Can you believe this client I have? They call me at all hours day and night. Ask for ridiculous, utterly unachievable demands. Never say please or thank you. And it gets better: they literally make me wipe their butt.
Ah, becoming a mother. Things you thought were tough at work suddenly seem manageable. But what’s now laughable: how much you thought you’d be able to achieve this thing called work-life balance.
I’ve struggled with the term “work-life balance” for a while since I started back at work after the birth of my first daughter. Before I went back to work I definitely was a full believer in it—of course I can get some extra help, buy a breast pump and I’ll be all set (putting aside for a minute all the emotional parts I didn’t take into account—like how would I know I really might not want to go back to work until I had a baby. Me? I was always someone who was going to go back to work, of course).
Since having a baby, I’ve been really into telling expectant mom friends all the things that no one tells you about. It just seems crazy that 10,000 women give birth a day but no one is talking to each other about how to really prepare. In addition to my job in public relations, I am co-founder of a company, Mor for Moms, that just does just that in providing the “definitely not on your baby registry” items like oversized pads and mesh underwear. You know, the things no one told you to buy. Well here I am now to burst another bubble—work-life balance doesn’t exist. Can you do both? Of for sure, and I have a great support system of colleagues and family that have allowed me to eventually find a way that worked for me to do it both. But can you be at the top of your business game and the top of the mom game? Not if you also want a full night’s sleep occasionally.
Think about it, if your boss all of the sudden also expected you to do the job of someone else in the office to who just left, and then expected the same results in the same time frame, you’d think that would be crazy, right? You have no experience doing her job. You can’t talk to her for background. That’s what it’s like. Your new job is being a mother. You have no prerequisites. Add being tired, breastfeeding, and keeping another person alive, let alone getting showered, dressed, etc. for work and the picture becomes clear. Balance perhaps is the wrong word.
I think it’s time we shift our thinking to just doing our best in both areas as much as we can. It’s time we reframe the concept. I think working moms will find that if we accept something more like “blend” it’s more realistic. Sometimes you’ll feel like the best mom, other times the best at your job. Sometimes both, and, yes, sometimes, neither.
It’s the “neither” that really gets to you and can bring you down. You feel judged at work by those who don’t have kids. You miss bonding with colleagues at Happy Hours. You miss networking events. You’re out the door when the day ends. And then you come home to be reminded of the “firsts” you missed. Or the event at her school where new moms are becoming friends without you. You tell yourself they grow up so fast and you’re gone for half of it. But you’d go crazy if you stayed home all the time.
So why don’t we just stop believing in this idea called balance. Because the last thing we need is another pressure on us outside of work, kids and your partner. Why should we, ourselves, add to that? How many of us can really say we had a perfect balance before becoming a mom, anyhow? If we’re able to accept feelings as the new normal, we’ll be in a better place to find success in both areas.