I tell people that I got skipped on the mothering gene. As a young adult I never dreamed about babies or romanticized parenting and I never, ever volunteered to watch my friend’s kids. My husband and I had been married for 8 years when we had our first pregnancy and 9 by the time our second was born. I had been working more than half my life by that point and owned my own business for 7 years. Enter baby.
Having traveled the world and seen working mothers in developing nations strap their babies on and tote them everywhere, I naively assumed I could do the same. My plan was to cart the infant around and do my work while he napped or cooed quietly in the corner. Newborns do nothing but sleep, right?
Well turns out our spirited son was not a take-your-baby-to-work kind of kid. As an Enneagram 3 (achiever), I kept telling myself this was what I signed up for -- millions of moms have already done this so just get with the program Sarah! I pridefully pushed myself to maintain 40 hour weeks with fuzzy brain, volatile hormones, and baby in tow.
I look back on those early months and years with almost zero fondness. I loved my tiny human fiercely, I loved (some) of my job, and I loved the IDEA of being a modern working mom who could do it all.
But, as it turns out, I couldn’t.
If I could do it over again, I don’t know what I would do differently. But I do know that I would tell my idealistic pre-mom self that while YES you CAN be a working mom, you CANNOT be a full-time worker AND a full-time mom (at least I couldn’t). Some things inevitably go part-time when you become a parent. If you don’t realize this and adjust accordingly, your health, marriage, friendships, or business may end up on the back burner.
I needed to realize there is no such thing as balance. For any of us. Life isn’t about maintaining 16 spinning plates in the air at all times. It’s about rhythms. Ebb and flow. Up and down. Cycles. Seasons.
At times, you have a lot of energy and passion to put into something. As you work at that something, it takes higher priority over other things. Those other things may gather a little dust, go dormant, or need some resuscitation to come back to life, but that's ok.
Having this perspective is much more realistic than trying to have it all, do it all, be it all -- all the time. The idea of seasons and cycles aligns us with the natural order of things and allows us to have grace for ourselves when we cannot manage everything at the same capacity.
Now, when people ask me how I manage being a mom and owning businesses, I tell them I LOVE working and trying to make this world a better and more just place. While this is true, I DO NOT do everything well. I depend enormously on my extremely capable staff and my supportive husband. And usually, at the end of the day, I still feel like I am failing at something.
Some skills that have helped me to be more effective in the mompreneur journey have been to prioritize my time very intentionally and strive for compartmentalization. I have honed this skill to the point where I am literally incapable of multitasking. I hire people to do the things that I don’t have time, energy, skill, or joy to do...which means I make less money, but can invest my time in the things that I most enjoy and am actually good at.
When I am with my son, I am not at work. I am with my son. That means that in order to do the work, I cannot be with my son all the time. So he attends “preschool” 3 days per week while I consult, meet, or write. This 1 simple rule has revolutionized our relationship and my ability to feel like a “good mom” because when I am with him, I am giving him all that I have. On the flipside, when I am with a client, I am able to feel like a “good consultant”. My attention is not divided by having to placate my child in the background or pray that he stays asleep (something I have learned the hard way).
I realize not all moms have the luxury of quality childcare options or finances to pay for these. I am fortunate in this regard and it has taken time. When he was younger, a good friend of mine swapped kids with me 1-2 times per week and this really helped us both to save money and get consistent work done. There are usually creative options if you are willing to look for them.
I used to mom-guilt myself for not being home all the time. But I realized that I am happier and more fulfilled when I work, and therefore a better mom in general. Having my son not with me a few hours a week gives me the opportunity to miss him and him to miss me. It means I am inviting him into a bigger story by inviting him to see me passionately contributing to the world. It means the time I am with him is more intentional and that I have more energy to invest. Best of all, my mental health improves when I am working and feeling productive. As an extrovert, I need time outside of my home and around other people in order to thrive. Thriving mommy = thriving baby.
If you are currently working and considering adding to your family in some way by having/adopting/fostering littles, know that you CAN do it. And maybe you SHOULD do it if working brings you joy and needed financial stability. Just know that there is no mom blog that is going to figure out your rhythm for you. You’ll have to try and err in order to see what works best for your family’s budget, sleep, routine, and capacity. Regardless of what you choose, please assure yourself that you CANNOT DO IT ALL. If you try, you will most certainly burn out and eventually hurt some people you care about along the way, including yourself. This I know from experience.
In sum: DO what brings you joy. DO NOT feel guilty for spending less than 100% of your time with your kids. DO pursue rhythm instead of balance. DO NOT compare yourself to others. DO find what works for your family. DO NOT try to work full time and mom full time if you have another option (holla to those single mommas and daddies out there - I don’t know how you amazing people do it!!). Lastly, DO ask for help. We’ll be here cheering you on!