Having It All: Being a Great Mom and Having a Successful Career

If you are a mother and you have a job, chances are you feel like finding that perfect balance between managing your family and your career is just out of reach.

working mom daughter

That’s because there are only 24 hours in a day and some of those are supposed to be earmarked for sleep (though with little ones or teenagers in the house that often proves a challenge). The reality is that you can have it all, you just need to reconfigure what all actually means. We are bombarded on all sides by endless streams of advice on how to be better parents as expectations for parent involvement have been growing alongside many other more elaborate expectations for working mothers. How are we supposed to be more with less on both sides? You can’t! Step one is to realize a lot of the goals for being the perfect mother and employee are unrealistic. Do you want to win? Change the rules of the game. Succeeding at mothering may not be endless Pinterest crafts and a full schedule of extra-curricular activities. At the same time, earning employee of the year honors may not require tons of overtime and being available 24 hours a day.

1. Quality Over Quantity

Being there when it counts is often much more valuable than just being there. Since 1985 the number of hours mothers spend with their children has actually risen, even as more women work. In 2015, 7 in 10 mothers were in the workforce, up 47% from 1975.[1] But studies have shown that the actual amount of time spent with children from 3-11 has very little effect on their overall outcome emotionally or academically.[2] Sitting in your house for six hours with a preschooler may not be as beneficial as being there for storytime and working your way through a chapter book series together nightly. In fact, spending a lot of time with a stressed out or distracted parent may be detrimental to a child’s development.[3] You know your kids, be there when it counts. Be there when they need you. Knowing that they are loved and valued is more important for kids than how many physical hours you are looking at each other each day.

2. Be Part of a Team.

Do you have a partner? If the answer is yes, do you feel they do an equal share of the housework and child labor? If the answer is no, then you are not alone. On an average day, 19% of men report doing some sort of housework compared to 49% of women.[4] Women are also 8 times more likely to take time off work to look after a sick child or manage their schedules.[5] So, even though women are outpacing men in education and are the breadwinner in 49% of households, they still do the lion’s share of the unpaid household duties, from childcare to scheduling, to groceries and meal prep.[6] To get a better life-work balance you need to delegate and take things off your plate. Having a more active and present father benefits children. Sharing household chores and responsibilities will also instill those values to your children. We are slowly making progress as dads now spend three times more time with their children compared to 1982 when 43% of fathers admitted to never having changed a diaper.[7] Communication is a key ingredient to identify all of the household items that need to be checked off and then divide them in a more equitable way. As children get older it’s important to involve them in helping around the house, starting with little things like clearing tables and putting away laundry. Everyone will feel more connected to their household and their team as they put more effort into being part of it.

3. Learn to Say No.

Did you know that 35% of parents reported that managing their children’s extracurriculars was more stressful than doing their taxes?[8] Kids are overextended these days and the busy schedules are not only costly (cleats, dance recital costumes, long drives to away games), they are also time-consuming. Parents get a lot of mixed messages about parenting. Some sides rave about the positives of unstructured free time for child development and others stress the benefits of structured activities and being well rounded. Like most things in life, moderation is key. Your kid doesn’t have to do every activity/class/sport that comes by, nor do you have to go to every event. Sometimes you have to say no to birthday parties that conflict with family calendars, no to volunteering at events after an exhausting work week, and no to being a chauffeur all the time. Learning you can say no and have more control over your non-working free time will help to get your kids closer to that balance. This is also true of work. Sometimes you can’t work late. Sometimes you can’t take on another project. Women have often been conditioned to be accommodating, piling on requests like a waitress carrying plates. Finding the strength to have boundaries will make a big difference in your work and home life.

4. Factor Yourself In.

Sometimes it may feel like there is no time in the day for yourself at all. We spend so much time managing other people’s needs, from workplace to home, that it can be hard to remember ourselves in there. But it’s imperative that you always incorporate your needs, just like on an airplane when they tell you to always put your oxygen mask on first. Take little moments, even as short as 30 min a day, to do something nice for yourself. This act can be small, like reading for pleasure before bed, taking a walk, buying fresh flowers, sleeping a little late, or calling a friend to catch up. That is where the life-work balance will come from. It’s the feeling of being part of something and having control beyond managing others’ needs.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-databook/2016/home.htm



[4] https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/26/success/millennial-women-income/index.html

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiegermano/2019/03/27/women-are-working-more-than-ever-but-they-still-take-on-most-household-responsibilities/#32c6294a52e9


[7] https://www.mother.ly/news/millennial-dads-spend-more-time-with-their-kids?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

[8] https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/29/health/extracurriculars-happiness-parenting-strauss/index.html

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