Being a working mom is no walk in the park. Balancing home life and a full-time job at the same time often involves a lot of compromise. Thanks to our friends at Sharp Heels, here's an A to Z list for working moms to keep in mind throughout the day.
I don't remember the day and time that it hit me that I could give up some of the things on my to-do list, but I do remember the exact moment: I was headed to a networking event for working moms, and the invitation said to bring a dessert item.
My lofty, vivid intentions in the days leading up to the event were just short of sugarplums dancing in my head: should I make cupcakes with different sprinkles or cookies with white chocolate chips? Or double-fudge brownies or bread with cream cheese frosting drizzle? And then — my to-do list fell into the sugary vision: do laundry, make lunch, pick up more diapers, get a haircut, and print the photos for the frame upstairs. And oh yeah, show up for a full-time job, then work extra hours on top of that.
So here's what happened: I had a surreal realization that it was OK if I went to the local grocery store and bought perfectly delicious, freshly baked (just not by me) cookies to bring to the event. Sure, I couldn't expound upon my special baking techniques when someone said, "These are yummy," but I could give credit to the local store and even feel good about sending them more business. For someone who is self-diagnosed as Type A, this realization was monumental.
The Amazing Aha Moment
This realization meant that I could now give myself a break every once in a while: if some of the items on the to-do list stayed there for three weeks — instead of one — so be it. (Diapers, of course, are one of the exceptions, as no one wants to see the consequences of running out of those.)
But the point is this: I love my family and love my career, and now I realize that in order to give myself to both, not every single thing could be a priority. Sure, there will be moments of "Do I have to take a conference call while my baby is sleeping in my lap?" But then after the call, I've learned to give myself a high five, a pat on the back, or better yet, an ice cream sundae for making it through.
As a full-time working mom, I now have a glimpse of the joy of what a circus clown must experience when juggling in front of an audience. I am still an almighty believer that there are not enough hours in the day, but now I also believe that a few moments to reflect, think, and laugh a little are all worth it. And just like making cookies is all about having the right ingredients to make them delicious, life is about having the right ingredients. See below.
The A-Z Ingredients For a Working Parent
A — "An attitude that stays positive may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." — Herm Albright
B — Buy store-bought cookies. And eat them, too.
C — Crying over spilled milk is only allowed if it spilled on your work outfit as you walked out the door, and you have a meeting at 9 a.m. And even then, let it only be a tear or two.
D — Don't count the hours in the day, but instead make the days count.
E — Every time you have to choose between staying at work for 10 extra minutes to get something done, or leave right then to go and see your kids, leave right then. It might not be much time on a clock, but the balance it sets for you and your kids will show.
F — Find a time each month to have a date with each child one on one. They truly treasure the individual, undivided attention (credit to Sara Slone).
G — Girls' night out. That means cocktails, laughter, storytelling (aka venting), or shopping. Run the whole gamut, so when you come home, you are giddy.
H — Hang up a recent document from work on the fridge next to your kid's artwork. Who says your work doesn't deserve a little praise every once in a while?
I — "I don't know how she does it." There's a reason that phrase helped a book and a movie become top sellers. People are in awe of how working mothers juggle daily life, so bask in the admiration.
J — Jot, i.e., keep a notebook handy at work to jot down any random thoughts you have about your child. Reminiscing about those years from now is a powerful way to reconnect with him/her.
L — Laugh out loud at least once a day with your child. Whether it's something they say, or a funny story you tell, you are not only enjoying the moment, but also boosting antibodies!
M — Make a full-day spa appointment once a year. No questions asked.
O — "One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats." — Iris Murdoch. These treats are measured in many ways: for instance, chocolate truffles or an "I love you, mom" right before bed. Whatever you define as treats, make sure there are many.
P — Promise me you'll always remember: you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." — Christopher Robin to Pooh
Q — Quit trying to be supermom. There is no such thing. Consider the simple acts that you do every day as super.
R — Remember to say, "Please," and, "Thank you." To your boss, your team, your spouse, and your children.
S — "Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple." — Dr. Seuss
T — "The test of a person is what they can do when they are tired." — Winston Churchill
U — Unless you have a magic wand, don't feel like you have to solve everyone's problems all the time. Some things are out of our control.
V — Vacation. It's meant to be relaxing and focused on the here and now, not on the "what's due next week." So while it's not easy, try your hardest to unplug and unwind. It will all still be there when you get back.
W — "Winners of the hoop race are those who are first to realize their dreams — not society's dream, their own personal dream." — Barbara Bush, former first lady of the United States
X — Xylophone. There is one instrument that you likely won't have time to play with your busy schedule of work and raising a family. Phew.
Y — You are your best advocate. Know your limits and establish them with anyone who needs to respect them.
Z — "Zoo. Take the time to go to one with your kids. Even if your life sometimes feels like it already is one." — Sarah Sykora, chief marketing officer of Babson College