As a working mom, it is easy to feel like you’re letting everyone down. Whether you are spending time with your kiddos or on your business … it always feels like you’re neglecting something.
Thankfully, with a slight change in mindset and some productivity systems, you can reduce the guilt you are holding onto and feel like you are showing up 100% to any activity that you are doing.
Working Moms Over The Years
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of women who worked outside of the home in 1970 was just a bit over 30,000. In a majority of households, the husband was the primary breadwinner, and the wife stayed home to take care of the house and any children that they had.
However, nearly fifty years later, and the BLS reports that the number of women who work outside of the home is more than 70,000. And, these statistics do not account for the additional group of working women who are business owners. In fact, according to a report published by American Express in 2013, the number of female-owned businesses increased 59% from 1997 to 2013.
While the number of women entering the workforce or starting businesses has dramatically increased in the last four decades – one thing that has not changed is that, for the women in these groups who are moms, they remain the primary caregiver for their children.
The Elusive Work/Life Balance
Nowadays, there are a variety of scenarios that make up the work/life circumstances of working moms. Some work outside of the home full-time while their children are in daycare or at school. Some run a business from home and have full-time care for their children who are not school-aged. And, some are just starting their business or blog and are trying to find a way to get enough work done while tending to the needs of their kids.
And yet, even with all of this variation, there is no shortage of guilt from moms feeling like they should be spending equal time with all things – all at the same time. That elusive work/life balance that we are led to believe is the mark of the uber-successful.
If you achieve work/life balance – then you have made it. You have arrived at success. Drink it in.
Sorry. I’m not buying it.
For two things to be balanced, they have to be separate and equal. Which is great when you’re talking about balancing the weight of a group of apples to a bunch of grapes.
But, can you imagine ever successfully separating your work from your life? And, beyond that, giving each of them an equal amount of time and energy?
The fact is when you are a mom who works or runs a business, your work, and life are entangled with one another so intricately that it would take the equivalent of the Jaws of Life to separate them.
What would that even look like? How would you compartmentalize your work time from your home time? And, how would that feel? To come home and completely leave your work at the front door?
And, how would you even begin to give each of those areas equal and balanced amount of time? The idea of work/life balance puts entirely too much pressure on moms who work or run a business – and, it is unnecessary pressure because work/life balance doesn’t exist.
What To Do When You Feel Like You Are Letting Everyone Down
When you are feeling like you are letting everyone down – shift your mindset to work/life integration.
Let yourself off the hook for spending time with your kids rather than your business.
Don’t beat yourself up that your kids need you when you should be meeting a deadline for a client.
And, eliminate all guilt about taking some time away from everything to do a little self-care activity.
Using a work/life integration approach, you realize that any time that you spend on your business, family, or self – will have an impact on the other areas and will provide ROI.
So, while it might seem like your baby skipping a nap in favor of teething – leaving you unable to work on your client’s project – is preventing you from growing your business, I would argue that your baby is providing you gentle reminders that you need to take breaks to be truly productive.
And, spending time prospecting rather than reading to your 3-year old might seem like a completely selfish thing to be doing – but, you can set a timer for 20-minutes and let your kiddo know that you will read to him on your break.
The idea is to be purposeful about all of your minutes – no matter what they are spent on. And, accept that there is no way to balance anything. But, there are hundreds of ways that you can – strategically – integrate everything.
Here are a couple of tips for how to implement your work/life integration:
Make sure to set boundaries by deciding exactly how much time each day you have to work with. Set a [strict] bedtime for yourself and wake-up at the same time each day (as often as possible)
Do a time-tracking study for at least one week to see exactly where and how you are spending your time
Decide which blocks of time you can work (identify which of those blocks are when kids are awake vs. asleep)
Identify tasks that are “awake time” vs. “asleep time” – For instance, I never try to write when my kiddos are awake!
Determine if there are any tasks (from your time-tracking study) that you can batch and do all together – which, will limit the amount of context switching or multitasking (which dramatically limit productivity) Technically, there are several tasks to do but, when they are all very similar, and you’re doing them all together – they are just one long task as far as your brain is concerned
Plan to work on projects in 20-minute bursts, with 5-minute breaks (read a book during the break)
Work/life integration looks different for everyone, and you have to decide which form it will take for you. But, the mindset shift away from trying to achieve work/life balance is what is really powerful. That one thing could dramatically improve your feelings about how you are showing up for each role that you play in your life.
By Jayleen Magill
Jayleen “Jay” Magill is an entrepreneur, blogger, and mommy of three. On her blog readysetgoal.net – she writes about how moms in business or blogging can use productivity systems and business strategies to make progress, achieve their goals, and reduce the ‘mom guilt.’