I grew up with an ambitious career mentality and a positive mindset to succeed and be happy. Witnessing my mom taking care of me while working inspired me and encouraged me. Today I try hard on balancing work, family, and self-care, which ultimately end up in a happy and cheerful life.
It has been already 9,5 months of motherhood, many lessons learned and a lot of discipline. If I had to pick things that helped with work/family balance, I would emphasize willingness, commitment, discipline, empathy, and self-love.
Below I share my experience as a working mom, my journey to balance work, family and self-care and some routines that have helped me conquer this quest.
The reality of being a working mom
First, it is essential to consider that my motherhood journey started during the Covid-19 times in a lockdown scenario. Despite this has been quite daunting in many social aspects, working from home has been a blessing. Working moms go through a whole bag of multiple emotions at their office desk; I have gone through an unbelievable number of judgemental sessions with myself.
Calling myself a “terrible mom” because I leave the baby waiting for her feeding until the meeting finishes did not help my mental health. I have not seen myself running to get a baby ready to drop at the daycare but running to set her up on her homemade playground to be entertained, fed and clean for the upcoming hours that I need to sit by the laptop, concentrate and work. I do not feel fed-up, neither I feel the need to escape from my baby. She has simply forced me to be more efficient.
Motherhood during the lockdown looks far more different from motherhood during regular times; however, the level of discipline required to divide yourself between a baby, work, self-care, and your husband is the same regardless of the additional circumstances that life gives you.
why i decided to be a working mom
I went back to work four months after my daughter was born, which is effectively three months because she was premature, and her adjusted age is -1 month until her first year of life. Thanks to German law, mothers and fathers can take some paid time off to take care of the children, so in our case, I chose to work 30 hours a week instead of 40 hours during the first 18 months of life of my daughter. Does this sound like a crazy decision? Well, I am not going to lie, it is hard, but I am doing this because:
- I love my work: the four months of maternity leave were very tough for me. I was physically exhausted from breastfeeding, but my brain was so active! Having to think, share my ideas, and continue involving myself in new projects that challenge my skills as a manager and online marketer was a need.
- It is a financial necessity for myself and my home: I do not want to depend on a man ever! I am a strong independent woman, so to keep working and providing myself with the life and things I want are my need. Additionally, if you add that the Covid-19 lockdown and crisis affected our economic plans at home, you will understand why I work.
- I can, and I want: being a woman and a mother does not dictate my skills or abilities at work. Thank God, the CEO of the company I work for, and my colleagues support and respect my role.
- I want to teach by doing: my entire life, I have fought for gender equality. Even more now, when having a daughter at home, I want her to learn that she can have the same career opportunities and freedom as men do. Here my husband plays a key role too since he supports my cause so that our daughter also learns to choose wisely a life company that respects her.
MOTHERHOOD AND WORK: how my day looks like
Waking up between 4 and 5 am every day to get things started, have breakfast, and have hours full of peace at my desk, helps me complete projects, draft strategies, and reply to important emails. Once my daughter wakes up, I have most of my priority tasks done. In the remaining hours, I can focus on attending virtual meetings with my colleagues, getting customer calls, and having group planning sessions.
While I work, the baby is set with toys, naps, short feeds, and the certainty that mom will come to her if she needs something. The last one cost me tears to teach her, but we managed, and she cooperates pretty well with our routine.
So, in conclusion, to all my colleagues, friends and people who may be wondering how I do it all, the answer is straightforward: I do not! I prioritize in the right way, and I allow myself to let it go, be flexible, enjoy the little moments of glory and keep the excellent spirit high!
Tips and tricks to balance motherhood and work
I am happy to see how working moms become slowly a centre of interest for career-related services and not only for parenting blogs. The Balance Careers created a whole section about Tips for Working Moms that I found particularly useful when planning my maternity time.
Every single woman has the right to live motherhood in their unique ways, and all of them are right and valuable! Below I share some things that have worked to inspire you to find your way of doing things.
Set up a routine and stick to it
There is an unbelievable number of times I have read that routines help babies to be happy and calm, so I put hands-on practice, and I taught the baby a way that benefits both of us. She sleeps well, I sleep well, and she is happy and entertained (most of the times) until mommy finishes work. The significant remark here is that I wake up very early to get time alone, I need to focus, so this was my compromise for our mutual well-being.
Ask for help
Whether your colleagues, family, husband, etc., ask for help when you need it. If the routine did not work for any reason and you are short of time, communicate it to colleagues so that you all can be more efficient than usual. If you need food, groceries, time alone, etc., express it. You cannot expect people to help you if you do not tell them how. Also focus on good interpersonal relationships at work, not only for the direct benefits of it in making your life easier, but in the happiness, it can provide you to connect with other people outside your family.
Take care of yourself instead of being a martyr
Before becoming a mom, I asked myself what I need as a woman to be happy; AS A WOMAN, not as a mom, neither as a wife. Once I know what they are I did not compromise them, and I communicated this clear to my husband. I picked the most important three things I needed, and since my daughter was born, I have not given them up. If you need time to read, go to the gym, practice a hobby, take long baths, work, etc., fight for it! Ultimately a happy mom is a happy baby.
