Ever since I had Rhett and returned to work after maternity leave, I’ve struggled with that one thing I think we are all striving to find: balance. I recruited my friends and licensed therapists from The Counseling Collaborative to speak on this concept of finding balance as a working mom. I’m also sharing more about my personal experience in this post.
Disclosure: this post was created in partnership with the women’s mental health therapists at The Counseling Co. and I am being compensated monetarily; however, all opinions expressed are my own, and I only partner with brands and individuals whose values align with my business. Thanks for your support!
how do you balance a baby and work full time?
To be completely honest, I struggled with the concept of “balance” even before I had a baby, so being a mom has definitely magnified this. I work full-time, I’m running a business, I’m a mom of a human baby + 2 dogs, I’m a wife and some days (a lot of days) it all feels like A LOT. I feel like I can’t possibly be everything for everyone in all the ways that they want and need me to. Not to mention, show up and care for myself.
Whenever I inevitably have a breakdown about this (every few months, unfortunatey), Ethan assures me that I’m doing more than enough and that I’m a great wife, mom and dog mom. I know I’m putting a lot of this pressure on myself, but it feels impossible not to.
Rhett goes to daycare full-time while I work from home, so that definitely makes it all more doable. Since I spend most of my day on the phone for my job, there is no way I could juggle having him at home with me. And here I am, feeling like I have to justify sending him to daycare. Why do we do this to ourselves!?
Some days I really wish I could have him home, but thankfully this has gotten easier with time. Or I’ve just gotten used to it, I suppose. Check out this post to read more about going back to work after maternity leave and why daycare has been the best choice for our family.
how do working mothers manage their time?
Again, I’m very much a work in progress when it comes to time management, but I think getting into a habit of doing some level of planning ahead is absolutely essential and can make life so much easier. Whether that is planning your meals for the week, setting out clothes the night before, looking ahead at your calendar so you know what is coming up, etc.
I can say from personal experience that it might take months, or even up to a year, to figure out how to manage your time better post-baby. It’s never going to be perfect. Over time you will likely realize that there are little things you just have to let go of, like the house being perfectly clean, or the laundry always being done and put away, and your exercise routine may look a little different than it did before (or it might be nonexistent for 7+ months), and that’s okay.
As the ladies from The Counseling Co. will mention later in this post, asking for help is KEY and there is zero shame in needing or receiving help.
are working moms happy?
When I did a quick Google search on the topic of work/life balance, this question came up: “are working moms happy?” I thought it was a really important question to address, and a loaded one, at that.
I do think a lot of working moms are happy. A lot of women truly love what they do and enjoy having some time outside of the home (and/or away from their children – zero shame), and feeling like they have purpose outside of being a mom. As well as using their specific job skills, being around other adults, etc.
However, I know a lot of moms are not working by choice, and would rather stay at home with their kids, but for financial or other reasons, they have to continue working. If you are struggling with this being your reality right now, I’m thinking of you, and hope you can find a solution that feels better for you and your family.
I am a full-time working mom and I can say that yes, overall, I am genuinely happy. Does that mean it’s always easy? Absolutely not. It can feel really messy and hard and stressful at times. Many weeks there is a major lack of “balance” and I feel like a chicken with its head cut off from the minute my alarm goes off until the minute I’m crawling into bed.
Some seasons are easier than others, but what I have found to be lacking when things feel really stressful and chaotic is me taking the time to focus on self-care, rest and my mental health, and scheduling appointments with my therapist. Which sadly, has been the case most recently. I recently announced that I’m launching a podcast (yay!!!) and I’ve been passionately pouring into getting it up and running, but I haven’t been leaving much time at all for rest.
What I have found really helpful is making time for daily movement. I have been consistently going on outdoor walks throughout my postpartum journey (when the weather allows), but not always including other forms of exercise like strength training, etc.
Since about 11-12 months postpartum, I have finally gotten into a routine with working out, and it feels REALLY good. I wanted to share this so that other moms feel less alone if they are this far postpartum and still not in a rhythm with exercise. It is freaking HARD and takes time. You’ll get there. Be patient with yourself and focus on incorporating movement you enjoy.
tips from THE COUNSELING CO. ON WORK/LIFE BALANCE
Kelsey & Donna from The Counseling Co. here!
If you’ve been struggling to find balance, you are not alone and you are in the right place. The framework we will be sharing can be applied across varying situations and circumstances: stay at home mamas, working mamas and those who aren’t mamas, but are struggling to find balance.
