A happy mother is a good mother, and if work makes you hum, your whole family sings along. ~ Sharon Meers and Joana Strober
Balancing your time to the many roles you play in your day to day life can be a tough challenge. Having a child is a sure add to that challenge.
In this modern time, a number of women or moms are no longer just staying at home full time taking care of their kids and their home. Many are already out there making a living, not for themselves, but for their family. For some, it’s what they want, but for most, they need to work to sustain their family’s financial needs.
In many poor and developing countries, many mother even leave their children and their home to work abroad and earn a living.
I was one of those children whose both parents have to be away to make and earn a living. Growing up has been a challenge without my parents around, that’s why when I had my own family, I promised myself that I will not repeat the same situation to my child. I will not leave and work away from my family for months or years just to earn a living. And that choice is indeed tough.
There are many challenges and obstacles to be overcome by a working mom. As a working mom myself, I’m writing this article to share with you some of the challenges that we face when we are working, and at the same time, we are taking care of our children. I will also share some of the ways to overcome those challenges. It may not entirely solve all your problems, but I hope it will lighten it.
The Challenges of a Working Mom
Let me share with you some of the challenges I face as a working mom, and you probably do too:
1. Lack of Focus
I guess the primary and most obvious challenge of working mom is lack of focus. Your attention is divided in at least two roles: 1) your child or children 2) your work or business. Ofcourse, do not forget an important role you have: 3) being a loving wife to your husband.
There will be times the all of your roles will call for your attention all at the same time. And every day can become a struggle of which to focus on.
2. The Feeling of Guilt
Another challenge when you are a working mom is feeling guilty of not being able to give your full attention in any of the responsibility you have.
When you are at home taking care of your child, you feel guilty and can’t stop thinking of work or your business. When you are at work or in your business, you feel guilty and can’t stop thinking of your child/children or your home.
3. Lack of Enough Sleep
Since working mom has at least two (2) roles or responsibilities, taking care of home and of job or business, we often don’t get enough sleep.
When your child is 4 year old and younger, who still drink milk at night, you will be required to wake up 3 to 4 times at night to breastfeed or prepare the milk. And when you are already falling asleep, sometimes the child will be awake at night, crying or playing, and you need to keep up with it by staying awake.
Aside from taking care of a child, working mom sometimes need to work overtime at night to finish some tasks for their work or business.
In my case, I’m both taking care of my son at night and managing an outsourced service company. Both of which are taking away my time to get enough sleep.
Joggling work and taking care of children leads to fatigue caused by lack of sleep and using up all our energy to fill our multiple roles.
I often feel my energy is used up since the time I gave birth of my only child, and on the same year, I started managing the outsourced service company. Luckily, four years after, I’m still alive despite the lack of sleep and fatigue.
5. Lack of Time to Do What You Want
I guess last but not the least challenge when you are a working mom is you no longer have time to do what you want to do, alone without your kid or husband. Things you love to do such as hobby, meeting with friends, going to the gym, travelling, etc.
Ways to Overcome the Challenges of Working Mom
I have stated the challenges of a working mom. Now I would like to share with you the ways to overcome these challenges. This is based on my own experience. You may use it or not, depending on your preference and circumstance.
1. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Like any other roles, in business and in life, how you manage your time is very crucial as a working mom.
Since the first day I became a working mom, time became very precious and scarce resource for me. My life, and how I spend my time, changed a lot. Having a child and managing a business, took away a lot of my time. Both required a lot of time and attention.
Taking care of a child while working and managing a business is really a tough challenge. Most especially if you don’t have help in looking after your child, and if you don’t have competent/reliable people in your business.
Childcare’s normal daily routine will include, preparing the child’s food for whole day, running around with the child to eat what you prepared, running around to convince the child to take a bath, preparing and dropping him off to school, play and teach them basic skills to develop, running around again to convince him to take an afternoon nap, going out of the house to play with other kids, and then taking care at night.
I’m fortunate that for the past four (4) years, my mother-in-law was helping us with our child, with her around, I was able to focus in managing our outsourced service company for four (4) years. But now that she’s not with us anymore, it’s indeed hard to do both of my roles at home and at work. To manage more lightly, what I do is I create a schedule ahead of time of what my day and week should be like.
Creating a schedule is the first step. The next and more important step is to implement that schedule. At first you will miss few things in your schedule, due to transition, but as you make it a habit, in time you will achieve your plan if you keep doing it.
