Staying sane as a working mom is no easy task. Being a mom in general is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things I have ever done. Adding work “outside” the home takes all of you. However, with a lot of practice, evaluating priorities and having the right support and structure in place, the whole system can run somewhat “smoothly”…some days more so than others 😉
When I had my first daughter Divinaka, I was pretty much a “working mom” right off the bat. I was in a Ph.D. program and I was also working with a startup, trying to get a holistic healing center off the ground in San Diego. Before I had her, I had visions of being able to go back to class soon after I gave birth. I thought I’d be able to finish my statistics homework the day I got back from the hospital, no problem… Well, I was right. I did show up in class the week after I gave birth and I was doing statistics homework when she took her first long nap after I came home from the hospital. Looking back to that time 5 years ago, people probably thought I was crazy. I think I was. Part of it is just my personality to always be “creating” and “moving” but even with my tenacious style of “constantly doing,” there was a part of me that just needed to “be” as I was finding it challenging to juggle everything without having had any experience doing this before. I thankfully listened (finally).
As I was trying to find my footing of being a new mom and also working outside the home, I decided to start slowing down but not how you would typically think of “slowing down.” I slowed down enough to get rid of the things that were not serving me, as I no longer had the time or energy to waste on anything that wasn’t filling up my cup. I suddenly had to give a lot more than I ever had to in my entire life so I needed to focus on things that could fill my cup back up in whatever ways possible.
I started doing yoga where I could and spent time with other new moms and my family. I took a good look at my life and evaluated what I really wanted to be doing. I invested in friendships that were worth nurturing. I made sure I was eating well and getting physical exercise. One of the best things I did was decide to change career directions and devote my whole career to bringing healthier food to babies, which became a source of daily fulfillment for me. Going to “work” suddenly felt more fun, inspiring, and a source of energy because it didn’t feel like work. It felt natural and like something I would do regardless if I had to or not (more about my experience starting a business as a mom here!). I decided to follow that, which has made being a working mom of 3 girls much more manageable.
It’s been 6 years since I had my first daughter. Although I feel much more confident now that I’ve gone through the process of being a working mom, I still go through the struggles of trying to balance it all and having a third little girl recently has brought its own unique challenges and opportunities. Having my own business, trying to stay physically active, all while trying to maintain a marriage and friendships is no easy feat, but it is doable. I’ve learned some things along the way that have helped make it easier and have helped me keep my sanity.
As a first-time mom, seeking out childcare can be a daunting experience. I remember having many thoughts and questions teetering on feeling guilty leaving her and feeling guilty for not being able to do so:
What I eventually landed on is that it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. You can have both AND your kids can thrive AND you can feel good about what you are doing. When I found the right childcare, I realized it was actually a better situation for everyone. Children were meant to grow up in villages. If my kiddos can spend time with more people that they love, who are nurturing them and I can also feel good about what I’m doing. It’s a win / win situation for all.
The initial problem I ran into was not taking enough time to hash out a really good childcare provider that I felt totally confident with. I ended up cycling through a few of them before I found a situation I felt really good about.
With my second daughter, I knew to look around for the perfect fit until I felt 100% confident when leaving her to go to my “other” job. This is so important because in order to fully be present at something else you have to feel really good about who is spending time with your kiddos.
I realize not everyone has the opportunity to pick and choose childcare at length but if you have the option of childcare, the chances are you do have at least some choice in the matter.
When I discovered meal delivery companies such as Green Chef this changed my life! I didn’t have to spend time thinking about what to prepare or worrying about getting a variety of foods in my daughters’ diets. Meals became easier because instructions were clearly laid out so I could spend more time focusing on my kids while preparing dinner than making up recipes! The meals are portioned for 2 adults but we found we could easily feed 2 adults and 2 young kiddos so the cost wasn’t prohibitive either. The other option is to plan all your meals and shopping list for the week so you know what you are having ahead of time (there are even meal planning services to assist). The meal planning also helps tremendously in being able to eat healthy. As moms, it’s easy to not think ahead about food since we have a thousand other things going on, but then it leaves the door open to snack on things we might not feel good about or that aren’t healthy, which in turn can have an overall negative affect on mood, energy and sleep (which may then affect the entire family system).
I realize this is not easy, especially as a working mom. I rarely get to walk or jog myself anymore but I do what I can. I’ll put my second one in the stroller while my older one is at school and try to get in an early morning walk or jog as many days as possible or sometimes I will wake up extra early to get out the door before everyone wakes up (rare but doable on some days 😉 If you have a supportive significant other or family member, you can trade off while the other gets a workout in which is also very helpful. My husband and I will do this on the weekends and it feels good to actually get a good sweat (sans kiddos sometimes). Along with healthy eating, exercise also helps with mood, attention, sleep and overall physical health.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s already enough of a challenge being a parent, so don’t burden yourself doing something that doesn’t bring you joy and fill you up. I realize this may not be easy for a lot of people. It’s not easy to leave a job you need in order to financially support your family. Sometimes taking the greatest risks bring the greatest joy though and you will never know if you can actually do something different or better unless you open up your mind to it as a possibility. Sometimes that means continuing what you’re doing in your career while looking for alternatives on the side. Or it means taking classes in another area while using your current job as a staple to get by until you can make a change. It isn’t easy but anything worth working for usually isn’t. In the end though, there is a payoff.
I can’t stress this enough. Having some sort of routine is critical to keep yourself and your kids sane as a working parent. Set up a general morning and evening routine so your kids know what to expect and so you can manage your time. Of course lots and lots of play should be involved in that “schedule” as kids need a lot of it!
Being a working mom definitely has its challenges but so does being a stay at home mom or work from home mom. Like anything in life, there will be hard days and days where you feel like you finally have it down. The key is to find small ways throughout the process to stay grounded. The tips I’ve mentioned above have helped me be a better mom overall and I’m sure there will be many more lessons I’ll continue to learn now that my third has arrived.
Comment below and let us know how you find balance.