A working mom’s guide to balancing work and family from the start
Every mom knows the feeling of being pulled in a million directions. From raising kids to running a household, to being a compassionate and loving teammate to your partner.
It doesn’t matter if you stay at home, work from home, or work outside the home, all scenarios have their own stressors that can push you to the limits.
It’s no surprise that the workplace is not the most accommodating when it comes to being a working mom. We don’t get nearly enough time off so that when we return from maternity leave we’re not truly ready —nor are our bodies or our babies.
And, if you were like me, you were wondering how the heck you were going to continue to grow in your career and juggle mom-hood. It’s scary and unknown. And honestly, seems like it may be impossible to keep your sanity while attempting to do it all.
As I reflect on my journey as a physician and a mom of three, it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve cried too many times to count, lost a ton of sleep, and definitely, definitely had feelings of “am I cut out for this?”.
But as I look at the path I’ve taken and what the road ahead looks like there are a few things that continue to help me
…A.) stay on course with my career
…B.) feel like I’m winning as a mom
…C.) uphold my commitment as a partner and friend to my husband.
I realized it was my flexibility and boundaries I set from the get-go that helped me continue to grow in my career and still feel like a good mom. Let me share them with you.
Be prepared to adjust your work schedule
In the beginning, when my babies were young, I worked the 7am-7pm schedule at the hospital. Long hours but you had many days off in a row which was perfect for getting lots of baby snuggle time. My schedule had a small amount of flexibility in that, I could arrive a little early and leave a little early to ensure I could get to daycare before I got the $1/minute charge for being late —ugh the worst feeling.
My husband was also super busy with his work, preparing to open a new location so we were ships in the night and tight on time. No family around to rescue us, we were juggling the circus on our own.
That little bit of flexibility with my schedule helped things run smoothly for a while until the hospital had new management which was accompanied by some slightly different rules. Although I loved my job and colleagues I felt the need to find a job that would work better with my family’s needs at the time.
It was a tough and scary decision but I decided to leave my position of four years for a new hospital system where I was doing rounds between multiple locations. This would enable me to be available more for my kids’ drop-offs and pick-ups, and medical appointments.
At first, the job change worked out really well, taking away some of the mom-guilt of “feeling” like I wasn’t around as much as I wished I could’ve been.
Be prepared to take detours in your career
Shortly into my second position as a Hospitalist, I was happy to be in a rhythm and getting settled. I didn’t have any plans of changing jobs a third time. I felt like I finally had it under control. Aside from a few sick kids here and there, we were on a roll.
..And then another change occurred with my job and an additional hospital location that was even further from my house was added to my rounds. It was also going to increase the workload significantly.
I don’t mind working hard but being available to pick my kids up and being present for them was a priority.
So there I was, looking for a new position that met my needs as a working mom, again.
Talk about a detour, I stumbled upon a night shift position and decided it would be worth a try. Gone at night, fine, but there while my kids were awake, perfect.
I was trucking along in this position for six months, when an old colleague reached out to let me know my original hospital was hiring. Things had changed for the better at that hospital and it seemed like it would be the “home” I was looking for.
I didn’t know where I was headed but I knew I was trying to find my way so I kept moving forward. That’s all moms can do. … Change with the season.
Be honest with your boss and do it confidently
I was about to go to my interview for my old position back. I was excited and nervous.
I felt nervous because I wasn’t sure how I’d be received. I held three positions and was applying for a fourth in a short time period. I was a working mom, an employee that typically isn’t favored in the workplace. I wasn’t sure where this interview was headed but I knew for sure I wanted the job.
I knew the question was coming, and it did. The hiring manager asked why I switched jobs so many times.
I prepared for this question by rehearsing my ‘why’ before going in. I knew why I left those last three positions and I was proud of it.
The interview went well. I was clear in the working relationship I was looking for and realized they needed me as much as I needed them. The experience I gained over the last few years, my devotion to patient care, and my family were all traits that my soon-to-be new hospital was seeking. Had it not been, I would’ve survived because I already knew what I would’ve done. Adjusted and kept moving forward.
Outsource where you can
Even when I had my work schedule under control, the housework and errands were ever-consuming. I just couldn’t catch up. I’ll spare you the details because you get it —the laundry, the dishes, the bathrooms, ack!
As soon as I could, I stopped trying to do it all. With only so much time and energy in a day, inevitably chores got left by the wayside. And when that happened stress levels shot through the roof.
So… I hired help where I could.
Even if that meant trading drop-offs for the kids with other parents, hiring a babysitter so I could get my nails done, or a tutor to help with homework, and a house cleaner to get the deep cleaning done.
When I relinquished control of even a few things peace began to seep back into my life. I slept more soundly, spoke more calmly, and yelled less often.
And you bet when ordering groceries became a ‘thing’, I promptly did it.
By outsourcing, I was able to spend what little free time I had with kids. I wasn’t yelling at them to pick up, or pushing them away as I was trying to clean. I was able to just be with them.
In these instances, time was more valuable than money and it was worth it to my happiness to hire out when I’ve needed help.
Choose your partner wisely because a team works best when everyone brings their a game
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give is to choose your partner wisely. While I was running around getting kids to and fro, and making sure it was my face they saw at pick and bedtime as often as I could, my dear, incredible husband was taking care of them when I was unable to be around.
He had his own share of sleepless nights with the kids while I worked the night shift. He fed, cooked, and cleaned. He supported me on my journey as a working mom to grow in my career all while building one of his own. He worked tirelessly in the ER while he saved to open an Urgent Care and still came home and gave it his all as a father.
Do we each have household chores that we gravitate towards, and those that we loathe, hoping the other will pick up the slack? Yes. But do we share the duties, jump the hurdles together and offer every bit of support to each other? Also yes.
You don’t have to have a perfect partnership but you do have to actively work as a team. Through the seasons of our lives, as working parents, things can be a heck of a lot less stressful if everyone’s a participant.
We’ve had a lot of heart-to-hearts to get us through but when you have a partner who is willing to be receptive, willing to take ownership, and willing to help you grow, then you know you’ve found a good one.
So be patient, embrace your season, and know you’re right where you’re supposed to be in your journey. Just keep your head up and keep moving.