Handling Job and Family as a Working Mom like a Pro
The question most women have to think at some stage of their life is “how to handle both a job and a family”. There are those who still think it’s impossible to ‘have it all’, while most women just want to find a way to make it work.
We’ll look at what the current situation is all about, provide you real tips and solutions for making it work, and bust some myths surrounding balancing job and family as a working mom.
THE NUMBERS BEHIND THE DILEMMA
There’s plenty of data to suggest how the act of balancing a job and a family as a working mother is not an easy thing to do. As women are being presented with increasing career opportunities around the world, more women will be confronted with having to find career and family equilibrium.
In fact, two-parent households with both mom and dad working have quickly become more common in countries like the US. In 2015, 46% of two-parent households in the country had both parents in full-time employment.
Furthermore, studies have shown how most family chores, discipline and time spent with the kids are equally shared between mom and dad in the western world. But when it comes to scheduling and sick days, including the need to take time off work, the burden tends to fall on the shoulders of the mother.
For example, Pew Social Trends have studied the issues in the US. In the most recent study from 2015, the figures highlighted the following facts:
- Six out of ten working mothers believe balancing a job and a family is difficult.
- 41% of mothers said parenting makes career advancement harder; with only 6% of moms feeling career progression is actually easier.
- 40% of full-time employed mothers feel they are constantly rushed, with 50% stating they sometimes feel rushed and 42% stating they don’t get to spend enough time with their children.
Attitudes towards the dilemma have also grown rather pessimistic among some women. In her 2014 book, Getting Real About Having It All, Megan Dalla-Camina surveyed 1,000 female professionals and made the following findings:
- 70% of women think it’s impossible to be a success at work and home.
- 64% of women felt they don’t have everything they want, meaning something has to give when finding the balance.
As the above shows, women are choosing both career and family, but have a hard time finding that equilibrium. There’s a sense among working women that you either have to say goodbye to your dream career or spend less time with your children. But is finding the balance impossible?
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GET ON THE RIGHT TRACK
If you want to start your journey to a more rewarding life as a working mom, both in terms of your career and family, there are steps you can take.
The three keys to get yourself on the right track include defining your priorities, setting boundaries and taking care of yourself.
#1 Define your priorities
The first thing you need to focus on is finding out where your priorities are. It might turn out to be true that you “cannot have it all”, but would you even want that? Could it be you are just dreaming about that CEO job since it’s something a business-minded person should dream about?
It’s essential to understand what your priorities are and what are the things you truly want to achieve. You should define your priorities in three categories:
- Personal priorities – What are the things that matter to you the most?
- Family priorities – What do you want as a family? It’s a good idea to discuss these family goals together with your partner.
- Career priorities – What do you want to achieve in your career?
If you want to find out more about women who have done the above, you should consider reading the book I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam. She herself is the mother of four and leads a successful life as a writer, author, and a speaker.
In addition, watch the interesting interview by one business mom, Neva Williamson, on her take on work-life balance:
Defining your true priorities based on what you and your family want will provide more direction to your life. Knowing the goals and dreams you have, can ensure you develop the roadmap to getting these goals.
For example, if you dream about starting your own business as the ultimate career goal, you can outline the steps you need to take to get there. These could be saving money, finding business partners or gaining experience in a specific industry, for example.
#2 Set boundaries by saying ‘no’
The second truth about the balancing act is all about learning the balance of saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’. You simply cannot say ‘yes’ to everything, whether it is children’s parties or work-related things. But the thing to remember is that saying ‘yes’ isn’t even necessary.
First, you’ve already defined your goals in the above step. This means you have the plan to work towards your goals. If you are asked to do something, you need to think whether it helps you get closer to your priority or not. If it doesn’t and you have ten million other things to do, just say ‘no’.
Understand the engagements and events that bring you closer to your objectives and which are meaningful to you. Learn to let go of the ones that aren’t.
The second point to keep in mind involves understanding the power of ‘no’, or the lack of it. Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you don’t care about the person or the engagement and it doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to commit. Priorities do take over and you need to understand it.
#3 Don’t forget about yourself
Finally, you can’t achieve success with the balancing act if you are emotionally and physically drained. While you want to give your attention to your job and your family, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t occasionally just devote time for yourself.
If balancing a job and family seems like a struggle, you might be wondering how can you add time alone to this equation? There are certain best practices you must focus on.
