The daily reality of being a working Mom can feel overwhelming at times. Have you ever felt like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Have you ever wondered how all the Moms who came before you held it all together? Welcome to the club! When I became a Mom, I have to admit that I was completely surprised by how often I felt out of control, overwhelmed, and worried that I couldn't handle it all.
Working Moms can be happy and fulfilled. We should be. And we deserve it.
In order to get there, we have to do the hard work to free ourselves as much as possible of the clutter, chores and burdens we've taken on just because we think we "should". There are just not enough hours in the day to thrive in your career, manage a household, sleep, make memories with the family you love, and stay sane.
And now that we have families, the rewards are bountiful if we weed out the unimportant things. Days at the beach. Adventures to the city. Reading books by the fire. Unexpected conversations in the car. Watching the same episode of Dora the Explorer for the 22nd time....
Let's start by acknowledging the real pressures of everyday life of a working Mom. There are a lot of things that can stress us out. Do these pressures resonate with you?
- We Work (MANY!) More Hours: Back when you were a kid, did you think that a good career would have you working 40 hours a week? Fooled you. Nope, most careers require more than 40 hours a week, especially if you have your eyes set on the leadership track. And don’t forget about the stressful evening emails from a boss that never would have even existed 25 years ago. Before kids, this seemed doable to me, but once I had to figure out how to care for an infant on top of my full time job, it seemed nearly impossible!
- Two Career Families Are the Norm: Back in the 1950s, a Dad could support his entire middle class or even upper middle class family on his salary. Want to be upper middle class today? You’re likely to need two salaries to even try. There goes an entire full time worker focused on keeping up the house and the family.
- School Conflicts with Work: Has no one noticed that child care schedules are woefully behind the times and are structured for stay-at-home parents? We’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret….most Moms work! But schools from pre-school to high school require working parents to put together their own plans for afternoons and holidays. Every. Single. Weekday. I need a nap just thinking of all that organizational effort.
- Our Networks Aren’t As Strong: I lived in 7 apartments in my 20s and I haven’t lived in the same state as my parents since high school. A generation ago, I would have been an outlier, but that’s now somewhat normal for my friends too. If you’re like me, I collected friends in high school, college, work, and grad school who are now scattered – I can’t even visit one place to see them all. And the reality is that making close adult friends is freakishly difficult.
- Standards Have Gotten Higher: Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, we can't help but think that every family secretly has perfect food, perfect children, perfect vacations, a perfect house...and of course they all get 8+ hours of sleep while achieving this mythical perfection. As life has gotten busier for most families, somehow we've convinced ourselves that we should spend MORE quality time with our kids, MORE time cooking from scratch, MORE time sewing Halloween costumes and add MORE activities into each week to have a well-rounded kiddo. Even if these aren't aligned with our own values and priorities. Exhausted yet?
- Managing a Household Still Takes Time: We delude ourselves into thinking that in the age of Amazon Prime, Instacart, and Blue Apron that household chores don’t take up much time. Surprise – it still takes one full workday a week to keep a household running! Laundry, cooking, groceries, cleaning, lawn mowing, house repairs, dog walking, car maintenance…it adds up. Each week.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Parents nowadays are living bigger, bolder lives than ever before! Women and men are freer to decide their own work/life balance. We find more rewarding careers that fulfill us emotionally as well as financially. We’re healthier – even though we are sitting all the time, we exercise more, smoke less, and eat healthier food. We explore other cultures, from the food truck outside our office to the exotic trips we take. We experience more of the world by the time we’re 30 than previous generations did in their entire lives!
Working Moms, what we really need is a “wife”. We need to acknowledge the work it takes to run a household, a family, and a life. And we need to plan for it so we can be free to live the big, bold lives we want to focus on. Take responsibility to create your own "wife" to take care of the time-sucking life maintenance that's holding you back.
- Outsource anything you can: Swap chores that drain you to your husband for ones that don't bother you. When your in-laws offer to watch the baby, pin down a date and time and make it happen. Hire lawn mowers, house cleaners, dog walkers, additional child care for babysitting or couples getaways. Hire the teenager down the street or the neighbor in between jobs to help 4 hours a week. Mama, let’s be honest, you work too many hours to feel guilty outsourcing things. Really.
- Cooking: Challenge yourself to find 50 recipes that takes less than 20 minutes of active prep time. Back in the 1950s, Moms were fascinated with the latest and greatest easy recipes – casseroles! Today it’s crock pots, one pot pastas, grilling, and bakes. And healthy(ish) take-out or frozen pizza once a week at least! Remember, even for those stay-at-home Moms of yore, shortcuts are a Mom's friend, not the enemy.
- Schedule Time for Household Ordering: Schedule 30 minutes on your calendar once a week to order essentials online. Acknowledge that it needs to happen, plan for it, and don’t try to squeeze it in when you’re running out. Save lists. Auto-subscribe even if you end up with a few too many roles of toilet paper one month.
- Have 5 Back Up Helpers: Your Facebook friend in London can’t help you when you’re stuck at work and your dog needs to be let out. Cultivate 5 people who live near you as your physical back-up who you can text when life happens. Do favors for them and invest in the relationship so you can ask them for help without guilt. They can be family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, fellow pre-school parents, whoever. But remember that their lives are chaotic enough that you really do need at least 5 people on that list, trust me.
- Give Your Kids Age-Appropriate Chores: Toddlers love nothing more than to mimic adults and for older kids, research has shown that chores can help build work ethic. Outsourcing dishes, daily pick-up, laundry folding, and even cooking to your children can help them learn to be self-reliant – all the while freeing up your time to actually enjoy your life. The hardest part is handling a chore that's not done perfectly. But hopefully you can distract yourself with sleep, a hobby, time with your friends or husband. And if not, allow yourself 10 minutes a night to fix what your kid(s) have done...that's it!
Let's treat our time as precious, valuable, and worth protecting. Let's invest in what makes us feel fulfilled, what gives us life.
And let’s model this behavior for our kids. Let’s teach them that they shouldn’t beat themselves up, but instead set themselves up for success. Let’s show them what it looks like to get creative with solutions and embrace living boldly.
And remember…..most of our kids won’t remember all the shortcuts we took when they were infants and toddlers. Thank god for that!