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November 1, 2015

being a working out of the house mama

I recently had an expectant friend ask me about what it is like to work full time and be a mom, as she is deliberating her options of work and soon-to-be motherhood.  I had a hard time answering her on the spot and articulating my thoughts, let alone turning anything into advice worth listening to. So, over the past several weeks, I thought hard about working full time as a mom and, in a cathartic way, have compiled a bit of advice that I follow to maybe make the expectations manageable and balance easier. And I want to stress that I think being a mom, whether working or staying at home requires an impossible amount of love, hard work, and organization. And one of my sisters is days away from returning to work after her beautiful son was born, and I also was thinking of her and any thoughts I’d have to offer her.

1. Make time with your child a priority during the evening hours.
One of the first steps I took to finding any type of balance in my work and home life was to make evening time with Beatrice an absolute priority. When I leave work at the end of the day, I leave work mentally. Once I’m home, I make no plans or huge ambitions other than to be with Beatrice. I try not to plan many activities, or more importantly, expect a lot of tasks to get done during that time, even if that means dust bunnies hang out longer than they should.  That is time to spend intentionally with her.  Some days we go for a walk or run, sometimes it’s prepping dinner, or other days we just hang out and play.  I want her to know that I value that time with her and want to spend time learning about what she learned that day, helping her develop new skills, and just enjoying her.

2. Have something for yourself- make it a priority.
I definitely struggle to find time make time to do something just for me, as many of us do. There are 101 other tasks to do before I spend time doing something fun for me, but when I don’t get time for myself, I have a hard time feeling like I have anything to offer the world, especially my family. When I'm an empty cup, what kind of mom does that make me?  Whether it’s working out, reading, doing something crafty, spending time with friends, do it. Make time for yourself, even if it happens only once a week and the only opportunity to be alone is at 5:00 am when the house is quiet and the coffee is fresh.

3. Sleep.
We’ve all read about the importance of getting sleep, so this is a no-brainer. Every single day is go-go-go from 5:30 am to about 10 or 11 pm. If I don’t sleep at least 6-7 hours a night, I turn into an angry bear. I am not willing to be a bear on a daily basis- it's not fair to my family- so I choose to sleep. Sometimes this looks like a good 8-9 hour night of sleep one night, and a shorter night of sleep another night to do some other things (see #2).

4. Be flexible, willing to compromise some expectations you may have had for yourself.
I had grand ambitions before I had Beatrice of making all of her food and using cloth diapers exclusively.  But as I went back to work and started to juggle it all, I felt unable to keep up and had to compromise. I beat myself up (see #5), feeling like I wasn't doing enough (see #6).  It helps to just recognize I can’t do it all, and go easy on myself for this, even if it means giving up on some expectations I may have had before going back to work.  Be realistic and stick to what is most important to you and what works for your family.

5. Talk to yourself as you would a good friend.
Cue Chris Farley in SNL’s skit when he interviews Paul McCartney, “Idiot”!  I heard a podcast recently on the ramifications of negative self- talk. Without sounding like a self-help book here, let me just say the advice given to combat negative self-talk is to speak to yourself as you would a very good friend.  I would never tell one of my sisters that because they didn't have time to workout, they are disgusting and lazy, so why in the world would I say that to myself?

6. Reassure yourself the grass may not be greener on the other side.
Lastly, I must say that almost every day I wish I could stay home with Beatrice.  Almost every day I feel a bit jealous of stay at home moms. But I need to remind myself that being a nurse is a big part of who I am. I get to be with people all day and continue to practice my nursing skills.  I am challenged intellectually.  The job gives me routine each day and helps shape who I am, so I can’t help but recognize I may be a different person if I were home every day.  To help me get in the car and drive to work every day, I remind myself that Beatrice is in a great situation with her caretaker and the other kids she watches. She is experiencing a lot of great things that I probably wouldn’t expose her to if I were home.  And she wouldn’t have the socialization that she has now.  I had a good friend remind me of that the day I started back to work and it is advice that has helped me EVERY day since.

I also want to recognize my husband in this parenting adventure we are on. He is incredibly hands-on and supportive of me as a working mom, from driving Beatrice to and from "school", to making dinner most evenings while I bathe and put Bea to bed.  I couldn't do this life or role without him, and want to recognize and thank him for that. 

Well, I know this has nothing to do with living or buying secondhand and being resourceful, but writing this has been really helpful to me these past few weeks and maybe can help someone else. 

Happy November!

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