Being a mother is hard. Running a business is hard. Being a single mother that runs a business? Just reading those words strung together is enough to stress out the most calm and collected individual.
My three children are now adults with responsibilities of their own, but it feels like just yesterday that the house was full of chaos and that the elusive goal of work-life balance seemed like an impossible task. After years chasing it anyway, I’m still convinced that there is no magic solution. Trying to “have it all” will always be as stressful and exhausting as it is rewarding. Still, there are a few tips I picked up along the way which I think can ease for other moms who are performing a non-stop juggling act.
Take a deep breath, embrace the adventure, and try to follow these rules:
1. Turn your parenting responsibilities into a career strength. If you think you’re the only person at the company who is struggling with the competing demands of parenting and professionalism, you’re wrong. Instead of tiptoeing around the fact that your children sometimes demand your attention, embrace it proudly. Tell your colleagues that you leave early on Thursdays to drive your daughter to dance class, or that you’ll be going your son’s band concert tonight. Showing that you value your life outside of work will give permission to your employees to do so, too, and will create a positive, supportive culture that will pay you back in spades.
2. Set limits and stick to them. Your achievements are a clear indicator that you’re a go-getter and a hard worker, which is exactly why you need to set clear limits so that your work life doesn’t take over. A few minutes longer at work can easily turn into an extra hour, and a quick peek at your work e-mail may take you down a long road that you didn’t intend to go down. To avoid regrets, make work-related decisions in advance instead of as you go. What time are you going to leave at the end of the day? Decide in the morning, not when e-mails are piling up. What hobbies are you not willing to give up? Schedule around them. Don’t compromise.
3. You’re allowed to say no to your kids. Just like setting limits at work is important, so is setting limits for your children. It’s ok to tell them that they can’t take piano lessons, ballet, tennis, and band; maybe they need to choose just one. It’s ok to explain to them that you’re not going to be the mom who goes to every single soccer practice. Balance is key, and it doesn’t make you a bad mother.
4. It doesn’t matter when or where you get your work done, as long as you get it done. Modern technology enables to do a significant portion of our work from outside the office. Use that to your advantage. Maybe you’d rather get home in time for dinner and trade that time in for an hour at night when everyone else is sleeping. Also, more and more companies are offering alternative work schedules. If yours doesn’t, ask if it’s still possible. Then, figure out how to create a schedule that helps you prioritize what’s important will help you be more productive at work and at home.
5. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Nobody can parent alone. Whether your help comes in the form of a nanny, a babysitter, a housekeeper, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a neighbor, having someone to ask for help when you’re overwhelmed is absolutely critical. Don’t try to be a hero.
6. Do your best to banish guilt. Takeout pizza when you’re too busy or too exhausted to chop vegetables? Putting your kids in front of a movie so that they’ll sit quietly while you put the finishing touches on that project? Welcome to the club. We’ve all been there. Working moms before us have been there, too, and their children lived to tell the story. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the big picture: you’re a living, breathing example for your children of what a strong, successful, woman looks like.
Follow these tips and remember that you can do it. Others have done it before you, and you are paving the way for others who will continue to do it after you. You’re doing great, Mom.