Before I became a mother, I did not understand just how difficult working mothers have it. I didn’t understand their struggle at all because I thought “How hard could it be? I mean, babies don’t really do anything that require too much effort”. That’s when God laughed and decided to let me find out what it’s really like.
I got pregnant and right away I was so exhausted that I didn’t want to do anything. Getting out of bed was a hassle for me. BUT I continued to work because my family needed the money. Finally, during my second trimester, I began to feel a little more energized. It was nice because I could stay up past 5pm. At the start of my third trimester, I began to get a little more exhausted and at 7 months, I found out I had pre-eclampsia and was hospitalized.
After spending a week in the hospital, my OBGYN decided to do an emergency C-section due to my blood pressure being so high and the fetal monitors not being able to find the baby’s heartbeat. Everything went very smoothly and after 30 minutes of being operated on, my daughter was born. We stayed another 4 days in the hospital and were finally released to home when my daughter reached a weight of 4 pounds.
After a month of recovering, I went back to work as a teacher. Now, this is where I got a reality check. It was so difficult trying to balance work with motherhood. Even having my mother watch my daughter throughout the day didn’t take away all the stress that built up.
See, as a mother, I didn’t realize that I’d be so worried about the well-being of my daughter every moment that I was away from her. My mind was never where it needed to be. When I was at work, I was worrying about my daughter. When I was at home, I was worried about grading papers or writing lesson plans.
It took me many nights filled with stressful tears, panic attacks, and going to bed feeling like a failure in every aspect of my life. I felt that I needed to be the ideal 1950s woman and be able to take care of my daughter, keep the house in order, make home-cooked meals, and still look gorgeous while I do it all. Boy, was I wrong.
Not being able to deal with trying to be and do everything, I asked my husband for help. That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my family. In knowing how he could help me deal with the stress of work and motherhood, my husband was able to take on some of the load for me. My husband and I came up with a cooking schedule. Every other night I would cook dinner. This allowed me one night to sit and play with my daughter and one night for my husband to do the same.
We also helped each other keep the house clean by alternating chores each week. This way, neither of us always got the dishes (which we both hate doing) all the time. This helped me lose the idea that I need to be the perfect wife. It also helped me get a good night’s sleep. We took turns getting up at night with our crying baby, feeding her, changing her, all things baby. This was such a huge help.
Now, I want to be clear, my husband didn’t expect me to do all those things alone before, but after I opened up to him about how I was feeling, he did more to make sure I was taken care of too. He made a point to give me compliments, ask me if I needed anything, and just be there for my emotional needs.
Another thing that helped me balance work and motherhood was working on compartmentalization. If I could focus on work while I was at work and home while I was at home, I could eliminate the worry of always feeling like I was failing in both areas.
This actually really worked. I was able to realize that if I didn’t go to work, I couldn’t provide for my daughter. I always fought with the idea that I was neglecting her by not being with her to teach her and take care of her, but I never realized that if I hadn’t gone to work, I never would have been able to feed her or keep her sheltered. That was eye-opening and it truly helped me stay focus throughout the workday.
Another thing that really helped was being okay with cutting myself some slack. That meant being fine with the fact that laundry was piling up or dishes were in the sink. It was fine because I got my priorities in check. I realized that spending time with my daughter is way more important than keeping a spotless house. Now, I don’t neglect those chores for too long because I don’t want my daughter growing up in a pig sty but a little is definitely okay.
The last thing that really helped me balance work and motherhood was making time for myself. When my daughter was really little, this meant just enjoying a nice 45-minute bath while watching my favorite show once a week with no interruptions. Now that she’s almost two, this means going out once a month for a girl’s night with my friends, having a bath to myself once a week, and then of course letting her in on some of the fun by playing with nail polish and make up once in a while. It’s really fun.
Understanding that the days of feeling like you have no time to do anything YOU want to do is temporary will help you cope with those long days and sleepless nights. Knowing that it’s okay to leave your baby with a childcare provider in order to go be the professional working woman you want to be is helping provide necessities for your child will help you feel motivated to get up and go to work every day ready to do whatever it is that you do best.
Looking back to what I thought before makes me feel like a joke. I had no idea what it was like to be a mom or a professional. Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized that mothers are the strongest people. So, if anyone tries to tell you that you can’t be both, know they are lying. It is possible and if anyone can do it, it’s a mom.