Whether you work by choice or out of necessity, send your child to day care or hire a nanny --every working mom needs to do what's right for her, learning as she goes. We talked to five working moms about their personal do's and don'ts. While no one can say they've mastered the craft of juggling their career, motherhood and everything in between (can anyone, really?) -- they all believe they can learn from each other, one triumph (or mistake!) at a time.
Tips for Staying Organized
- Get a good planner. Having a plan is key, according to mom of two, Jennifer Williams and soon-to-be mom of two, Beth Anne Ballance. From making daily lists of meetings and tasks, to putting your husband's and kids' schedules in a shared online calendar, to planning out your meals for the week, having a plan where you can see it not only helps you stay organized, but it gives you an idea of when you'll need to enlist some help.
- Make dinner the night before. Maija, who is a mom of three and just moved 1,800 miles from family, says she regularly cooks the night before so that at 5:30PM the next day, all she has to do is re-heat. Another idea? Make friends with your slow cooker.
- Have a back up. Camille Langston, who spent four years as a single parent, suggests that every working mother find at least 3 different people (friends, family, neighbors, etc.) that are willing to be a backup in times of emergencies. After all, you never know when someone might be sick or if your current sitter cancels.
Tips for Conquering the Guilt
- Present some ground rules at work. Working mom of three, Meredith Soleau, suggests telling your boss that you need to make it to all school functions, no matter what. Making it clear that your family is a priority from the start can help open up conversations down the road.
- Don't go to the mall/park at lunch. Maija says that while getting out of the office for lunch may be a welcome treat, seeing those stay-at-home/on-maternity-leave-moms enjoying their days with the kids just adds to her working mom guilt.
- Focus on the positive. No matter how many hours you put in at the office, chances are you're plagued with guilt, says Langston. Accept the fact that your children still recognize you as their mother and love you as such. You can take part in assuring that "the village" supports you in this as well.
Tips for Staying Sane
- Turn to other working moms. While her husband worked as a police officer, Maija counted on the understanding of fellow cop wives to help her cope with being home alone with the kids during his shift. She says that having a network of people who understand your situation can be a great source of sanity.
- Be flexible. Both Soleau and Williams agree that that most important piece of advice for working moms is to be prepared for anything. No matter how much you plan, something will come up that you weren't expecting ("practice will be canceled...someone will puke!"), so be prepared to ditch your plan -- and most importantly -- go with the flow.
- Slow down. Take an extra five minutes to pick up a latte or call a friend. Ballance says that, like many working mothers, she struggles with being a workaholic, so even something as small as a longer shower helps her feel recharged.
Tips for Maintaining Relationships
- Thank your village. All of the working moms we interviewed agree that thanking the people you depend on is crucial. Treat your nanny well, pay the babysitter well, accept help from your family with a smile, and as often as you can, find special ways to show your thanks to the people who help your household run.
- Check in on your kids. When you're away from your kids for so much of the day, Langston says she believes in sending a text, email or even making a quick phone call to her kids. Not only will it brighten their day, but Langston says it makes her feel more connected.
- Make some memories. Langston suggests taking a surprise vacation day once a quarter, if your work allows. Spend the day with the kids, rekindle that relationship and make some fun memories!
Are you a working mother? What advice do you live by?
Find more of these hard working mommas in our Care.com Interview Series: Who's In Your Village »