Balancing motherhood and work is a science that in my mind never is perfected, but always a work in progress. It requires a different frame of mind and the acceptance that you might make some mistakes along the way. First and foremost, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. This is a constant period of trial and error—and the basis for tip number one.
Stay positive, you are not alone. These can be trying times and like anything new, it takes time to get used to balancing work and home life. Do realize, however, that even when it seems like things are at their most overwhelming, they will get better. Women now make up 51 percent of the professional workers in the U.S., with 70 percent of American women with children under 18 earning a paycheck while raising their children. That means there are more of us new mothers going back to work, so when in doubt or in need some advice, there are numerous blogs, networking opportunities and support groups to share stories and glean advice to face another day. After all, there is something to the concept of “safety in numbers.”
Build a network. It is like the old adage, when you buy a Volvo you all of a sudden see hundreds of Volvos on the road, or when you are pregnant, all you notice is pregnant women. Well, the same holds true for balancing a career and being a new mother. Take a moment to look around and you will be surprised to see that within your workplace or social circles there are many women just like you trying to balance careers and have it all. Most of these women will have the same challenges to share and more importantly the same successes—like getting out of the house without formula all over your suit. But in all seriousness, we can learn a lot from those around us and building a network of these other successful working moms can help ensure sanity.
Take time for yourself. A healthy heart is a stable heart. It is incredibly important during this time to take a moment for yourself between mothering and being a professional. These are the moments you regain clarity and a sense of self that will allow you to perform your best at work and at home. Whether that be an aerobics class, trip to the salon or quiet time with a book; time for yourself is key to a successful balancing act between home and work.
Time management. A schedule never became more important until I became a mother. Becoming a working mother for me was the moment in my career when I began to make the best use of my time. Time management took on a whole new meaning as I knew I still had to get done what I needed to but there was a much stricter window of time in which to do it in in order to get home and spend time with my child. Find a good time management plan that allows you some flexibility (because you will need it!) but that allows you to still deliver and drive results at work. There is no such thing as “winging it” anymore.
There is a reason they call it a circus and a “balancing act.” Life can begin to take the shape of a circus when balancing the two very different worlds of motherhood and office politics. The last thing you want to do is enter an important meeting talking baby talk because you spent the last two hours cooing— but hey, it happens. Just remember to own your new persona—working mom—get comfortable with it and understand it might be a different “you” than the one that left on maternity leave. A different you, but a better you.
Don’t give up traditions, and start some new ones. Inevitably there will be some guilt every time you need to miss a doctor’s appointment or your baby’s first steps but it will happen—and don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead uphold and institute some traditions. Make your child’s birthday a formal “holiday” off work to spend quality time together. Make it a point to volunteer one hour a month at the daycare center or spend an hour having coffee with your in-home sitter. Creating a “wow” factor not only can happen at work, but also at home. All it takes is a little creativity.
And remember it is OK to be imperfect. Life is unpredictable and sometimes as a working mother you need to be open and honest with your manager as it relates to your and your child’s needs. If you need to work remote one day due to a fever, just be honest. Building a process that works for you and your manager is key in this important time in your life. Neither have to suffer, you just have to find the right balance.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes to learn and live by, especially as it relates to being a woman of the house and at work—“Act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a boss.”
Women can have it all.