Being a mom is a full-time job—so if you’re a working mom, you’re essentially juggling two full-time gigs. The competing priorities can make moms feel like they are walking a tightrope, balancing stacks of plates on both sides. It can be hard to find work-life balance even as a single person working a full-time job. For working moms, the idea of work-life balance can seem like a laughable pipe dream. If you’ve ever felt like those plates are one bad day from falling down and shattering into a million pieces, this post is for you.
Working Moms in 2018 are Warriors
The central challenge of being a working mom is the neverending tug-of-war between work and family responsibilities. When you’re dedicating time to one, you feel guilty that you’re not dedicating time to another. That emotion—guilt—is one that working moms are unfortunately well-acquainted with. A survey by Parents.com found that 97 percent of moms feel guilty at some point throughout the day—for working too much, for being distracted, for yelling, for serving frozen pizza for dinner, and the list goes on. If you’re giving yourself a hard time for bribing your toddler with chocolate or taking work calls during after-school pick-up, just know that you’re not alone.
It’s not surprising that working moms are stretched so thin when you consider how little support they receive. Not only does the United States still not guarantee maternity leave for new moms (let alone family leave for both parents), but the U.S. also boasts some of the most expensive childcare in the world. Things aren’t much better at home. Even when both parents work full-time jobs, almost two thirds of mothers report taking on the majority of domestic tasks around the house. Only 6% of respondents said their partner did the majority of household chores, and 32% said it was evenly shared.
The Art of the Balancing Act
All hope is not lost, however. Those same moms surveyed by Parents were also asked whether they still believe that balance is attainable. And guess what? A full 63 percent said yes.
So how does a working mom achieve work-life balance in today’s world? Every mom will have to find her own version of balance, but these tips might help.
1. Set Boundaries
Between email, social media, and phone calls, we’re constantly accessible these days, which makes it easy for work life to bleed into home life. The after-work hours used to be dedicated to family time, but now colleagues continue sending emails late into the evening.
Just because other people are still working doesn’t mean you have to. Setting clear boundaries between work time and home time will help to alleviate the guilt so many moms feel about how they’re spending their after-work time. Make a commitment not to check email from the time your kids get home from school until they go to bed. You can even share your commitment with colleagues so they know not to expect a response from you during those hours. It’s easy for “I’ll just answer one email” to turn into answering 5 or 6, and pretty soon an hour has passed without you realizing it. Remove the temptation by setting clear boundaries.
2. Enlist Help
Here’s a secret: You don’t actually have to do everything. So many moms try to live up to some imaginary standard of housewife and working woman by trying to do everything—running their team at work, being involved in their kids’ lives, and doing all the household chores. Not only is it impossible to do everything, but you’re wearing yourself thin by trying.
Don’t try to do all the chores yourself. Enlist help from your husband, kids, and even outside help if necessary. According to a Harvard Business School survey, men raised by working moms were more likely to help with household chores. Expecting your kids to help around the house will make them more considerate, conscientious adults. And expecting your husband to help out will result in a happier, more equitable partnership.
3. Automate As Much As Possible
The beauty of living in 2018 is that there are apps for everything. When it comes to your precious time, it’s worth a few extra dollars to hire a grocery delivery service (like Shipt or Instacart) to do your grocery shopping for you. Use the two hours you save to have a lazy morning with your kiddos instead.
Outsource as many domestic tasks as you can to the power of technology. Put your bills on autopay, use a Roomba to skip vacuuming, and subscribe for monthly Amazon deliveries of home essentials, like toilet paper. Every job you outsource is time deposited back in your Family Time bank account.
4. Make Time For Yourself
In the Parents survey, moms were asked to name something that would help make their life feel more balanced. Out of 9 possible responses, 73 percent said “Make more time for me.” There’s a reason why airlines tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first—we’re more useful to other people when we first take care of ourselves. If you’re strung out, low on sleep and high on stress, you’re not going to bring your best self to work or home life.
You might feel like you don’t have a spare minute in the day to spend on yourself, but trust us when we say you can’t afford not to spend time on yourself. Taking an hour to exercise, get a manicure, or have dinner with a friend will leave you feeling energized and recharged. Even things as simple as eating well and getting enough sleep can easily be forgotten in the chaos of daily life as a working mom—but the simple things make all the difference.