Take care of your health with food and exercise
I have never been as fit as I am now after my pregnancy and life as a mom. I was always a pretty lazy person, drinking wine and working. However, I found motivation in my daughter’s health and my beauty to move more and eat consciously.
I try to walk, ride a bike, do some short but effective workouts at home, eat balanced and indulge my palate with a small piece of food heaven. I do not believe in diets, so I prefer to set limits but be happy. The right combination of food and exercise for my body works magic in terms of my energy levels.
Know your limits
Listen to the inner voice that tells you what is right, wrong and when is enough. A burn out is not ideal, so keep it balanced, love your body, and listen to it, even if this means sometimes going out of the routine or asking for extra help.
Mindfulness to enjoy every moment at work and in motherhood
Be present. Everybody who interacts with you will be grateful for that, especially your child. It is better to devote 30 mins of active play and teach with your baby than hours trying to do two things simultaneously. Since the beginning, I tried to set priorities and the main activity at a time. If I work, I work; if I am with the baby, I am 100% focused on her. Of course, I have to multitask because she is still a baby and needs an eye on her, but she needs to understand that now I am busy, and in some minutes, she will get her turn again.
Let things go and do not stress over minor stuff
If something did not work on a specific day, it is ok; if it was an unproductive day at work, or your baby did not do as planned, it is ok. These two shall pass, so be grateful for what you got and learn from it. The bad part of making mistakes is not the mistake itself but not learning from it.
Do not judge yourself
I fail in this one a lot! I hear the tiny voice in my head telling me that I am not a good mom and that I should not be doing this, or I should do better. So out of my own bad experiences, the best way is to train yourself to silence that judgemental voice and focus on being who you are. Babies love their parents regardless of their mistakes; make sure you are responsible with your kids.
Involve your husband
I am lucky to have a husband who is taking an active part in the house chores and performing a significant role as a dad. But if your husband feels lost or is not so involved, make him help you! By assigning precise tasks and sharing your baby schedule, you can become a great team. Additionally, it is crucial to set a good communication channel with him and work on the relationship; just like moms, dads need love and care. Being a mom is tough because one deals with emotions and hormones apart from the already busy agendas, so his mental support is vital. Guess who my psychologist has been every time the mom guilt attacks me?
Set clear priorities and make wise choices
We need to compromise all the time and even more when becoming a mom. Set a list of things that need to be done and mark them or classify them by importance. When you feel bad about not having the house 100% organized, check that list! You will feel better because you have the whole picture of what is essential written there.
Be productive, so minimize distractions and procrastination
Time is gold, even more now that you become a mom. Not to procrastinate and waste time browsing on the web or laying in bed is hard. However, if at the end of the day we think about how many things could have been done instead of wasting our time, the mentality will change.
Proactivity is the key
Try to think in the future and plan accordingly. The program goes from simple things like grocery shopping to bigger things like childcare. If you know your limits, opportunities and the resources you have available, it will be easier for you to forecast when and how you need to do what.
I am a fan of doing things in advance and plan significant events in my life as much as I can, especially when this involves other people’s decisions. At work, proactivity has been of great help because it allows me to know how months and weeks are hectic and demand more flexibility from my side with the routine or more creativity to keep the baby happy while I am busy finishing up projects.
Stay flexible as much as you can
Once I knew I would become a mom, I tried to have as soon as possible a clear picture of what are my possibilities at work. It was great to know how flexible I can be; as long as the company targets are being met, the hours, location or day to day duties are not strict.
In the case you need to negotiate with your employer, suggest a trial period. Suggesting a detailed plan of your working hours and your availability is a good start. Only then you will see the stress reduced and more room to perform well in your role.
Empower your family and foster independence
As women and working moms, we tend to think that we and only us know how to hold the baby, clean, cook, buy stuff for home, dress the baby, etc. Your baby and your husband are also quite capable and willing to help you only if you allow them. Trust them, and once you do that, you will realize that your baby can feed and entertain herself, and your husband is great at handling your newborn.
Lifehack recommends sharing the housework at home and even provides a list of chores that your child can do by age, starting at 2 years old.
Communication applies to work and at home. At work, I found it essential to communicate about your child, appointments and needs, so your colleagues and employer understand your situation at home. It is vital to share your duties, goals, and worries at home, so your family can support you.
I talk pretty openly with my daughter about my work responsibilities. She may not fully understand yet, but it is a matter of respect to explaining to her how this meeting is essential to me and how grateful I would be if she helps me by behaving well while I am at the laptop with my colleagues.
Keep a Positive Mindset
Finally, staying positive is vital. Our body reacts to our emotions, so remaining calm can reward you with many years of health.
It is not easy with all the lockdown situation, mainly since I am not the best person at staying at home 24/7. However, I try the most to find the positive side of things. Make fun, joke (even if your jokes are not funny), sing, dance and find that inner child.
I hope that by sharing my experience you can find new ideas to help you on your journey. My aim is to inspire you to believe that everything is possible if you want it, have the willingness to do it and commit to it.
There is endless advice on the web on how to be a working mom. I found particularly interesting the article from the New York Times on “How to be mostly ok (and occasionally fantastic) at the whole working mom thing“. If you want to check more tips to balance work and a new baby, check these 13 tips published by What to Expect Blog.
If you want to share things that have worked for you in your journey, let me know in the comments!