A sample schedule I’d like to share with you will be as below:
6 am – Wake up / meditate / wash the bottles /prepare breakfast
7 am – Eat Breakfast / prepare for morning class and for work
8 am – Child – Be in school / You – working outside the school in a nearby coffee shop (just like I do now)
12 nn – pick-up your child in school / eat lunch
2pm – nap time for your child / you can nap too or work while the child sleep
4 pm – bring the child outdoor to play with other kids
6 pm – prepare and eat dinner
8 pm – clean child for the night / you take a break by watching tv or reading book or play with your child
9 pm – bring your child to sleep / you take your break or you work
A schedule should depend on your preference, circumstance and lifestyle. The important thing is to create a schedule so you don’t get overwhelm and you know how to approach your day
2. Focus your attention in what you do in the moment
To overcome the guilt of not being 100% in what you do, practice giving your full focus and attention with what you do in the moment. Do not try to do more than one thing at a time.
Example: If you’re playing with your child, focus 100% on your child. Stop looking at your cellphone or laptop. If you are working, make sure your child has something else to do (like sleeping), so you can focus 100% on your work.
I’m guilty of this. I’m a multi-tasker (if there’s such word). Wherein I always try to squeeze in so many things at a given time. I often get overwhelmed and frustrated when I don’t get to do all the things I have to do (which are many). So recently I realised that FOCUS is more important than multitasking. That LESS is MORE. Now, I try my best to follow focusing my attention in what I do in the moment.
Remember, you don’t need to do all at the same time, just do one thing at a time. Focus, you’ll get more things done.
3. Shut Off At Night
As mentioned, lack of sleep is one of the challenges of a working mom. In my personal experience, I tend to stay awake at night and then feel restless in the morning. This will then lead me to become irritable and moody during day time.
When I reflected, the following are the top three (3) reasons why I have a hard time sleeping at night (beside taking care of my son):
- I tend to drink coffee after lunch (12pm)
- I don’t stop to take a break and do nothing
- I’m always looking at my cellphone and laptop
So as a solution, these are my rules to myself:
- Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon unless i want to stay awake at night
- Set a time to do nothing (as in no cellphone, no laptop, no talking and just sit quietly alone). I do this during the morning upon waking up in our balcony. I just sit and stay quiet doing nothing. And I set a quiet and alone time when I’m taking a bath.
- Before you sleep at night, after you set the alarm, remove your cellphone and laptop beside you. Switch it off or to silent mode and don’t look at it during the night.
- For your child, remove the gadgets at night when its time to sleep. Then play music or sing them a song until they fall asleep. Reading a book also helps.
You may try this too if you and your child are having trouble sleeping at night.
4. Exercise, Eat Right Food and Take Vitamins
To beat fatigue and feeling negative, exercise, eat right food and take vitamins. Again, I’m not a doctor, I’m just sharing what I apply to help me overcome fatigue and feeling restless.
First, set a time to exercise. It helps to fight fatigue and beat negative emotion such as depression and anxiety. It also helps lighten the mood swings we often have when we are tired and restless. In my personal experience, I try to walk, ride a bike, do zumba or go for a swim as an exericse. I also have an application to remind me to exercise.
Second, is eat the right food. Watch what you eat cause it affects your well being. Avoid too much caffeine or coffee. Eat fruits and vegetables. Eat fish and avoid fatty / junk food.
Last, I take multivitamins. I’m less than 90 pounds, it’s in my genes to be skinny. So I need vitamins to give me enough energy to cope with taking care of my son and managing our business.
5. Set Time For Yourself, To Do What You Want
When I got married and had a child, I used to think that it’s selfish to still have time for yourself. But a mentor once said that shouldn’t be the case. You still need to have time to take care and do things for yourself.
I remember a mentor once told me,
“You cannot give love, if you don’t love yourself first.”
To love yourself is the first step to love others. If you want to give love, you have to love yourself. Loving yourself means having time to do what you want. It may not be all the time anymore, but include in your schedule a time for yourself.
In my case, I treat it a time for myself when I exercise, when I attend zumba class, when I swim, when I meditate alone, and when I meet with friends alone. And when I do this, I am more happy and effective with other people.
I hope this article has been helpful for you. Please do share what you think and if you have other tips to share with other working moms out there.