Should you quit your 9-5 to spend more time with your kids? A tale from the other side.
Momming ain’t easy. Being a working mom is hard. Being at home with kids is hard. Trying to do both at once? IMPOSSIBLE!
I’m not sure if there is a perfect balance to how many hours to spend with my kids, but I feel fortunate to be experimenting with that right now and I want to share some perspective from the other side.
This post is dedicated to the moms who are away from their kids, working, most days. If you’re struggling with mom guilt right now, I am writing this for you.
I was you. I hated being away from my kids more than 40 hours a week. I hated that I was the first one sneaking out of my house in the morning, the first one leaving the office in the afternoon, and the last one to pick my kids up from daycare. I hated the guilt I felt about leaving the office so early, especially while managing a high performing team. I really hated how I always seemed to squander the 90 mins I had with kids each evening, getting mad at them for some stupid thing, and then counting down the minutes before I could reasonably tuck them into bed and get back to work.
I felt like an awful mother when I was working. I felt like an awful worker when I was mothering.
I know many of you feel this way too. If you don’t feel like you’re half-assing on both ends, maybe you despise your job and feel the time spent away isn’t even meaningful. Am I right? You’re spending days away from your babies for what? To pay bills?
Then on the flip-side, if you love your job or feel you have an important job to do when away from your kids, is it more important than them? Are you less maternal for having such strong passions outside the house?
Sometimes it feels like being a working mother is a zero sum game.
Now that I’m self employed, it may appear I have “the best of both worlds.” I can choose when and how much I work. I can choose how many days a week to send my kids to daycare, and I can pull the plug on either if I so choose. It’s great and it’s exactly what I wanted to optimize for… but it’s still not perfect, and that’s what I want you to know.
Before I took the plunge, I knew the grass wouldn’t necessarily be greener — I didn’t know what to expect. Until you’ve experienced it for yourself, you just can’t know the depths of each side of the fence.
Even with my newfound ability to be the mom I knew I could be, there are days I just don’t want to “mom” that hard. My family is three weeks into a summer experiment where the kids are home with me on Tuesday and Thursdays. While it’s nice to only work three full days during the week, I’m kind of missing five. The weeks I need five, I fall back into resentment mode.
I don’t know what it feels like to be a full-on stay-at-home mom but every single SAHM I’ve talked to has aspirations to create something or is already working on a side business, a blog, a book, or a support group. We are an industrious species, women. A powerfully productive and resourceful breed. I’m proud of women like them, like you, like me. We all have work to do. We all have gifts to share with the world.
There’s no universal path to striking the balance between work and motherhood. Choosing how to spend your talents, nurture your children, and earn your dollars is up to you. I believe figuring out how to “have it all” comes down to knowing what your non-negotiables are.
What are the things you are not willing to give up?
For me, I was unwilling to move closer to my office. Doing so could have salvaged a dozen hours a week, easily. But it was non-negotiable for me. I love our East Bay community and lifestyle and could not imagine digging deeper into Silicon Valley. It wasn’t part of my 20-year plan. For you, moving closer to work might be doable and might add years to an otherwise enjoyable office job.
What’s on your list? Travel requirements, salary, benefits? Philanthropy?
Let me ask you:
If you had to choose between flexibility and stability, which would it be?
How about more time with your kids or yourself vs. saving for college or retirement?
While possible, choosing both isn’t always realistic.
I’ll share one thought exercise my career change clients enjoy.
Make a T-chart of everything you love and loathe about your current job. Consider how many items in your “loathe” column are actually non-negotiables which have caused resentment in your life. How many of those items make you feel as though you’ve given into the man or have changed your core values.
Now the important part: How many of those things would your boss or company be willing to explore or even compromise to keep you?
This is a simple and an often eye-opening exercise. The hard part is actually broaching the topic with your boss. Having come from a company that values radical candor where I had many similar conversations myself, I like to role play the best and worst case scenario with my clients.
I’m writing today from an exhausted place. As I mentioned last week, my son, Max, was out of his preschool all week, in addition to also having my daughter, Amelia, on Tuesday and Thursday. When you run your own business, there are no paid vacation days. I took care of my two kids under four while also servicing three individual clients, a medium business client, doing a live streamed interview, recording content for a MasterClass, speaking at a networking event, and writing a book. I’m not bragging. I’m telling you: I’m fucking wiped out, gals. And I’ve just begun. Weeks like this will happen. Yes! I’m GRATEFUL to have the opportunities and the work I do today; it’s amazing! And, yes! There are days when I remember how much simpler it was to have a 9-5 with kids in daycare.
So, if you’re struggling with balancing work and motherhood this week, or if you’re feeling green with envy scrolling by Instagram-moms (like I was a few months ago), know that you’re not alone. Know that even if you decide to make a big change in your life or career in an attempt to balance things out, it’s never going to be “just right” all of the time. That’s just life, mama.
From my couch during naptime to yours, cheers.