Like most working moms, I live with the crippling fixation on being a super star both as a mom and as a career woman. It is astonishing how much confidence I have in my ability to do literally it all. The truth is, I will burn out faster than a dying star if I try to work like I don’t have kids, and parent like I don’t have a job.
Peace has come from the steady work of taking both responsibilities with a healthy dose of reality. When I am working, I am a career woman AND a mom. When I am parenting my kids, I ALSO have work obligations. I can’t see either role without the other. Here are some practical tips and mindset tricks that I’ve used to help me keep balance:
#1. Embrace the Gen-Z work mindset
Listen, I know Millennials and up have a hard time with the Gen-Z mindset toward work. It’s hard to unlearn the “hump it til they notice” work ethic we grew up with. But I think it’s time we listen to what Gen-Z has to say about this! They do not work overtime if overtime pay is not offered, and like hell if they will stay late for free! They say things like, “I will not donate my time to the company,” and “If you’d like me to work two extra hours tonight for the launch, I’ll be heading home two hours early on Friday.” We find these boundaries to be off putting because who can get ahead when they refuse to be a team player?! But, are they refusing to be a team player? Or are they simply upholding the boundaries that should have been in place all along? I think that if we are going to be healthy in our jobs and with our kids, it starts with being willing to make and uphold very firm boundaries at work.
#2. Establish boundaries with your kids
Kids can understand boundaries. They need them. If you work from home, your kids need to know what kind of behavior you expect out of them while you are working. My kids are 5 and 7, and although they need occasional reminders about being quiet when we are on phone calls, or getting snacks for themselves, they are perfectly capable of keeping those rules. If you work outside of the home, there are still important ways to keep boundaries with your kids. One example would be telling your kids that you need 20 minutes to reset and unwind when you get home from work. They can wait 20 minutes while you pull yourself together after a long day. You’ll all get along better because of it.
#3. Time block, time block, time block
Time blocking is your very best friend, especially if you work from home. When I have super busy days as a work from home mom, I keep in mind that my little kids really can’t make it all day without interacting with me when I’m literally a few feet away. It’s asking too much self-restraint for them to stay away from their favorite person in the whole world for an entire day. So, I block off time for them. I will set a timer for 30 minutes per kid, giving them both a block of dedicated time with me. It’s incredible how much of a difference getting 30 minutes with me can make for them.
#4. Be realistic about what you can do
You simply can’t do it all. A healthy approach to managing your many responsibilities as a working mom is to be feverishly honest with yourself about what you are actually capable of getting done. Consider this when you tell your employer how long it will take for you to complete a project, or when you are asked to volunteer for the kids’ classroom. You can’t do it all, so you’ll have to be choosy about what you commit yourself to.
#5. Expect equity from your partner
If your partner also works, I have a funny feeling you have to figure out how to balance your job and the kids, and your partner does not. I’d double down on that wager if you are a woman and you are married to a man. If you are both working, it is perfectly reasonable to expect equitable labor when it comes to your 5pm to 9am job. Our husbands were indoctrinated into the same mindset that many of us were — that the man’s job is to work, and the woman’s job is to raise the kids. Sadly, this mindset hasn’t kept up with the times. Most houses these days are dual income, with both parents working. If he’s not already, your partner needs to be doing just as much child-related work as you.
#6 Practice self-compassion
We can’t control all of our circumstances, but we can control the way we respond to them. If there is any kind of resilience that will serve us well as we navigate our careers and our responsibilities as parents, it is self-compassion. Being gentle and understanding with ourselves eases the pain around messing up. It also takes away the constant anxiety we live in, because we know that we will be kind to ourselves when things go wrong. Self-compassion is like a muscle. It only gets stronger with use.
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