If you’re like me and you’re trying to balance a career and motherhood, I’m sure you have days where you feel as though you’re being stretched in 50 different directions. Not only are you trying to keep up at work after sleep-deprived nights, you’re trying to hold it all together at home.
Let’s not forget the likelihood that you’re spending most of your time running on an empty tank. I’ve been there. I remember that dreaded mommy guilt and feelings of overwhelm and stress from trying to split time between work and family. But I also know, from personal experience and that of my clients, it is 100% possible to have a flourishing career and family simultaneously (while also feeling like your own best self as well!).
Here are 9 tips to help you balance career and motherhood:
1. Honor your decision
If your career is important to you, this is one of your values which is a beautiful thing to honor and feel empowered by. If you’re someone who must continue working for financial reasons, honor the fact that you’re doing what you need to do – what you feel is best for your family. Rather than letting those negative and guilty thoughts creep in, focus on all the beautiful things your children will learn by you feeling empowered in your career.
In 2015, an international study by Harvard Business School gave some relief to us working moms that there are long-term benefits for our children. According to research by Kathleen McGinn and colleagues, women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full-time. Men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.
2. Be present
When you’re at home, be at home. Put your phone down and spend some time playing with your kids on the floor or out in the backyard. Help them with their homework and ask them about their day. Drive them to their activities or sit down for a family meal. Not only will your kids be happier, you’ll be happier as well because you know you’re making the most of the time you DO have with your family by being fully present.
3. Fill your own cup first
When you’re on an airplane getting ready to take off, the flight attendants go through their safety presentation. They always say that you need to put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else. If you can’t breathe properly, there’s no way you’ll be strong enough to help those around you. Make “me-time” a non-negotiable. I was a queen of messing this up. In fact, I’m pretty sure for the first 5 years after my first child was born, I maybe had one hour per week to myself max. I was going nonstop from dusk until dawn, taking care of everything and everyone aside from myself. I’m sure if you’ve done this before, you know that does not end well.
Looking back, it saddens me to see all the heartache, drama, and heaviness it caused in our lives because I was exhausted, resentful and literally had nothing left in my cup to give. We can’t keep giving, let alone have the brain power it takes to balance a full life when we’re empty ourselves. Just like a car won’t run on empty, neither will our bodies. I now make a conscious effort to do something for myself every day – even if it’s just a short yoga session at home or 20 minutes of reading before bed. My days are so much happier (which means my kids and husband are too)! Take it from me – FILL YOUR CUP.
4. Spend your time wisely
Sometimes it seems there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I make it a point to say no to activities or commitments that simply are not important, and focus on the ones that are. Focus on activities that fill you up with energy, rather than ones that drain you.
For example, I made the decision to let go of the gym. I was an avid gym-goer before kids, but once I had my second baby, I didn’t want them spending any more time away from me. Now I do at-home workouts while they are still sleeping in the morning, or have them play in the same room as me while I work out in the evenings.
5. Leave work at work
I really struggled with shifting from work-mode to mommy-mode until I read about this little exercise that I now swear by, and use with my clients as well. After work on your way to pick up the kids, release your day at work and set intentions for your evenings. If it’s a Friday, release your workweek and set intentions for your weekend. This can be done in the car or anywhere else you can find a few moments of quiet.
Close your eyes and take 5 long, deep breaths. Imagine the work day and everything you accomplished that day or week, clearing and releasing from your body. Be grateful for it, acknowledge it, and let it all fall away. Then set your intentions. My intentions are usually “I am a loving mom, I am a fun mom, I take my family on adventures and give my kids new experiences. I use my weekends to take care of myself, to relax, to spend time with my family, and I love my life. I am so blessed. I am so grateful.” Repeat your intentions over and over as you drive away from work and you’ll pick up your kids in mom-mode rather than stress-mode.
6. Find a childcare you love
This is a very personal choice, but knowing that you love and trust where your child will be spending their time away from you, makes life, work, and motherhood SO much more enjoyable and less stressful. It’s such a wonderful feeling knowing they are happy and in a beautiful environment with loving people or staff.
I made the decision to have a nanny for both of my children until they turned 18 months. Over half my salary went towards paying the nanny, but I loved knowing my babies were at home with someone who was giving them the one-on-one attention I wanted them to have. They then moved to an in-home daycare around 18 months with someone I loved and trusted dearly. I have plenty of friends and clients who swear by their daycare centers and wouldn’t trust anyone else with their kids – like I said, it’s totally personal. Find what works best for you so you feel like your kids are in the best place possible.
7. Use a family organizer
This is a lifesaver and an absolute must. At first, we had a family calendar on the kitchen wall, but if we weren’t at home we couldn’t see who was meant to be where, and when. We switched over to the Cozi app and it’s brilliant! You can pull it up on your phone and immediately see everyone’s activities no matter where you are. It also has a section for grocery list and to-do lists so you can stop at the store and pick up what you need without having to drive home first to find your list! No more texting mile-long shopping lists either!
8. Stop trying to be perfect
In today’s age with Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, it’s so easy to fall into the rut of “not being enough.” We are constantly comparing ourselves to everyone around us, and worse yet, their highlight reel on social media. Nothing good comes from this.
Stop comparing your life to everyone else’s. This is your life. You choose to live it in the way you want to live it. Drop the need for everything to be perfect.
Your career doesn’t have to be perfect, your family life doesn’t have to be perfect… You don’t have to be perfect. Once I stopped comparing myself and my life, and silenced the perfectionist in me, everything shifted, and I felt a sense of happiness I had never felt before.
9. Have FUN
The last thing we need is to have our lives feel like one huge to-do list. What’s the point?! Fun leads to joy, which leads to overall feelings of fulfillment and happiness. Make sure to do at least one fun thing each weekend (on your own or with your family). You’ll then start your workweek refreshed, feeling like you made the most of your time at home, and you’ll feel more ready to do it all over again!
Balancing career with motherhood isn’t always easy, but it can be beyond fulfilling to have the best of both worlds.
Most importantly, be sure to embrace your beautiful, imperfect, exciting, raw, adventurous journey. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?