Almost every working mother strives to attain some sort of balance between her career and her family. Many women today choose to focus on their careers rather than staying home to raise their children, but the myth of ‘having it all’ is ever-present in our society. This belief that a woman, or anyone for that matter, can succeed professionally while being the perfect parent exerts a lot of pressure and ultimately sets us up for failure. Society tells us that we can to do it all and do it perfectly, but what’s worse is that we often have those same expectations. Often how we judge ourselves is a hundred times worse than the most critical of our contemporaries, and ultimately, we end up a stressed out and unhappy, laden with guilt. The purpose of this article is to help you give yourself a break and to start changing your thoughts. It’s time to enjoy working outside the home without laboring under a mountain of guilt that you’re scarring your children for life. Because when you’re happier, your family and co-workers will be too.
Be Clear About Your Reasons – Tradeoffs are inevitable. The extra hours you worked for that promotion may mean that you’re too exhausted to read a bedtime story. Or maybe you had to miss a game in order to make a meeting. As with all aspects of life, there are tradeoffs between being a parent and being a career woman. One way of coping is to be clear about why you chose to focus on your job rather than be a stay-at-home mom. This is a fantastic exercise to make your motivations crystal clear. The reasons can run from the most essential like, ‘I contribute to my family’s finances,’ to the less serious, ‘I love wearing business suits every day.’ The point is to get clear about why you’re working, so that when you experience the feeling of sadness that you missed a dance recital, your list will be a visual reminder of why you’re kicking butt at the office.
Girl Power for All – Working outside the home means that you’re helping other women do the same. Women have opportunities to help other women succeed as they journey through their careers. Giving a female co-worker a helping hand helps you feel good too. The forward progress you forge with your own job will help your contemporaries, as well as, the young women who follow you. Think about your work from a more global perspective, and how you can empower other women to succeed. And if you have a daughter, that’s a great role model for her as well.
Encourage, Don’t Criticize – Open almost any magazine and you’ll be bombarded by photos of ‘perfect parents’ that are doing all the things that ‘should’ make your family life better and everyone happier. You ‘should’ do this to be a better mom, you ‘should’ buy this to make your kids happy, etc. are what those photos tell us, and ‘should’ is one of the best ways to start feeling guilty about your perceived lack in the parenting department. The word ‘should’ is loaded with judgment. Change that ‘should’ word to ‘could’ and nip the guilt before it builds. ‘Yes, I could have volunteered to bring 40 cupcakes to the Open House, but I worked instead.’ Then look at your list of things that you love about work. It’s important to shift the inherent criticism of ‘should’ to something more encouraging, especially when you’re looking at other working mothers. We have a chance to encourage ourselves and each other when balancing career and parenting, and we should take advantage of it.
Be Present – Sometimes the simplest things are the most potent. When you spend time with your family, ensure that it’s quality time. Keep distractions to a minimum, and focus on the children and partner that you’re with. If you make your work time about work, and your family time about family, you stave off any feelings of guilt. Giving your attention and time to the people you love is one of the best gifts to them and yourself.