Whether you're working or not, motherhood is a challenge, but a joyful one of course! There are, however, a few pitfalls that we working moms face that can not only drain our mental resources but also take away from our general well-being and allover "feel-goodness." Let's address these pitfalls and figure out some ways to combat them.
1. Working at the Office . . . and at Home
I hate to say it, but we did it to ourselves with the smartphones and laptops. It's a beautiful thing to be able to work from home . . . and an awful thing because you're never really "away" from work even if you have an in-office job! For me, I work in the digital marketing space as well as social media. My job never seems to really "end" at the end of the day. I'm not the only mom whose work tends to leave a bit of a trail once she leaves the office. The fact is it's not only hard to put down the smartphone, because you're tempted to surf Facebook. It's also occasionally viciously difficult to not check your work email. All of this "checking" and worrying though cuts into the precious time you have with your children, a spouse or partner, and yourself! How do you combat this?
First, I started telling partners that I was doing business with and a few remote co-workers that I am unavailable during certain hours and weekends for contact. I recognize not everyone can pull this off, but why not set boundaries? I explained that certain times are set for family time. And for the few stragglers who don't seem to listen, I don't answer their emails right away. I never ignore anyone indefinitely, but I set the work-home email boundary.
Second, for social media or urgent things, I give myself a set time to attend to the matters and then devise a game plan for attacking it the next business day so I am ready for battle.
Third, I don't look at my email after a certain hour. I used to look at all times of the night, and guess which woman wasn't getting to bed on time? Me! I was stressed and tired the next day. Seeing a panicked email or an issue after 8 p.m. or close to 10 at night was enough to keep me from getting to sleep. Just say no, mommies!
Letting work linger too much after hours cuts into all of your relationships and isn't worth it.
2. Accept That the Glass Ceiling Is Tough to Break
I'm sorry, but this is a myth to some extent. Not that women can't be CEOs or have insanely successful careers and be mothers, but it is incredibly counterproductive to not accept that having a high-powered career or any career plus being a mother is difficult. There are constant sacrifices. I feel a bit lied to by the feminists who "spoke" to me as a young child and let me think being a career mom was so easily attainable and that yes, we can do it all! Sure, we can do it all, but that means that sometimes you miss out on time with your kids or you miss a work event that maybe your non-child-having counterparts can attend.
What do I wish someone had told me? I wish someone had said the truth: that you can be an absolute diva in the boardroom or whatever career of your choice, but understand that there will be times in which you will feel as if you are utterly failing at motherhood, your career, and both. This feeling may be completely false or, to some extent, have a grain of truth. Juggling everything gets exhausting. Be easy on yourself, cut yourself some slack, and recognize that at some point, certain areas of your life may be slightly neglected or not the way you want them to be. This is OK; just be sure to do your best.
That's all anyone can ask of you.
3. Making Mom Friends Can Be Tougher
As a working mom, it's hard to get to know any of my daughter's classmates' mothers. Why does that even matter? It may not to you, but it does for me. It's nice to have friendships with these mothers because that will help facilitate friendships and play dates for your children. Let's also face it—knowing people around the school helps to know the school gossip and while most school gossip is useless and you shouldn't get involved in that mess anyway, there are some bits of news that are worth being informed about.
How do you manage that? Well, on the very few times you may see these other moms, take initiative and introduce yourself. Tell these ladies that you're working but would love to schedule a play date during the weekend or perhaps ask if you can exchange emails or phone numbers in order to stay informed since you're often not around. It's worth the effort, especially if it helps your child or children socially.
4. Too Stubborn to Ask For Help
The last pitfall I see other working mothers and myself often face is the refusal to ask others for help when it is needed. I'm sorry, but Rome wasn't built in a day, and running a household, managing a job, and caring for children requires more than one person. If your partner is lacking, you need to have a sit-down and pronto. You can bet that I know plenty of women letting their partners slide way too often because it's become too much work to ask for the help, but this is detrimental to these women's sanity. I saw it in my own family and how this contributed to burnout. Reach out to your partner and say, "It's time you pulled your weight."
What if you have an amazing partner or no partner to ask but still struggle? Look to your communities. Is there a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance who might be worth contacting in order to start a friendship of some kind? Having people you can trust to either help you with your children or home in emergencies or on a regular basis, if need be, is simply what a smart mom does, whether she's working or not.
One of the biggest battles in all of this is recognizing that you are taking on too much and need more hands. Are you constantly stressed, tired, late, forgetting things, or snapping at your kids and family? If so, this is a sign that something has to change before you snap. Don't let it be you. Assess your life and where you can make changes and how you can make things easier for you. A peaceful mom = happy children!
Take these pitfalls seriously, because if you don't, you will find yourself feeling down about yourself as a mother, person, and worker. This will only hurt your self-esteem and relationship with those you love. Don't let that happen. Like my feminist sisters would say, you can do it!