There are a few things in this world that leave me in awe: those hair-raising moments of dreams coming true, the Northern lights in all its glory, artificial intelligence (AI), and...working moms who seem to have figured it all out! Or at least, look like they do.
(Disclaimer: Before anything else, let me just say that being a mom is hard! And I’m not going to play the “who has it harder” card just because I’m a working mom. Nobody has it easy; we all have our rocks to grind. But in this article, I am going to write about what I know—and that’s the reality of being a working mom. So, shooo Judgy McJudgersons of the world! Keep your stones sealed in your glasshouses.)
Okay. Back to regular programming.
I’ve been a full-time working mom for almost four years now, and on most days I still feel like I’m grappling in the dark. Work-life balance remains to be a mystery, an obstacle course of sorts. When I see other working moms like me, who seem to breeze through the chaos, exhaustion, and struggles of work and family life without breaking a sweat, I feel a sudden urge to grab them, take them aside, and ask, “Are you on steroids?! How the ^@5/# do you do it all?!”
As it turns out, doing and having it all is a myth. I just confirmed that with some of my best working mom friends! Apparently, even when they seem like they’ve been there and done that, there’s a little voice in their heads that tell them they still haven’t done enough. (And I’m like, same!)
I polled them on how they manage to keep their careers and families afloat and what they do to keep their sanity intact at the same time. Here are some of the tips they shared that would surely come in handy if you ever find yourself in the same boat.
When I surveyed my mom friends about the things that keep them sane as a working mom, Audrey, a nurse and a mom to an adorable 2-year-old, immediately answered “coffee!” Yes, queen.
Our pop culture around moms and coffee is a cliché, but then it’s a cliché because it’s true. Personally, I don’t believe coffee (or wine) improves our parenting or our work. But when you’re down to less than five hours of sleep each night and has to jump through hoops, juggle too many balls, and teeter on the high wire in the morning, having a cup or two of coffee definitely doesn’t hurt. So keep on chugging, mama!
Almost all of the working moms I surveyed highlighted the importance of “me” time in the land of mom. Carolyn, a rock star virtual assistant, and mom to two girls, shared that to avoid burnout, she listens to her body and then takes the time to do things for herself. It can be sports, making art, or just 15 minutes of silence in the shower. Cristina and Mia, who are both writers and super moms, also shared the power of retail therapy. Amen, sister! I’ve bought around 30 books since embracing my mom role, and I can’t wait to finally read them...probably 15 years from now when my tot moves out for good!
While “me” time may be the proverbial unicorn for working moms—or moms in general—it’s an absolute must to own our time, even for as little as 20 minutes a day. It keeps us feel centered, calm, and ready to handle whatever the day throws at us.
On days when I feel like I’m messing it all up, I take a deep breath and remember that I'm not alone. Janice, a software QA tester and mom to 12-year-old James, echoed the same sentiments and said that going out with girlfriends is essential for working moms—all moms, actually. Whether it’s a quick lunch out, a mani-pedi day, or going on a weekend trip with friends, it’s important to spend some time with our women tribe and take off our “mommy hat” even for just a short time as it makes us feel light, fulfilled, and unencumbered. No guilt in doing that. I, for one, highly recommend it!
Meal preparation is always a challenge, not just to your finances but also to your time. Nikki, a single mom, law student, paralegal slash mompreneur, has her schedule at work full for weeks ahead. Most days she prepares their meals and her six-year-old daughter’s school lunches ahead of time or at least the night before. But there are days that it’s just not humanly possible for her to be a step ahead. So, there were days when she had to pack a frozen black bean burger, pretzel sticks, and a chocolate milk drink into her kids’ lunch box.
If you’ve been there, don’t feel bad – it happens even to the best of people. The most important thing is that your child is fed and not going to starve in school that day. Make up for it on the following days, move on and don’t sweat it.
Certain things make full-time work and motherhood bearable, and one of these include a nice boss, a flexible workplace, and a job you love. (And I don’t like to brag, but I definitely found the one!)
If you’re still on the lookout for a good job that will allow you to wear your mommy at the same time, here’s my tip: lay your cards on the table from the start, so you’ll know how to balance work and family.
I’ve never been much of a planner, but my friend Therese is. A college professor, part-time singer and songwriter, and a single mom, Therese tells me that listing everything keeps her sane. Her best tip is to get a good planner, whether it’s a good old notebook or a smartphone.
Remember the faintest ink beats the sharpest memory. If you’re working and managing a household at the same time, you’ll need all the help that you can get. Write everything that you should remember, things such as grocery lists, doctor’s appointments, insurance renewal and the like.
I’ve stepped on Lego pieces more times than I can remember, and I swear those things could be the death of me. I make a resolution, not every new year, but every day, to organize everything. Carol, mom to twin boys who works from home as a virtual project manager for an online coaching site, on the other hand, says she’s learning to choose her battles and let go.
Clutter is as much a part of our day as taking a shower or eating is – so make your peace with it, Carol tells me. Schedule cleaning and sort tasks according to those that must be done within the day (wash the dishes, make the bed, clean the coffee maker), weekly (dust the furniture, scrub the bathroom) and monthly (clean out freezer, change drapes). You can have everything in place, but you know that in an hour of play time you’ll be back to square one. It can only end up in frustration, so you need to be realistic about your expectations.
Lastly, stop the pity party and free yourself from the comparison trap! (This is me talking to myself.) You can’t be perfect. No one is. If you have to get a nanny or take your child to daycare, do it. Do away with the guilt, because you would know what’s best for your situation more than anyone else. If you’re meeting half of what’s needed to survive and give your child or family a decent life, then you’ve already won half of the battle. Celebrate those victories because you’re going to need those for times when you need a lift in the spirits.