Confessions of a Working Mom
I remember being in college and being unstoppable. I had it all figured out. I was determined to have an extremely successful career in advertising. I would daydream about living in a big city and looking out my office window with a latte in my hand. I would run client meetings, deliver phenomenal ad copy, live the lifestyle to its full potential. After college, I actually did dip my toe into the advertising world, only to find out that it wasn’t truly for me. Somehow, during those few learning years after graduation, I fell face first into the world of insurance… and I loved it. Very quickly, I set myself out on a career path that, yet again, provided me with a dream of working non-stop, luxury living, client dinners, etc. I was determined. I was going to make it big, and nothing would stand in my way. It’s funny, I remember my mother cautioning me as I made all these plans that one day a child might change things. What did she know? She isn’t me. Nothing changes me, unless I want it to. Boy, was I wrong.
When I first opened my insurance agency, I was obsessed. I was in my office at least an hour before the doors opened, and I rarely made it home before 8 PM each night. I was on the path to burning out quickly, but this was my baby. If I wanted to make this thing as big as I had planned, it was going to take all of my energy… and it did. It wasn’t long before my mentor told me I absolutely had to start going home earlier or taking some time for myself before I would crash. I took his advice, but it still didn’t burn out the fire inside of me. After a year into opening, I started to get the itch. I had been married for 3 years, my office was successful, we owned a house – the world was telling me it was time for a child. I was a rockstar, and I could totally pull this off. This would become my next project. In my mind, I had completely prepared myself for a baby about 2 weeks into pregnancy. Thinking back now, I’m literally laughing at my own stupidity. Completely prepared for a baby – I’m funny.
For those of you who are already moms, you know exactly what I mean. You can plan, you can paint, you can shop, you can read, you can write down everything in the world that you think you will do… and then you give birth. For me, the second my daughter was placed in my arms, my entire world stopped. For the first time in almost 10 months, I wasn’t thinking about the outfits she needed or how many bottles we had. All I could see was the sparkle in her eyes as she looked at me and somehow knew exactly who I was. All I could feel was the grip of her tiny hand as she wrapped it around my finger. All I could think about was how from that moment on, she was the only thing in my world that truly mattered. “A child might change things.” Good one, Mama.
This was uncharted territory for me. I didn’t know how to handle this sudden loss of interest in anything other than my child. And I’m serious when I say anything. My office could have burned to the ground, but as long as my baby was smiling, I was happy. I knew I had to find a way to stay engaged without neglecting my daughter, and that, my friends, is still something I struggle with to this day. How do you focus on work and real life when you have the most precious thing in the world keeping your attention? How do you go back to having detailed financial conversations with a customer without diverting their attention to the 752,000 pictures you have on your phone of your 1 month old baby? I used to judge the mess out of those people, and now I had become one of them. I’ll tell you, it absolutely took time. I had to take it day by day. Because I owned the office, I wouldn’t allow myself to take the standard 6-8 weeks of maternity leave. I was back at work as soon as my body allowed me to be. Granted, if I just couldn’t stand it after two hours, I would run home for a little while just to give her a kiss. Yep, I was ruined.
Fast forward three years, and I’m dealing with a toddler. Although at this age that child tests my patience day in and day out, I still wouldn’t trade her for a thing in this world. I still find myself trying to come up with an excuse to check on her and give her a hug in the middle of my work day. What I also find is that my passion for working has come back in strides. The workaholic inside of me has been slowly recovering and is trying to take over again. Therein lies my dilemma. How do I allow myself to be that go-getter that has always been inside of me without letting my obsession with work cause me to neglect my daughter? Am I the only person that struggles with this balancing act? I recently decided to figure this out. With all of the resources at our fingertips these days through the internet and social media, moms had to be speaking up somewhere. I’ve been researching this for months, and these are the tips that I have decided to focus on. Every single one of these is incredibly hard for me. I can promise you, I am not perfect, and I struggle with these day in and day out.
1. Get over feeling guilty. – You are not the only person in this world who is working. Whether your child is in daycare, staying with a family member, school or is playing in his/her room while you work from home, remember that is normal. Focus on what your job is providing for that child – food, a home, activities, etc.
2. Don’t let mornings stress you out. – Instead, take the night time to prepare yourself for the mornings. Use your morning to spend time with your child and show them the love you may feel that you’re taking away from them during the day. This will make your day and theirs go by so much easier.
3. Work when you’re supposed to be working, and don’t bring that home with you. – This is probably my biggest downfall. I’m terrible about “never leaving the office”. It has always been incredibly hard for me to turn my work brain off even after I get home. I have to remind myself that once I am home, this is MY time with MY family. Work can wait until tomorrow.
4. Ask for help. – Whether it is from your spouse/partner, your mom or your best friend, asking for help is always smart, even with the little things. I’m bad about trying to do everything from meals to laundry to grocery shopping. I am figuring out that sometimes it is OK to let someone do something for you.
5. Make time for yourself. – This can be 5 minutes or an hour. Again, it is something I am learning to do. However, when I actually do this, I feel completely refreshed. I am so bad about working all day, then spending all of my awake time focusing on my daughter. After she goes to bed, I’ll worry with picking up her toys or cleaning her room. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have been going all day, and even something as simple as a nice, warm bath for 20 minutes or a glass of wine would completely set me at ease.
As I mentioned previously, the concept of a mom/work/life balance is an everyday struggle for me, as I’m sure it is for most moms. I remember a friend telling me early on in my pregnancy that having a baby will turn you into a ball of guilt for the rest of your life. So far, that has proven to be completely true. We have to remember to take it one day at a time. There are days that I feel like I cannot begin to give my daughter everything she deserves, and I turn into a hot mess of panic. Then there are days that I feel like if the worst thing my daughter eats in her life is that old piece of macaroni from the corner of the living room, I’m doing an okay job. The struggle is real, y’all. We just have to keep on keeping on.
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