Can Moms Have Work-Life Balance? | 10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Making Your Choices
Ahhhh. Searching for work-life balance. What a nice problem to have. I know so many amazing, beautiful women who have made all kinds of different choices about what works for them and their family. For me, the key is being honest with myself about what it is I want and then being grateful to get to choose.
Personally, it felt really good to be a stay-at-home working mom until my youngest started kindergarten. I worked from my home office and at our more formal office space with the help of a few regular babysitters, an amazing family, and a wonderful husband (who was also my law partner). When the kids started regular half-day preschool, that gave me even more time. I also knew I was lucky that my work gave me the flexibility to do both. Not to say it was always easy, but I was consciously grateful to join the ranks of moms who got to take their kids to the park, snuggle with them at naptime, and make their favorite snacks every day. Because it was a choice to stay home with them and sacrifice some of the financial benefits I might have otherwise had, I think I savored it in a special way.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression that it was easy, by any stretch. Trying to be a good stay-at-home working mom every day can be very demanding, especially when the kids are young. I often felt pulled thin; like I could be doing more at home and at work. There were many evenings I was up late working or vacations where I was catching up while the kids napped. But we got into our routine, and it feels great that I can say with confidence that they had a good early childhood. Whatever else happens, they have formed trust that the world is generally a good place, they can create healthy attachments, they are confident enough to take risks, and are just all around great kids.
And when the time came for me, I also felt just as lucky to be able to go back to work in a more regular work-a-day schedule in a job that is engaging, challenging, and fun. I love what I do, and it is a big part of who I am. When I made the leap to a traditional full-time office mom, I reminded myself that going to work, creating a predictable and stable life for my kids, and keeping my sanity was part of parenting. I am being a good parent by going to work. For me, that feels right. And as an unapologetic feminist, I love the idea that both my daughter and my son see that I get up every morning and help people. Plus, I think smart is sexy and I like to think my husband does, too.
The bottom line is, there is no right way to be a mom. It is a great gift to get to choose what works for your family. So, whether you are deciding to go back to work, looking to start a work-from-home situation, or choosing to put your love, creativity, and brainpower into creating a peaceful home for your family, here are some questions I asked myself that helped my husband and I make our decision:
- In the early childhood years, before they are in school all day, how much control do I want to have over the kids’ routine? Can I find good child care where the routine is something I really can get behind?
- Is there opportunity for self-care (exercise, relaxation, a cup of coffee) in any of the scenarios I am considering?
- What kind of sacrifices—financially and personally—will I be making by staying at home? What are the costs of daycare or a regular babysitter?
- How much time will I really be away from home, including the commute?
- What kind of sacrifices will I be making professionally by stepping out of the field for a few years or longer? How much do I love my job? What do I value about myself professionally?
- Are there opportunities to stay engaged in my field while I am not working full time?
- What is my support network? Who can help out if I need to do something for work or just get away for a couple hours? If I go to work, who can help with the kids if I get in a jam?
- What will the kids get out of a formal child-care setting? What will their struggles be? What will they get out of me being home with them?
- If I am not around, will my husband pitch in and clean? If not, can we afford a cleaning service? Does my husband have the desire and/or flexibility to care for the kids on a regular basis?
- When I look back, am I going to wish I had done this differently?
Now, if someone can just tell me how to fit in regular workouts and spa days into the equation…