Stephen Covey says women are the “givers” of life. Craig Groeschel says women are “multipliers” – if you give them a house, they’ll give you a home; if you give them ingredients, they’ll give you a feast; if you give them a child, they’ll give you a family. Women are givers, multipliers, homemakers, keepers of the schedule and the car keys and the Cheerios. Traveling moms, single moms, stay-at-home moms, working moms—they’re all moms. Or I should say, we’re all moms. It’s courageous, selfless, valiant, hard, constant work, and we’re all just trying to get through the day.
There’s a unique challenge to being a working mom, to being a businesswoman who manages a million tasks in multiple locations. As mothers of every kind, we stand on the shoulders of the moms who have gone before us, paved the way, shown us a few tricks of the trade. In her book, Eight Steps to Being a Great Working Mom: Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity While Juggling Work and Motherhood, Gretchen Gagel wrote, “If one woman reads one thing in this book that makes her life easier, it will have been worth every minute I’ve squeezed out of my hectic life to write it.”
Here are some of Gretchen’s tips, her suggestions for working moms to keep the train moving forward on the tracks.
Sidestep the Guilt. “The first and most important step to being a great working mom is to find ways to deal with the inevitable guilt of not always being everywhere we wish we could be for our kids. We need to have confidence that we’re great moms and feel good about ourselves,” Gretchen says. Whether you’re passionate about your work, or if you simply enjoy working as an outlet for the demands of home, or if it is your only financial option, the more you embrace your role as a working mom, the more effective you can be, both at home and at work.
Set Reasonable Expectations. There is no such thing as balance, and it’s important to come to terms with this. Accept the truth that you cannot do everything at 200 percent, at 80 mph, and still survive the stress this will put on your body and ultimately on your family. Instead of trying to do everything for everyone, identify your priorities, delegate as much as possible, and celebrate the successes—big and small.
Shape Your Job to Suit Your Family. Women are often driven to put in long hours, especially to compete with their male counterparts. But sometimes, a few small adjustments can help you to be present everywhere you’re needed. Perhaps you can arrive earlier, work later, or do some projects from home. Sometimes adjusting the schedule isn’t possible, and instead, you need to swap responsibilities with someone in your department. As Gretchen wrote, “Being successful doesn’t always mean working harder. It often means working smarter.”
Build Your Support Network. Don’t try to do it all alone—we all need partners in the business of raising strong kids, and it really does take a village. Your support network consists of the family members, friends, and neighbors you can rely on when the unexpected happens, when schedules outpace you and you can’t be everywhere at once. Your support network will be your lifesavers in the storm. Set up your network before you need their help, and then don’t be afraid to ask for their help when you need it.
Find your Systems and Get Organized. Get a master calendar, and have it on full display in your home, whether it’s on the wall in the kitchen or linked on your phones—or in the case of my busy family, both and all of the above. Start with your weekly and monthly schedules, and involve your kids in the schedule planning. And remember this pro tip: White Space on your calendar isn’t always an opportunity to fill something in. Embrace the grace of margins.
Be Kind to You. The familiar adage is true: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” We aren’t good moms if we don’t take care of ourselves, and we are no good to our employers or our families if we don’t practice self-care. Be kind to yourself—at least as kind as you are to everyone around you. Very often, you’re the center of their world, and they need you to be healthy in every way. So take care of You.
Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, a writer, teacher, reader, and thinker, and the author of three books. Her newest book is called You Can Do This. Thousands of readers join her each morning for a cup of coffee as they sign online to read today’s funny, poignant stories that capture the fleeting moments of life. She collects words, quotes, and bracelets, and she lives in Denver with her husband and two sons. You can get to know Tricia through her regular posts at tricialottwilliford.com