Family? Career? What’s the Balance?

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With almost four in ten homes having a working mom, the makeup of America’s workforce is vastly different than it was a century ago. After having children, some women work because they have to financially, while for others it’s a personal choice.

Whatever the reason, many of us experience the real dilemma of striking a balance between family and work. Along with a sense of female empowerment comes “mom guilt.” Even tennis superstar Serena Williams has admitted to feeling guilty that she missed her daughter’s first steps while training for Wimbledon.

How can the typical working mother balance both children and career? While it may appear as no easy feat, there are ways to have both a rewarding career and be a hands-on, involved mom.

Demonstrate It
Ditch the guilt and stress, because you’re a role model for your children. Even though most of us are not training for Wimbledon, your work is important. By doing both parenting and profession, you show your little darlings how to handle everything life throws your way. Nothing says you can handle it all more than cleaning up projectile vomit from the high chair while responding to an urgent email from your boss.

Accept Assistance
Be sure to take all help that’s offered by friends and family, especially when your baby is sick again but your sick days are dwindling. Sharing childcare help between neighbors or friends is another useful strategy, especially in a pinch. If you have friendly neighbors in the same situation, switch off cooking meals.

Be Selective
Choose childcare wisely. You’ll feel more comfortable knowing your precious offspring is in capable, caring hands. Ask your friends for a list of babysitters, nannies or reputable day care providers.

Focus on the Positive
When you’re at work, don’t dwell on the fact that you’re not with your child. Instead, focus on what your salary does for your family. Maybe it’s college savings or a high-end preschool that your income provides. Whatever it is, remind yourself that your paycheck provides vital opportunities for them.

Be Prepared
Organization is key, so pack up the night before. Whether it’s making lunches, packing the daycare diaper bag or signing your child’s important school-related forms, do as much of it the night before so you won’t feel stressed in the morning. Lay out clothing or have younger kids wear their school uniform to bed (they’ll be wrinkled anyway)! Keep backpacks, diaper bags and keys in a central area near the exit for quick access.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
At home and at work, you’re part of a team, so hand over some of the to-do list to your partner or older child, such as making those PB&J sandwiches. Divide up the responsibilities so you can go to work without feeling frazzled. Make it a point to explain to older kids that organization is important in the real world and show them how it helps you stay on top of things at work.

Plan It Out
Keep a family calendar. This will give young kids the structure that they crave and make older sibs feel included in the planning. An easy-to-read, wipeable dry erase board calendar makes life simple and organized. You can also go with those photo-based, traditional calendars you get when you donate to a worthy organization; do a good turn and make it a teachable moment about charity. Schedule activities, appointments, conferences and even “me time.” Then stick to the schedule as much as possible to reduce your stress.

Separate the Two
Draw a distinct line between home and work. When you are home, resist the urge to check your text messages or respond to work-related emails unless absolutely necessary. If it really can’t wait, tell your kiddos that you’ll only be a few minutes and then keep your promise. Children will sense that you’re not giving them your attention. Better yet, wait until they go to sleep to respond to colleagues or finish a proposal.

Talk about your feelings with other working moms. Join a local or online support group. Your spouse or partner has your back, so confide and share how you really feel.

Remember to Refresh
Take care of yourself. “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” isn’t just a phrase from a celebrated country song. As we often pile on the guilt, any time carved out for the fun we enjoy tends to be pushed to the back burner. Whether it’s a spa day, girls’ night out or a date to your favorite bistro, make time for pleasurable activities so you can recharge yourself. ■

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