The Real Truth of Being a Working Mom: 6 Tips To Help You

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Real Truth Being Working Mom

While you are having loads of fun with your newborn baby, there is something on your mind, that is causing stress and anxiety. How can I balance work and family? This is the common cause of worry for all working mothers. Here’s the real truth of being a working mom.

Rachel is a mother, entrepreneur, wife, daughter and friend. She left the corporate world after her daughter was born as she quickly realised she was not going to achieve the flexibility she required for her daughter. She decided to go freelance and has done really well in a marketing and strategy consulting role.

Recently Rachel came to chat to me about a major challenge she is facing. She shared how difficult this adjustment is from full day to ‘flexible’ half-day because work creeps into her special time with her daughter when a deadline looms or even just to ‘quickly’ check her inbox or finish off some loose ends. On top of this, she works after her daughter has gone to sleep.

I totally resonated with this because I made the switch to entrepreneur before my kids were born in order to have the flexibility and be the master over my diary. My son was born 6 years ago and I still feel like I don’t have it right.

I have constantly questioned if I am doing the right thing, debated how to juggle the demands of work and parenting, deal with the incessant mental chatter and guilt – you know the ‘should be’ mental chatter of ‘you should be with your kids, you should be spending time with your husband’ when you’re working.

However I have had 6 years to deal with my demons on this and feel qualified to share some advice.

It is not only Rachel’s story, I have had numerous women in corporate companies, freelancers and entrepreneurs share the same challenges. It comes down to how to best balance our work and family in a flexible capacity.

There are 2 forces going on inside our heads.

Number 1 – I want to be present and accessible to my children while they are young and before they become consumed with extra murals, friends and then decide they don’t really want to spend time with me.

And secondly – I want to maintain my individuality, my sense of self and have work that creates meaning for me. In other words, we don’t just want the identity of ‘I’m Aiden’s mother’.  

So, here are some thoughts on how to navigate this mental battle.

1. Perfection doesn’t exist

When we stray away from ‘traditional’ 8am to 5pm hours in a closed environment, we have an expectation of how our day ‘should’ be. We map out our diaries with the days intended action plan and then the reality is that it is almost never like that. Life happens – someone gets sick, there’s an urgent client request and by the time we need to fetch our kids from school, we feel like we achieved zero. When these days happen, remind yourself that’s life. You can’t control everything!

Related: Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers: Why They Are Never Good Enough

In fact, you can’t control anything. So have a plan but be open to accepting when the day unfolds in its own way. If you get a flat tyre, accept it. If someone needs to stay home because they are ill, then make the most of the morning and ask yourself ‘How can I now appreciate this as a gift’? I learned that advice from Personal Development guru, Tony Robbins.

It allows you to reframe the situation and accept it for what it is. When we persist against how it ‘should’ be in our minds, we will never be able to see past it. For example, if you can’t get to that proposal because your child is ill, then appreciate the quality time and make peace with the fact that you just won’t get to it in your allocated time slot.

2. Set boundaries

The hardest part of transitioning to a flexible role is setting boundaries. You’ve made the call to reduce your hours for your own reasons and so now you need to work accordingly. That’s means you may not be able to accept the project that requires you to travel to 5 African countries or daily status meetings at 17:30. You may need to decline the projects that don’t fit within your new structure.

I’m not saying it’s easy. But you need to be aware of what you say yes to because you may land up resenting the work because it contradicts your values. Remember, you made the decision because you value time with your kids at this stage of your life. You don’t need to lose out on the entire opportunity but people are open to negotiate.

Related: Personal Boundaries: 9 Core Boundaries To Live By

So when you do take on a new project or role, be clear on your hours of work. If you don’t set your boundaries at the outset, you will be at the mercy of the client’s/suppliers/ requests. I interviewed a female CEO who used to ask clients who requested meetings in the afternoon to come to her son’s school and have the meeting on the Hockey field because those were her boundaries. Not one person declined the meeting!

Boundary setting is not just in a work capacity but you need to set personal boundaries for yourself. Decide on a quitting time– give yourself the permission to switch off for the day. If you are continually ‘always on’, you will start to feel mental exhaustion despite how much sleep you are getting. Set boundaries to balance work and family.

3. Be present

When it is time to switch roles from businesswoman to mom, remind yourself to be present with your loved ones. Often we have the intention of spending quality time with our kids in the afternoons but the reality is our mind is still in the pitch that morning or in Woolworths wandering what to make for dinner tomorrow or just thinking about work commitments.

