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7 Tips For Happy Working Moms
It’s Tuesday morning, 9:58 a.m., I am walking into an interview that was booked weeks ago. The crew is ready; the lights are set and my cell phone rings. It’s my child’s school and my heart stops. If the school is calling, it can’t be good news.
“Your son just threw up,” the nurse barks at me with no trace of sympathy. “You must pick him up immediately!”
“I can’t pick him up right now,” I say. “I’m at work in the city, I can’t come home.”
“Well someone has to pick him up,” the nurse snaps. What about your husband? a babysitter? A friend?
No, no and maybe I thought.
My husband and I work in New York City, a good commute away from our New Jersey suburb. Catching a train and making it home quickly takes planning. And I did not plan to be heading home at 10 a.m. My babysitter, a college student, was in the middle of a biology class when the school nurse called.
So several emails and phone calls later, I found a friend to pick up my son – who after vomiting from an upset stomach in the nurse’s office – was perfectly fine 30 minutes later. A working mom’s life can feel like a house of cards, ready to collapse at any moment. The daily stress can take its toll and make us feel guilty, exhausted and just on the verge. So how do we hold it together, take care of our children and ourselves, and feel proud of both having a career and raising a family? Below are seven tips to making it all work.
Rule No. 1: Embrace Your Identity
Know who you are and why you work. Most of us work for the money, but many more also work because they enjoy their careers and the stimulation they get from their jobs. If your job makes you feel good and also helps support your family, then feel empowered about having a career. It may not have been an easy choice, but your kids are thriving. And so are you.
Rule No. 2: Build Your Infrastructure
The secret to most happy working moms? An organized team. And sometimes, a little outsourcing.
- The Right Childcare
You know how you felt when you felt your partner was “the one?” Most moms with nannies or fabulous daycare centers feel the same way when first introduced. It’s a connection that needs to be in place for you to succeed at work. It oftens take a few tours of facilities or a month of nanny interviews before finding the best fit.
- The Right Job
Feeling satisfied in your job is one of the key elements to being a successful, working parent. If your current position isn’t working, try to change it. Speak to your boss about your options. Find things that excite you at your job, such as starting a challenging new project or fine-tuning an interest area.
- The Right Support
Parenthood is an equal process. Yes, you might have more guilt than your spouse – and more nanny envy – but together, you and your spouse need to develop a strategy for running your household. Evaluate your strengths, your schedules and your preferences, from who does the morning routine to who makes the doctor’s appointments and signs up for classes.
- Outsource Help
Childcare isn't the only stress-inducing household chore. Cleaning the house, walking the dog, grocery shopping, planning a holiday meal. What can you outsource to ease this load? Look into the cost of a bi-weekly or monthly cleaning service, a dog walker, an errand runner. Sometimes spending money helps make life easier. Care.com will even allow you to name the price that works for your family and see who bites.
- Be Organized
Whether it's packing the bottles or lunches the night before, buying diapers online or creating a homework plan, Staying organized helps keep you sane.
Let’s face it, you cannot work 15-hour days, six days a week and give your children the time they need. At the same time, you cannot be at your kids’ school every day and give your clients and colleagues what they need either. It’s time to list your priorities: solid job performance review? Promotion and raise within 1-2 years? Happy, well adjusted kids? Seeing the school play and all home soccer games? It sounds good to us.
Rule No 4: Stay Focused on Who You Are and Where You Are
When you’re at work, focus on your work 100 percent and when you’re at home, focus on your children 100 percent. You’ll feel less guilty about the time you spend away from your children if you truly have quality time when you are with them. And be realistic. You are not with your children all the time. You will miss stuff. The fabulous nanny you hired or your superstar mom might be handling day-to-day band-aid applications and sneaking veggies into their mac-and-cheese while you’re climbing the corporate ladder. But you will make sure to be there for the important stuff.
Rule No. 5: It’s Okay to Take Shortcuts
You don’t have to bake cookies from scratch in order to participate in the school bake sale and you don’t need to coach Little League or be the president of the PTA to be involved in your children’s lives. Taking shortcuts doesn't mean you have to shortchange your kids. Whether you become a weekend warrior - cramming your Saturdays and Sundays with activities and family adventures - or you start an email correspondence with your child's teacher, you can stay connected, engaged and essential in your child's life.
Rule No. 6: Let Go of Perfect
Realize that you may not always be the perfect spouse, parent or employee. Things will probably slip through the cracks. You will have good days and bad days or even good or bad weeks. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone else’s lives always look easier than our own.
Rule No. 7: Find a Community
Having an emotional support system in place is critical to the happiness of a working mom. Care.com has an active working mom online support group, and many cities and regions have local versions. Having others to lean on and share the day-to-day conflicts with is extremely helpful when it comes to keeping you sane and happy. Know a few moms near you? Email them to see if they’d want to have dinner out one Tuesday night – after the kids go to bed. It’s funny how easily the cool woman behind the mom can come out when the kids aren’t around.
Many working moms feel like they are swinging on the flying trapeze without a safety net below. We know it takes a village to raise a child but so many of us are reluctant to reach out for help. My friend who picked up my son from the nurse’s office got a batch of brownies from me as a thank you. While most of us need to outsource paid childcare so we can go to work, we also need to remember that it’s the sorority of women in our lives who we should embrace for support, community and yes, Margarita night. And in the meantime, cut yourself some slack, give up the guilt and be proud that you are a stay-at-work mom.
About The Author:
Wendy Sachs is an Emmy award-winning network television producer, former Capitol Hill press secretary and the author of the critically acclaimed book on balancing career and family, “How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms.”
Currently, Wendy is the executive editor of Care.com, the fastest growing online site for finding nannies, babysitters, pet sitters, special needs care and senior care. A well-known blogger and journalist, Wendy is an expert on work life and parenting issues and has appeared on dozens of radio and TV shows.
Published September 2011, Updated August 2012