Thoughts From a Working Mom
Fight the guilt, feel fulfilled
As I parted ways with my "babies" and my husband, I had a thought. I would miss them terribly, but I was proud for all the work I had accomplished leading up to this moment, and I wanted to make them proud too. No guilt. Just wanting to represent for our crew.
I am a woman who does not subscribe to three things: worry, regret and doubt. They just haven't been a part of the landscape of my mind, for which I am grateful, and I contribute much of my life survival and success to that.
Leading up to our big events for work, it's quite the fury. I know, as does my family, that about two weeks prior, I'll be putting in extra hours and will be tied to my technology a bit more than usual. This is not my first rodeo... or theirs. A few days before I left, Peyton was especially wanting my attention. They had a couple snow days in a row, he was getting cabin fever, and I happened to be working from home those days because of road conditions.
One day, at the end of my work day, he said, "Can you just put that thing away," pointing to my laptop, "and do something with me?"
That day in particular, it felt like I was a firefighter putting out one fire after another. So, I was knee deep in work. Kennedy, my second oldest, had done a beautiful job of covering that day, helping with meals and chores and entertaining Peyton. So, he was getting the care and attention he needed, he just wasn't getting it from me. This brings me to two things: mom guilt and the act of balancing work and home.
At this point in my life, I have done it all: full-time working parent, stay-at-home-mom, working part-time and staying home, and now working full-time again. So, before you think I'm speaking only from a full-time working mother's perspective, please know I have been a player in all the roles.
As I mentioned before, I have never subscribed to mom guilt. In fact, I think mothers do a terrible disservice to themselves and their children when they buy in to that. As caregivers, I believe the internal dialogue we have about our various situations and seasons in life directly impacts our behavior, our outcomes, and the external dialogue we have with our children. Why not change the narrative? If you are a mother who has to work or wants to work, why not make that a positive? Why would any woman set herself up every single day to feel like crap about her decisions and the life she is leading for herself and her children, especially when she has control over her thoughts? Imagine the picture you would be painting if you started every day feeling empowered, embracing a growth mindset, and modeling for your children things like successfully taking on new challenges, being able to manage change, having your own set of personal and professional goals, a strong work ethic, being proud of your work, and being able to fully love and support your children while also loving and supporting yourself? As parents, our job is to teach and mentor our children so they grow up to be self-sufficient adults who can contribute positively to the world around them. Life is not always easy or fun, but if we embrace life, and all that comes at us, and teach our children how to adjust the sails of life, we are teaching them how to manage the ups and downs, and grow up with confidence, knowing they can figure it out. Rather than feel guilty about being a working mother, choose to change your perspective. Adopt the viewpoint that you are equipping your child with a tool box full of life skills: adaptation, multitasking, navigating stress, prioritization, integrity, the value of a strong work ethic, and my next point... constantly working on finding balance in life.
There really is no such thing as a life-work balance. Rather, it's a constant juggling act of shifting and rearranging. And you know what, that's okay. You will never... I repeat... never have a perfect balance. Some days you will slay and feel like Super Mom. Other days will completely suck and you'll feel like you have permanently scarred your kids, because they ended up having cereal for dinner. I assure you, this is normal, and mom... they loved the cereal for dinner. In fact, you should do it more often.
Trying to find the sweet spot between work and children and home life is the perfect opportunity for teachable moments and strengthened communication. When Peyton asked if I would "finally put that thing away," I explained that I wasn't trying to ignore him. In fact, I was working really hard to help my company, my co-workers, and to save up for our family vacation. That instantly changed his tune, and his ears perked up. Our conversation changed when he realized I was working toward something we both valued—our family vacation. I promised him (and I don't do promises unless I can keep them) that when I was done working in five minutes, I would play Uno with him... and I did. Hence, another life lesson taught—the value of keeping your word. Letting Peyton know I heard him was key. Did I drop everything in that moment? No. I couldn't, and that simply is setting him up to think that's how it should be, which is not the case. I did hear him, and I did keep my promise. And, when it was time for cards, my laptop and my phone were nowhere in sight; I was all his. As a working mom, focus on quality if that is what you can provide; don't get hung up on quantity.
If you spend more time with your kids, but are distracted by your computer, your phone, your TV, your tablet, you might as well not even bother. When you're in, be all in. Have conversations, ask questions, make eye contact. Really and truly connect. Your children will remember how you made them feel—like a priority.
I'm also a true believer in front loading. If I'm working from home, I let my kids know before I hop on calls or start meetings. This way, I'm proactively reaching out to see if they are hungry, making sure they are on task for school work or reading or chores, and also setting the understanding that I will be unavailable for a bit. Being proactive and engaging in those conversations lets your children know you do care about them. It also lets them know that you have expectations for behavior, which is never a bad thing.
Being a working mother is truly a gift. No, it's not free from its challenges. But, it does provide a win-win scenario for both you and your child(ren). Trust me when I say that if you let go of guilt and embrace your roles, your child(ren) will be more apt to embrace them as well. You are also strengthening communication and understanding with your children about life and work, and how that all works. These are teachable moments and opportunities to mentor positive behavior for your children that will help set them up for success in the future.
Feeling fulfilled in your self, your roles, and your growth will translate to you showing up better for your babies as a momma.