A few weeks ago a viral post made the rounds on Facebook about working moms. I’ve been a work-outside-the-home, stay-at-home, and work-from-home mom for six years. But this viral Facebook post made me want to find better advice for working moms.
In the post Sarah Buckley Friedberg named all the societal expectations heaped on moms in the workforce: keep a perfectly clean, Pinterest-worthy decorated home, lose the baby weight, make time for your girlfriends, make sure the kids are dressed for theme days at school, eat healthy meals, be the tooth fairy to create magical moments, and many more.
No one can argue that these messages are pervasive in society and that working mothers still carry a heavier load that working fathers. Mental labor is a real thing, friends. With Buckley Friedberg’s post, a lot of working mothers finally felt heard.
But this post also communicates a dangerous message: it tells to our daughters they can’t have it all – a family and a career, because they won’t be able to meet an imaginary bar. Similarly, stay-at-home moms or young women could read it and decide it is better not to be in the workforce at all or to lower their career ambitions.
This is a problem for many reasons, but ultimately working makes many women happy. And we know women have so much skill, insight, and compassion to contribute to the greater good.
Instead of telling women that they can’t do it all, there is much better advice for working moms out there.
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photo credit: Nate Dumlao
The Best Advice for Working Moms
I asked my older sister for her thoughts on the post. She is the most badass working mom I know.
She has five kids and four of them are still at home in four different schools. One of her children has significant special needs. She is the CEO of their family’s small business managing over 50 employees. She runs marathons and she goes on regular dates with her husband.
She is committed to her children’s academic achievement and personal growth, her family’s health needs, her marriage, and her passion for travel.
She used to be a stay-at-home-mom but returned to work several years ago so I knew she’d have some advice for working moms based on the viral post.
Her response to the demands on working moms: It’s okay that life is messy.
Put Your Blinders On (or Turn off Facebook)
Here’s my biggest issue with Buckley Friedberg’s post: Society’s expectations make no one happy!
Society tries to sell us a bunch of garbage. We live in a culture of miserable people constantly competing to be better, to have more, to be more.
I’m not sure why anyone feels they need to listen to society. So put your blinders on and quit consuming those messages. Figure out where you’re getting them and stop listening.
Don’t give other people’s expectations the gift of your brain space so put your blinders on. Focus on your work and your family not on the outside world.
Draw inward. Instead of scrolling through Pinterest and feeling inadequate, spend some time really listening to yourself.
Maybe the laundry will stay unfolded in the baskets for another day or two. Maybe the children won’t be dressed up for favorite book character day. Maybe you’ll need to pick up take out for dinner.
But learn to listen to your inner voice. It’s okay that life is messy.
Working Moms Can Choose
Here’s my next problem with Buckley Friedberg’s post: You are not a slave to society – working moms can choose what they want to do.
Sure, most working moms don’t have a choice about whether or not to work – your family needs the money and so you need to work.
But within working, you still have some options and there is a better way. You don’t have to do all those things society tells you. You get to choose your values and you get to choose what’s important to you.
Obviously, your spouse and kids can choose what’s important to them and that will influence your decision-making. Maybe school spirit days will be on the top of your to-do list because it’s important to them. But maybe volunteering in the classroom isn’t as big a priority. Maybe your husband doesn’t care if you eat leftovers, but maybe it’s important to him that you sit and talk for a few minutes each night.
It doesn’t matter what society says. You’re the one who gets to choose the values and priorities. And it’s okay that life is messy.
Yes, You Have the Time
Here’s the truth. Whether you stay home with your children, are self-employed and work from home like me, or work 40 hours a week in the office: there is no perfect mythical balance. You cannot fit everything important into the 24 hours a day.
But as Laura Vanderkam so articulately explains in I Know How She Does It, you can probably fit what is most important to you in the 168 hours of the week. She studied time logs from 1,000 successful working women and uncovered how they managed to fit in time for friends, dates, and exercise.
Priorities for Working Moms
Time with your girlfriends – yes. Schedule a first Sunday of the month Happy Hour or join a local MOMS Club and go to the Mom’s Night Out. Maybe your children will be sad you’re not there for bedtime. They will manage.
