Work/Life (Im)balance

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Did you ever feel like you can never quite get it together when it comes to the “b” word? We know the feeling and know that as a mom you are juggling A LOT so we thought for today’s Tip Tuesday, we could take a “mommy time out” to just reflect on the whole work/life balance. We are excited to have Sara Aldworth as our guest blogger.

Every mom is a working mom. Whether a full time, stay-at-home or a “9 to 5” career mom, every mom struggles with the work/life balance. I’m a mom to 2 little girls, ages 5 and 2, and with our next baby due in November, I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately pondering this work/life balance and wondering what tweaks I will need to make this autumn!

Life seemed “easy” when my husband and I had our first daughter. Financially, it made most sense for him to be a full time stay at home parent, while I continued on in my career as a marketing professional for a boutique agency. And while I did have a meltdown moment as my maternity leave came to a close, I felt confident that my husband and I could make the transition fairly painless. I headed off to work, breast pump in hand, and plastered photos of our daughter all over my workspace. I also arranged for my husband to bring our daughter downtown to my office for a weekly family lunch date. Despite the daily time spent apart, each evening reunion with my baby girl was a joyful one and I worked hard to foster our connectedness through breastfeeding, keeping her close to me at night and wearing her in a baby carrier during the weekends when I had my entire days to spend with her.

Fast forward to baby #2! Things were getting a bit more challenging. Our oldest daughter was now 2, and true to her age, frequently testing boundaries. Having an infant on one hand and a high spirited toddler on the other kept both my husband and I on our toes. For the first time, I started to genuinely struggle with the feeling that I didn’t have enough hours in the day. As I had done with our first child, I diligently pumped breast milk while at work, further wallpapered my office with baby pictures and kept my infant daughter close to my side at night and during weekends. But when I was at home- what to do? My toddler was so anxious for me to reconnect with her, but my infant needed bonding time too. And my husband? Let’s just say our own bonding was at an all time low.

So how did we rebound from this? It wasn’t easy. I’m still not sure we’ve got it right, and I’ve definitely come to an understanding that being a parent is about both quality AND quantity time. We worked hard to involve our toddler in the bonding process with her little sister. Even a job as simple as putting a dirty diaper in the trash pail made her feel like a superstar helper. Giving our toddler her own baby doll and letting her model parenting behavior helped too. My trooper of a husband began trucking both kids downtown for monthly family lunches which became a highlight not only for me, but for my coworkers as well. And though the infamous “mom guilt” did plague me from time to time, I made sure to leave work at the office, so I could devote my full attention to our children when I was physically present with them. I also learned that during this particular season of parenting, I needed to learn how to say “no” when extra curricular commitments looked as if they would take too much time away from the family. Perhaps more importantly, I learned when to say “yes” – my husband and I started making, and enforcing, our own time. Enlisting the help of Grandma one evening a week, he and I went on dates, intent on keeping our own relationship fresh and alive.

Our third child is due near Thanksgiving. I know with his arrival will come many of the same challenges and emotions we’ve faced with our first children, plus a few more. I will continue to work full time while my husband continues on his path of stay-at-home dad. Our oldest daughter will be starting full time kindergarten, throwing a new layer of complexity on the family schedule. Can life and work be balanced? I think it probably can. But it has taken me a conscientious effort to do so and the recognition that family life, by its very nature, is fluid! Once I think I’ve got it down, I can be sure it will change again.

I’d like to hear from other moms – how do you manage the work/life balance? (Knowing that work and life means different things to different moms!)

Sara is a mom to two girls and a boy on the way. She has been working full time as a professional marketer since 1999. When not working or spending time with her family, she’s a voracious reader, enjoys a round of golf with her own parents and volunteers at her church.