After a particularly long and stressful day a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. It suddenly hit me that I am a working mom. Not a very timely epiphany as my first child is 9 and I worked before and after her birth. But an epiphany, nonetheless.
There are times when navigating a full-time career and managing a household feels incredibly overwhelming. In these dark moments, the questions in my mind arise.
“How can I possibly do everything that needs to be done in a day?”
“Is it selfish to take time for myself?”
“Am I taking anything away from my kids by also having a career?”
“Could I be a better mother if I devoted more time to it?”
“Why am I so hopelessly disorganized?”
These are the moments when I question everything. Maybe these questions have also arisen in your mind?
And although I do consider myself to have perfectionist tendencies, I am a terrible planner. I put very little thought or effort into thinking ahead about certain things. Life has a way of happening and I’ve always emphasized the big decisions while letting the smaller ones go.
But working mom life is tough! So tough that I wonder whether it is possible to excel in one’s career and at home. All while staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, excercising, socializing, and staying sane. Basically doing all the things.
How do you do all the things as a working mom? Are there other moms out there who feel the same way?
It begs the question of how I even got on this crazy path.
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Past and Present
Whether or not I should work has never been the question. Even after having kids, I’ve always felt a strong pull to contribute to my family financially. Having been raised on a dairy farm, I learned very early on that work is simply a part of life.
The act of working in and of itself brings me a great deal of satisfaction. But my career path has taken twists and turns that I never expected.
If there’s anything I’ve learned thus far, it’s that life is unexpected and forces you to pivot.
After graduating with a fine arts degree in music, I found myself living in a tiny Wisconsin town. If you know anything about tiny Wisconsin towns, you know that they are basically comprised of bars and churches. Bleak job prospects for a newly graduated music major. And although I did take a position playing Sunday services for a couple of area churches, I didn’t make nearly enough to support myself.
You may also enjoy reading Stop Caring What “They” Think.
I needed a new plan.
Luckily, I had completed a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in college and decided to apply for a position at a local nursing home. This one decision launched an entirely different type of career path than I had ever considered before.
A path which would eventually lead from CNA in a nursing home to nurse practitioner for people residing in a nursing home. Throw a marriage, a daughter, divorce, a second marriage, and two sons into the mix and here we are today.
But until recently, I had never sat down to think about HOW one goes about managing a career and family. What does this actually look like and can the two be meshed together in some type of cohesive way?
Career and Family
All great questions. My working mom epiphany was starting to lead me down a path of discovery. And so I did what I usually do whenever I have a curious thought which won’t go away. I looked for a book which could help me better understand this concept of working while raising a family.
The book I found was a collection of individual stories of women who work and also have children. Stories of women who climbed the corporate ladder and those who ultimately chose to adjust their careers around their home life. Women juggling PTO, sick days, vacation, and wardrobe malfunctions all in the name of excelling at work and at home.
An entire book all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a working mom.
And to be honest, the book was initially a letdown.
I didn’t need some book to tell me that mom guilt about being at work versus at my daughter’s school event is real. Or that a morning routine (or lack thereof) can make or break your day. I truly wasn’t looking for a story about another woman’s husband chipping in at home so she could work.
It was answers I was after. Answers about how to manage the overwhelming chaos of working mom life. Easy-to-follow checklists for taming the daily disarray. Hints about fitting self-care into a tumultuous schedule. Encouragement that yes, things will in fact get better.
Stories are nice but they aren’t answers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m super happy that Susan’s husband vacuums and scrubs the toilets. But how did she get him to take on these tasks?
And congratulations to Lindsay on cutting back to part-time hours! But what about the options if your family’s economic stability depends upon your full-time hours?
It’s amazing that Cheryl was able to negotiate her employer into allowing her some time to work-from-home. But how is this story beneficial when your career is not amenable to working from home?
I was beginning to think that there simply were no answers to the questions I was asking.
More Questions Than Answers
Despite my initial disappointment in the book’s inability to answer my questions, I kept reading it. Mostly because I was 50 pages in at that point and already invested.
After all, it was possible that the answers I was looking for were in the very last chapter. Or in some type of bonus chapter. It was also entirely possible that the secret to managing my working mom life was in an exclusive online book resource.
I had to keep reading to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything that all the other working moms somehow knew. Working mom life would be much easier if there was a secret to making it all balance. If not a secret, then maybe a magical fairy or elf.
