All moms work, whether it’s paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, inside the home or at the office. This article is part of a series of interviews we are conducting with moms who are in various types of professional roles. Making room for both motherhood and a job can be a difficult balance, so we’re inviting you to share how you make it work in service of your family.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How many children do you have?
I have three children, ages 4, 2, and 6 months. I am also a Marriage and Family Therapist. I see families, couples, and individuals for psychotherapy in a private practice setting.
2. How have you changed after becoming a mother?
Oh, let me count the ways! I feel like so many things changed about me after having children, but I think the most poignant one would be that I now live life with a different purpose. The first thing I think about when I wake up is my kids, and it’s also the last thing I think about before laying my head down at night. My life has become others-centered.
This was not an easy transition, but over time I have become so accustomed to thinking this way that life before my kids almost seems like a distant memory. I think that I have become happier, because the purpose in my life is working for their greater good.
I’m not saying that I never think about myself because I definitely do (I think a lot about the next time I’ll get to go for a run, get my nails done, and many other things) but being a mother has forced me to think long and hard about how my actions and behaviors influence them.
Taking care of little people who depend on you creates a new level of self-awareness and changes your priorities instantaneously.
3. You mentioned that you are a Marriage and Family Therapist. What is one way that you’re making that job work for you as a mom?
I think the most important way I make my job fit into my life is that I can set my own schedule. I work as a contractor and can change and adjust my schedule whenever it is needed.
Right now, I do the bulk of my work on the weekends and some evenings. This leaves me a lot of time to also be with my kids and be involved in ways that I want to—like taking them to doctor’s visits, picking up from school, going to the park etc.
With that said, every minute of every day is BUSY and takes a lot of planning and organization. I tend to be a procrastinator so this is something I battle.
It also requires a lot of “switching hats” at a moment’s notice. I will spend the morning nursing a baby, feeding kids, doing a load of laundry, and then head off to a session an hour later. I have had to practice mindfulness in my car rides to be able to switch gears effectively and oscillate between roles.
4. What advice would you have for a working woman who’s pregnant and trying to decide what steps to take next in her career?
My best advice is to not get too tied up in your planning. This may seem counterintuitive, but motherhood requires flexibility in all aspects. You need to be kind to yourself in this transition.
The best advice I was given before having my first baby was this: “You can do it all. Just let go of thinking you have to do it all at the same time.” This was very comforting to me. Since having my first child, I have gone through periods of being home with my kids full time, and periods where I was working too.
I tried to let go of control and an “all or nothing” mentality. During the periods when I was not working, I tried to stay relevant in my career by doing continuing education, going to trainings, and staying connected to colleagues.
But I tried my best to battle the idea of permanence. I try to stay present in whatever my current situation is. I think we, as women, lock ourselves into this idea that we have to make one decision and just stick with it. Take it all one day, one season at a time.
5. In your opinion, what are some of the qualities that make a family-friendly employer?
To me, a family friendly employer is one who does not penalize men or women for having children, whether covertly or overtly. The majority of men still don’t even have the opportunity for a real paternity leave (although I think it’s improving). Many women take their maternity leave but then end up paying for it in one way or another, whether with the severity of their work load or as it relates to pay.
Furthermore, women who decide to leave the workforce altogether are convinced that they will never get to hold a spot in the corporate world again. I believe that raising children actually makes an individual more valuable to their work setting. You learn some pretty important lessons about humanity, and the art of multi-tasking, and your ability to be efficient skyrockets.
Employers also need to take into consideration the price of childcare and how it can be very hard to reconcile these costs if your job is just not financially cutting it. I think most importantly, women just need to be given options — tools to help support them as working professionals, rather than punishing them for procreating (forming the next generation of workers!)
6. Any final advice or support for moms who are trying to balance work life and home life?
Every single parenting situation has its unique challenges. Be kind to yourself through these life transitions, and let go of comparisons. Comparisons usually lead you to feeling some sense of guilt for not being enough, either in your job or with your kids (or both). And this kind of guilt really serves no positive function, so just as we want flexibility in the workplace, be flexible with yourself as well.
photo credits: Brittnie Renee Photography.