I'm a Working Mom: Finding Balance When You Feel Like You're Failing
Today probably isn't the best day to write this, or maybe it IS the best day to write this post. Today I feel how a lot of working moms feel. It's something we never say out loud, we keep it to ourselves on days like this.
Today I'm failing
I had a terrible day at work. I'm stretched so thin. It's a tough time of year at my office, and we just finished the busiest time of the year. It feels like running a marathon, then having your boss tell you to run a second one, only this time faster. Marcus is teething and he's learned to communicate his needs through extreme, high-pitched, yelling rather than crying. We're trying to teach him to put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night too, and it's like he knows. He wakes up every two hours suddenly. I'm exhausted and stressed. I feel like I've been pushed past my limits, and yet the baby will need to be put to bed in a half hour, the house will need to be picked up, laundry done, and alarms set for another day at work tomorrow.
Recently, one of my close friends at work commented on the fact that I looked exhausted. I probably had another bad night with Marcus (there's been far more bad ones than good ones this month), and I briefly mentioned I just didn't get much sleep. She asked how I did it, how I managed being a working mom. The truth is, I really love being a working mom because I love my career. I love providing for my family, and I love the interaction I get with my colleagues and achieving my personal goals. But there have been bad days, and there's going to be many more bad days in the future.
It's much easier to talk about finding balance, than actually doing it. Especially if you're a work-a-holic like me. So maybe today is a great day to evaluate what's working, what's not, and try and find a better balance, so tomorrow can be a better day.
The first thing that I know has improved my work-life balance is leaving on time. In my company (and most companies in the US), we're praised for staying later and later. Coming in extra early, and staying late shows management you're dedicated, it shows you're willing to sacrifice it all to move up in the company..... but I'm not willing to sacrifice it all anymore. I used to be in at 6am, out at 6pm every day. Then, Marcus was born and I wasn't giving the company any more time than I had to. I work smarter and prioritize my work to get it all done by 5pm. I've really asked myself, "Is sending those few extra emails worth missing more time at home with the baby?" The answer is almost always no, and I grab my things to go home to my son.
It's also important for me now that when I'm off the clock, I'm REALLY off the clock. No emails on Saturday afternoon, no phone calls with clients at dinner time. It can wait until tomorrow morning. It's still something I struggle with. I have always been available to my clients day and night, so not responding is almost physically painful for me, but over time I'm actually starting to enjoy the sense of relief that comes with shutting off my email and focusing on being with my family and friends. We've covered what's working in my work-life balance, but as you can see from the beginning of this post, there are definitely things that aren't working. I know what the problem is deep down, I know what's really making this day terrible. I know that I'm exhausted, and that might be the root of a lot of today's issues, but the thought nagging in the back of my mind, the one I keep swatting away is, I have to let go of trying to be perfect. I've always been an over-achiever. I like the gold stars. I don't like to fail. I don't like to be behind. I like my to do lists crossed out at the end of the day. I like my clients happy. I like my events ran perfectly. I like being the top sales person, in fact I demand it of myself.
That's the real problem.
I hate admitting that I can't do it all. I have to let go of insisting I'm always on top at work. If my best friend was coming to me for advice on how to find balance between working and being a mom, this is what I would tell her. I would tell her it's okay to not be perfect. I would tell her that it's okay if she wasn't on top of her game some days. I would tell her "who cares about work, your whole life isn't about that job, it's about your family and being happy with your life!"
Funny, right? It's amazing the advice you can give those closest to you without taking the advice for yourself.
I have a challenge for all the working moms out there. I know you're struggling too. I know it's a lot of pressure. I know you either love having a career, or have no choice but to work. I know you don't want your boss to think less of you for being a mom, so you never let them know you're exhausted. I know you don't want anyone to know you're not fine.
So today I'm making a list (well, right now I am). I challenge you to take a minute and really think about the things that you love that bring you joy.
Here's my list:
I love being a mom
I love my career
I love to read
I love to sing
I love to craft
I love to swim in the summer
I love trying new restaurants with my husband
I love to write
I'm going to take this list, and tomorrow I'm going to challenge myself (and you) to do better at making sure these things are apart of my life somehow, daily, weekly, monthly... whatever. I'm going to find balance by bringing in more of the things that bring me joy. I'm going to find balance by making memories that I know will last. I certainly won't remember a meeting or a conference room, or a late night conversation with a client.
I'm going to be the best friend in this situation and take my own advice. At the end of the day, as much as I love my career, I have to accept that it's just a job. It helps me provide for my family, but what's most important is finding joy in my life, finding a way to de-stress, strengthening my marriage, and being the best mom I can be. Some days, like today, I'm going to fail; but tomorrow is a new day and I'm going to do my best at work (even if my best still doesn't put me in first place), find some time for the things that I love, and give my son some extra kisses. That sounds like a good balance to me.
Written by Katelyn Bozada