Many working mothers are still struggling to juggle the stresses of their career and motherhood. Few could be a Sheryl Sandberg who could hail herself as a supermum. The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook has the means to ‘have it all’, to begin with. But that does not mean a more measured life is impossible for those who are struggling to make ends meet. For the sake of sanity, consider these options below.
Earn your flexibility
Needless to say, what Sandberg did right was being the super employee before being a supermum. To put it simply, earn your brownie points before family arrives. That will give your boss some reason to cut you some slack when the mummy moment kicks in.
It’s only logical and fair that you give back to your company if your company gives you the flexibility and space to spend time with your family. During peak periods when the company requires your dedicated attention, show your boss that you are there so that they will, in turn, be there for you when you have a personal crisis to attend to. Be clear headed and make the right judgement call when the occasion arises, so that you don’t put a non-critical family event before a crisis at work. This will help you chalk up the ‘credibility’ and ‘dedication’ points.
Establish goodwill with co-workers
Statistics have shown that many bosses are unwilling to offer flexible work arrangements for mothers because their single co-workers would often have to bear the brunt of an increased workload as a result. It doesn’t matter even if you are handling bigger projects with tighter deadlines; the reality is that your co-workers will feel unfairly treated when they have to do things like attend meetings on your behalf. Hence, establish goodwill with your colleagues beforehand – help them out when they want to skip out earlier for a date or a movie, and they won’t hold the little extra tasks they have to do for you when mummy duties call against you.
Being there for your child at the right time
Being a great mother doesn’t necessarily mean being there all the time – it means being there at the right time, for the right amount of time. If your child has preschool jitters every morning, making the effort to send him there every day and bonding along the way would be worth it, as going to school becomes an enjoyable routine for him. What makes motherhood beautiful is also having a child ‘want’ you, and not ‘need’ you. The quality time you spend with him should be savoured as bonding moments and not merely being there to do things for him. Having an independent child will also help you cope with work, especially at times when you are totally snowed under.
Spend quality time with your child
On weekends or days off when work can take the back seat, be sure to plan a nice day out with the little one. Even if you are too tired to make a trip, make him feel that he can have all your attention for the day and don’t get distracted by work matters. That will make up for the little time you spend with him on days you have to work and makes motherhood more fulfilling.
Establish a partnership with your spouse
Let’s take the word ‘motherhood’ away for a moment, as having a child is a joint decision that should warrant a joint effort. Parenthood is about both Mummy and Daddy, though Mummy may take a more active role in day-to-day caring. But being able to trust that Daddy can take over when needed will give you peace of mind in times of crisis. Establish a clear partnership and strategy with your spouse right from the start, so that your child values both of you similarly (if not equally). Children tend to go to one parent for certain things, so Daddy can be the designated playmate whilst Mummy is the primary comfort giver. Knowing what triggers certain emotions in the child will also help you and your spouse formulate the right strategy when work needs to be at the forefront.
If you are struggling to reconcile the need for that dream career with motherhood, take a step back and define what success means to you. Why is the career important to you? Are you working for the monetary value of the job, for the recognition or for personal interest? Ultimately, realising the true meaning of work will help you discover the options available, or open up new ones otherwise.
Regardless the choices you make as a mother and as an employee, think positively. Instead of relentlessly pursuing work-life ‘balance’ to the point of exhaustion, find ways to make both work and motherhood more manageable and meaningful. After all, it is impossible to have both in a constant balance all the time.