Working mums go through thousands of emotions every day. It often starts with an overwhelming sense of guilt for leaving your kids, followed by a wave of relief that you’re finally spending time with other adults (over glorious cups of coffee, hurray!) and then ends with a gripping paranoia that your kids probably love the nanny more and that your husband wants to leave you.
Mothers constantly grapple with the terror of not being good enough, a fear that’s further aggravated when you also happen to be a working mum. So, if you, like so many other women, have a hard time overcoming your fears, then here are some tips to help you manage better – while still keeping your sanity intact.
Here’s how to balance life and work as a working mum.
1. Be Kind to Yourself
It usually happens in the odd, still hours of the morning. Everyone and everything is quiet, except for that nagging voice in your head which guilts you into believing you’re the worst mother in the world.
First of all, if you’ve had a bad day, allow yourself to cry. Once the tears have dried up, and you’re able to breathe normally again, remind yourself that you’re not alone. There are millions of women who are struggling to balance their time between work and family and, just like you, they probably have no clue what they’re doing.
Other mums may seem like they have it all figured out, but when you get a chance, try to reach out and talk to them. Chances are they’re experiencing the same feelings you’re going through. And who knows? You might even be able to offer each other the support you need.
2. Make Your Own To-Do List
When you’re drowning in a never-ending list of things to do, it’s easy to forget where you fit in all of it. Instead of mindlessly going through your errands, take some time to write down a list of your own personal objectives. They don’t have to be life-changing goals; it could be something as small as investing in a pair of shoes or reading a new book.
Whatever they are, try to separate them from what you want to achieve or do with your family. Mums sacrifice so much for their loved ones that they tend to lose themselves in the process. Having a tangible list of goals is a great way to remind yourself that loving someone shouldn’t – and doesn’t – mean loving yourself any less.
3. Don’t Fall into the Guilt Trap
So many working mums believe they’re being selfish when they take time to relax or – God forbid – go outside the grocery list to buy makeup for themselves. But depriving yourself of the little joys in life can actually do more harm than good. It can make you resent your job because you don’t spend money on the things you want or hate how your body looks because you don’t get to take care of it.
When these feelings build up and go unnoticed, it’s the people you love who suffer the most. You start to blame your partner for not helping enough or lose patience with your kids for being too demanding. It’s then very important to fulfil your needs and, most especially, wants because only by doing so will you be able to love yourself and your family completely.
4. Get Your Partner Involved
You’ve been married for a long time and it’s not like you haven’t been sleeping in the same bed, so your partner should be able to predict what you need by now… right? Sadly, men aren’t hardwired to be as emphatic as women. They don’t learn through osmosis and, no matter how long you’ve been together, you still have to tell them what to do.
This may sound unfair, but it’s also unrealistic to expect years of pre-programmed human behaviour to change overnight. Avoid unnecessary frustration by splitting responsibilities between your partner and yourself. That way, you ease the pressure on each other and grow together as responsible adults.
5. Don’t Be a Martyr
You don’t have to participate in every bake sale, organise each PTA meeting or ask for more projects at work. Not being able to attend every soccer or basketball game doesn’t make you a horrible mum, and it’s perfectly okay to order pizza when you’re too exhausted to make dinner. Remember: there’s no such thing as being a perfect mum, so stop trying to be one!
6. Turn Household Chores into Family Time
For working mums, coming home to a dirty house feels a lot like trying to win a game. Before you can get to the finish line (which is your bed and at least four hours of sleep), you have to go through a minefield of toys, get to the pile of unkempt clothing before they topple over and wash the dirty dishes in the sink.
Most days, you go through these tasks quite easily. But there will be times when you won’t be in the mood to do any of the cleaning, and the unlucky soul naïve enough to ask you ‘what’s wrong?’ will undoubtedly be the recipient of very hurtful words you’ll deeply regret later on.
To have a more peaceful and less chaotic life at home, come up with a system that will get everyone involved. Make house chores fun by creating a task sheet for your kids and put a star next to their name when they’re able to finish one. Do laundry with your partner and turn it into a date by folding clothes together during movie night. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to do things on your own, there’s also absolutely no shame in splitting the job and asking for help. That doesn’t make you less of a ‘best mummy’ – if anything, it makes you worthy of the title even more.
7. Remind Yourself of the Bigger Picture
There are days at work much harder than others. You mess up your presentation, your boss gets angry at you, the report you’ve been slaving on gets miraculously deleted. When this happens, don’t prolong your agony by staying at work and doing overtime. Instead, go home and hug your kids.
Having a family that loves you is the best and kindest reminder that you’re doing a great job. And that no matter how much you fumble at work, remember that the true measure of your success would be how fast your kids run into your arms.
8. Remember You Always Have a Choice
When working full time becomes too taxing, it’s easier to lie about how you feel than to confront your demons head-on. You try to convince yourself that you just need more sleep, that tomorrow will be a better day and that everything will be okay. But the truth is there will be times when you have to let things go.
When this happens, the first thing you should always do is talk to your partner about what you’re going through. Go over your options together and decide from there. Don’t think that having a regular job is the only way to go. These days, there are hundreds of companies offering remote jobs for stay-at-home mums. And even when that’s too much, there’s no shame in taking a break from work.
Motherhood is the toughest and most important job in the world, so the people brave enough to take on the work should be given the utmost care they most rightly deserve.
Do you have any tips on how to survive being a working mother? Join the discussion by sharing your stories in the comments section below.