Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Working Mothers: The Balancing Act

Here at the Human Lactation Center (HLC) we understand how hard it is to balance work life and home life, and we’re not alone. In 2001, over 60% of mothers with at least one child under 3-years-old were working. That’s up from about 34% in 1975. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Personally, I was not prepared for the amount of guilt and angst I would feel trying to balance the passion I have for my work with the love and devotion I feel for my child. However, I believe you can strike a balance between the pulls of work and the duties of parenting, though it won’t be perfect all the time. There will still be the occasional feelings of guilt and loneliness, and the days you feel like you can’t do anything right. Here are some tips that we hope will help you keep all of your roles in perspective.

~3 Tips from Blogs Past~

Feelings of guilt are normal!
You may feel guilty, especially during separation times, or when you say goodbye for the day. Talk about these normal feelings with other working parents. Also, realize that your child may adapt more quickly to goodbyes than you think. Right before you leave, talk through the reason for the separation with her and reassure her that you will be back and be with her again. Click here to learn more about separation anxiety (your child’s, not yours).

Take care of yourself first
I know, this feels counterintuitive, but if you aren’t healthy, you can’t care for anybody well!Take a little quiet time for yourself. Yes, I said quiet time. I take mine at the gym or during a walk at lunchtime. That way my quiet time does double duty! If you’re still in the throws of sleep deprivation, please sleep when you can (like during your child’s naps when you’re home on the weekends) or just rest while your child naps on the days you’re both home. Either one will leave you feeling more energetic. To read more about my own trials with sleep deprivation, click here.

It takes a village to raise a child
My daughter was cared for by some amazing moms while I was at work. My sister-in-law was the first mom to watch my daughter. When she moved away, a good friend of mine who was staying at home with her son watched Lily. When Lily was about 18 months old, she started going to another very good friend of ours’ home while I worked. Our good friend’s daughter was born only 1 week after Lily, and they are best friends to this day. Complicated? Yes, but she has been loved and well cared for her entire life. It takes a village. You can’t do it alone (at least while keeping your sanity).

~3 Tips from Moms at the HLC~

Routines make everything easier
By: Jen G, mom of Lily, 3 1/2
Arrange your morning routines to spend a little time with your child before you leave for work. This may sound impossible, but it can work! What I do is try to wake up before my daughter so that I can get myself ready. Then, when she wakes up, we cuddle and watch a cartoon together or read a book while I sip my caffeine requirement for the morning. Even 20-30 minutes in your morning routine can make a big difference toward connecting with your child before you leave for the day. If time is tight, just eating breakfast together will help you both feel better throughout the day. We also have a great bedtime routine that includes one-on-one time with each other during bath time, story time and cuddles. The day goes much more smoothly when we start and end it the same way.

Set aside special playtime each day with your child
By: Jen B, mom of Olivia (2) and Charlotte (EDD December 2010)
Set aside a block of time each day that is devoted to playing with your child (no checking email allowed!) I know it sounds hard to add anything else to your already busy schedule, but even 30 minutes of one-on-one time with your child will benefit you both greatly. If you make the play physical, you’ll both get a workout at the same time too!

Make family meals a priority
By: Kerri, mom of Elisabeth, 4

No matter how busy you get, plan to have family dinner together. Just sitting down at the table (with the television off) creates a sense of stability for children. Family meals are important to keep communication open and to strengthen relationships among family members. It is also a great way to enhance language development in young children.

As working moms, we are not by any means saying that striking a balance between career and motherhood is easy! However, it is possible, most days, to carve out a little quality time with your family. Precious time with you is the best gift you can give to your child. Whether it’s during a family meal, reading books together, or spending a half hour on the floor playing with your child before bath time, every moment counts. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and many days it won’t be, but rest assured that these small changes can make a big difference. Jane recently gave me a magnet that reads “Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” (Proverb) For now I’m trying not to worry so much about the time I’m not spending with my daughter while I’m at work. Instead, I’m making the time we do have together more meaningful.

Next time: Another Guest Blog Post!

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