What is “balance” anyway?
Let’s start by defining balance. “A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” Based on this definition, we might assume the only way to have work/life balance is for everything to feel “equal” and “correctly proportioned.” If all of the different elements in our life are not “equal” and “correct”, we must be doing something wrong… INSERT MOM GUILT/SHAME.
HOW TO LET GO OF MOM GUILT
The feelings we are constantly trying to run away from keep showing up. If we choose work, we feel bad we aren’t spending enough time with our kids. If we choose home, we feel bad for wanting time away from the kids.
“Mom guilt” and “mom shame” often show up with stay-at-home mamas and working mamas. Guilt and shame do not discriminate. You are not alone if you feel like a prisoner to these feelings. Like no matter how hard we try to create balance, those feelings of guilt and/or shame creep in when we drop our baby off at daycare, ask a grandparent or sitter to watch them while we run to the store, or try to sneak in a date night or brunch with the girls.
Before we know it, these feelings are not only impacting what we say “yes” and “no” to, they are impacting our mental health.
Questions to answer yourself:
- In the last several months, have you found yourself experiencing feelings of resentment, overwhelm, anger, rage, disappointment, envy and more?
- Have you found yourself not engaging in things that used to be enjoyable?
- Have you found yourself coping in ways that maybe alleviate the feelings in the moment, but are not making things better in the long run?
We often hear moms say, “this is just a stage” or “this is temporary.” And while this is true, and not every moment is going to be enjoyable, not every moment has to be miserable, either.
So, let’s redefine balance. Balance in mental health is a lot like balance in nutrition. It is all about responding to and meeting your mind + body’s needs.
Intuitive Eating sounds a little like this: If you want to eat a cookie – eat the cookie. If you want a big green salad – have a big green salad.
Intuitive living sounds like this: If you need to rest during naptime – rest. If you need to work after hours – work. If you need to ask for help – ask for help. This is often easier said than done, though, right?
Just like eating a cookie doesn’t make you “bad,” taking time to rest doesn’t make you a bad mom, partner, employee, etc. Finding balance is about meeting our needs, changing and/or communicating our expectations, and practicing self-compassion. A whole lot of self-compassion.
Here are some commons thoughts that women have:
- I shouldn’t need to ask for help/I feel bad asking for help – leads to overwhelm and resentment.
- I shouldn’t want/need to take time away from my kids – insert shame/guilt.
- I shouldn’t let my kids have screen time – insert shame/guilt.
- I thought I would have more help from my friends/family – insert disappointment.
How to respond to each of the common thoughts above?
- It’s okay to ask for help. Identify what you need help with and clearly communicate with others.
- It is normal to want/need time away from our kids. It’s also an important life skill (even at a young age) for our kids to build relationships with others.
- It’s okay to have kiddos watch TV – especially if it allows you 30 minutes of doing what you need to do to reset. Brain breaks are good for everyone!
- Our loved ones cannot read our minds – even though it is so great when they do anticipate our needs!! Identify what you want/need from friends and family. It’s okay and very appropriate to communicate that with our support system.
It is possible for things to be and feel different. While we expect the negative, unhelpful thoughts to still show up – we can choose to respond to them differently. Just like intuitive eating, it takes practice and a lot of unlearning.
Let’s see it in action:
Intuitive eating: We may still have the thought, “I shouldn’t eat that cookie,” but instead of listening to that thought → we change our response by eating the cookie, without guilt or shame.
Intuitive living: We may still have the thought, “I shouldn’t ask for help,” but instead of believing that thought → we change our response by asking for help.
Important Takeaways to remember
You are not a bad mom for working.
You are not a bad mom for staying home.
You are not a bad mom for taking time for yourself.
You are not a bad mom for not making dinner.
You are not a bad mom for saying “yes” to screen time.
You are not a bad mom for asking for help.
If we have labeled ourselves as bad (driving feelings of shame), we often spend the majority of our time trying to prove we are “good.” It quickly becomes all or nothing.
Consider this: if you no longer had to prove yourself, would you be more likely to care for yourself?
I really hope you found this post on Finding Balance as a Working Mom helpful and that it gave you some things to reflect on. In case you missed it, check out our previous post for tips on How To Find A Therapist if you are also ready to get started with therapy.
Donna and Kelsey from The Counseling Collaborative
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us via email or direct message on IG. We are here to help!
Thank you so much for reading, and we will have more mental health-related content to share with you soon!
Shanna, Kelsey and Donna