Whether a mother stays at home with a child or works, motherhood is a tough job. As a full-time working mamma, I often feel very torn between my two jobs. And I know that I’m not alone—virtually every friend and working mom I’ve had this conversation shares this feeling. And I couldn’t get through my crazy life without the support and honesty of they many working women—my friends, coworkers, pre-school moms—who have shared their feelings, experiences and great advice with me. I’m passing on some tips—some mine, some from much smarter women—in the hope that it helps a fellow mom, working at or in the home.
1. Embrace your inner half-ass. The best advice I have ever received was to embrace my inner half-ass. In other words, stop with the self-imposed stress of trying to be some sort of supermom able to work a 40+ hour work week, meet every want and need of my two-and-a-half-year-old, and still have time to bring about world peace. No one is going to ever write on my tombstone that I didn’t make gourmet dinners, only cleaned my house once a week (and I use the word clean loosely here), or didn’t serve as a school mom. And it doesn’t matter. My child is happy and loved—and that in of itself makes me one kick-ass mamma.
2. Have dinner (almost) every night with the family. It doesn’t matter if dinner (or breakfast) is take out or a three and a half minute microwave mac and cheese, carve out time to put work aside every day for the family.
3. Get the best childcare that you can afford. Yes, my nanny some months takes home more than half my paycheck. But I can’t tell you how much inner-peace it gives me to know that my daughter is with someone I completely trust, and that she adores. And selfishly, having someone in my home saves me valuable time picking up and dropping my daughter off at daycare, not having to worry when she is sick what to do, or sweating that 6 p.m. pick up deadline.
And, while this advice doesn’t apply to me (both of our families live far away), one of my friends strongly recommends that whatever child care arrangement you have, that you pay for it—don’t rely on the free sitting services of a family member or friend who might not be reliable, or follow your care instructions. In her case, she had relied on her mother who not only had a different parenting style, but had to abruptly stop when her father (my friend’s dad) became ill.
4. Form or join a working moms group. I know a couple of women who either joined or started a group for working moms, one of which was a group of working moms with kids at the same school. Having this working mom school group enables the women to feel part of the school community (not always easy when you aren’t picking up/dropping off your kids, or around to volunteer during the day), and has been a real source of moral support.
5. Press for a more flexible work schedule—and if the company says no, consider finding a new job. Companies are becoming more open to employees working from home, and flexible schedules. If your company is not one of these, ask—you just may be happily surprised at the response, and pave the way for your fellow employees. If this isn’t possible, consider finding a work situation that will better suit your situation.
6. Set up play dates on the weekends. Just because you can’t set up a play date during the week doesn’t mean you can’t aim for the weekends. Most stay-at-home moms get your schedule and would be happy to be flexible.
7. Remember to thank other moms for all they do to help the school and your kid. Just because a mom doesn’t work outside of the house doesn’t mean she is obligated to volunteer—or has all that much time either. A simple thank you goes a long way.
8. Set your priorities, and say no when you need to protect them. This can be really, really hard—especially when it’s saying no to your boss, or a loved one. But doing what is right for you and best for your family isn’t always easy—and your first job is to take care of you and your family. Set your boundaries and protect them—because if you don’t, no one else will.
9. Reach out to other parents for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask other parents for help on days that schools are closed/close early. Many women have shared with me that other parents have really helped out when needed—help that is reciprocated on the weekend or at other times.
10. Tell your work-addicted, childless coworkers to get a life…nicely. I admit: I was the eager 20-something that would spend countless hours in the office past 5 p.m., trying to impress my boss and climb up the ladder. And yes, I may have rolled my eyes once or twice when my older coworkers left early to pick up their kids. But here’s the thing: no one ever explained to me that they were probably logging on from 10 to midnight, or in the office at the crack of dawn. Now I wish I had listened to my older colleagues who told me to spend more of my nights enjoying myself instead of working—because downtime truly is a luxury.