The workaholic gets married, has children and is suddenly working mom.
The transition to parenthood can be hard enough as it is, but when you’re intensely career focused, you’re faced with a whole host of other challenges. Namely, trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance – which, historically, may not have been your primary focus.Anyone who knows me knows I’m the definition of a workaholic.
The first thing I realized upon heading back to work after my maternity leave was that I felt I had to be even more on, and work even harder than I had before having my son. I didn’t want to be looked at as “soft” coming back into the workforce as a mom. No one told me to do this – it was just something I felt needed to be done so I wouldn’t lose my edge. So for the first three years of my son’s life, I kept my workaholic pace.But it wasn't sustainable. In my case I was fortunate. I was able to walk away from my crazy pace at work and take a step back to be with my son, while starting my own business and creating a situation that would allow me to better manage my personal and business expectations.
And while I’m still a workaholic, I’m able to control when I work (for the most part) and how I work to ensure the best work-life integration for my family and my career.Knowing firsthand how difficult it can be to transition from workaholic to working mom, I talked to several other working moms, who were self-described workaholics before transitioning to parenthood, about what they learned along the way.
Here’s their advice:
- You’re Going to Need an Extra Set of Hands
Life can be a juggling act for working moms, so it’s important to recognize that you don’t have to do it all. There’s no shame in asking ask for help. Family and friends can be great. A great nanny or day care center you love can give you peace of mind in the knowledge that your kids are well taken care of while you’re at work. Take away a layer of stress by hiring a housekeeper to come in every week or two. Work from home? Hire a mother’s helper during your busiest work hours.
- Remember Your Best is Enough
You’re never going to feel like you’re giving 100 percent at work and home. That’s why it’s so important to remember that doing your best is doing enough. When your children are younger, an extra 20 minutes playing with them won’t break your work day -- give them the extra attention they need when they’re younger. It does seem to get harder, but keeping the bigger picture in mind helps. You’re working to provide for your family, and your kids understand this and are going to look up to you.
- Chasing Work-Life Balance Will Drive You Crazy
There is no such thing as balance for most working mothers. Some days, friends and family need to come first, and they do. Some days, work needs to come first and it does. The hardest part is to stop feeling guilty that you're prioritizing one over the other, because if you don't you wind up feeling guilty 100 percent of the time.
- Take Scheduling Seriously
It’s really hard to find time for yourself when you are always third on the priority list, behind kids and work. Carve out a work schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Do the same at home to help take control over variables, such as pickup and drop-off times, music lessons and sports practices. And schedule time for yourself – date nights and spa day with your gilfriends.
- Try and Put a Fence Around Work
Instead of working 60-80 hours a week, try working as hard as you can during your normal business hours -- whether that’s 9-5 or 8-6 or some other variation. If work has to spill over into the evening hours that’s OK, as long as it’s the exception not the rule. A workaholic can still be a workaholic when she’s a working mom – just try to put a fence around it for a while.
- Mommy Guilt is Natural, But Don’t Let It Control You
Stop feeling guilty about not volunteering at your kid's school every time you’re asked – you’ll have plenty of chances over the years. And they’ll remember the times you did, far more than the times you didn’t. And it’s OK not to feel guilty if all you have left in the tank at the end of the day is sitting on the couch with the iPad and your kids. They want to be snuggling with you – you’re the one who’s expecting everything to be an enrichment activity.
- It’s OK for Work to Come First … Sometimes
Yes, and it’s OK for your kids to see that work comes first, sometimes. This means that your kids will be more self-reliant or patient at times. Or that – gasp! – their dad can help to handle things like dinner or homework. It's not a bad message for kids to understand that the work both their parents do helps to pay for their food, clothes, camps and vacations. Showing your kids that their mom has a life outside of being a parent and that they need to be patient and wait sometimes will hopefully help them to recognize that you’re all a family and that everyone needs to pitch in to make it work.