Work and Motherhood. Tips On Finding Balance
No one ever asks my husband how he manages to balance his career and fatherhood, I, on the other hand, have been posed this question nearly every interview since I launched MAED. The truth is like most working mamas I don’t have a secret strategy. There’s no general road map to follow, there are too many different personal things to factor in. I do, however, believe that you can set yourself up to be happy and content with your performance at work and your ability to be a dedicated mother to your children. It might mean reevaluating what you do or how you parent, and it’s most definitely a juggle but finding harmony between your career and motherhood is doable. You don’t have to suck at one entirely to win at the other.
Here are a few tips on how I’ve managed to win at both my career and motherhood.
Make Decisions On Your Parenting Style
My husband and best friend of 20 years often laugh at me because I claimed I was going right back to work up until the very day my daughter was born. Both of them tried to warn me not to make such definitive statements.
“You don’t know you might change your mind.” my BFF said as she wagged her finger in my face. Hubby also had his own gut feeling that I wouldn’t want to drag our new baby from audition to audition or to fifteen to seventeen hour days working on a TV set.
But no matter what they both said I was always quick to snap back “Oh no! I am going back to work right after my 40 postpartum days.”
During my pregnancy, I read a lot about different styles of parenting and both me and hubby agreed that Attachment Parenting resonated with us. Once baby girl was here, and we had our 40 days at home together, I found myself constantly telling my agents and manager why I wasn’t right for a role or why I shouldn’t even audition for projects. I eventually had to keep it real with them and myself and make some big decisions about how I wanted to parent. How involved I wanted to be. Those decisions led me to become a SAHM for two years.
Reconsider What You Do
Are you thrilled with your career? Do you love your job? Mother or not if you’re not excited to get up every morning and do what you do, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Period!
For me, I did love the feeling of portraying someone else on television. I loved getting to live through characters vicariously, but I eventually came to realize that I wasn’t going to enjoy the long days away from home. And I couldn’t imagine bringing my infant onto a set full of chaos. I also knew that I still wanted to create, I still wanted to tell stories. During my two years as a SAHM I did a lot of soul searching and a ton of research and decided I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to run my own schedule, tell my own narrative and create my own visuals. I decided I needed to pivot careers.
A career change or leaving one job for another sounds harder than it is. More than hard, it’s honestly just scary. Starting from scratch can feel intimidating but living in fear gets you nowhere fast!
So reconsider your career, because if your heart wants to be home for dinner with the kids, but you’re not clocking out of work till 8 PM every night, then you need to recognize that that job isn’t a good fit anymore. It’s going to be impossible to find any peace.
Give Up The Guilt
When you’re a stay at home mother, you feel guilty that you are not working. When you’re working you feel guilty that you’re not spending enough time with the kids. It’s a no-win situation. Either you’re going to live with feeling guilty forever, which by the way is totally unhealthy OR you are going to learn to kick that mama guilt to the curb. It serves no purpose. If you’ve done the work to make conscious decisions, you shouldn’t feel guilty. This type of self-inflicted torture is death to your ultimate goals in finding balance.
Say “NO” More
Finding the power in “No” is something I’ve worked on. Saying “Yes” to things just for the sake of saying yes is a waste of your time and time is more valuable than money. It may be hard not taking on an extra client or declining a social event invitation but by saying “No” to someone else you’re saying “Yes” to yourself and your priorities.
We all know it takes a village, so whether it’s help at home or help at work, get it! You may need to ask for help or pay for it, but having people you can rely on to assist with responsibilities will save you. Do not compromise your sanity trying to do everything on your own. It’s not only unnecessary but also there aren’t enough hours in the day!
Talk to your partner about divvying up some of the household chores and schedule in regular specific activities your children can do with your partner. In my house, hubby does storytime and bedtime every night that he’s not out of town. Not only does that free me up but it gives them their own special time together.
If you’re a single parent lean on family members or ask your best friends for help. One of the most generous gestures my girlfriend makes is coming over to my place with her little girl so our daughters can play for a few hours. She’ll supervise, and I get hours of uninterrupted work done.
If your boss drops a big project on your hands, there’s nothing wrong with suggesting you partner with someone else on the team to ensure a thorough, successful outcome. Or ask to bring an intern on to help with research. Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas that will ultimately make your load a little lighter.
And don’t forget to hire out your weaknesses! If you can afford to pay someone to assist in your life anywhere–do it! If someone asked me to name one luxury I didn’t have growing up but couldn’t live without today, it would be a housekeeper. Keeping the house clean I could do, but keeping it organized is a challenge for me.
You might be tired of hearing me say this, but you can not give to others from an empty vessel. As women, we often feel the heavy responsibility of nurturing everyone but ourselves. You must find ways to take time for you each day. Alternate those choice activities to be sure that you are feeding yourself physically, mentally and spiritually.
An hour of movement to sweat out your stress, thirty minutes to read a few pages of a book, even taking ten to fifteen minutes of your lunch break to use a meditation app like Headspace can completely reinvigorate your day. If your goal while juggling work and motherhood is stability, then you need to put yourself before anything else.
Make sure everyone knows this is non-negotiable.
Learn To Let Go Of Perfection
Some days you’re going to be better in the office than you are at home and some days you’re going to be a rockstar Mama but race into a meeting ten minutes late. No one is good at everything, all of the time. I’m a firm believer in giving it your all, but I’ve learned to ask myself for nothing more than that.
Being so consumed by the perfect outcome robs you of enjoying the “now.” You completely lose the ability to find peace and happiness in that specific moment. Striving for perfection will leave you disappointed more times than not.
Learn to love and learn to laugh when things go the least perfect way. You’ll find more peace once you let go of the extreme expectations you hold yourself to and you might also see that you’re a much nicer and less controlling person.
Stop Comparing Yourself
What Sally does with the seashells she picked at the shore is her business, so mind yours. Other women are not a barometer of how you measure up as a mother. Inadequacy, shame, bitterness, and frustration are just some of the nasty feelings comparison can bring up.
Comparing yourself to another mother at school, the park or a mother on Instagram is useless. You create false stories in your head about all the things they’re doing right and all the ways your mothering wrong. This is about your self-doubt… why tear yourself apart like that?
Throw a positive spin on things. If you like the way you see another mother doing something, rather than let it intimidate you and lead you down the rabbit hole of comparison, use it as inspiration. Maybe there’s an aspect of what she’s doing you could start incorporating into your life.
At the end of the day finding balance is just about knowing your priorities and honoring your priorities, everything else in between is a great big juggling act. Right Mamas?