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Archive for the ‘Work-Life Balance’ Category

Today is Mother’s Day, so let’s start with a salute to all Moms (and Dads who do the job) everywhere.  Hats off to all who tirelessly tend the garden of the next generation.

As if motherhood isn’t a full time job in itself, most Moms of today also work outside the home.  Parenting has a way of shedding light on the fact that career or job choices are often packaged with a lifestyle that isn’t always family-friendly.
As a former stay-at-home Mom (I’ll have more to say about that misnomer in a future post…) I join the ranks of many mothers who end up re-inventing their professional selves post-motherhood.  If you’re a Mom at a career cross-road, you may find motivation in one of my Jill magazine articles.  If you can’t tell, I am passionate about this topic and would love your feedback. 
Moms, enjoy your day.  As for me, I am proudly wearing a handmade, beaded plastic “MOM” bracelet and cherishing the card I received that read, “If I had a million dollars, I would buy my mom a toaster.”  These are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

~Michelle St. Onge

Last week I shared some reasons why working makes me a better Mother.  That coin has two sides, so this week I’m going to share the other perspective.  I’m not saying motherhood will get you promoted,  (see my previous rant about Equal Pay Day for more on that topic) but I do believe that the transformation of motherhood can help you succeed in all areas of your life.  Here are just a few:

  1. I can relate better to my co-workers.  Depending on where you work, a majority of your colleagues are probably parents themselves.  Once you have kids you are better able to spot the bleary-eyed glaze that follows a night spent in a steamed bathroom fighting off the croup.  Empathy makes for better relationships.
  2. Improved patience.  Parenting is the ultimate test of patience.  Patience is a lot like a muscle.  If you don’t stretch it regularly it won’t be able to perform at its best.  Kids are good at pushing those buttons.  Embrace it
  3. Managing multiple priorities.  The frequent crises of motherhood teach triage techniques that can be used to sort through seemingly impossible crises at work.  Figure out lost causes and dump them, then focus on using your limited resources in the most effective manner as possible to reduce further casualties.
  4. Childbirth is empowering.   Birthmothers often walk away from the birth experience with tremendous pride and renewed appreciation for their endurance and will power.  It is a true gift to create a new life, and realize you are more powerful/strong/resilient than you ever thought you were in the process.
  5. Suck it up and deal, baby.  Kids don’t care if you have a migraine, a yeast infection, or walking pneumonia.  Above all else, you have got to make sure they are OK, or find another reasonable adult to do that for you.  I am much less of a pansy about my little nuisance health issues now than I ever was, and that is probably because I’ve actually been forced to test what happens when you pretend you’re not sick.  (Here’s a hint:  most of the time, you get over it.)
    Important note about #6:  This does not apply to men.  Upon first sniffle, men revert into little boys who need their Mommy – and by the way, that’s you, too.
  6. Appreciation for praise.  Kids love it when you praise them, and their outward responses encourage adults to do it more.  For some reason, adults find it awkward to praise other adults. Parenting reminds us that adults need it, too.  Since I’ve had kids I tell people when I am proud of what they did, and try to recognize people as much as possible.

~Michelle

If you’re feeling guilty as a working mom, stop it right now.  If working makes you more happy, satisfied, sane, reasonable – you’re not alone.  Your family will thank you later.

10 – The 15 minute commute of alone time in the car makes a whole lot of baggage fade away.  Both ways!
9 – Rewards for good work are tangible and regular.  We all need reassurance that we are doing good work, and it just doesn’t happen all that often at home.
8 – Work is, for the most part, a fair and predictable game.  Do work = get paid.  Motherhood can be a thankless job, where extra effort put in today may not make a tangible difference for years, and by that time you’ll probably be getting ready to retire anyway.
7 – People at work are rational.  (Well, for the most part…)  Co-workers don’t have any pre-conceived ideas about who you are or any special interest in what you should become.
6 – At home most everything is shared – space, food, stuff, time, money.  At work, what’s mine is mine.  I don’t have to choose between putting everyone else first or  feeling guilty about taking care of myself.
5 – Adult interaction free of children means great potential for following a single thought through to its natural ending.  Children have not yet learned that every single thought they have does not need to be spoken, so silence can be a rare treasure at home.
4 – Sometimes hearing about other people’s problems makes me appreciate my own just a little bit more.
3 – Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  A daily break from family allows everyone to go off and experience the world in his or her own way.  When we come back together and share what we learned, it is a bonding experience and we are all enriched by it.
2 – Focusing on work means putting family and home issues on hold for a few hours.  This is a great release that allows me to come back with fresh eyes and more patience than before.
1 – Full-time motherhood without a release is stressful.  Professional therapy to mitigate the damage costs $80 an hour.  When I go to work, they pay me.  This one is a no-brainer.  🙂

A happy Mom is a good Mom.  At one time or another, working Moms usually feel guilty about leaving their family responsibilities to go to work.  It’s time to appreciate the other side – what benefits (besides income!) does your working bring to your family? 

~Michelle

My Mom is one of those awesome, spit-fire of independence, 1970’s “I don’t need anyone but myself” women.  Don’t think bra-burner here, the soundtrack of her life is more along the lines of Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Women of my Mom’s generation stood up and made sure everyone took notice of the fact that women are just as intelligent and competent as men.  Those sisters paved the way for us to take our rightful place among the Good Old Boys in the wonderful world of work.

Today I’m there – a well-educated woman with both a family and a career.  I’ve looked around a bit and decided that it isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.  My battle cry no longer has to be about getting a place at the table.  Me and my Momma-Sisterhood have a new ultimatum:  make the workplace “table” more family-friendly if you want us (and our talents) to stick around.  Thanks to the foundation laid by the last generation, this is a threat that carries a good deal of weight in today’s business world.

I have made a purposeful choice to work only part-time, with a little freelance on the side.  I designed my career around the foundation that is my family, rather than the other way around.  If getting to the top means that I have to flip that equation and let my job take over the foundation, I simply do not want to be there right now. 

The tide is starting to turn, but there is still a lot of ground to cover.  Companies are beginning to listen – offering telecommuting, flexible schedules, and other perks that make juggling work and family a little less frenetic.  My prediction?  Companies who are successful in adopting family-friendly policies will score big in the talent acquisition of today’s up and coming female professionals.

What do you think?

~Michelle

Sadly, Saturday has become just another day to get stuff done. The fact that the kids and spouse are here all day makes that just a bit more difficult. Weekends used to be about a break from work but now that I’ve embraced freelance writing and other work from home gigs, weekends are about stealing time.

I’ve taken to approaching Saturdays as broken into two different kinds of time: blocks where I can be distracted and still productive (e.g., kids are in the house playing but need fight broken up/Wii remote located/help pouring a drink) and times that any interruption renders productivity nearly impossible (only acheived when kids are on an outing with Dad, or outside/at the neighbors and there is Spouse-At-The-Ready if reinforcements are needed.)

If I don’t look at chunks of time this way I get frustrated, stressed, and nothing done. I have found that I can do laundry, dishes, and check social media updates during interruptable time. But to accomplish reading, writing, and other focus-based tasks I need what I have named “space alone in my head” or the creative thoughts just don’t flow. “Space alone in my head” is a state that is highly coveted and rarely achieved. Perhaps I’ll muse more on that topic next time.

~Michelle


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