First, schedule a spot in your calendar that you consistently spend on just yourself. It can be anything from two hours to half a day. The key is to ensure you only do something you love and which is relaxing to do (and doesn’t involve work or the family!). This could be a shopping trip, a facial at the spa or just a quiet moment in your favorite spot with a book and some tea.
Don’t skip this moment unless there is a must-do reason and even then re-schedule the moment to another day! Make it a habit to spend some time just thinking about yourself and your dreams.
Second thing to do is to start sleeping more. An hour before going to bed, stop using electronics and instead read a book, have a bubble bath or play board games with the family. It guarantees you a more restful sleep.
Your third objective is to fix the diet. Include more healthy greens, start eating more fish and kick out sugary treats from your meal plan.
Finally, include exercise to your daily routine. This can be a brisk walk with the kids, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and doing yoga with the family. There are tons of ways to get moving with the whole family – this is fun and it guarantees you all stay active.
Don’t forget part of the emotional wellbeing comes from the relationship with your partner. It’s important to have enough time alone with your partner, whether this is an evening chat every night or a weekly dinner for just mom and dad.
MYTHS ABOUT BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY
Many working moms also have a persistent idea of what the balancing act will look like. But these ideals are mostly based on myths instead of facts. It’s important to get rid of these three harmful thinking patterns, if you want to handle a job and family as a working mom.
Myth 1: Time must be divided equally
While balancing might sound like dividing time 50-50 between your job and your family, it isn’t actually the case. You can’t always spend an equal amount of time at work and home.
You will be faced with times when priorities switch and the other aspect of your life requires more time. It might be that you are negotiating an important deal at work or that one of your children needs more attention due to looming exams. On the other hand, sometimes work is smooth and the family life seems to be going along just fine.
You need to be flexible with your time management and take advantage of these ‘smoother times’. If you don’t have much to do at work, take more time off to be with the family and vice versa. If you’ve done everything you need to do at the office, ask the rest of the day off or use part of your time to schedule the children’s hobbies and stuff.
Myth 2: You must do it on your own
Handling your career and family doesn’t mean you need to do it all alone. It doesn’t mean you have to be in charge of every aspect or otherwise you’ll fail. In fact, the ability to delegate is an important part of being a success in this field.
While studies show moms and dads are much more equal when it comes to housework, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your partner to help more if you feel like it. It’s important to avoid keeping a tap on who does what, but try to ensure neither of you feel burdened by the housework.
Again, it’s also beneficial to balance the amount of work on each of your shoulders in relation to your work. If you have a busy schedule for one month, ask the partner to chip in more and vice versa.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t feel guilty about using nannies during the busier times. They are also great occasional help when you just need to recharge those batteries.
You should look for childcare help online. For example, sites like care.com and sittercity.com are great sites for people in the US. You can also ask around at work – other moms and dads might know of great childcare options.
If you only need occasional help and you don’t want to pay a fortune, perhaps you have young teenager relatives who would like to do it for a bit of extra money. In addition, your friends might have young adults willing to work for a few hours a week.
You should also learn to delegate at work. If your schedule is fully booked, ask around if others can help with specific tasks. If you are in a managerial role, don’t try to do everything on your own –other people might be more than happy to take on the extra responsibilities.
If you are struggling with delegating work, then watch this video.
Myth 3: You need to live with constant guilt
Working mothers, unfortunately, tend to live with a lot of guilt. The guilt can stop them from seeking help and could even lead to higher levels of stress, which in turn can hinder one’s performance.
Care.com surveyed working mothers in 2014 and found 29% of mothers feeling guilty for needing help. It seems, mothers take this feeling of guilt as a given downside of working and having a family. Katie Herrick Bugbee, the global parenting expert at Care.com, commented the findings and pointed out, “The guilt will always be there, no matter what, it just is. It is this drive to be perfect, to be better than our own mothers were, to have it all.” Bugbee continued by saying, “We need to cut ourselves some slack.”
But you shouldn’t waste time feeling guilty as a working mother. There is evidence to suggest working mom’s children turn out just fine. Big part of getting rid of guilt is understanding your own priorities. Focusing on what you want to do the most. If that means certain things don’t get enough of your attention, then so be it.
Furthermore, you should also stop comparing yourself. The guilt often hits the hardest if you start comparing yourself with others. Thoughts like, “Oh Jill is still staying at the office. Should I stay longer as well?” and “On Gemma is going to yoga classes with her kids. Oh, I don’t know how she does it!” are probably rather familiar.
