You have a beautiful family and you are passionate about your career.
In theory you have it all.
Rather than lucky, though, you feel sucky.
The working Mom balancing act is not working out at all.
Your reactions to life’s stressors are tense and connections with those you love feel distanced and unhealthy.
You worry that you are missing out on motherhood. And that your kids are missing out on you.
And worst of all, you fear that these are moments you will never get back.
I’ve been there. I hear you.
See, when I became a Mom, motherhood chewed me up, swallowed me whole and then spit me out as an unrecognizable, mad, crazy woman.
In the beginning I didn’t really think much would change, so I kept living at full velocity. High speed and high stress levels became the flavour of the day.
The weight of my responsibility for young lives, my lack of freedom, my ever confused identity, my altered relationship with the man I loved, the isolation from friends and social events that had been such an active part of my life — these drove me to the brink of insanity.
It was the confusion, the exhaustion, the frustration, the resentment, the overwhelm of it all. And the guilt of not getting it right. (Oh the guilt!)
The myth. The romantic myth that motherhood is blissful.
It did not take very long for that myth to come crashing down on my sanity and self-confidence.
When I was a stay-at-home Mom I questioned who I was and I regretted my financial dependence. What of my commitment to feminism and all those working Moms out there?
I missed adults and their rational, reliable world. My brain was melting and my beautiful wardrobe, gathering dust.
Worst of all, I hated feeling busy all the time, constantly asking myself: “but what are you actually doing?” I yearned to feel accomplished, to have something, anything, in my realm of control.
So…I went back to work.
It would be better that way. The financial burden would lessen. My mind would be challenged. I’d have adults to talk to. I’d come home happy and fulfilled.
But here’s what actually happened:
Life became a guilt-plagued balancing act. A box ticking repetitive groundhog day. Every day was rushed. Get the kids ready. Get myself ready (sort of). Drop them off. Go to work. Leave work. Pick the kids up. Get the kids down. Finish work. Drop dead for the night.
Start all over again.
And for that short moment before I fell asleep, I wished it could be different.
When I was at work, I was worrying about family. And when I was at home, I was stressed about work.
I felt like I was constantly in hyperdrive or on the verge of meltdown mode. Like my head was about to explode.
Doing it all the way I wanted to do it all felt impossible.
I told myself that it all came down to having too much to do, in too little time.
But no matter what I told myself, I saw myself turning into a woman I didn’t recognize.
I got to a point where I didn’t understand my kids and where my significant other didn’t feel all that significant anymore.
This is not what I’d expected from motherhood. It was not what I’d signed up for.
And so when baby number three made his appearance he brought along with him a moment of awakening. Maternity leave with baby number three shone a mirror on what I was missing.
I realized that my high-strung-hamster-wheel-guilt-plagued lifestyle was getting in the way of the most important moments and relationships in my life.
So I stopped. I started to learn to stay calm and enjoy the ride. I relearned motherhood.
My moment of awakening turned into a passion — a passion to support busy mothers around the world who find themselves at a point where stress and overwhelm have turned them into women they do not want to be, mothers and wives they no longer recognize.
Many of us see our choice to work as one that is equivalent with the choice to be stressed, overwhelmed and frazzled. We start to believe that this is simply the way it has to be; and that the only way to a calmer lifestyle is to leave our careers and become a stay-at-homer.
This is not necessarily true. With a few simple shifts in your mindset and lifestyle, you can easily learn how to make working motherhood work for you and your family.
Here are 6 tips to help get you started:
- Chuck multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is a falsehood. Yes, we can alternate between two tasks quickly, but in each instance our focus is in one place. More appropriately termed, multitasking is switching our unitasking from one thing to another in quick succession. If is not effective and it is not the most productive use of our time.
- Practicing presence is all about learning to practice mindfulness; learning to be fully and completely in the moment. It is about being in the now, whether it be at work or at home. Our minds have the tendency to take us into the future (worrying about what will be) or into the past (worrying about what was or should have been). Our jobs as working mothers however, is to hack that monkey mind and learn to be in the here and now. This way, you can make the most of those moments — moments as a professional and as a mother. Research shows that it is not the quantity of time with your children that counts, but rather the quality of time. And quality of time requires that you share that moment fully and completely.
- Befriend the guilt (without letting it become the boss of you!). Guilt, like any uncomfortable feeling is, well, uncomfortable. We don’t like it so we tend to do what it takes to make it go away. We push it down or we give it what it wants. What if instead, we greeted it into our house as if it were a messenger? A messenger who is telling us that we are out of alignment with what is most important to us. A messenger who is telling us that we need to make a conscious change. Imagine, for example, guilt knocks on the door. You open it and say: hello, what is your message today. Guilt says: you aren’t spending enough time with your kids. You say: It isn’t quantity of time, honey, it’s quality of time. And thank you for the message. I’ll work to do better. And then you sit down for a couple of minutes on the sofa to tune into yourself and figure out how you can turn the dial up on the quality of time you spend with your kiddos. Guilt has left the building and you have a plan.
- Put yourself first. Oxygen mask ladies! Put on that oxygen mask first. There are many reasons to do this. #1. Simply put, your dial needs to be at full in order to manage your job and your family [period]. #2 You want to model self-care and self-love to your children (so they do the same when they grow up). #3 Happy healthy mothers make for better mothers, professionals, wives, womens, you name it.
- Set yourself up for success at home and at work. At work you have systems and strategies and goals and workplans in order to keep things rolling. Similar support structures can be set up at home to make family life run more smoothly, too. Invest time in setting up systems to get those kids up and out the door in the morning, to get the homework done, to wind down in the evening. It doesn’t need to be the same ole’ every single day, but meal plans, bedtime routines, chore charts, regular date nights (with partners and/ or kids) are all great ways to support a healthy flow in the home. Oh! And don’t forget that wonderful thing we do at work sometimes…delegating and outsourcing. Guess what? Asking for that bit of help works wonders at home, too!
- Accept what is. This working while the kids are young is a season in your life. It is a particularly full season, but a season nonetheless. So much of our energy goes into complaining and resisting the busy-ness of it all. If we just accept it, we will be saving ourselves a lot of potentially zapped energy. So if you can’t change it, go with it. Breathe into it. And know that this too will pass.
These tips are designed to support and not overwhelm you. You don’t need to take them on in one go; you can take them on one tip at a time.
But do take them on!
Working motherhood doesn’t have to feel sucky.
On April 3rd I will be running a free 5-day online challenge that is designed to help busy overwhelmed mothers to organize their mind, their calendar and their life in a way that creates time and space to do more of what you love with who you love. It’s called the Stress Less | Love More Challenge. You can click here to join the community and get on the waiting list.
Originally published at medium.com