to carve out the time and resources to meet your needs, please, please, please do so.
One day, you won’t have that job. Your children will (probably) be grown up and living their own lives. You may/may not be in a relationship. The constant in your future is you. Start taking care of yourself. Today.
Just like every other tip in this article, you do not have to be perfect to be successful at this. (Actually, we’d like to throw perfection off a cliff.) Try something like insisting on 30 minutes of alone time, or refusing to answer emails on the weekend, or going to that exercise class that looks like so much fun.
If it’s good for you, keep it up. If it stinks, move on to some other thing that might work better.
6. Balance Life With Both Feet on the Ground
What do you picture when you hear the word “balance?” If it involves wobbling while standing on one foot or trying to keep a teeter-totter perfectly level, it may be time for a rethink.
Instead, imagine balance as you stand with both feet on the ground. Your body is strong but relaxed. Your gaze is straight ahead, but you also notice what’s around you.
Your mouth is turned up a little at the corners—as if there’s a chuckle just waiting to be heard. Your hands are relaxed.
This doesn’t mean your real life is like this. It’s the image you hold mentally as you seek balance. Balance isn’t about what’s going on around you (or over you if you’ve got a toddler climbing you right now). Balance is about you.
Only you can know what balance is right for you as a working mom. It might be a lot like someone else’s, or it might be totally different. If it works for you, it’s the right thing.
Being a working mother is not easy. Some may even say that it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. So, if you’re struggling to balance life as a working mother, you can start with this simple guide.
Featured photo credit: Anastasia Shuraeva via pexels.com
|||^||Greater Good Magazine: Why You Should Prioritize Meaning in Your Everyday Life|
|||^||Live Science: 5 Ways Motherhood Has Changed Over Time|
|||^||HealthyChildren.org: Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?|