Picture this. It’s been a long day at work, you’re tired, and your toddler screams all the way home from day care. And then continues screaming because you won’t let him lick the soap dispenser at home. His older brother, slighted because you asked how his day went, quickly joins in the screaming. Just to top it all off, their older sister starts yelling because she is annoyed at the screaming of the other two.
You’ve been there before too, right?
In this moment, wouldn’t it be great if you could tap into some deep well of knowledge? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if you could suddenly feel calm, cool, and collected about all areas of your working and home life? If you could simply let the stress of the work day melt away amidst the screaming tantrums of your kids.
Admit how great it would feel if you could drop the constant feelings of competition between work and home. The feeling that because you work, you’re somehow dropping the ball at home. Or the feeling that because you take time off to care for a sick child, you’re slacking off at work. And on and on and on.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was looking for reassurance. Reassurance that I wasn’t the only one feeling the constant conflict between work and home life. I needed to hear that I wasn’t the only one with more questions than answers.
The Working Mom Secret
It wasn’t until I was almost through with the book that it suddenly hit me.
I wasn’t the only one questioning how to make it all work! There was no magical “one size fits all” answer for achieving balance in your working mom life.
And do you know what else I learned?
There are forces beyond my control influencing my thoughts, feelings, and responses to “balancing” working mom life. Forces contributing to my feelings of overwhelm and constant questioning.
These forces run deep. Some are rooted in society’s expectations about male and female roles both inside and outside the home. Others stem from the influences of social media and comparison. Still others are deeply personal and come from your own expectations of who you ARE versus who you SHOULD be.
And let’s not forget the expectations of your spouse, friends, family, and coworkers. The unsolicited advice about how to learn more, be more, and do more. Advice on how to make all the bits and pieces of your life come together into a pretty picture.
In short, working moms are struggling against a plethora of outside forces. This struggle only sets us up for more and more questions.
Unless we stop and consider what is truly driving our feelings, emotions, and actions, we will never come to a better understanding of the issue.
And how does one come to a better understanding of an issue?
By asking questions, seeking out information, and sifting through one’s deepest underlying thoughts and beliefs.
The secret to a better understanding of working mom life is to ask more questions.
I know this may not be the answer you were hoping for. Believe me, I completely understand your frustration in now having more questions than answers.
But at the end of the day, working moms all have completely different hopes, dreams, and goals.
We are all individuals. Each of us has a unique perspective to contribute.
What’s Your Perspective?
By this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Ok, great. But now what? How can I apply this in my own life?”
You can start by ditching the concept of “balancing” home and work lives. The word “balance” means equilibrium. Equality between two separate entities.
In working mom life, there is NO. SUCH. THING. as balance.
Life is unexpected. You will constantly need to make tough choices. Choices which result in favoring one thing over another.
This is just the nature of life. Accept that there will be times when you need to choose family over work. And vice versa. It’s ok.
Know that all working moms wrestle with these questions. If not these same exact questions, then eerily similar ones.
None of us really knows what we’re doing. We’re all just doing the very best we can with what we have. Approach each new day with the faith that you are making progress. Forgive yourself.
Talk with other working moms who may be going through the same struggles as you. Working moms are a community of incredibly strong, resourceful, and resilient women. We absolutely need to avoid tearing each other down but rather stick together!
And stay curious. If you’re struggling, look for resources. In today’s world, there is an abundance of information out there. Don’t keep yourself in the darkness of overwhelm when all you need to do is simply reach out and turn on the light switch.
Keep asking questions until you find the answers you’re looking for! Or at least until you get to the questions which get you to the root of your hang-up.
If you’re looking for a starting point, check out the book which inspired today’s post here. This book triggered so much emotionally for me and inspired my belief that the answer to this issue is complex and actually lies in the questions.
If a podcast is more your style, check out one of my personal favs below!
- Do It Scared with Ruth Soukup
- The Confidence Podcast with Trish Blackwell
- Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis
And always remember that you’re not on this journey alone. Life with kids requires a complete transformation. You cannot live the same way you did before having kids. And my guess is that you wouldn’t want to. Kids add an element of fulfillment unmatched by anything else!
And now it’s your turn. What are your current challenges, questions, and stresses? Where do you find yourself constantly getting hung up? What are the forces beyond your control which are currently impacting you in a big way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this and more below!