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How to be a working mom: 10 tips to have the best of both worlds

September 9, 2022 - 15 min read

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Is it worth the trouble?

Finding your balance

10 tips for balancing work and parental duties

Remember that you’re a great role model

When schools shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, no one felt it more than working mothers

They were already dealing with the tensions between work and childcare. But dealing with the new work-from-home measures coupled with home-schooling their kids, taking care of regular housework, and navigating their family through a period of fear and uncertainty.

Not all of them did it alone. But according to a 2020 survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre:

  • Mothers felt they were shouldering more of the childcare duties than their spouses or partners
  • Working moms were more likely to report that the pandemic made it difficult to handle childcare responsibilities
  • More than 33% of moms said they dealt with childcare responsibilities while working from home

The realities of the pandemic put undue pressure on working mothers, leading many to quit their jobs. Women accounted for 56% of resignations in 2020, despite only making up 48% of the total workforce.

If you’re a new mother, you might be worried about how you’ll balance a career and raising your child. If being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job, what happens when you’re a working mom? Is it better for you to stay at home and let go of your career aspirations? Is it selfish to try to have it all?

Let’s start with the basics: you’re never selfish for wanting both to balance work and family And the fact that you’re thinking about these questions means you love and care for your child. You’re embarking on a life-changing journey, so it’s good that you’re spending time planning your route. Finding the right balance is difficult, but it’s absolutely possible.

And we want to help, so here’s some information on how to be a working mom.

 

Is it worth the trouble?

You might be on the fence about maintaining your career at all. But if we look at the numbers, your best bet is to focus on your own needs.

A study published by the American Psychology Association (APA) asked, “Are working moms happier than those who stay at home?” Through interviews with 1,364 moms, they found that moms with part-time jobs tend to be happier during their children’s infancy than moms who stay at home.

And yet, more millennials than ever are opting to be stay-home-parents, citing a lack of work-life balance as a key reason. In a Gallup survey, 56% of women with children under 18 said they would ideally like “to stay home and care for their house and family.”

So, while being a stay-at-home mom is a job in itself, you can find happiness with a career. The challenge is finding the right balance between your job and your home life.

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Finding your balance

The trouble with a balancing act is that you always feel like you’re behind. There’s always a school bus to catch, a diaper to change, or an important work meeting to attend. 

And this can often lead to self-blame. It’s too easy to feel like a bad employee for having to leave the office early or like a bad mom for being late picking up your kid from school.  If you find the perfect ratio of time and energy, you might think that everything will get done easily and on time. 

But that’s not how the world works. 

Life isn’t a math problem, and a good work-life balance is rarely as simple as devoting X hours to work and X hours to your family.

Really, “balance” is about being where you’re needed when it matters most. And this changes quickly and frequently, depending on what’s happening in your life or at work. 

If it’s your child’s first year in school, you might need to be home more often. But, when your child becomes more independent, you can spend more time at the office. 

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Paying attention to these life phases can help you feel more confident about your choices. You might not get to everything, but you can find peace knowing you’re prioritizing what’s most important right now

This kind of self-awareness is a skill. And if you think you’re lacking, BetterUp can help you develop it. With one of our coaches, you can learn to pay attention to your fluctuating priorities and adjust your actions accordingly.

10 tips for balancing work and parental duties

As you deal with the ebbs and flows of parental life, here are some tips to get you through.

1. Let go of the mom guilt

Moms are judged harshly in our society. They’re accused of “abandoning” their children if they work full-time, while fathers are expected to be the “breadwinners” of the family. 

If you feel guilty about maintaining your career, focus on the positive things your work brings to your life and family. You have extra income to build your child’s college fund, have health insurance for your family, and afford to live in the neighborhood with great schools.

You’re also demonstrating a stellar work ethic to your family, which is something to be proud of. 

All of this is a bonus to the time and love you devote to your child.

2. Look for time-saving hacks

How do single parents work? How do you work as a single mom without help? How do you get the most done in the least amount of time — whether you’re a single parent or not?

The answer: use life’s cheat codes. Order your groceries online, join conference calls during your morning commute, run errands during your lunch break, and plan your outfits the night before work.

This kind of creative planning will help you stay on top of things.

3. Find a childcare provider you can trust

If you work from home, you might only need a babysitter for evenings out. But if you need full-time support, look for a quality daycare with flexible hours, a low teacher-to-child ratio, a clean environment, and an up-to-date license.

Or, if you decide to hire a nanny, look for someone with extensive experience and great references. Set up a trial day to ensure a good fit and make your expectations clear from the beginning.

Knowing your child is well cared for will give you peace of mind while at work.

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4. Talk to your manager

A good manager will understand that being a mom does not make you less of an employee. But it does mean you’ll need more flexibility from your job.

As a mom, you are usually:

  • The first person called to pick up a sick child
  • Responsible for bringing them to appointments
  • Expected to pick them up after school

Make sure your boss understands these necessities and how you plan to keep up your exceptional work. Hopefully, your manager will appreciate your dedication to your job and family and accommodate you.

5. Reduce distractions

As a working mom, time is a precious commodity. Watch out for interruptions that can detract you from work. You can do this by:

  • Limiting how much you socialize with your colleagues
  • Taking shorter lunch breaks
  • Avoiding distractions from social media

And, when you’re at home, focus on your partner and your child rather than on TV or your phone. Maximize your family time.

6. Don’t forget your partner

Go out on regular date nights and do things you both enjoyed before becoming parents. The key to healthy family life is a healthy relationship

When you’re a strong team, everything else comes more easily.

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7. Create meaningful family activities

When you’re busy, every moment with your family counts. Make the most of it by planning activities you can all look forward to and enjoy.

Some things to try:

  • A weekly games night
  • Mini golf
  • Day trips to natural parks

You can also ask your older kids for ideas, which helps keep them engaged.

8. Avoid trying to do it all

You only have so much energy. It helps to set boundaries and say “no” if too many things demand your time and attention. 

Remember, your priorities will change depending on the phase of your life. For a while, you may have to put everything on the backburner except for your family and your work. That doesn’t mean you’ll never have dinner with your friends again; you’ll just have to do it later.

9. Wherever you are, be present

It’s tempting to think about work while at your kid’s soccer game. You may even want to check your emails on your phone. But doing this will only make you feel split between family and work.

Try to be present and live in the moment. This will make your family time more meaningful and your work time more productive. You’ll be happier for it.

10. Create some “me time”

When you’re a mom, it’s normal to put your child and family’s needs first. But you need time to recharge, too. How can you expect to be there for others if you're always drained?

Try to find time for self-care practices that protect your mental health and help you relax. You can try:

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Remember that you’re a great role model

It’s hard to juggle grocery shopping, playdates, and your kid’s birthday party alongside the everyday stresses of work. Just making it to the end of the day is a victory. Always remember that you’re trying your best, and your best is more than good enough.

And, if there’s still any doubt, you can rest assured that you’re setting a great example for your child or children. With any luck, they’ll grow up as strong, committed, and resilient as you are. Now that’s an accomplishment.

If you need extra support, BetterUp is here. Many of our coaches are working parents themselves — and they can offer personal insights on how to be a working mom while thriving in your career. Together, you’ll discover new ways to perform at your best.

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Published September 9, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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