Balancing motherhood and work
Balancing motherhood and work can be difficult. Mothers have lots of balls to juggle. It can be hard to not drop some. Finding the right balance for you can help you get the best of both worlds.
I have been lucky enough to have a good balance between motherhood and work. I work as a Therapeutic Radiographer for the NHS. When I returned to work from maternity leave, I asked for part-time working. I chose to work 3 days a week and have worked between 2-3 days since then. Without the support from my family, and more recently my partner, returning to work would have been impossible. As a solo parent childcare is not affordable.
I appreciate not everyone is in the same situation and we all have different things we are trying to balance in this juggle with motherhood and work.
This article is not going to tell you how to find that balance, its different for all of us. Nor is it belittling any Mums for choosing not to work or being unable to. This article is here to demonstrate how rewarding balancing motherhood and work can be, if able to.
Mothers in the workplace
It is well known mothers face discrimination in the workplace. A gender pay gap between men and women is documented globally. Men are paid higher hourly rates than women in similar roles. The UK government have set up initiatives to help reduce this gap, but it is still a work in progress. When you add motherhood to the equation it creates a bleaker picture. Overall women are more likely to be in part-time roles. This demonstrates the attempt to balance motherhood and work. These roles often attract a lower hourly rate.
Mothers often encounter what is known as The Motherhood Penalty. This describes the challenges mothers face in the workplace. This penalty has been shown to affect chances of being hired, wages and promotion. It is easy to see why many would prefer to tip the balance towards full time motherhood. Working can seem like an uphill struggle for little benefits.
1. Be empowered by your decision to work
My career is very important to me. I see it as a part of my identity. Work is a link to the part of me before motherhood. It makes me feel like more than just a Mum. If you choose to work because it’s important to you, acknowledge that you have made that decision for you. Honour that you are able to do so. If you are at work because of financial reasons, acknowledge that too. You are doing what you need to do for your family. That needs to be honoured.
2. Speak to your employer about flexibility
It is important to make your employer aware of the flexibility you require. If they don’t know what you require they can’t help you. I appreciate that now all managers can or will want to help. If in the process of looking for a new job, try to find one that appears family friendly. If they mention work-life balance or flexible working, this can be a good indicator.
My manager is very supportive, which I’m extremely grateful for. I have the agreement to leave early on a Thursday. This means I have the time to take my children to one of their clubs. It was important to my children, and so I mentioned it at the interview stage.
3. Leave work behind
Work is one part of your life, it doesn’t need to take over all of it. Give your all at work by all means, but leave it there. It is possible to be successful in more than one area of your life, but it isn’t always easy!
On your journey home take some long, deep breaths in and out. Release your worries from the work day. Remember you are human. You can only do what you can do. If you have something outstanding it will be there for another day. Working part-time I find it easier to have a to-do list. When I write things down, I feel things have been dealt with temporarily, until I’m working next.
It may be beneficial to set some intentions for your family time, for the evening or weekend ahead. Choose a handful that you repeat on the journey home. Some examples may be ‘I am a loving mum’ ‘I give my children new experiences’ ‘I am blessed and I am grateful’.
4. Let go of the guilt
As mother’s we naturally feel guilty. When work is added to the mix, this can enhance it further. Combat negative thoughts you may have towards the motherhood / worklife relationship. Think of the positive aspects for you going to work. Writing a journal can help highlight particular areas of guilt, for you to work on. Show yourself some self-compassion. Think what you would say to a relative or friend in a similar situation. Think about this advice for yourself.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you have a good support network around you, don’t be afraid to use it! If you have a partner, ensure the household chores are shared. This can give you more time as a family unit. This better quality family time can reduce guilt about working. Remember, kids can help with things at home too.
Relatives helping out with childcare can help shape a lovely bond between your children and them. In addition, playdates with friends are so much fun for the kids. Knowing your kids are having a great time can relieve any worries you may have.
6. Prioritise household tasks
When working, time at home is even more precious. Trying to fit everything in makes me feel irritable and grumpy. I feel resentful when I feel I’m doing everything. Yet when I ask my partner, he is always happy to help. Sometimes I have to accept that he may do things differently to my way, but it still gets done. Apart from hanging up the washing – he has strange ideas when it comes to hanging up washing 😂.
Prioritise daily tasks. Try to reduce the frequency of others. Does it matter if your oven isn’t cleaned daily? If it does, then do it as you will only worry about it. Maybe don’t do something else that day and use the time as a family. Even better, get the kids involved in some of the chores and make it a game. Best give the oven cleaning a miss for that one though.
7. Time with your partner
Notice how the title says time with your partner, not time for your partner. It isn’t about ensuring you have enough attention for them. This is about you spending time with one another, which is beneficial to both of you. This is your time away from being a mother and work, and focusing on you as an individual. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of slumping in front of the tv together. I know this is something I am guilty of far too often.
8. Time for you
Making time for yourself is often overlooked. In the balance between motherhood and work, it is essential though. You can not give anything at work or as a mother if you have nothing to give. Take a little bit of time each day to do something you enjoy doing. Mums are busy, there is no doubt about that. It doesn’t have to be something that takes a long time. It can be something as simple as reading a chapter of a book, playing a game on your phone. Some may find mindfulness exercises useful. Resetting at the end of the day, is useful, so you are ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Benefits for children
It doesn’t get much better than Harvard University telling us mothers working is beneficial for our children. Their research indicated daughters of working mothers are high achievers at work in the future. Although this wasn’t true for sons, us boy mums needn’t worry. The research also showed the sons in the study spent more time than average caring for other family members. As well as this, there was no difference in happiness as adults. Adults who had mothers at work, and those with stay at home mothers had similar happiness levels.
You are not perfect!
You are not perfect, nor am I, nor is anyone. Perfection is a flawless state where everything is precisely right. Sound like anyone you know? People may lead you to believe they are leading a perfect life, but no one is. We live in a world where ‘perfection’ is shoved in our faces constantly. Most of that isn’t real, try to look at real-life accounts of peoples lives. You are living the life that is right for you at that moment. If you haven’t got the perfect house, kids who eat vegetables, and look flawless every day it doesn’t matter. Are your kids happy, healthy and reasonably clean? Are you doing the best you can for yourself and your family? If so, you’re doing something right.
My top tips for balancing motherhood and work
By no means am I an expert in finding the balance between motherhood and work. As my children grow and my career progresses, I expect different challenges will arise. No-one is perfect, and I am not pretending to be. As a working mother, I am just sharing some tips that I have felt useful. Please comment below if you have any to add. I would love to hear them.
- Prep as much as you can the night before. Mornings are always busy for me, as for most mothers. Due to this I try to prep pack lunches the night before. Also I make my breakfast the following night for the days I am working. Overnight oats comes in handy for this.
- Have a to-do list. This can help with remembering important thanks. With busy lives and busy minds, it is easy to forget. Keeping a list is a great way to keep track.
- Spend 10 minutes a day doing an activity you enjoy. Don’t feel guilty about this time. You need it to reset.
- If possible share household tasks. Prioritise these to maximise family time.
- Give yourself a pat on the back. You are smashing it mama!