Date night with your husband – doable. Even on a tight budget with a special needs kid, Kyle and I could figure out a date night. Before we found a babysitter via the Next Door app, we would take our children to drop-in childcare or a friend’s house and go to Starbucks. Or we put them to bed early and we’d actually talk to each other. The housework won’t get done. You will manage.
Reading – there is time. I pretty much quit social media for the first two months of 2019 and read NINE BOOKS. It’s amazing how much time scrolling through Instagram and Facebook sucks up. So pack your book and read it during your lunch break at work.
Or read while your kids do their homework. According to research, children who see their parents reading are more likely to read as adults. So let your child misspell words and get their math problems incorrect. They will manage.
Other things will be imperfect when you’re spending time on your priorities – and it’s okay that life is messy.
A Tip for Working Moms
So what should a working mom do? I think you should consider what you choose as your values and priorities. Then do what no one else can do for your family.
- You can breastfeed, your husband can’t.
- You can take care of your physical and mental health, your boss can’t.
- You can invest in your marriage, your children can’t.
Other people can:
- grocery shop for you: try grocery pick up and reclaim an hour every week.
- bottle feed your baby so you can get some rest or go to a movie.
- run errands for you: use Amazon Prime Pantry for your household goods and save 2 hours a month at Target and Costco.
- do your laundry: hand that off to your husband and find 2 or 3 hours a week to exercise.
- get your kids ready for school: grab my printable morning routine here and reclaim ten minutes in the mornings so you can pack your healthy lunch.
- help your children with their homework: find an after school program that does this and take on that big project that will advance your career or go to the gym without guilt.
These are simply suggestions – I really want you to do you. And only you know what your priorities are and what you can do. My intention is give you ideas to alleviate your mommy guilt, not to minimize your heavy mental load. I will not shame you for your choices.
- Related: No More Mom Shaming
I want you to imagine the possibilities when you tell society to shut up. You’ve decided it’s okay that life is messy.
Time Management Tools for Working Moms
These are some tools that can make life as a working mom easier. I’d also recommend them for stay-at-home moms because they just make my life better!
I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam
This book proves that it can be better for women to go for the big jobs and disrupts the myth that a strong career means less quality time for what’s important.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
While focused in developing nations, Melinda Gates makes the case for why we need women to work and lead and how it benefits everyone in society.
Day Designer Planner by Blue Sky
It’s incredibly important to stay organized. I find a paper planner works better for me but using apps like Calendar and checklists in Notes on my iPhone can also help. I like having a daily planner with a monthly overview and used this planner for two years.
There are pretty versions available on the Day Designer website and their binding is super sturdy. Sign up for their emails for periodic sales and codes.
Mom Planner Stickers
One of the hardest parts about being a mom in general is keeping track of all the things. I love using these stickers help keep doctor’s appointments, field trips, grocery shopping and all the other details of life straight.
I use this set of clipboard for the children’s papers for school and for their morning routines. They hang in the hallway near our kitchen.
Encouragement for Working Moms
Working mom, I know you carry a heavy load. But I want you to know that you are more important than what society tells you.
When my sister shared the advice that “It’s okay that life is messy,” she freed herself from all of society’s expectations. More importantly, she freed herself from her own expectations. She’s an ambitious, high-achiever in many areas of her life but I also remember her telling me that she gave up on expecting herself to be perfect a long time ago.
You can change your mind, too. You can silence those societal voices that tell you to do more or that you’re not enough. You have the power to make choices to make you happy.
Recapping the Best Advice for Working Moms
- The bottom-line: society will tell you a lot of things that are going to make you miserable.
- You can stop listening – this might mean you decide to quit social media.
- There is no mythical perfect balance but you can find time for what’s important.
- Decide what are priorities and how you can make it happen.
- Think about the things only you can do (like care for your health).
- Then decide what you can let go of and who can do it.
- Considering getting some useful tools to manage your time.
- Remember: you are more valuable than what society tells you!
Working mom, I’m here cheering you on. You are seen. Your work is valuable. Your happiness is important.
It’s okay that life is messy. Get a printable coloring sheet here.