Hey working mom, I see you every day. You are the one rushing in with a minimum of three bags on your arms and maybe even some spit up on your sweater. You effortlessly knock out team projects because you are used to getting tasks done quickly. You tend to smile widely as soon as someone asks how the family is doing. You probably don’t feel like you are making it work, but let me assure you, you are!
Those three words have thrown me into a frenzy of guilt so many times since returning to work after my first child. Once I returned after three months of leave, things felt off. I felt inadequate at work due to always pumping and having to leave right at closing time, and then felt guilty at home working at night to catch up when I should have been holding my daughter or talking to my husband. I visited my doctor around six months postpartum to discuss the possibility of postpartum depression due to all the anxiety I was feeling every single day. Fast-forward to now, back to work for five months after baby number two, and I feel much more grounded and confident in my role as a working mom just trying to make it work.
I want to let you in on a secret; I’m actually writing this post on my lunch break. Utilizing my lunch break is one of the several ways I’ve learned to make it all work. My one-hour break turns into my time to drop off things at the post office, make doctor’s appointments for the kids, run by the grocery store to pick up formula, or just to enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Here are other ways I (try to) make it all work as a working mom:
1. Choose a limited wardrobe.
My closet consists of black and white clothing with a pop of color here and there. I don’t have to overthink wardrobe combinations when I’m trying to deal with a toddler tantrum and it makes it easy to grab another top if a baby blowout diaper happens when I’m loading him in the car. You could go as far as creating a capsule wardrobe, but I just buy what I need in color combinations that always match.
2. Define boundaries.
Work-life balance is never a true balance. There are going to be times when your kids and life happenings are more important than tasks at work. There are going to be times in which big deadlines and work emergencies arise, and you have to spend more time and brainpower getting them accomplished. However, it is important and beneficial to define boundaries at work and at home. I used to stay in the office late or even come in on the weekends to get work finished. Now that I’ve learned to work smarter and more efficiently, I try to leave at closing time and designate my nights and weekends to family only. However, my colleagues and supervisors know they can always reach me if needed. On the flip side, my husband understands that some days he has to do daycare pick-up if I need to stay a bit later or he might have to watch the kids solo for a few hours while I finish something important at the office. Defining boundaries can be tough, especially for first-time moms who work, but it benefits everyone.
3. Say yes to help.
Say yes if your co-worker offers to man an event so you can be home with your kids. Say yes to working at home if your office allows it when you have a sick kid. Say yes to your spouse when they offer to carry the kids to the playground so you can have alone time to recharge. People are offering help because they want to help you succeed. It can be hard to let go and let others pick up what you have always done, but doing so allows you to take care of the things that are most important.
Let’s be honest; I rarely make it all work. In reality I’m trying to wear a million hats, keep two kids alive, be a good wife, and keep afloat at work. I’m often improvising to just make it all happen. If my kids’ school closes due to weather, I pack them up and bring them to the office where their toy car is a permanent fixture waiting for them. If one kid gets sent home sick, you can normally find me answering emails at the doctor’s office or on my couch. I even keep a desk drawer packed with essentials: an applesauce pouch for a hungry toddler, extra cardigan to hide baby spit up or poop stains, and toothbrush and toothpaste in case my mommy brain forgot to brush before work. I also rely on a lot of caffeine and sticky notes to get me through the day. My current desk status makes that apparent for all to see.