Life as a working mom is a series of carnival acts. Whether you’re jumping through hoops, juggling too many balls or teetering on the high wire, every hour of every day has been claimed by some item on your to do list, often simultaneously. The show must always go on, we smile and keep on, keepin’ on until we find ourselves tired, burnt out performers that are spread so thin, we can’t even remember the last time we caught a shower, much less sat down to put a coherent thought together. Whether you work by choice, by necessity or both, life as a working mom brings the challenges of parenthood, sanity and a fulfilled life to a whole new level. Here are 10 survival tips for the working mom to help you conquer the madness and develop balance between your personal and professional lives.
1. Start Your Day Off Right. The best way to make life as a working mom more manageable is to make a determined effort to start each day off right. The way you choose to wake up in the morning dictates how the rest of your busy day will play out. The decision to have a good day is a choice. You must deliberately put aside the bad and choose to focus on the good. Starting your day off right with some morning motivation can set your intention of moving through the day with focus, empowerment and order. Whether you start with a quiet prayer, sunrise salutations or this morning motivation planner worksheet, make the choice to attack the day with fierce joy. You can do this!
2. Develop a Support System. As working moms, we often find ourselves so caught up in the busy of our daily routines that we forget to connect with others around us for support, encouragement or even just a simple hug. We’re not designed to be loners and we don’t need to be everything to everybody all the time. The only person placing that expectation on us is ourselves. Make a diligent effort to connect with like-minded folks to create a support system that holds you accountable and provides encouragement and creativity to your life as a working mom. Find other working moms that can offer guidance and remind you to not take up a burden that isn’t yours to carry. Have you joined Working Moms United?
3. Ask for Help. You need to know when it’s time to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend watching the kids for a few hours so you can grab groceries or just go for a mind-clearing run, know your limits. You have to be able to identify when you’ve taken on too much. Most of us have a whole community of friends and family that would help at a moment’s notice, but we never ask them. Don’t let your pride push you over the edge of your limits. Those people in your life that love you most desperately want to help you however they can. Let them.
4. Be Honest. This all begins with learning when and how to say no. We’re so quick to say yes and take on additional work or projects, knowing that we’re already stretched thin, because somehow we’re convinced everyone will be disappointed if we decline. The reality is that disappointment comes most often when we’re not at our best because we’re overcommitted. Our work suffers, our friends and family suffer, and ultimately, our professional quality erodes. You have to be honest with your employers, board members, anyone in your life that has set some sort of task in front of you. Be open about your expectations, your limitations and your priorities. Honesty is truly always the best policy.
5. Set Boundaries. Setting boundaries has a lot to do with being honest when it comes to those people in your life that require some service and attention from you. But even more importantly, you must set boundaries for yourself. As a driven working parent, you need to create and adhere to appropriate boundaries that will keep the quality of your life and the life of your family a priority. The best way to do this is to picture the life that you want for yourself. Any project that comes your way, ask yourself, “Is this taking me one step closer to the life that I want or one step farther away?”
6. Identify S.M.A.R.T. Goals. If you’re unfamiliar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can catch up HERE. This is especially important for those working moms who own their own small business (or even bloggers). The to-do list can feel especially overwhelming as a small business owner, and your drive to grow into a more profitable entity can be hampered by the paralysis that comes with poorly defined goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound are the markers for a successful marketing strategy. Define exactly where you want to head with your professional endeavors and then outline exactly how you plan to get there and how you’ll measure your progress.
7. Delegate/Outsource. Are you seeing a common theme here? You are not an island or a one-man band! Take a few moments to consider which parts of your to do list could be accomplished by someone other than you. This can be anything from hiring a cleaning lady to asking your assistant to schedule your appointments for you. Perhaps there is an available tool or technology that could automate parts of your day and professional workflow. Use your resources and hand off everything but the absolute necessities. It will be worth every penny when you find yourself with more available time for those most important people in your life.
8. Give Grace Generously. This one is just for you. Forgive yourself. You are a work in progress! There will be days that you tackle this working mom thing with fortitude, courage and focus. Then there will be day where tempers flare, nerves are shot and nobody’s happy. It’s ok. Extend yourself some grace and commit to starting fresh. A favorite quote from Maya Angelou – “I did the best I could at the time and when I knew better, I did better.”
9. Celebrate. Enjoy the small moments. Take time to dance with your kids, make silly faces in the mirror and read one more story before bed. Cuddle, snuggle, hug, love on your family in every free moment. When quantity isn’t where you’d like it to be, make sure quality always is. Embrace life and those flashing moments as a parent where your child does something so simple and endearing, so every day and trivial, yet it stamps a memory on your heart with a date and time that you’ll cherish always. Celebrate. Laugh. Love.
10. Make it Count. If you’re going to be away from your family for any length of time, make it count. Make sure you love what you do and that every moment spent in the working world is worth being apart from those you love most. Use your time wisely, use the above tips to maximize your work day and productivity. Make sure those precious moments with family have your full attention and purpose. Every decision you make should be taking you one step closer to that life that you’ve imagined for you and your family.