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Monday, July 23, 2012

Mom + Wife + Career + Motivation = Balance (I Wish!)

Alright ladies, let's face it - you can try to have it all, but some days it's simply not going to happen. You're going to fail miserably and feel overwhelming guilt and regret. Other days, you'll feel incredibly blessed and happy. Those days usually start with a Starbucks and a full night sleep, in my experience.

This isn't my typical "advice" or "educational blog." Rather, this time I'm writing so you can get to know me a little better. 

Don't Ask Me.
I Don't Know How I Do It, Either.

I can look back at photos and tell you I'm a great girlfriend, too, although I admit I haven't been out for a girls night in years. 

Driving out to see the fireworks was the first time I've been behind the wheel at night in months. I vaguely remember the days when my friends and I would be getting ready to go out at 9 pm thinking it was early. As I write this, it's 9:30 at night and another hour is lights out. 

(Okay, it's a weeknight, so it's really not that bad.)
(And if the baby sleeps through the night, that's a rush like no other!)

There's this whole concept of work-life balance out there. But I have to tell you, I don't think there's a balance that can be achieved. Some days, work has to win out and family falls to second priority (like the time I missed my son's field trip this year). Other days, family has to take priority and work will have to wait. (like when I'm bolting out of work by 5:15 to get home by dinnertime)

I think it's better to look at the situation this way than to imagine you can do it all, every day, consistently. Some days you will do it all and feel phenomenal. Other days, you'll feel that you're failing everyone - husband, kids, work, career, self. On those days, you'll inevitably spill your coffee or leave your travel mug at home, forget about a meeting and walk in unprepared, get a call from the school that your son is sick, and you'll be operating on maybe three hours of sleep due to baby being up all night congested with a head cold. Oh, and then you'll leave your expressed milk - all 14 oz of it - out all weekend and not realize it until Monday morning.
Joshua and Me in the Fraser Parade.
(Sponge Bob had heard that I'm a
good "juggler" and wanted to see)

On the whole, though, I admit that I do feel blessed. I have a solid marriage. A healthy family. A husband who has volunteered to be a stay-at-home-dad for our daughter's first year, and who now does all the laundry, all the grocery shopping, all the cooking on weeknights, all the homework with my son, and he enjoys it.  
Side note: it's not all idyllic and it's definitely not perfect. When I was getting ready to return to work after maternity leave, he and I had a conversation about who would do what. I was pumping while at work and would be nursing baby when I got home, and since he would be there, I assumed that he'd be taking over dinner duty. He replied that he would be home taking care of two kids, so how would he be able to cook? We ended that conversation with me crying and him agreeing that he would cook at least once a week. Okay, maybe twice and we'd do takeout until we figured out a system. 

Fast forward to today: I walked in the door and the house smells like dinner. The kind of smell that never you can't create yourself, but makes you fully appreciate that food has been prepared for you. My plate is waiting on the counter. Dishes are done. Living room looks like a toy store exploded, but both kids are happy and in good moods, and excited to see mommy. My little one runs into my arms and squeals with delight. My older son has to be ordered away from his Legos to say hi and give mommy a hug, however.

So for all the younger ladies out there who are just starting your career and family, my advice is:

  1. See this movie, "I Don't Know How She Does It." Trailer here: Warning: this movie was good, but I was also very anxious watching it. Especially the scene where she forgets to pick up her kid. 

  2. Whenever possible, bring your kids to work for a short visit. This helps them understand what mommy does all day long, plus they can have some fun picking through your office and leaving notes for you to read during those really long work days. I have the luxury of bringing my kids to weekend events sometimes, too, like this past weekend when I was working at a parade.   

  3. You can do it all, or as much or little as you want. If you want it all, you'll have to determine how you can make it happen, and get a really really good support system of relatives and sitters. 

  4. If you're blessed with a husband who is a stay-at-home-dad, make sure you tell him frequently how much you appreciate him. I joke that my husband is the best wife ever imagined. He takes this as a compliment. And open your mind to the possibility that you might be the breadwinner, and that yes, he can learn how to cook!

  5. Good news:
    More workplaces are
    mom-friendly these days.
  6. Seek out the advice and support of fellow working moms. I can't tell you how many times I've asked women in my network for their advice on summer camps, getting baby to sleep through the night, summer vacations, birthday party ideas, and simply to get together over lunch or coffee so I can have some much needed "girlfriend" time that I don't yet permit myself on the weekends. 

  7. If you're planning to have kids, seriously give thought to breastfeeding. A good book: "Nursing Mother, Working Mother." You'll find that breastfeeding will give you a connection to your baby that will help ease the separation anxiety (yours, not the baby... yet). 

And if all else fails, drink coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.