Never mind, not just being present mentally but often we try to sneak in some extra emails, finish the last quotation – you can fill in the blank. And believe me – kids will call you on it quick! For me, the best solution is to leave my phone and laptop in a separate room. Nothing is so urgent to keep it on you and if it is, you’ll get a phone call.

The same goes for dinner time – create a tech-free environment and replace screens for real connecting communication. The same goes for your work time – when you are focusing on your work commitments, ditch the guilt. Focus, be present and give it everything. And you will balance work and family like a pro.

Related: 27 Lessons I Learned In 27 Years To Stay In The Present Moment

4. Shift your perspective

reflection of your mind

I have spoken to many working moms and the same theme comes up over and over again. I know I tend to put my self-worth on external achievement. If I can see progress and I’m busy with talks or writing engagements, I can give myself a gold star. I’m A-type, a recovering perfectionist (still not quite there) and I know my biggest mental hurdle was giving myself permission to be with my kids in the afternoons – guilt free.

In theory, I know I am giving them a huge gift of being there and I know I’m not doing ‘nothing’. But honestly, I found it really difficult to cut myself some slack and not constantly feel I’m not achieving. I met with parenting expert and coach, Nikki Bush who gave me the most life changing advice I would like to share with you.

She shared a concept learnt from author and producer Shonda Rhimes. Nikki told me to see what I’m doing as ‘laying track’. It’s giving me the opportunity to build a solid bridge with my kids. She told me I won’t see the real results for the next 10 years but when those kids are teenagers and they come to me with their problems and we have a rock-solid relationship, I will only then see the real benefit.

And so I encourage you to give yourself permission to stop the self-bashing or lack of self-worth for the choice you have made. I know it’s frustrating when you don’t get half of your intended workload done that day and you may need to work longer after they go to bed but the impact you are making is so profound. It is laying track for their future and yours.

5. Build micro wins consistently over time

A micro win is the building block of a goal. Every time you achieve a micro win, you create a trajectory of positive reinforcement to achieve the next one. For example – if you want to run a 5km race, a 15-minute walk is a micro win. Aim for daily progress one micro win at a time with the time available to you. Some days you will achieve more and some days not as much.

Be kind to yourself and acknowledge the little wins along the way. I know for myself, some days I can get out a full blog post and some days, I get stuck on one paragraph. But the following day, I pick up on the previous day’s progress and continue. I’m done with bashing myself that ‘you only got that done – bad person!’ All you can do is replace perfection for progress in the time available to you. And that’s the key to balance work and family.

6. Focus on milestones and not goals

working mom

I had a recent epiphany. I watched an interview with Tony Robbins and he said achievement without fulfilment is not success. He said why do so many people achieve huge accolades, goals and feel depressed afterwards? For myself, I have some big goals I want to achieve. I acknowledge the time horizons will be further down the road because of my choice to reduce daily hours. But when I see I’m so far from the goal, I tend to get despondent. I made a choice to reframe my focus from goals to milestones.

Think about babies, we measure their developmental progress against the milestones of crawling, rolling, walking, etc. We don’t judge them because at 10 months, they aren’t walking yet. We take joy in the progress along the way – the smile, giggle, and laugh. So why can’t you be the same with yourself? Instead of judging yourself against this huge goal you haven’t YET achieved, why not acknowledge your daily process and along the way, you will hit those key milestones.

Related: 10 Uncomfortable Milestones That Prove You’re Doing It Right (Even When It Doesn’t Feel Like It)

Maybe it’s measured on a number of clients, certifications, finance, whatever you decide is your milestone. Not only will it keep you motivated but it will go a long way to keep your resilience, confidence and self-worth climbing with you. I’m not saying don’t have goals – I am saying be aware of measuring your self-worth only on the huge achievement as opposed to the incremental steps that will get you there.

We know there is no parenting manual or a life one for that matter! All we can do is take each day as it comes, be open to what life presents to us and above all, be kind to ourselves. I wrote this piece to give you the gift of community – you are not alone in the daily struggles and most are our own mental monsters. Know you have made the best decision for your family and you are laying track to give your kids the greatest gift possible – your time, love and attention.

Ready to own your days and not feel like they are owning you?

I’ve created an ultimate guide to Show Up To Yourself: In Life & Business. If you follow this daily, you can build new habits — and actually sustain them; schedule yourself into your calendar, guilt free; and manage your inner critic, free of anxiety and fear.

Get the ultimate guide here!


Written by: Lori Milner
Originally appeared on Beyondthedress.co.za

Republished with permission.

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