The short answer: You wake up at 4 am five days out of the week, you don’t binge-watch Netflix at night, and you don’t drink alcohol.
The “supermom” answer found in starlet magazines: “Oh, it’s really all about balance. It’s hard work, but I always find time to be with my children. The summers are usually our time to do that when we’re traveling Europe or yachting in the South of France.”
The societally correct answer: “I never let my job come before my kids. I cook organic dinners for them every night and pack them gluten-free lunches every day. Work always comes second. At the end of the day, all that matters is the kids.”
The real answer: You do what feels right to you. If your career success is equally as important as your parental success, you will figure it out on your own. That’s actually the only way you will figure it out — and it will probably take years of trial and error to do it. But you’ll do it. And you will feel like a badass when you do.
If that means setting a strict rule with your boss saying you need to be home by 4:30 pm every day, cut off from all email access at home, weekends included, then that’s what having a career and raising a child looks like for you.
If it means staying at home with your kids but giving yourself a few hours each morning and night to work from home, then that’s what having a career and raising kids looks like for you.
It looks different for everyone. Some parents go through waves of working nonstop, take a break and go through waves of parenting nonstop, and begin the cycle again. If that’s what works for you, who cares what other people think? They aren’t you. They aren’t in your shoes and they aren’t living your life. You are.
Here’s what works for me
I know when I’m not doing a good job in my career and when I’m not doing a good job as a mom, because I can feel it. In contrast, I know when I’m doing a great job in my career and a great job as a parent, because I can see it. But I had to (and still have to) actually experience those growing pains before being able to notice and implement behavioral changes.
For example, If I don’t have a productive workday, I will feel guilty about it when I’m at home with my son, so in between making dinner and playing with him, I’m scrolling my phone for insightful articles on how to be more productive, or I’m on my laptop fixing editors’ corrections that I should have done earlier.
The result? I feel guilty and stressed out for not accomplishing what I should have that day, and guilty and frustrated that I’m not giving my kid my full attention after not being with him since I got him out of bed that morning.
On the other hand, when I have a great and successful day at work, I am fully present and engaged at home. Why? Because I’m proud of what I accomplished (and on really good work days, mentally wore out), I don’t have room in my head to think about work anymore. It also makes me feel more deserving of having fun when I get home. I’m in a better mood, I don’t get upset at him for trivial things, and it makes me feel grateful for him, not like taking care of him is a second job.
I’ve played both the stay-at-home mom role and the working mom role, and both are tiring and rewarding. I think the main point to drive home is you have to put things into perspective every single day in order to feel satisfied in both areas. When you recognize the bigger picture of life every day, not just when something bad happens, your life is much more enjoyable — as a working woman and as a mom woman.
Common sense rule of thumb: If you’re feeling burnout from work, scale back. If you’re feeling burnout from parenting, tell your husband/partner/nanny that you need help, and take the help.
In my experience (so far), becoming a mom has made me better at my career, more focused. I joke with people who don’t have offspring that if they want to be more focused in their jobs, start their own businesses, and get in better shape, they need to have a baby. I joke, but I’m actually serious. I have my little boy to thank for pointing me in the right career direction AND for making me look good in bermuda jean shorts.
Thanks for reading!