The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work and what we prioritize. That’s especially true for working mothers, who navigate competing obligations from family life and their careers daily. But learning how to balance life as a working mom is the key to finding fulfillment in every aspect of your life.
Through our own experiences as working moms and conversations with others, we’ve come up with a few ways to help working moms balance life and work by navigating competing priorities.
Determine What Balance Looks Like to You
“Balance” is an individual concept. Every working mother is at a different stage in their life and career. It’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for you, your family, or your job.
Balance could mean finding activities to entertain your kids for 10-30 minutes for moms with younger children while you wrap up a project or take a quick conference call. For moms with older children, it could mean creating a flexible work schedule that can adapt to their child’s school schedule.
You have limited time to devote to each of your competing priorities. You can’t give 100% to everything, so take a moment to identify what’s most important to you right now. Use that decision to guide your focus and use of time.
Sometimes work will demand your attention with essential projects, and your family needs to support you as you work through them. Other times, you’ll need to focus on your family, and work will have to wait.
Balancing work and family means understanding that, in reality, there is no such thing as work-life balance. What creates balance is setting boundaries and taking the time to take care of your responsibilities and priorities.
Say Goodbye to Mom Guilt
It’s the 21st century, and we’re here to tell you that you are allowed to have a full-time job and be a great parent — without feeling guilty about it. Choosing to return to work can be challenging for any mom, especially after being away from the workforce.
This guilt is exceptionally realistic for new moms, who may feel pressure to stay at home as full-time mothers rather than return to work. This decision is complicated by often only having a few months of maternity leave, depending on your company’s policy. Other new moms may look forward to transitioning back to work, and that’s okay, too.
We all have the same amount of time in a day, but our priorities, needs, wants, experiences, and environments are different. A task like cooking dinner can take one mom thirty minutes, while it takes another mom over an hour to finish because she is multitasking.
You can’t be everything to everyone, and no one should expect that, including you. It’s easy to be hardest on ourselves, but don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself first to be both a good mother and a good colleague.
You are doing the best you can, and there is no room for guilt. Being a working mom is not an easy task, but it’s admirable, commendable and positively impacts your family’s financial stability.
Let Go of Trying to Do it All By Yourself
We are all superheroes, but the truth is that we can’t do it all by ourselves — it’s just not possible. It’s okay to lean on your community and ask for help.
Start with your immediate support network—a spouse, partner, sibling, parent or close friend. Communicate what you need to your closest network. Don’t be shy about accepting offered support.
For example, if your parents offer to watch your kids a few days of the month or help plan their birthday party when you’re slammed at work, take them up on their offer. They wouldn’t be offering if they didn’t want to help you navigate your priorities.
And don’t be afraid to communicate with your management and leadership teams. Life as a working mom (or any working parent) is unpredictable. Talk to your management team about your life priorities and the importance of being adaptable in various situations, such as unexpected calls to pick up your children from school or attending important doctor’s appointments.
Set Boundaries On Your Time
It’s more challenging than ever — especially now that work and home often occur in the same place — to create healthy boundaries between work and home obligations. It’s easy to feel the need to always be on call if there’s an emergency or more work to do.
But making time for yourself and your personal obligations is essential for your mental health. If you want to successfully navigate your career and life as a mom, maintaining your health and wellness is your number one priority.
Creating boundaries for yourself is necessary to balance work against your other obligations, but reaping the benefits requires you to take it one step further by having the discipline to stick to that boundary. It can be easy to say, “just one more assignment,” but maintaining this type of hustle can be a great disservice to yourself, your family and yes — even your job. When you spread yourself too thin, it’s hard to navigate life and career obligations successfully.
Beyond improving your sense of balance, setting boundaries can produce better outcomes for each of your priorities. Spending time with your kids becomes a richer experience if you aren’t distracted by the feeling that you need to get back to your desk. And your work outcomes may improve when you’re forced to use your limited time at work more deliberately.
Balance Life as a Working Mom
There’s no magic formula to being a successful working mother.
Learning how to balance mom-life and work looks different for everyone. Do what feels right for your life and find the best balance for you.
Navigating life and career obligations isn’t easy, but finding your stride allows you to find happiness and fulfillment in all aspects of your life.
Support throughout your working motherhood journey
Get access to career opportunities with family-friendly employers, job search and career development resources, and a thriving community of moms and allies with The Mom Project.