I always knew I wanted children, but for me, things happened a bit later. For many years, I was focused on “standing on my own two feet” by ensuring I had a “real career” or skill I could always fall back on. I was raised by two parents who were immigrants with limited education and because of it, we struggled. Even as a young child, I knew I didn’t like that struggle and wanted to get out of that cycle. I had my first child at 37 years old and second at 40 years old and worked all throughout.
For me, motherhood was utterly shocking to the system. A month after my first child was born, I wondered why no one had really warned me or spoken about how jarring first-time motherhood could be. My entire life, I was a very focused and goal orientated-person – then BOOM – all of a sudden, I doubted everything and start questioning all my life’s choices. Below are five tips for working moms, especially those who are new to the game:
Tip #1: You will doubt and question everything, including your priorities.
At some point in the process of becoming a mother and going back to becoming a dutiful employee/business owner, you will question all of your choices, actions, and priorities. Just know, this is totally normal and means that you actually care.
Many say that as long as you are doing your best, that’s good enough – and for the most part, that seems to be a reasonable position to take given that if you’re doing your best – you theoretically are at maximum effort.
For me, it’s the crossroads and decision forks you come up to along the way where the real stress of motherhood comes. There are no easy answers of course, and every decision is based on numerous factors, but one thing I have found to be true is awareness and deliberation as the way forward. Being aware of the issues, applying your own personal factors and coming to a conclusion after deliberation is probably doing your best when dealing with life’s crossroads and decision forks.
Tip #2: Communicate with your employer that you may need to work differently, but you’re still going to get the job done.
This conversation is important to set expectations, especially when first coming back to work. An eight hour working period may not look like what it did pre-baby. You may need to come in earlier, take a few hours off in the middle of the day, and then finish working in the evening after the children are sleeping, or you may need to work more hours one day and less another. The point is, finding an employer that will afford you flexibility on how to schedule and manage your day is key. As long as the work is still getting done well and in a timely manner, does it matter how and when?
Tip #3: Know that you’re setting a great example for your children.
Aside from the obvious financial contributions, you’re making to your family, know that your efforts are being seen and felt by your children. You are setting an important example of being a strong, independent and responsible person for your children. And while there may be times that you miss certain things, events or milestone moments in your child’s life, take comfort in the fact that you are raising children to be independent in their own right just by your own actions and example of being a working mom.
Tip #4: Pictures, pictures, pictures
Especially when becoming a new mom and heading back to work, the process can be quite emotional. One minute you’re feeling like you can take on the world, the next you’re feeling vulnerable and resent being away from your children. In moments like these, find your inspiration…through pictures of your children!
With my first daughter, I had to get right back into my crazy work travel schedule and would often be away from my 3-month-old 5 – 6 days at a time. During this period, there were plenty of times I questioned everything and missed my child greatly. This is when all the pictures on my phone came to the rescue. It calmed me down just seeing her beautiful face and reminded me of my “why.” Even now being out of the baby stage, I will still look at pictures of my children a few times a day before big meetings or when feeling overwhelmed with work and deadlines. Just a few moments with your pictures in the middle of the day will help you feel grounded and connected again to all those things and people that really matter to you.
Tip #5: Work can be your “me time” for some self-care.
Everyone tells mom’s how important it is to carve out some “me time” to ensure you’re taking care of yourself and not just everyone else in your life. It’s a hard balance and mom guilt is real. I found, however, that since you’re already away from your children when at work, it’s a bit easier to squeeze in self-care. For instance, using lunchtime to grab food and sit outside alone with your thoughts, or using the time to get a much needed express manicure, or putting on your sneakers and going for a 30-minute walk. Work and self-care don’t often go together, but if you make the most out of your time and adjust your perspective, anything is possible!