I knew from the start that being a working mom while maintaining a healthy balance between my professional responsibilities and childcare duties wouldn’t be easy. Still, I used to think that I would have had things figured out after my first year as a parent. As I’ve grappled with the challenges of being a working mom who doesn’t let her family nor her company down, however, I’ve come to realize that my working mom balance is still a work in progress – and that it’s perfectly okay to take the time you need.
You’ll never achieve perfection, and that’s okay
Every new parent wants to be perfect, and who could blame them? Mothers who have carried children with them for months on end and fathers who worry themselves to deaths in the delivery room have a natural urge to do all they can for their new children. Still, I’ve come to recognize that being a working mom is essentially always going to be a balancing act, and that seeking perfection in how I balance my various roles is a fool’s errand if there ever was one.
Moms everywhere should understand that you may never perfect your desired method for balancing the demands of a hectic job and an even more frantic toddler. That’s perfectly okay – motherhood, like virtually everything else in life, comes in steps and can’t be leaped over in a single bound. You’ll think you have everything figured out a first (I know I did), but sooner or later reality will inevitably rear its ugly head and hit you with an unexpected gut-punch. When disasters strike, I’ve learned to stop despairing and to start getting to work instead to fix my problems for the benefit of my company, my child, and myself.
Early on in my career as a working mother, I found myself perusing lists of the most viral and impressive working moms in the public spotlight. Often, I discovered I was envious of these women and frustrated that I could be doing more for my newborn, my business, and myself. I’ve since come to learn that being a working mother is one of the most staggeringly difficult task ever undergone by anyone, however, and that I needed to start cutting myself some slack if I was going to make it to retirement and my child’s graduation with my own health and sanity intact.
I’ve learned to roll with the punches. You may think you have a schedule ironed out, but when the little one gets sick or when work calls in unexpectedly, you’ll need to suddenly scramble to adjust your plans. The importance of being a flexible worker (and, really, a flexible person) for working mothers cannot be understated. Often they have to consider bringing their child into work because day care costs are so high due to day care insurance costs.
The fight for equality never ends
Another nasty but important lesson I learned as a working mom is that the fight for equality in pay and treatment, not to mention equal recognition, never really ends. Despite the fact that policies like paid parental leave are overwhelmingly positive for everyone involved in the equation, working and motherhood are still viewed as two separate things that should never intermix. It’s not pleasant to admit it, but it’s vitally important that working moms understand not everyone will be okay with their choice, and that they’ll need to fight back if they want to respect they deserve.
Thus, it can really be said that the very idea of working moms is still a work in progress – large swathes of society still reject the notion that women can handle childcare without sacrificing their work responsibilities, and it’s our duty to demonstrate that it isn’t so. As a matter of fact, every working mom who’s killing it in the workplace while nurturing their child at home is living, breathing evidence that raising a child doesn’t have to be the end of a professional career for a woman.
It almost goes without saying that role models are vital in industries of all sorts, and that the more working moms we have, the easier it will be for other young women to become working moms themselves one day. Being a role model is perhaps the most important job any of us ever have, both in and outside of the office. That’s why it’s so important that other working moms understand that they don’t need to give up if they haven’t instantly ironed out a work-home balance. It’s a process of stumbling, getting back up, and trying again until you find the right formula that works for you, your child, and your company. It’s long-past time society started embracing working mothers. I’ve struggled when it comes to balancing my work responsibilities and my childcare duties, but admitting to myself that it was a work in progress was the greatest thing I ever did.