I lingered a few feet outside the main doors of the gym where my son was playing in his final weekend basketball tournament. Phone to my ear, I discussed work with my colleague. When I hung up, I instantly felt guilty. I should be more helpful to my coworker – she has a lot on her plate. That thought had barely passed when I felt guilty for stepping away from family time to take a work call.
The working-mom/stay-at-home-mom debate stirs up big emotions. I’ve done both and they’re equally hard in different ways. Right now, in this life stage, I am called to work and called to be a great mom. I love both roles.
Yet sometimes I shortchange each – work gets busy and home life suffers, or family is demanding and I wish I were a better employee. Here’s what I’ve found though: Every mom feels this way. We want to excel at our crafts and we also know the season of raising kids is sacred and fleeting. We tug-of-war between the two.
But when I’m struggling with prioritizing, here’s what I remind myself:
1. Be fully present where you are. When you’re at home, be at home. When you’re at work, be at work. Offer each place the best of you while you’re there. You don’t need to stress about one when you’re focused on the other. News to me. Somewhere in my career, I told myself work needed to be my life. Recently, I began collaborating with a successful coworker who rarely checks her emails at home. Gasp. Can. Not. Even. Process. This. I don’t have to work until I burn out? I can fully enjoy my home life and come to work refreshed? (All the praise hands.)
2. Examine what’s most important to your family and make it happen. My family values unpacking our thoughts together. So, dinner, old-fashioned card games, evening prayers, or other activities that promote communication are a must. Even if my day is slammed, if we’ve had time to talk as a family, I feel good. How can you prioritize the things that connect your family?
3. Reduce commitments. If you don’t, you will crash. I promise you, it happened to me. Break the news: Sorry, I can’t commit. People will get over it. And don’t sign your kids up for everything. Look at your calendar and create margin. Your sanity will thank you.
4. When you don’t have time, collect moments. Sometimes busy is best; everyone is involved in beloved activities and the schedule is held together by a thread. At those times, collect moments. Watch in slow motion as your son walks into practice. Linger in that hug with your daughter. Pause in your day and collect the blessing of the moment. It’ll fill your heart in ways you didn’t expect.
5. When your kids are communicating, stop and listen. Look up from the phone, quit chopping the vegetables, turn off the vacuum. The to-do list will always be there, your kids won’t. And know they always feel the need to unload their hearts at the most inconvenient times. Roll with the waves on this one.
6. Take time off from work. I remember stressing about the number of sick days I used. A wiser coworker said, “That’s what they’re for. You have kids. They need you. Take more days if you must.” We get time off for a reason. Use it. The world will not stop. Life is happening right now, not tomorrow – live that way.
7. Be kind to yourself. We are our toughest critics, but we deserve the same grace we give other people. When you need time for you, take it. Create quiet moments to listen to your heart. Do whatever refuels and inspires you. Your household and workplace will benefit from it.
As I took my seat at the basketball game, I reminded myself: now is family time. I hushed the guilt for abandoning my coworker. Instead, I focused on cheering from the sidelines. And I felt motherhood be the sacred role that it is. When I walk into work on Monday, I’ll be ready to give my all there, too.
Read more of Cheryl's articles at Empowered Moms and Kids. Also, sign up for Empowered Moms and Kid's emails and get the FREE mini-eBook: Meditations for Moms: Renewal and Empowerment in 8 minutes a day. (And 10+ more empowering freebies.) Or catch Empowered Moms and Kids on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Twitter.