I talk a lot about the importance of telling your story, so I wanted to share a bit more of mine: Motherhood and Career. I had a long career before I became a mother. And surprise! Becoming a mom changed everything. When my 3rd child was born, I decided I was done sending them to daycare for 50+ hours a week, so my very supportive husband and I sat down and figured out how we were going to "make it work" for me to spend more time at home with the kids.
This was a HUGE change for me. Something I never thought I'd do (and ask any of my college friends -- they never saw it coming!)
And yes, our family has made a few sacrifices, but honestly, they don't feel like sacrifices -- more like enablers to the life we've decided that we want. I have no regrets.
BUT it has been more challenging (and more rewarding) than I could have imagined 2 years ago. So here are some things I've pondered, learned, and experienced along the way (so far -- I have a lot more to learn).
Working motherhood is a complex, emotional journey -- filled with both joys and challenges. As a mother who carries the demands of a career and family, it's so easy to feel guilty about not being there for your children or not giving your all at work -- or most often, both. But instead of dwelling on the guilt, I'm learning to embrace the empowerment that comes with being a working mother (note the present tense -- it's ongoing). Juggling a job and parenthood requires a unique set of skills and strengths that should be a source of pride and confidence. So, if you're a working parent who wants to move from guilt to empowerment, keep reading!
The Joys of Working Motherhood
One of the most significant joys of being a working mother is the sense of fulfillment that comes from contributing to both your professional and personal life. Having a career and being a mother can give you a sense of purpose and meaning that can be incredibly rewarding. It can also provide a sense of financial stability and independence, which can be empowering. But these joys can easily get lost in the guilt -- so remember to remind yourself. What you're doing is incredible. Latch onto your purpose and make sure what you're doing every day supports that purpose.
Working parents can also provide a positive role model for their children. It can show them that parents can have successful careers and still be devoted to their families. It can teach them the value of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Some of the traits that I'm passionate about instilling in my children are independence, responsibility, and empathy. By seeing their parents juggle work and family -- and take pride in both -- my kids are getting these lessons firsthand.
Another joy of working motherhood is the opportunity for personal growth and development. Managing work and family requires a unique set of skills and strengths, such as time management, multi-tasking, and problem-solving -- all things valued in any career and essential to managing any home. These skills can be honed and developed through the challenges of working motherhood, ultimately leading to personal growth and development.
The Challenges of Working Motherhood
While there are many joys of working motherhood, there are also significant challenges. One of the biggest challenges is finding harmony between work and family. (Notice I didn't use the word balance -- I don't believe there is ever an even balance in our world, so we work toward harmony.) Finding peace between the demands of a career and family can be incredibly challenging and can lead to guilt, anxiety, and overwhelm. I've been there more often than I'd like to admit (ask my husband).
Another challenge of working parenthood is managing the logistics of childcare and household responsibilities. It can be challenging to find reliable and affordable childcare, and managing household responsibilities can be overwhelming when juggling a job and parenthood. My children are young, they are just starting extra-curricular activities, so I know the household "busy-ness" is just beginning.
Working mothers can also face discrimination and bias in the workplace. Women are often expected to take on more of the caregiving responsibilities, which can lead to being passed over for promotions or opportunities. (Do you find yourself constantly running kids to doctors' appointments, picking them up from school early due to fever, or leaving work early so the kids can get to their practice or recital?) There can also be a lack of support and understanding from colleagues and employers, which can make working motherhood even more challenging.
Addressing Guilt and Self-Doubt as a Working Parent
One of the biggest challenges of working parenthood that I've felt is the guilt about not being able to give my all to both my career and family. The guilt and self-doubt can be overwhelming and can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure, or even spending a few extra minutes sitting in your car in the garage until the tears stop. But, it's essential to recognize that these feelings are normal and common among working parents (especially mothers).
To address feelings of guilt and self-doubt, I've found it essential to reframe my thinking. Instead of focusing on what I'm not doing, I try to focus on what I am doing. Celebrate accomplishments -- even small ones, both at work and at home. I acknowledge that I'm doing the best I can, and that's enough. And on days when I feel like I'm at 50% -- then 50% is the best I can do that day. It's OK.
It's also important to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend. Recognize that you're not perfect, and that's okay. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. And on the days when you need a pick me up, and you just can't get it from within, lean on your support system.
Building a Support System as a Working Mother
One of the most critical components of thriving as a working mother is having a support system or a "village". A support system can provide encouragement, advice, and assistance. It can also help alleviate some of the stress and pressure of working and raising a family. I had a career for many years before becoming a mother. My husband, parents, in-laws, and daycare center all knew that career was a priority for me. We all talked A LOT about the village and how we would work together for our little bundles of joy.
Your support system can include family, friends, colleagues, childcare providers and other working mothers, too. It's essential to surround yourself with people who understand the challenges of working motherhood and can offer empathy and support when you need it.
Embracing Flexibility and Self-care
One of the most important tips for gaining harmony is to embrace flexibility and self-care. Recognize that there will be times when work demands more of your time and other times when your family requires more attention. Be flexible and adaptable to these changes. This is what I mean by harmony -- you're never going to achieve a perfect balance, but with a support system and communication, you can create a harmony that ebbs and flows where it needs to.
It's also essential to prioritize self-care. Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health. Make time for exercise, hobbies, and relaxation. When you take care of yourself, you'll be better equipped to handle the demands of work and family. And when you're up for it -- include your family in self-care activities too!
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries is another critical component of thriving as a working parent -- and is often more difficult for mothers. It's important to create boundaries between work and family time. Turn off your phone and computer when you're not working, and be present with your family. This will help you to be more productive when you're working, and more present with your family when you're not. Practice this mindfully -- I've had a hard time with this one. As a small business owner that's trying to grow, there is always more that I could be doing for work. But being present with my kids allows me the mental reprieve that I often need from work. Learning how to make the most of these 2 spaces means that I am better at both.
It's also important to set boundaries with others. Be clear about your needs, limitations, and expectations. Communicate your boundaries with your employer, colleagues, and family members. When you set boundaries, you'll be able to manage your time and energy more effectively. I like to live by the motto: "If it's not a HELL YES, then it's a No." Learn to say "No."
Empowering You to Embrace Your Journey
By addressing guilt and self-doubt, building a support system, and embracing flexibility and self-care, you can thrive in both your professional and personal lives. The important thing is to be mindful of your purpose and frame your days to support that purpose. Doing so will build your confidence, which is the key to empowerment.
So, to all the working mothers out there, embrace your journey. Recognize that you're doing the best you can, and that's enough. You're a role model for your children and a valuable contributor to your workplace. Keep pushing forward, and remember to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.