Jodi Peterson, a deputy office administrator at the US Senate, nailed the problem of comparing yourself with others when commenting the Care.com findings, “Each family is so unique.” If you and your family don’t do things like others, it doesn’t matter. You tailor your career and your family around your needs and capabilities.
TIPS FOR HANDLING JOB AND FAMILY AS A WORKING MOM
Finally, let’s look at some tips for ensuring the above is easier and handling job and family comes like a second nature to you.
#1 Whatever you do, give your 100%
Many moms try to do a bit of both at the same time. Playing with the kids, while writing emails on the other hand is a scenario most parents subscribe to. But studies have started to highlight how multi-tasking is not actually the best route to success.
Instead, you should give 100% of your focus to work when at work and 100% to the family when you spend time with them. This guarantees you efficiency, removes the guilt factor and ensures you are more present in the moment.
When you are at work, try cancelling any thoughts about organizing those birthday parties or solving yet another fight between the kids. If you work from home, it’s OK to teach children to respect your work time. Explain them the benefits of staying focused, as it’s only a great life lesson for them to take forward!
The same applies to when you are off work. Be with the children and focus on solving and planning family-related issues. Turn off the work phone, avoid looking at emails or writing work-related paperwork.
#2 Consider a flexible schedule
You should also consider aiming for a flexible schedule, as it allows you to better prioritize during different times. If you are working for an employer, it might be more difficult, but nonetheless, possible.
Try suggesting to your boss the option to occasionally work from home. There are actually a number of studies outlining the benefits of working occasionally from home and knowing about these cost-efficiency advantages might help get your boss on board.
You could also ask if you can have a more flexible schedule and work longer on certain days and less on others, for example. This might be easily doable in many office jobs, although it probably isn’t as easy to achieve in service-based roles. Start negotiating only after you’ve been able to demonstrate how the schedule wouldn’t affect your work and how it might actually provide more benefits for the company.
Therefore, you need to do your research, understand the effects on your work as well as co-workers and the possible benefits the company would enjoy.
Remember the flexibility doesn’t necessarily need to be in terms of multiple hours. You could start by asking the option to start half an hour earlier and finishing a bit earlier, for example. This might be good enough to guarantee stress-free school runs or getting the kids to their hobbies on time.
If you are self-employed, a flexible schedule might be easier to achieve. Start by creating the work schedule as much around the family activities as possible. Not everything needs to be done within a 9 to 5 timeframe!
If it’s easier, you can leave an hour-long block to evenings, when you reply to emails from home or get the books in order, for example. These don’t need dealing during the ‘normal’ working hours and you probably could do them at home.
#3 Start preparing
Staying one step ahead can be a lifesaver when it comes to juggling work and the family. If you can be prepared, you’ll feel less stressed and you don’t need to spend too much time sorting things out.
Preparing for different occurrences can take different forms. Some of the cleverest tricks include:
- Sort out your work clothes for the whole week on a Sunday evening. This can cut down time from the weekday evenings or mornings, whichever time you usually use for preparing your clothes. It also guarantees you don’t need to iron those shirts in the middle of the night.
- Get stuff ticked off the to-do list during quiet moments. If you have a conference call coming up, organize it for the time when you are driving from work to home or vice versa.
- Wake up just 30-minutes earlier to check your emails and mark the ones requiring an urgent reply later the day.
- If you are in charge of the family meals, cook bigger batches of foods when you can and freeze proportions for quicker meals. Consider starting meal-prepping on Sundays. This can ensure all the ingredients are measured, which reduces cooking times during weekdays. Furthermore, chopping and measuring food for small containers can be something the whole family can do together.
- Have a box for those surprising birthdays or other such events. Include different greeting cards and small gifts into the box. This way you won’t go into panic mode when your child reminds you of Tina’s birthday the night before.
- If the family seems focused on individual things (such as watching TV or playing), take the time to clean around the house or start planning for the next holiday. You should do things when the moment arises, not on a specific pre-determined date and time (say goodbye to cleaning days!). Be flexible.
The ability to find balance of handling your job and your family is all about planning and preparation. While it’s not an easy task to overtake, it is possible to have a great career and be a loving and attentive mother.
The main thing is to stop comparing yourself with others, find the techniques and tactics that work for you and your family and learn to ask for help if, and when, you need it.