Mother's Day Series: My "New Normal": Balancing Work and Mom Life
Prior to having children, my life looked a lot different than it does now. I’ll be honest. When I started my career, I worked my butt off: early mornings, late nights, weekends and everything in between. It was really important to me to have a successful career. I had work/life balance then, but it was definitely weighted more towards work.
Fast forward to thirty, and I knew it was time for me to be a mom. Having children has required me to make some readjustments in my daily life in order to find a work/life balance that works for me and my priorities. I may not have everything figured out, but I have found what I refer to as my “new normal.” To discover a balance that works for you, I recommend asking yourself the following questions:
What (if any) support do I have from my significant other, friends and family?
How flexible is my work place? Do they have flex time, telework, etc.?
What can I cut out of my schedule? What must stay?
To help you through the process, I’ll walk you through what I’ve found to work well for me and my family:
Partner’s Work Schedule
My husband’s work schedule really helps with my own personal work/life balance. His company offers the option of starting as early as 6am to as late as 9:30am and working 8.5 hours. He begins his workday early at 6am because it fits best with our family’s schedule. I’m able to take care of the girls every morning while he is working, and then he watches them in the early evening when I normally have after work meetings and events. This is a huge advantage to both of us because we are able to work and support our family, but also spend quality time with our kids.
You’ve heard it, but I’ll say it again: children are expensive and good care is hard to come by. While I know this might not financially be an option for everyone, my husband and I made the decision to hire a nanny. After really disliking the in-home daycare that we put our oldest in for about a week when she was 3 months old, I knew I would forego just about anything to have her at home. I thought about quitting my job, but as I mentioned, my career is really important to me. In order to find a balance, we hired our nanny. I love the fact that I don’t have to coordinate drop offs and pickups and that the kids are at home. They get one-to-one, well technically now two-to-one, attention and are both thriving.
I normally get to work at home at least one day a week. Honestly, they are my favorite because it greatly benefits my work/life balance. I have what I would consider a pretty normal commute for Cleveland. It is roughly a 30 to 35-minute drive across 480...except for when the sun is out, it’s raining, snow’s falling, etc…then is becomes the best 2+ hours of my day (just kidding). Working from home saves me so much time; no battling traffic, finding parking, or dealing with the other struggles of commuting. This may not be the norm, but I use those hours as bonus time to get tasks accomplished. For example, I can throw a load of laundry in and get through my email in what would have been time I was stuck in the car being unproductive. If your company doesn’t have a work from home policy, I’d ask about it.
Nowadays, everyone is connected 24/7. It’s basically a requirement for most people to have a work phone or put their email on a personal phone. And let’s be honest; it’s not just there for during the workday. For most companies, people are expected to check-in at least periodically at nights and on weekends. While some people might absolutely hate this advancement in technology, it actually works really well for me. With two little kids, I never know what my schedule will look like. I try my best to be really present at home when I am with them, so I typically work a regular day (sometimes heading out a little early to catch a swim lesson or play date) and make it home for dinner and some play time before plugging back in after they go to sleep around 8:30pm. Anyone who knows me understands I definitely put in more than 40 hours a week. Instead of the regular 9 to 5, flex time and technology give me the ability to pick those hours and make them work for my schedule. This is HUGE for me in terms of work/life balance.
This one was and still is hard for me. I love being involved in EVERYTHING. I have always had a ton of friends, been very social and gotten civically involved in many different areas. The problem is that most of these things take place after work. The evening is the only time during workdays I have to spend with my kids. This means I have learned to say no to activities and events that don’t fit my schedule. I am committed to a few organizations that I am passionate about, and that works for me
Whether it’s meal prepping, grabbing takeout, picking up fast food or cooking a five-course meal, do whatever works best for your schedule. For me, this means making quick meals. I am so happy the warmer weather is finally here because we can grill. I love grilling because it’s quick, but also healthy. During the winter, I am a huge fan of my crockpot and Instant Pot. To make life even easier and gain an extra one to two hours of my time back, I have turned to online grocery ordering and pick-up when needed. It’s so nice to just pull up and let them load my car. There are even services that will deliver to your house for a nominal fee.
I’ll be honest with you. This is the one area that is basically non-existent in my new work/life balance. I used to go to the gym almost daily. It fit perfectly between work and dinner. I loved the studio I went to and the variety of classes it offered: spinning, Pilates, barre, Zumba, etc. I haven’t gone back since the arrival of my first. I just don’t have time for it. I know it is important, but I have come to terms with the fact that my new fitness routine involves walks around my neighborhood and chasing a toddler. For now, it works.
Although it’s come with many adjustments, there’s honestly nothing I love more in the world than being a mom. My two girls mean the world to me, and their dad is pretty rad too. These three make my world go round. While becoming a mom was easy for me because I have always loved kids, have a very high stress tolerance and problem solve well, it’s still taken time to find my “new normal.” I hope this has helped some of you think about what really matters to you and use it to find your version of work/life balance.
Tune in to my next blog where I talk about how policies, such as flex time, telework and paid time off, benefit mothers and help attract the best talent to companies.